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I genuinely barely even understand who this guy is, but he made a bunch of my fully-grown adult friends admit to crying about him, which means he holds a special power that deserves a certain disdainful respect. Also, I like his three-hit neutral air attack.
(Lil chibi Doomguy costume that came with this pack is great.)
In 2021, the year of long overdue sequels we had a lot of sequels that were over a decade between titles. Psychonauts 2 being 16 years apart from the first title, NEO: The World Ends with You being 14 years apart, No More Heroes 3 being 11 years apart from the second title (though you can argue that TSA also fulfilled the fan's urges during the time here for a full fledged numbered title from Suda51 here) and each one of them as surprisingly delivered considering the climate of bringing back these series and hoping some of the magic is still there for what people want after so long. Metroid Dread is almost a whopping 19 years apart from Fusion which was Metroid 4 and probably the game people have the most eyes on. A lot of eyes were on seeing if MercurySteam can do the series justice and after what seems like a decent showing for Samus Returns, it seems like they learned a lot from the last 4 years and delivered a title that has lived up to the title that is Metroid Dread.
Samus has never felt this flexible and smooth bringing her into the 2.5D space with several options that make traversing through ZDR a much more seamless experience. The addition of a slide feels like a small addition but it actually brings a lot to how Samus interacts with the world and reduces the downtime of going into Morph Ball for a small space that isn't long. The traditional tools of the trade are here such as Space Jump and Speed Boosting but there are also some new tools that bring even more movement options for Samus and bring a much more fluid combat flow with Flash Shift that make dodging attack much more manageable. The bosses in Dread are honestly the most fun I've had in Metroid bosses period. Each boss truly feels like an ordeal and hit pretty hard in a Normal playthrough but the best part is that they are never bullshit considering "No attack is unavoidable shows up as a tool tip during loading after you die to a boss and that couldn't be even more true. Each attempt never felt long and you always feel like you make progress during each attempt to the point sometimes you might be untouchable for a while until you finally beat a difficult boss. There are also specific moments that reward you with a action cutscene of Samus doing some action movie stunts and you can fire missiles/beam shots during this that actually feels rewarding and almost a power fantasy with how flashy and cool these cutscenes make her look. Level design is surprisingly great here since it feels like you're never stuck while still giving you the feeling that you're actually exploring things at your own pace. It's sort of a mix between Fusion being extremely linear to the point of locking doors in specific areas for no reason and Zero Mission where the game is pretty open but you sort of have a clear and cut case on what to do here. In Dread, you will give a hint on what to do next but you won't get any indicator on the map showing you specifically where to go which feels like essentially "go do this and figure out the rest yourself" feeling. The backgrounds themselves are actually full of detail such as animals scurrying about, specific machinery working in the back, detailed environment of ruins in a specific area and even what looks like different pathways that go into the background itself. I feel like the atmosphere is really understated in this game, I personally think Fusion and Super Metroid had it better, credit where credit is due here as there is a lot of moments that add what the game is named after being "Dread". The EMMI sections do a wonderful job of this from an audiovisual standpoint as the muted black and white, the lighting going on and off with various beeps coming from the machines and the EMMI itself. While the initial difficulty of these EMMIs progressing do get harder as they each get a unique tool, if you're good with platforming and have really great reflexes then the "Dread" will eventually get lost on you but fortunately these segments never last long and aren't really punishing as a death will just put you back right before entering the zone. The music is alright here but there are some pretty good mood setting themes such as each visit to the Network Station playing a electronical yet mysterious tune or the Save Station sounding omnious with the background of two chozos in the background. The puzzles themselves for gathering the upgrades are mostly just using a resource to get an upgrade while there are some elaborate puzzles that give you a feeling of satisfaction of pulling it off considering it's a combination of reaction, knowledge about the abilities you have and technique to do it properly.
There are some questionable decisions that I came to think of that I felt like the game added a few too many abilities and didn't put them out properly. You essentially get weaker versions of two iconic abilities you don't get until the end of the game and you rarely really use them since they essentially get phased out pretty quickly. The final item you get sort of feels like a waste considering you don't really use them other than to backtrack for 100% and gathering what feels like pointless upgrades considering you essentially get them at the end of the game. A nitpick is that when you get a specific power up for defeating EMMIs, the whole process is pretty repetitive despite only doing it a few times the whole playthrough and never really changes other than one instance where you have to run and make the perfect amount of space to pull off the damage you needed.
After playing through several games of the series this year (Metroid, Super Metroid, Fusion, Zero Mission in that order), I can understand why fans wanted a new game for so long. A series that created "Metroidvania" along with Castlevania unfortunately being in the background for the last 2 decades. The previous games have made me interested in the series and Metroid Dread has now made me a fan and excited to see what is to come next.
See you next mission, Lady.
My Friend Peppa Pig
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