Console Corner: Metroid Dread review
Say the word Metroid to anyone over the age of 30 with a penchant for video consoles and it will instantly conjure images of what is one of the cornerstones of gaming history.
So when Metroid Dread - the first new entry in the historic Nintendo franchise for mind-boggling 19 years - became the most pre-ordered game on Amazon in the US, UK and Japan recently it came as no surprise.
And today I can happily reveal that Metroid Dread has been well worth the wait.
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Set after the events of Metroid Fusion (2002), you control bounty hunter Samus as she faces a nefarious robotic enemy on the planet ZDR.
Dread continues along Metroid’s well trodden path of side-scrolling gameplay as in previous 2D games but this time with the added layer of stealth.
When I saw recently that producer Yoshio Sakamoto had said Dread will conclude the main Metroid arc I have to admit I was little sad.
But if this is to be the final chapter in the fates of Samus and the parasitic Metroid creatures then my what a way to bow out.
Dread was originally meant to be a Nintendo DS game in the mid-2000s. But it was cancelled due to technical limitations of the time. But it’s inclusion on countless ‘most wanted’ lists in the gaming industry saw the title revisited harnessing the power of the brilliant Switch.
Sakamoto appointed MercurySteam to develop Dread and it is clear they were under instruction to revive the franchise’s original 2D glory.
Free aim and melee attacks - which were added in Samus Returns (2017) - are retained while Samus can also slide and cling to surfaces. The big difference this time around are the stealth elements. And boy are you going to need them. Along the journey Samus faces the almost indestructible EMMI robots. You will soon realise that hiding, reducing noise and using the awesome Phantom Cloak - a camouflage that reduces noise but slows you down - is essential to progress in Dread.
The added layer of stealth is the game’s crowning achievement.
If an EMMI robot catches you, you get a chance to perform a melee counter and escape - but the stakes are high because if you fail, you die.
Dread uses the blueprint as Super Metroid but the added tension from the uncharacteristic need to flee to survive brings the overall gaming experience to a whole new level.
Combat is absolutely superb. It is so refreshingly simple, crisp and responsive, especially with the new counter attack system.
There is a haunting quality to the relentless pursuit of the EMMI bots. Once you have been detected, they will never stop hunting you. Fortunately each one cannot leave their designated areas so fleeing is often the best - and indeed sometimes the only - option.
When I fired up Dread the level of anticipation was so high. To the point that I doubted whether it could possibly live up to my lofty expectations.
Within an hour it had already surpassed them.
I told myself I’d play for a couple of hours. Then an entire weekend passed and I was still hooked.
When I’m not playing Dread I’m thinking about it. And that’s when you know you’re in the presence of a video gaming great.
The new elements, stealth, upgrades and labyrinth-style map that is so satisfying to explore mean this is grade A Metroid like we have never seen.
This is no quick remaster with a bit of gloss to make it look new and fancy. The very foundations that made Metroid so great are added to along with amazing visuals, brilliant combat and hugely rewarding counters.
The Switch has been one of the greatest releases in video console history and Dread is one of the best first party games available.
It is without fail the best Metroid I have played and whether in handheld mode or docked, it plays beautifully. It has that nostalgic buzz of playing a game you’ve known since you were a kid but well and truly breathes new life into the entire series.