Metroid Dread perpetuates 2D with no sign of old age in the franchise

The good language says that an old pot makes good food, which may or may not show signs of lag in the process. For those who don’t know, Metroid Dread is a project started 15 years ago, in a distant 2006, still in the hands of Retro Studios, which brilliantly transposed the franchise to 3D with the Prime series.

At the time, the studio even denied involvement in creating a new 2D Metroid. The title was canceled twice – not postponed, but ended – but now, in 2021, it finally sees the desired light of day, under the tutelage of MercurySteam, which also developed Samus Returns, the successful remake of Metroid 2, for the 3DS.

Metroid Dread represents the new phase of the franchise in 2D, parallel to the work being done in Metroid Prime 4. the success of Samus Returns, released in 2017, made Nintendo turn to MercurySteam again to resurrect the Dread project. The reading that is made, marketing speaking, is that there is an audience for the traditional 2D model of the franchise.

The level design school, which is such a defining pillar of the series, continues to resonate in Metroid Dread? Let’s go to reflection.

Check out the video analysis of Metroid Dread:

Orphans of Fusion, unite

Metroid Dread is a direct continuation of Metroid Fusion, released in 2002 on the Game Boy Advance, in which the protagonist faces the threat of X, a parasite that can take the form of what it infects. This species was reported extinct after the events of Fusion, until traces of it were seen on the remote planet ZDR. Then, seven search robots called EMMI are sent to the site to check the supposed signal of the threat, but lose contact with the base soon after.

To investigate and understand what happened, Samus Aran is dispatched to the territory and, following the franchise’s parchment to the letter, loses almost all of his powers at the beginning of the adventure, after confronting a Chozo warrior, who has been part of a civilization that has been present since the beginnings of the series. Deprived of her skills, the bounty hunter discovers that the EMMI are also on her trail and that, in order to destroy them, it is necessary to absorb a mysterious energy from the planet’s central units.

This franchise, in a succinct and cool reflection on Nintendo’s modus operandi, carries a somber tone atypical of Nintendo’s standards. Exploring an inhospitable planet dominated by an alien threat – with a great look of loneliness – makes an interesting counterpoint to the colorful and familiar palette of the other Big N characters. Dread, expect the same intimate content of Fusion, but with additional stealth elements, here so well incorporated into the gameplay.

Source: Voxel/TecMundo

2D squeezes miracles

From a game design point of view, gameplay can be difficult, although I prefer the term “challenging”, implementing mechanisms to an exploration system already consolidated in the industry, in a subgenre that, alongside Castlevania, gave baptism to a concept, metroidvania. MercurySteam managed to crown the experience with welcome subtleties.

One is the counterattack, calculated as exact science – good old parry. introduced in Samus Returns, the command has also been nipped by Metroid: Other M, released on Wii in 2010. Dread refines the blow with critical accuracy, as Samus can retaliate attacks while moving (not just static) and deal damage in single melee charges by pressing X. So you’re not hostage to a single function of this command during gameplay – and this expanded possibility gives a new layer to combat.

The big news here, as I mentioned stealth, is the presence of EMMI: there are seven of them throughout the adventure, each with a different behavior, in an artificial intelligence that, at first glance, may seem simple, any chase, based in hiding here and there; in fact, throughout the journey, the algorithm translates into something bigger and leads to the unpredictable, creating that expectation of tension in the player, making him wonder, all the time, how the next confrontation with an EMMI will be

Stealth is planned, executed and tailored with the level design

Samus even gains the ability to go invisible temporarily to escape these aberrations, but the use of this device is limited, of course, and one of the spells of this stealth mechanic is precisely the dosage of its use, the strategy that the player needs to devise to cross a zone inspected by EMMI

This is not stealth for stealth; it is stealth planned, executed and fitted with the level design. Patience, after all, is the great gift to be extracted from the player. Rushing, in turn, represents punishment. If you’re captured by one of these robots, there’s a slim chance that you’ll backfire by pressing the button in the correct fraction of a second.

Level design and cohesion: refined school

The level design of Metroid Dread it’s scary, in the best of all ways: the maps, branched into large vertical and horizontal junctures, connect in such an organic and stitched way that you’ll like to feel lost – one of the paradoxical sensations that Metroid brings it since its origin in 1986.

It feels good to be disoriented when wrapped in such competent sound engineering. In fact, if you look at the map carefully to try to follow a cohesive flow of exploration as the events are presented, the paths unfold naturally and then reconnect, in a great tangle of shoelaces that spread out from an intense dose of exploration – but which present, above all, cohesion.

explore, in Metroid, means being rewarded and frustrated in equal measure. Backtracking (that is, coming and going) cemented the franchise to what it is today. don’t expect less than Metroid Dread – there are, in fact, facilitators who ease your walks. The backgrounds, however, are not striking postcards as in other entries in the series. They traditionally tell stories, expand the lore, explore the Chozo civilization. In Dread, are easily forgettable.

-Source: Voxel/TecMundo

About the difficulty factor…

Many people raised questions about Metroid Dread not having a difficulty selector. Personally, I think it’s providential that there isn’t one precisely because of the game’s organic proposal, with increasing difficulty, complex crossings and challenging bosses, which require a minimum study to be defeated.

There are more difficult or easier Metroids than Dread distributed over the franchise timeline. In my opinion, which in no way imbues a consensus, but an isolated opinion, the game is within the expected scope, with a good diversity of biomes, great references and some facilitators too, such as checkpoints registered on the bosses door (and not save point only), markers for you to insert on the map and hidden item locator, just to name a few.

The game runs at 60fps with considerable drops in punctual moments, especially in confrontations involving explosions and particles, which visibly cause a stress on performance.

-Source: Voxel/TecMundo

Verdict

Metroid Dread is living proof that the franchise not only works very well in 2D but also remains a level design doctorate, leading the player organically to their goals, intelligently and methodically, stitched and paced, cohesive and intuitive, in interludes of combat and acrobatics.

First-time sailors can take 6 to 8 hours of raw gambling, but on-call “completists” can take 12 to 15 hours to reach 100% of the collected items.

Each upgrade purchased is a new reminder of how Metroid it still works so well using the pillars it established back in 1986. Aside from the occasional dips in frame rate, the other big caveat of Dread, for me, already mentioned in this analysis, is that the scenarios do not have the same inspiration as the previous ones.

-Source: Nintendo

The background scenes of Metroid traditionally tell stories and allow the player to peruse museums that expand the rich lore of the franchise, but here the immersion is not the same – in that sense, Super Metroid, released in 1994 on the Super Nintendo, remains paramount to me, especially considering the hardware limitations of the time.

Metroid Dread is a good palliative until the arrival of Metroid Prime 4, which changes the perspective disk under the same level design philosophy. For now, 2D does not give the slightest sign of age to the franchise.

Nota Voxel: 90

Metroid Dread is another brilliant doctoral thesis on level design and continues to bring a paradoxical feeling to the player: like to get lost

Metroid Dread has been kindly provided by Nintendo for this analysis.

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