Metroid Dread (Nintendo Switch)

It’s a new side-scrolling Metroid, not a 3D one like Prime. Super Metroid is still the reigning champion of side-scrolling Metroids, but this one is pretty good. It’s also hard. I died an embarrassing number of times on bosses. Part of that is because propping my foot up on my opposite knee is apparently enough to interfere with the Bluetooth connection of these FUCKING joycons, creating infuriating lag, and the other is that I’m probably old and stupid. Like, seriously, I was making rookie mistakes that my 10-year old self would have found embarrassing.

The other challenge is the new gimmick of the one-hit killbots. Think of it like Metroid crossed with Mr. X from Resident Evil 2. In certain parts of each area, unstoppable robots will hunt you down and if they find and catch you they will kill you in one hit. The loading screen recommends you run from them if they detect you, and for once the loading screen is not fucking around. I rolled my eyes and PSHed so hard when I first saw this “tip,” but I died probably 50 times. A big chunk of that was me stubbornly trying to nail counter-attacking, but I eventually had to give up because the game just kicked my ass. If a killbot grabs you, you get TWO chances to counter-attack which will stun it so you can get away. You have to time counter-attacks perfectly, and the killbots telegraph the moment with a big yellow flash. Seems easy, except the timing of the flash is random and you have about half a millisecond to react when the flash occurs. It effectively turns into one of those reflex tests on the internet where you click a button as soon as the screen changes to measure how fast your reaction time is. I’m old and stupid so I succeeded exactly 3 times total out of 50+.

Other than that, it checks all the appropriate Metroid boxes of exploration and power-ups to unlock new areas, and shooty jumpy parts. I thought the melee-counter ability was integrated well. I really hate the ledge-hang mechanic, though. It breaks up the flow of movement by bringing you to a dead stop. No, ASSHOLE, I did not want to grab onto that ledge and hang like a dumbass. I wanted you to vault up ONTO the ledge so that I could then jump off it, into the wall, off the wall, up onto the other ledge, and slide-kick through the tunnel into the next room. This is especially maddening when being chased by a killbot. Chases can be fucking thrilling while you’re panicking and staying juuuuuust ahead of the killbot, jumping and flipping and wall-jumping and sliding, but then you grab onto a ledge, get caught, and die. Fuck you, ledge hang.

This game also dips into a tiny bit of character building for Samus, demonstrating that they should have just left her a blank template for people to project whoever they wanted onto it. Sort of like what Tom Chick was talking about when he wrote that article about how Valve shouldn’t have put Gordon Freeman’s picture on the loading screen of Half-Life. I’m going to get up on my soapbox here, but fuck you, you have a back button.

Metroid Other M already ruined establishing a backstory by being the most embarrassing thing ever, and further attempts to keep trying to build it out will almost assuredly Wookipedia it to death. Then you have to factor in that video game writers are mostly shit, and that Nintendo-hired video game writers are sub-fan fiction awful because their budget for story-telling is probably whatever is recovered with bottle and can refunds from the recycle bin in the breakroom. They would have been better off doing nothing. All the way back in 1986 they unintentionally created probably the best female character in video games. Let me break this shit down for you.

She’s a bounty hunter. Before they attempted to develop any kind of backstory, that was just her day job. All you could assume was that she would tear-ass through uncharted hostile alien worlds by herself because that’s what she decided to do to pay rent and buy groceries. What kind of unspeakably huge Godzilla balls does someone have to have to make that a career choice? In contrast, I’m a programmer that works from home. I sit in a cushioned, climate-controlled room, sheltered from the sun, the elements, the outside world, and human contact. I’m basically the anti-Samus and a candidate for the Dos Equis Most Boring Man in the World. “Intergalactic bounty hunter,” on the other hand, probably has the coolest stories ever. Every Metroid story should have been confined to whatever kickass adventure was taking place during that specific game. Wondering what Samus’ hopes and dreams were, or what molded her into the proud, strong woman we see before us should have been sidelined to only being some dumb nerd shit in a wiki curated by autistic fatbeards.

This isn’t to say writing no character is always better than writing a character, just that it can work! And it was like 20 years after the release of Metroid that they really started trying to establish a story for her character, and there was no way some hack writer would ever live up to what people had probably built up in their own head by that point. They would have been better off just leaving it alone and creating an air of mystique around the character instead of the embarrassing crap they’re turning it into.

Comments? Join us on the forum.