Metroid: Samus Returns is going to be the first Metroid game for many of you. It's my first proper Metroid game since I never played through Super Metroid in my SNES days, and I have to say, if this game is any indication of what I can expect from the rest of the series, then I may be joining the fold of passionate Metroid faithful.
You know what makes a Metroid game tick, don't you? Do you know why every indie developer out there wants to tout their latest as a "Metroidvania?" Sink a couple of hours into Samus Returns, and you'll understand. There's something about this game that makes you feel like a real explorer. Slowly, blindly, you'll work your way through these hostile alien structures, mapping them out bit by bit and slowly becoming more formidable as you acquire power-ups and abilities that lay hidden throughout the world.
Traversing that world, I've found that there's rarely a dull moment. Enemies are everywhere, and Nintendo is offering a finely-tuned combat system that makes every engagement feel like an epic duel of instinct. Samus has complete 360° freedom when aiming her arm cannon, and the addition of a melee counter ability keeps things feeling punchy and engaging.
Mashing Y to fire off energy beams while waiting for the perfect moment to melee counter, jumping and diving all the while as additional enemies lunge for your neck... It all adds up to a gratifying combat experience that never seems to wear itself out. Every encounter with your foes, from the smallest grunt to the most aggressive Metroids, is a visceral delight.
I've been pleasantly surprised by the presentation in Samus Returns. The color palette here is a little darker and murkier than what I typically enjoy, but the vast underground caverns you'll explore are sprinkled with majestic, seemingly Egyptian-inspired relics, statues, and monuments. Waterfalls cascade into fresh and poisonous pools all around you, and the game is a fantastic showcase for 3D on this aging but lively handheld. The soundtrack is ambient, creeping, and subtle. It goes a long way in making you feel stranded and alone -- even paranoid.
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Samus Returns to the Nintendo 3DS on September 15 (Amazon Prime members can save 20% when they pre-order). I've loved every minute I've spent with the game so far, and you can look forward to our full review on launch week, so stay tuned!