The end of the Metroid saga
For many of us, Metroid: Samus Returns was a big deal. It has been a long time since Other M was out, and year after year people had given up hope that we would see Samus again anytime soon: Federation strength was the powder keg of this school of thought. But eventually, Samus actually returned to the planet SR388, or more specifically, to its origins, as Return was a Metroide II redo. But people were eager to have a real follow-up – one that would continue the Metroids story, and we finally got it with Terror Metroid.
Terror Metroid (Nintendo Switch [reviewed on a Switch OLED])
Developer: MercurySteam / Nintendo EPD
Released: October 8, 2021
MSRP: $ 59.99
Terror Metroid is a fascinating entryway because it clearly has a lot to offer those freaks out in tradition, despite the use of the very home minimalist narrative. Very early on you sort of go from place to place, get upgrades (like Samus does), and by the end of the story the paces of the story pick up sharply to the point where you get multiple semi-long exposure scenes. This is the “conclusion of the Metroid saga” after all, as Nintendo announced before launch.
The promise of more Chozo lore was really what attracted me, and while I can’t comment on the details at this time, Fear is ready to deliver. It is also largely a continuation of everything that has happened so far, drawing heavily on the events of Metroid Fusion. It also has that classic explanation of “physical amnesia” that Samus isn’t a badass at the start of the game, and plenty of dialogue from Adam AI to explain what’s going on. Terror Metroid isn’t going to wow anyone, but there are more than enough goodies to satisfy some of the people who have been invested in this story, perhaps from the start.
Samus continues to showcase a lot of anime-esque badassery in the cutscenes, reminding us why she appears in games like Smash Bros. and why she is considered such a feared bounty hunter. The team also does a great job of augmenting them with first-person viewing footage, a few of which offer literal terror and suspense. There are a good piece action scenes of 30 seconds or less, most of which are justified and just plain fun to watch.
But as always, discovering new areas that weave into the tapestry of the planet is what you will be doing most of the time in Fear. You walk to the end of a forked path, discover a purple icon blocking the path, go back, go to the other fork, then eventually come back with an object that can detonate purple blocks. The Metroidvania formula is now common, but Metroid always succeeds brilliantly.
The extra items hidden in the nooks relate to Natural Problem Solving, where you can look at a location and logically figure out how to get there – especially if you can recall some of Samus’ past gadgets from memory. It’s partly too familiar, partly magical, and although Terror Metroid tends to play it safe when it comes to crossing, that doesn’t make it any less exciting or fun at the moment.
The joy of seeing an object behind a rock and saying “I can have it later”, marking your card in a specific color, then eventually reminding yourself that it exists and you have the tools for the job ; it’s still priceless, and a concept Metroid helped pioneer. Eventually you start to navigate effortlessly, as Samus can glide, counter melee, shoot 360 degrees, and fire missiles at the start of the game. You’ll be buying new toys along the way, but Samus doesn’t start with anything. to offer.
I know the melee counters (back from Return) are not liked, but I love the design space it opens up. Dashing while unleashing a melee attack does damage, helping to break the constant fire strategy. You are also incentivized to counter as enemies being countered drop more items / pickups, and everything is very fast and smooth. “I missed a charged shot and quickly prepared a counter on a charging enemy” is a classic case of Fear tilting towards a more engaging policy framework, and it works well. Of course, the counter is also used as a sort of timed QTE, but sparingly and always coupled with a rewarding scene.
These moments of triumph are also strewn with terror. It’s nice to see Samus humiliated by the new EMMI enemies. These mysterious and seemingly waterproof robots (until you get pre-made superweapons in each area they’re in) stalk you in certain areas (read: not throughout the game) and can kill you by grabbing you . If you get caught all you have to do is try a meter in a very small window and then run away again. As the game says: “Your top priority in an EMMI zone is to survive.”
At first I thought these pieces might get out of date, but there aren’t many overall and there are several models; so every time you walk into an EMMI area and face down it turns into a cool, fun loop. I love to outsmart and cheat them (especially when you have the ability to cover up): it’s tense, in a good way, to have to take that into account. I’ve died a few times because I fell into a corner and didn’t have the courage to counter them properly, which is a testament to how cool these parts of the game are. Things get even crazier when you encounter a comically wobbly / slowly opening door while chased.
There are some very creepy and unsettling alien designs to boot, alongside a few fearsome bosses; that feature incredibly retro designs that can be fun to discover and conquer. The annoying side of this is that the game tends to repeat miniboss fights very often, so once you memorize these patterns, those fights can feel like a rote drill until you’re onto the next big thing. . A few of these could be considered padding and could very easily have been excluded.
Another thing that I finally noticed Fear was a lack of urgency or excitement when moving from one area to another. With the exception of later areas (a few of which are gems of lore), many maps are personified by simplistic geographic qualifiers, lacking in personality. Temperature Defined Zones are by no means a new idea to the franchise, but when I say the names “Norfair” or “Brinstar” you can probably remember their memory cards. And I’m not even going to bring the Wreckage Ship: one of the most unique areas in all of Metroidvania to date.
This is not necessarily the case with Fear. The rambling map doesn’t help add a sense of cohesion to the case, as each area is individually divided and separated by a series of elevators, transport vehicles, and chains. When you want to see another area, you need to display the map, zoom out, then zoom out after selecting it, and then repeat the process. While this style of map might be considered handy in a Metroidvania, distortions in particular are primarily a means to an end: provided after a boss fight to lead you to the next obvious lane on the critical path.
It is not a sin that Terror Metroid blatantly commits, but I got the impression that on a few occasions the team weren’t sure how to mix the player up at point B, so they went with the simpler solution. There’s still a lot of ‘I have to check the whole map and see where there’s a little piece that I haven’t been in’ mapping shenanigans, but the series’ exploration heavy nature is betrayed a few times in favor of that system.
Still, it wasn’t something I thought about all the time. Or Fear spring is that it is always fun to play. When you start to think about something that is depressing, you don’t really have time to let it in and in fact get you down. Even those minboss reps can be awesome if you use all of your tricks and take them apart without thinking about it, looking cool all the time. The backgrounds are also very impressive more often than not, especially when paired with the brighter Switch OLED display. I have played the vast majority in portable mode for this reason.
Terror Metroid doesn’t take a lot of big swings, but he rarely hits a foul ball. You can tell this was carefully crafted with existing fans in mind, but it’s not so exhilarating that newcomers might not get it. While waiting for the proof of life of Metroid Prime 4, you can travel with Samus on another reliable adventure right now.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]