Since the launch of Nintendo Switch last March, I’ve found very few reasons to pick up my New Nintendo 3DS. Sure, I might go back for the occasional Pokémon battle or to kill some time in BoxBoxBoy!, but I’ve largely found most of my recent gaming time on my Switch. There’s no denying Nintendo’s seen a monumental success in Switch, and with the 3DS’ library slowly dwindling to a halt, it would take a show-stopper of a game to peel me away from my shiny new toy.
Enter Metroid: Samus Returns.
Simply put, this game is phenomenal. There exists a very short list of games (The Elder Scrolls Online, Pokémon, perhaps even Destiny) that keep my mind churning when I’m not playing them. When I’m at work, I’m thinking of where I left off last night in my latest exploration of planet SR388. While I’m driving home, I’m pondering where the next Metroid that I will cross off my bounty hunter’s list lies in wait. I might only get to play for an hour or two at a time, but each play session fills me with even more wonder and the desire to explore every nook and cranny of this subterranean world. The feedback loop of item discovery, using that item to clear an obstacle, power-up, and back again is so damn satisfying, even if the Metroid battles do seem repetitive after the first half dozen or so.
So far, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of enemy variety, but that’s a non-issue—even the simplest of enemies can do a great deal of damage if you miss a counter, especially if there are multiple enemies within close proximity. Speaking of the counter, it’s a great way to shake up the traditional Metroid formula, which is pretty much how I’d describe Samus Returns as compared to other titles in the series—formulaic. That’s not a bad thing, since I think the game takes the best of 2D Metroid titles and culminates into its definitive form. The added value from things like the melee counter and laser sights doesn’t necessarily make the game any easier, but adds a new layer of depth and strategy to an otherwise by-the-books Metroid adventure.
That said, I’m having a blast with Samus Returns. The seemingly endless exploration, the feeling of absolute elation when finding a new weapon or item, and the heart-pounding (albeit, at times, stale) fights with each Metroid all add up to a fantastic experience, and the most fun I’ve had with a game in ages.
This is all not even considering the gorgeous 3D, polygonal art style and the music which sets the tone perfectly. MercurySteam really hit this one out of the park in terms of quality. Even with the 3DS only outputting at 240p, the game looks stunning, and all the background environments, replete with looming beasts going about their business, make this one of the few 3DS titles with which I’m tempted to turn up the 3D slider. This is the best and most immersive Metroid title to date, and it may just be the perfect swan song to lie the Nintendo 3DS to rest.