While I haven’t exactly played that many Metroid games, pretty much every console release since the original Metroid Prime on the GameCube has been a big deal for me. This particular game sees Samus investigating planet ZDR, from which the Galactic Federation received evidence that the dangerous X parasite is still in existence. While I am aware that Dread is supposed to be a sequel to Metroid Fusion, I never played that game and have no idea how they compare, what Dread builds upon, and so on.
Like any Metroid title, Samus gains a wide variety of moves over the course of the game, including those that help in her maneuverability, like a parry attack (that I think was in Fusion?) and dashing. Now I’m not ashamed to admit that I have really slow reflexes. I really struggled with this in Super Metroid, and I remember only being able to power through a certain battle with Ridley because I backtracked to an earlier part of the game I wasn’t supposed to be able to return to yet by somehow surviving a trek through lava so that I could obtain more energy tank upgrades. (This was years ago, and I don’t remember the details, but boy, was I determined.)
In Dread, fast reflexes are quite necessary if you plan to survive some of the more hectic boss battles. And yet, this wasn’t really an issue for me this time around. I don’t know if I’m just better at gaming than I was years ago. Or maybe it’s just because Samus controls so darn well. The final boss fight in particular was just so much fun because I got so good at learning the attacks and dodging accordingly. Samus has so many moves, in fact, I feel like it would be hard to get back into this game if you took a long break partway through. So many abilities require combinations between regular button presses mixed with certain triggers being held. It’s confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty cool.
One notable addition is the EMMI robots, which are initially invincible until you get the Omega Blaster, which will temporarily be yours until you vanquish the robot in question. I loved these parts, even though they could be really stressful. (Then again, the game is called Dread, after all…) Later on, you get the ability to become stealthier when navigating the EMMI zones, which helps a lot when getting past an EMMI in a particularly tight spot. Some of the most exciting moments in the game involved these awful robots and the many near captures I had, including the few times I was able to parry at just the right moment to break free. Admittedly, I grew a bit tired of them by the end of the game, but I didn’t have to deal with them for much longer at that point. Of course, that’s just my opinion, as it feels like the general consensus online is that the EMMIs were horrible, even though I personally liked having something to scream at in fear rather than rage (ahem, Shinespark puzzles…).
While I absolutely loved Dread, is it just me or does this game feel a bit more linear than other Metroid games? I feel like there were a lot of times where the game would block me in a certain section of the map and not let me leave until I was able to beat a certain boss or get a certain power up. The whole point of Metroidvania games (and golly, but it seems like Metroid was a major inspiration for the genre…) is to have the freedom to explore a huge, complex map that becomes more accessible the more abilities you gain. With that said, most Metroidvania games simply stop you from accessing areas for which you don’t yet have the proper ability. Dread, on the other hand, frequently prevents you from even returning to places you’ve already been. You will eventually have more freedom to return to previous locations, but until then, it was a big pain in the backside.
Dread was an amazing experience, for which I have few complaints. The only thing that truly and utterly bothered me were the Shinespark puzzles. For one thing, the game doesn’t explain them well at all, so I’d highly recommend finding a guide online so you understand how it works. Also, I just hated the way it controls. First off, you need to click the left control stick really fast before you start running. (The game implies you have to do this while running, but seriously, how do I click down on the control stick while tilting it? That’s madness!) Half the time, I’m not quick enough to pull this off successfully because I’m apparently an incompetent dingus. Ahem, then once you pick up speed, you can either boost around (as long as you don’t lose momentum) or tilt down for a Shinespark, which must be used within 5 seconds. (Quick tip: Shinesparks can be used midair. Just press B without touching the control stick, then tilt in the direction you want. All the advice I read about pressing Y and B seemed to merely overcomplicate things.)
Before I go, I want to leave off with a few more tips:
One, there are a few battles that can’t be won without successful parrying. Just watch for the flash of light. I had no idea how to time this properly until I noticed that.
Two, don’t be discouraged when your progress gets halted by a really challenging boss battle. Many bosses seem really tough at first until you learn the attacks and how to dodge them. Then I would breeze through battles that previously felt impossible.
In the end, I would think that any Metroid fan will surely enjoy this game. The game is very challenging, but never really felt impossible with a little bit of practice. The only true issues would be for any fellow completionists out there (because, again, those Shinespark puzzles are kind of awful) and for anyone who really doesn’t enjoy the stealth sections with the EMMIs. They may not have been a negative for me, but there were plenty of people who say they ruined the game for them. The game is $60 and took me just over 14 hours to complete 100%, though I certainly plan to play much more in the future, making the price tag feel more worthwhile.
For anyone else who has already played the game or is still in the process, what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy the EMMI zones or do you feel they detracted from the experience? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Screenshot taken by Cary