Mario may be Nintendo’s standard-bearer, but Samus Aran of the “Metroid” games is getting her own chance to headline.
The space-venturing warrior stars in “Metroid Dread,” the franchise’s first appearance on the Nintendo Switch, due Oct. 8 (preorders available now). And it’s the first new story in the series in 19 years to play in 2D, picking up after “Metroid Fusion,” released in 2002 for the Game Boy Advance handheld. (Other games have been remastered games or nonstory games.)
“Metroid Dread” pays homage to that game with its side-scrolling heritage that goes back to the first installment in the series, “Metroid,” from 1986. Samus moves fast and fluidly runs, jumps, slides and climbs through lush landscapes with detailed 2.5D backgrounds. A new power, the Spider Magnet, allows the character to climb walls and stick to ceilings like Spider-Man.
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Cinematic scenes advance the story and show the expressiveness of Samus, said Yoshio Sakamoto, co-creator of the Metroid series: “We found those very effective … Story is very important in this game. These cut scenes will be used to express the story.”
“Metroid Dread” is a story Sakamoto had been imagining for 15 years, a superior foe for main character Samus, similar to the threatening SA-X enemy from “Metroid Fusion,” he said.
“At the time that we came up with the idea, the hardware wasn’t there (and) the technological concepts weren’t working with our vision so we had to put it on hold,” he said in a virtual presentation during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
A few years later, the developers “tried again and stopped again for pretty much the same reasons,” Sakamoto said.
The “dread” in the game’s title comes from those intimidating enemies Sakamoto and the team have created for Samus to face: the E.M.M.I. robots, which appear to not be slowed by her weapons. When encountering the robots, players will want to learn to move fast, hide, be quiet and deploy a phantom cloak – kind of like Harry Potter’s cape – which makes her invisible.
“it is really about Samus encountering fear,” Sakamoto said, “but she actually stands against that fear and fights it and defeats it.”
This enemy turns the tables on Samus, who is usually the hunter, said Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser in an interview.
“It’s a little bit of a role reversal,” he said.
Another Metroid game, “Metroid Prime 4,” announced in 2017, is in development at Retro Studios in Austin, Texas, under Nintendo’s supervision, but there’s “no further news” on the game, Bowser said.
“Metroid Dread” will finish a story arc for the character Samus begun with that original game 35 years ago. “It is a wonderful fitting end to the five-story overall story arc of Samus and the Metroids,” Bowser said.
And even if you haven’t followed all along over the decades, the game’s prologue “will serve as an explainer to those new to the Metroid universe,” Sakamoto said.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.