Sunday, October 31, 2021

Metroid Dread (Switch, 2021)

This is it, the big game of the month...and the largest post in site history. Will I enjoy the game I've been waiting for for 19 years? Will the site crash from this ginormous post? Tune in and we'll find out.



At the outset of the game we get some exposition. I appreciate that they brought back the Super Metroid opening theme for this.

I've never been into the X-Parasite as an idea or antagonist. Which is nuts, because John Carpenter's The Thing is my favorite movie, and the X-Parasite is clearly based on that creature.

I just find Metroids more interesting. They're the "bad guys" I grew up with. Shifting series antagonists midway through is a hit-or-miss proposition.

It's often forgotten that SR388 was actually destroyed in the Metroid canon. At the end of Fusion, the space station collides with the planet and somehow destroys both of them, ending the threat of both Metroids and X-Parasites.

OR DID IT?

At this point Samus is basically the Last Metroid, and since she also has absorbed X-Parasite DNA, she's gotta be in high demand from all of the nefarious genetic engineering thusiasts around the galaxy.

A mysterious video has arrived at Federation HQ, showing an X-Parasite moving around on the planet ZDR. So, they aren't extinct after all!

...or is it a trap? I'm gonna lean towards trap.

Here's the EMMI, a nearly-indestructible Federation terminator designed for DNA-extraction. We all know this by now, but 7 of them were sent to ZDR to investigate the signal, and all of them went missing.

It just so happens that these machines are perfect for extracting Samus' high-demand DNA.

At first I thought these things were built by the Federation itself, but they were actually built by something called Exelion Star Corporation. I'm wondering if this is going to turn out to be important in the next game.

Here's Samus. She isn't in the Fusion Suit anymore, and now has this kind of hybrid-color suit with both blue and the traditional redgold.

Another thing often-forgoten about Fusion is how her suit actually got fixed at the very end of it after absorbing the SA-X.

Oh man, here we go. I had NO IDEA what to expect from this game, outside of what the trailers showed.

And what the trailers show...is mostly in the first hour of the game. Here, Samus immediately encounters a living Chozo. Wait, what? A living Chozo? That's right, the race thought to be extinct is still around, and they've been all over the place. How they flew under the radar is beyond me.

They never had a centralized planet, so them being wiped out on SR388 or wherever else always meant very little to me when they've been shown to have colonized numerous planets. I expected them to show up in living form eventually. What I didn't expect...

...was that they'd be BAD GUYS. OH MY GOD!

In other news...Samus' armor sure is a lot more shapely and form-fitting than in previous games. Look at those hips.

She gets fried by the Evil Chozo and wakes up later, now transported to the depths of the planet. Armor is all changed too, with all of her powerups removed.

Not sure how she survived that interaction, or ended up in the middle of the planet. From here on out, the objective is to escape back to the surface, the reverse of other games in the series.

There are a bunch of Network Rooms here, just like Fusion. Here, you can communicate with ADAM (the CPU based on ADAM, that is) to get mission objectives.

It's worth noting that this game started out as a Fusion remake. After the success of Samus Returns, Mercury Steam was going to get going on a Fusion remake next. I mean, Lord knows Super Metroid doesn't need to be remade. Instead they ended up being tasked with making something new entirely.

I wonder if we'll still see a Fusion remake. Maybe a third version of the NES original, while we're at it? Might as well remake both of those for Switch. Give Super Metroid and Samus Returns quick Switch ports, and all five games in the series will be available on modern hardware in remade forms (aside from Super, which again, doesn't need any alteration).

Everything about this game is creepy, with a sense of - that's right - dread. You're somewhere in the depths with no idea how you got here. Samus is normally the hunter, now she's the hunted. Fusion also did that, but here it's a much bigger component of the game.

Powerup screen, showing that she's got absolutely nothing at the outset aside from a few missiles.

The map screen shows the ship way up there on the surface. Artaria is the lowest level of the planet, and in any other Metroid game it'd be the final area.

ZDR itself seems like a Chozo planet, maybe THE Chozo planet. Everything is Chozo architecture here, and it's also brimming with active laboratories.

But wait, we interrupt that thought for the very unwelcome arrival of...

...the first EMMI. These things are creepy as hell, and this first encounter is tremendous.

Unfortunately it isn't much of a fight because this particular EMMI is totally gimped, and already battle-damaged. But by who? Who is powerful enough to mangle an EMMI? Probably the same guy who reprogrammed them to go after Samus.

This EMMI is basically a tutorial fight, which sorta gimps them right out of the gate. You one-shot this guy with a massive energy blast and that's it.

Despite the gimping, this is the only time an EMMI won't be a pain in the ass. Well, besides the last one, but we'll get there.

Defeat EMMIs and you absorb abilities from them. Not sure how that works, but it's what's happening.

There are also these Mother Brain computers that you need to defeat to absorb power for the super-beam that kills EMMIs. This first brain is a gimme fight because it's already defeated when you arrive. Later brains gradually increase in difficulty and their fights are a lot like the actual Mother Brain. They don't really attack you so much as various guns and rings fired by the room do.

Save Point.

The EMMIs only lurk in specific areas, and you can tell when you're in EMMI territory because everything takes on this "cold storage" look.

Further EMMIs aren't battle-damaged and have reinforced armor, so you need to blast them quite a bit with the uber-laser before you break off enough armor to kill them with a charged shot.

The visuals of this game are pretty nice in the graphical sense, but nothing about them wows me. I wish this game were in 4K, and apparently it is on emulators.

Also the art direction of the game isn't very good, with occasional exceptions like this cavern. Most of the game has this sterile lab look that is the same from area to area. I'm fine with old-style 2D visuals but I'd like to see them do more with it, whether in terms of art style or lighting or just creativity. There's no excuse for blandness in this day and age, yet there's an awful lot of it.

For example, this indy game from 2015 (that unfortunately never got finished) demonstrates some seriously awesome visuals and art direction.

At first I was really into this whole EMMI thing, since I also love Terminator. I mean this game borrows from both The Thing and Terminator. I should be loving the hell out of it.

ADAM spends a lot of time discouraging Samus in this game. Here he's all like "you're too weak to defeat EMMIs lol"

The ledge-grab is an absolutely key item here, just like in Zero Mission, and makes everything so much easier. There's the first energy tank I got, which is always this great moment in Metroid games for me. It's like the moment where you realize you're making progress.

Fans of Chozo statues will love this game because they're EVERYWHERE. Here's the legendary item statue. In this game they seem a little more...menacing than previous games. This particular statue has the Charge Beam, which is pretty crucial in this game because Missiles are a pain to use. They attached Missiles to holding down a shoulder button to fire, and it absolutely should have been a toggle instead.

More information is revealed: The Chozo on this planet are a "warrior tribe" that likely defeated and subdued the EMMI. If they're strong enough to do that, Samus may have a problem. Also they staged the footage just to get her here, probably to collect her DNA. Which begs the question of why the Chozo at the beginning didn't finish her off.

The first "mother brain" fight. Note the rings on the sides. I've mentioned my notebook-created "Metroid 4" a lot over the years and how a number of things from it ended up appearing in actual games, like Metroid Prime's spider metroid final boss. Another thing it had was a number of cloned Mother Brain fights that all played out largely the same as the original, except they were in normal rooms with no lava. A lot like this. Eventually I'll hopefully find that notebook, unless it was lost in a move, and it'll probably get its own post.

As much as I'm not crazy about the EMMI sections of the game, there's something to be said for how intense they can get. Especially these parts when they have you cornered and you only have a few seconds to blast them enough to stun them.

Another one down. Samus is cool as a cucumber in these cutscenes, as opposed to the player who is probably spazzing out.

The first real boss is next (unless you count the recurring brain and EMMI fights as bosses). This thing is pretty easy and a good introduction to the mechanics of boss fights in this game.

Blast it in the vulnerable spot until a QTE happens, parry at the right time, win. It's similar to fights in the God of War series. Every boss fight in Dread pretty much follows this MO.

Also, Samus continues to be bad-ass in the cutscenes. It's like they took Other M and went in completely the opposite direction.

Here's a stealth item that lets Samus sneak around like an MMO rogue. I didn't use this very much at all because it feels antithetical to Metroid. However it's useful sometimes for avoiding EMMI aggro.

Samus has a sordid history with the Varia and high-temperature areas. This time around she doesn't actually have the Varia so that's the next objective.

The next EMMI is a green one, and it prowls around like one of those creepy General Dynamics mecha-dogs. Samus can be seen in the background in camouflaged mode.

Here's some sort of massive creature of unknown nature. Seriously, I have no idea what this thing is and I've beaten the game. Not sure if it's organic or a statue. Looks like a corpse, and the body has a striking resemblance to the Queen Metroid. The head looks like a Chozo head.

I'm not the only one detecting a Queen callback here either. The designers clearly intended it that way because they also put a morph ball tunnel right under the monster, much like the original Queen fight in Metroid 2.

LAVA. At this point I was just happy to see something that wasn't a sterile laboratory.

Here's ADAM to discourage Samus yet again. Just BACK OFF DUDE.

............what the hell.

"Shady wait a minute, maybe there's an explanation for this shit" said Dr. Dre when reached for comment.

Nice background here. I feel like the visuals for this game are great occasionally, when they want to be. There are some impressive background vistas. Unfortunately that doesn't help with the fact that I can't tell most of the game "worlds" apart visually.

Samus rides a sideways-elevator, and I realize it took the series this long to ever have a sideways-elevator.

Spazer acquired, which makes everything so much easier. The theme of this next area is that it's largely shrouded in shadow. The area in question?

Cataris, which I can't read without reading it as "Cat Aeris"

This is a good opportunity to point out that the maps in this game are huge, messy, and difficult to navigate with. You also need to pull them up a LOT while playing because of how nondescript the environments are.

Another brain fight, and the number of ring-cannons is increasing. 9 year old me would have loved this.

Fun Fact: Mother Brain was also created by the Chozo, like the Metroids. This is why there are other Mother Brains found here on ZDR. Not sure what relevance this has to the overall series canon, but it's been a thing since the NES game. Much like the Metroids were designed to combat X-Parasites on SR388, the Mother Brain(s) were designed to be incredibly powerful computers. Presumably so they could administrate entire planets that the Chozo controlled, if I had to guess. The Zebes one went haywire and became the leader of the Space Pirates. There's some interesting prequel material here.

Other M and Prime 3 both sorta retcon it a little to suggest that Mother Brain was a Federation creation, so I don't know what's canon now. However, given that there are brains here on ZDR, I think they're sticking with the NES explanation.

That gets me the powerup I need to take out the green EMMI. So the loop of this game seems to be: Traverse an area to find an item that'll get you to the local brain, defeat it, use the uberlaser from that to defeat the EMMI, get the item from the EMMI, then use that to reach the area boss.

You don't get the Morph Ball until roughly 25-30% of the way through this game, which is nuts. For a while I was starting to think it wouldn't be in the game at all. The early game is pretty barren for powerups, while the later game pours them on you.

The Morph Ball + Power Grip allows you to get into all kinds of tunnels that were previously inaccessible.

For instance, the tunnel under this weird Queen Metroid / Chozo hybrid statue and/or corpse. This leads you to...

...the Varia Suit, which is key for exploring fire areas. While sequence breaking exists, the normal flow of this game is super linear. Every time you get a particular item that you needed to progress, you get to enjoy moving forward freely for like 15 minutes before you run into needing another item to progress.

Traverse the heat area to reach the second big boss...

....::squints::

"What the hellll is that?"

Whatever it is, it's HUGE.

Holy shit. It's Kraid. Look at how Samus is completely unbothered by him screaming in her face.

While Ridley has made numerous appearances in this series, Kraid has been notably absent outside of the two Zebes games. There were plans to make him a boss in several other games since, but none came to fruition. Most notably, he was intended to be the Chozo Ruins boss in Metroid Prime, and later got replaced with Flaaghra.

This fight starts with him low to the ground, much like Super Metroid.

Eventually he breaks free of his restraints and stands up, after which the fight becomes MUCH harder. This is the beginning of Dread's tendency to have very difficult boss fights that can take numerous tries until you get them down (and find yourself barely even getting hit). I gotta say, this game has great boss fights and the fact that you can master them means they're well-designed. However, bosses that take numerous tries aren't really something I expect out of Metroid. They went all Hollow Knight with this and while tons of people will love that, it got me off-guard when every new boss would halt my progression for a while. It's like what happened with that giant mining robot in Samus Returns, over and over again.

After the fight, Kraid falls into the lava and thrashes about like the T-1000. Safe to say that's the end of him forever.

But how did he get here in the first place? Suffice to say, the Chozo landed on Zebes while Samus was clearing the place out, and hauled Kraid off the planet. They were keeping him in bondage down here for whatever reason.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the slain armored character laying outside of Kraid's lair in Super. It was never explained that I know of. Maybe the implication is that it was a Chozo soldier that Kraid had defeated, and then the rest arrived after his fight with Samus.

Once again, for a race thought to be extinct, these Chozo sure were buzzing all over the place this whole time.

Samus is, again, cool as a cucumber as Kraid makes one last grasp. I like this version of Samus a lot.

Onward, the next major powerup gives your Missiles the power to explode and hit things on the other side of walls. This does basically nothing in normal gameplay, but it does let you hit switches that are inside of walls (like the one on the right here). It's more of a key than an actual new weapon.

The next EMMI. I like ducking into a Morph Ball nook with camo on and watching them pace around, none the wiser.

Here's a shot that was definitely inspired by The Thing. I don't know what that is, but it looks like it's already been fried and the Chozo are conducting some kind of autopsy.

Over/under on this thing coming back to life later?

Like the Morph Ball, this is acquired uncharacteristically late. It's needed to get to the obligatory water area:

The music in Dread is largely forgettable (except when it remixes themes from earlier games). I did, however, like the music in the water area. Here it is.

Energy Tank layup! I miss when they stood out more...and took up more of the screen. I can't even tell the difference between the E-Tanks and the E-Tank Parts in this game.

The water area is pretty cool, and finally looks markedly different from the rest of the game. The sterile labs of the first 40% of the game all sorta blend together. Considering that Fusion and Other M also both have a ton of sterile lab environments, I hope this isn't the trend going forward in the series. At least Fusion also had various element-themed sectors.

Lots and lots of sea life here. I like stuff like this.

This Chozo statue absolutely looks like a boss, but it isn't, it's just an item statue.

Actually, that's something that has been conspicuously absent in this game: The Metroid game with Chozo as bad guys doesn't have any Chozo Statue bosses. Missed opportunity, this thing right here looks like it would have been a great statue boss.

The powerup you get from it is the blink-dash, which might be the most crucial new move in this game. It lets you air-dash and generally dodge out of the way of enemy attacks. Some projectiles can even be phased through, like Cuphead's air-dash. However, it doesn't work with larger projectiles or solid enemies. Either way, much like the Souls series, you need to get really good with this dodge to be successful.

Drop yet another EMMI, and you get the SPEED BOOSTER. As usual it's a lot of fun to mess with. However, they made it an L3 toggle rather than a button-hold this time, which isn't intuitive. Essentially it's the exact reverse problem that the Missiles have. Those should have been a toggle.

In any case, toggle or not, I love the Speed Booster. In Boston it is known as "Speed Boostah"

OH YEAH. One of my favorite Metroid items, though only Super did it "right" IMO. Prime did it as well as it could in 3D at least.

Here it is in action. It functions largely the same as in other games. However there are almost no places to actually use it, so again, it's more of a key than a weapon/item. And most of the places where you do use it tend to be block-pulling passages, like Samus Returns. In short, it's a letdown.

Samus finds a mural depicting the Chozo Dictator and his minions. This scene is great and leads into the densest lore-dump in the game...or maybe any game. Pretty much all of Dread's lore happens in this one scene. Pacing issues aside it's a huge scene, and the high point of the game for me.

A PURPLE EMMI~! crashes through the mural...

...and immediately shuts down.

This is the work of- AH! JESUS!

This is Quiet Robe, a Chozo scientist. He's not a bad guy, which is confusing because he has the gold armor that the Chozo Dictator has in the murals.

Meanwhile the actual Chozo Dictator is wearing silver armor. I could see people getting confused by this, not sure why they did it this way. In any case, the bad guy in question is Raven Beak (ehh) and the leader of a Chozo splinter faction called the Mawkin.

For all of the talk about Chozo being extinct, this game never brings it up. Are the Mawkin the final vestiges of the Chozo, spared because they were nomads instead of being planet-based? I don't know. Getting the impression there are still other Chozo around, and maybe they're retconning them to not be extinct at all.

After the Chozo encountered the X-Parasites on SR388, they created Metroids to absorb them. X-Parasites were the only thing Chozo weren't able to defeat themselves. The Chozo are basically demi-gods in power, but nothing can stop The Thing. Except Xenomorphs, apparently.

The only problem is, the Metroids couldn't be controlled, and proceeded to take over SR388 themselves. The Chozo had to call for help, and the Mawkin arrived to save the day. Together they managed to box the Metroids into the caverns where they were isolated to that one planet.

The only problem is...later Raven Beak realized how powerful the Metroids were as weapons, and didn't want to destroy them, so the Mawkin went into business for themselves.

For those keeping count, that's twice in a row that the Chozo enlisted help only to have the help turn on them.

After killing off the Chozo scientists that created the Metroids, Raven Beak and his Mawkin take over. They keep Quiet Robe alive since he knows how to control Metroids.

But wait! Upon their return to SR388 to harness the Metroids as a weapon, these guys quickly discovered that the Metroids had already been wiped out by Samus. This must be why Raven Beak wants Samus' DNA, since she's the Last Metroid.

But wait! After returning to ZDR empty-handed, the Mawkin discover that one of their own...isn't what he seemed.

Once the X was out of the SR388 ecosystem, it was already too late, and it started spreading throughout ZDR.

This is a lot. So basically there are no more Metroids (boooo) and the evil Chozo tribe is slowly being overrun by X-Parasites. So the Chozo aren't really the villains anymore and we haven't even encountered them yet. I was hoping this game wouldn't go the X-Parasite route and it'd be a red herring, but nope. Having Chozo bad guys had a ton of interesting potential, but everything is overshadowed by the X.

At the end of the exposition, Samus actually SPEAKS CHOZO to him. It's rare to hear her say anything, much less speak in Chozo language. Actually if you ignore Other M this might be the first time she ever speaks in vocal dialogue in the series. Let's go ahead and do that.

After this scene, the second half of the game begins. This scene is pretty much the exact halfway point. Would be a good time to end the post and do a Part 2, but nope, WE'RE DOIN' IT LIVE.

It's very different from here on out, with Chozo (possessed or not) as the main antagonists and X-Parasites on the loose. Every random enemy from the first half is now more powerful due to being X-infected. It's a little weird because there are no X-Parasites before this, but now that we know they're around, suddenly they're everywhere and taking over.

Quiet Robe gets blasted, and we fight a very nasty Robot Chozo Soldier. They're minibosses of sorts and aren't nearly as bad as an actual Chozo Warrior, but here the fight catches you so off guard that it's rough.

That's all she wrote for Quiet Robe. The last Chozo scientist...is dead. Also the first living Chozo of any decency that we've met in the entire series.

I thought at this point that I was done with the plague of EMMIs for the rest of the game, and that maybe the several missing ones (3 IIRC) would be used in a DLC area or something.

Nope, the de-activation is only temporary. In the meantime, things open up quite a bit.

It's pouring in the next area, which is awesome. Rain and storms are used to good effect a couple times in outdoor zones in this game.

Now we can reach the big boss of the water zone, this bizarre tentacled hentai monstrosity.

This is one of those fights that makes no sense at first. It involves taking out the top tentacle, blasting the doors (which are actually switches) to lower the water level in the room, grappling to the ceiling-platform to get to the other side, and blasting the switch on that side as well. Do all of this quick and the boss opens up, exposing a weak point. It's possible to win the fight in one round of this, but if you don't blast enough, you have to repeat the cycle to finish things.

The next area is Ghavoran, which is overgrown with vegetation like Brinstar.

Another Chozo Robot attacks here. These fights are just straight-up fast and furious slugfests. No tricks here or puzzles to figure out, no pattern to follow, just blast them and dodge their random attacks.

After all of my powerup-gathering, ADAM makes sure to casually mention that I'm still nothing compared to Raven Beak. NOBODY ASKED YOU.

I love Super Missiles, so this is a great moment for me. This game does the same thing Fusion does and just upgrades your normal Missiles to Super rather than having it be a separate item. So this is a massive upgrade.

We're in some pretty serious Chozo turf now, the domain of the Mawkin.

X-Parasites start to be a constant occurrence here. However, being a Metroid, Samus can absorb them to restore large amounts of health/ammo. So if anything the fights are just more rewarding now. The X-versions of enemies tend to be much more aggressive than the normal versions though.

Also...with Samus being part-Metroid now and the only one left, all of the people who erroneously called her "the Metroid" back in the NES days are now retroactively correct.

Plasma Beam acquired. It can combine with the Spazer so you get the triple-effect here.

And we NEED the Plasma Beam because right after that is the first fight (of a bunch) with an actual Chozo Warrior. These guys are TOUGH and their battles are fast and furious in a way I haven't really seen in previous Metroid games.

Woe to you if you don't have twitch reflexes, because when they're on the verge of defeat you have to do two successful parries in a QTE. Miss and they get about 25% of their health back, and you don't want that.

Also, late in the fight they start to "Thing out" and transform a bit, showing that they're X-infected.

Oh no. Quiet Robe is "alive" again due to being possessed by X-Parasites, and he proceeds to re-awaken the remaining EMMIs and sic them on Samus.

ADAM is weirdly being a lot nicer to Samus now that the X-Parasites are overrunning everything and she's the only one that can stop them due to her immunity.

The next EMMI is one of the worse ones, and chases you through an underwater area. WRU Gravity Suit?

This is a double jump new to this game. Not to be confused with the far-superior Space Jump. I had a lot of issues getting this double jump to work. Some battles it'd fail on me multiple times, causing me to take hits, and I'm not sure why. This issue has been widely reported, while other players never had an issue with it, so I don't know what's going on.

Back in the vegetation area, we get another Chozo Warrior fight. This one is cool because it starts with the Chozo watching Samus from the foreground.

Aqua-EMMI follows, and it's the usual. Would have been much easier with the Gravity Suit. At this point the game is getting a little bit redundant with all of the repeat bosses. I'm not even getting into all of the Mother Brain fights.

Ice Missiles acquired, which let you freeze foes as is tradition. I like the new methodology of having Missile upgrades all be combined into one, like the beam. Now I've got Diffuser, Super, and Ice upgrades for the Missile and there are more to come, like homing power.

Finally we arrive at my favorite area of this entire game, the Chozo city. This place looks amazing for Chozo-thusiasts like me.

One of my numerous death loading screens gives us an interesting bit here. I completely forgot about this ability (unsure if it was even a thing in Fusion). This is, again, very Thing-like, where they can call back the traits of previous hosts like tentacles or sharp stabby things.

More Chozo statues.

Here we have the toughest boss up to this point by FAR: Some sort of electric wasp thing. I could see this being the end for some players, since it's basically the Draygon of this game. The main difficulty is the way it's invincible 80% of the time.

The aiming is crucial here so it's basically a check on how good you are with that. The windows to actually damage the boss are microscopic, and I hated this fight. I've read that it's considered one of the toughest fights in the game, maybe THE toughest by some people, but I'd say the later Chozo Warriors and the final boss are all consistently tougher than this thing. However, this is definitely the most jarring difficulty spike compared to what is before it.

The fight is immediately followed by this Ornstein and Smough type battle with TWO Robot Chozo. This fight is also pretty tough, especially if you're already stressed-out from the death-wasp.

The key here was to try and keep both of them on one side, if possible.

I like that the camera pans in and out so you can always see where the opposition is. Like the single Robot Chozo fights, staying patient and only firing when it's clear is the path to victory. These fights are absolutely twitch-based fights rather than pattern-based like the Chozo Warriors and other bosses.

Space Jump acquired. Man, this one is usually huge when you get it towards the end of Metroid games. This time around, however, it's more like another "key". You need it to cross gaps in water until you get the Gravity Suit. That's about it. Most of the game is too confined for you to go for a long flight.

Gravity Suit obtained, and I gotta say I think I like purple the most of all Samus' suit colors.

This lets you move freely underwater, which opens up this entire area for exploration.

ADAM with a dire warning. In the span of one day in game-time, the X-Parasites have overrun everything. They're even more virulent than The Thing.

The next area is an ice area, and if I thought the bee boss was bad...

...I hadn't seen nothin' yet, because this next Chozo Warrior is horrendous. His attacks take off TWO TO THREE energy tanks, and he has new venom-spit attacks that are very difficult to avoid.

This fight actually caused me to take a week off from the game, but eventually I got back to it and won. These super-tough bosses just weren't that welcome when I was ready for the game to wind down, which is probably a me problem, I don't know.

Next up is another big area boss. It's that thing that was being autopsied earlier, jolted back to life by X-Parasites. That's right, they can even possess corpses. Not sure if they actually "jolt them back to life" or if it's more a situation where they absorb them and then replicate them, leaving behind the bones as seen a few times in Fusion.

This fight gets pretty close to Cuphead territory and turns into bullet hell a few times. Apparently it's possible to one-shot it with the Speed Booster but I did the fight the normal way. You can tell that whoever designed the mining robot fight in Samus Returns probably also designed this.

The legendary Screw Attack, acquired very late in the game as usual. It's better than usual in Dread because the enemies are such OP pests here and the Screw Attack renders you largely invulnerable to regular foes.

Samus is at like, full power now and ADAM is still all like "Raven Beak would waste you lol"

Am I being trolled?

Missile Tanks only giving two missiles at a time is a bit of an enthusiasm-dampener. I don't feel like going out of my way to get them as much as when they were 5 in most of the other games.

We get another Ornstein and Smough situation with another pair of Chozo Robots. At this point I'm wise to their tricks, so it's just a matter of being patient and staying away from them while waiting for opportunities to attack.

Speed Booster puzzles abound in the later parts of the game, but I ignored most of them because the rewards just weren't that great. If you're going for 100% you better get pretty damn good at Shinesparks. In this case I went ahead and solved one of them because it got me...

...the last Energy Tank I'd get in the game. I got all of the full Energy Tanks, and all but four parts. Managed to finish assembling the tank I was on here, but never got the last four parts. So at the end of the day I'm one Energy Tank short of max. It could make a difference, but honestly, in this game an Energy Tank is like half of a hit by the end.

Sort of a miniboss here, not a full-on area boss. Emits bombs that explode in cross-shapes, and turns into a Core-X when almost defeated. The cross-bombs are the upgrade you get from this fight, and they allow you to propel over long gaps. Again, this item is more of a "key" than anything else because you need it to proceed (and to get a couple of items) and other than that never use it again.

PURPLE EMMI. This is the one from Quiet Robe's lab, back for vengeance. It's also the last EMMI you fight in the game, even though it's listed as the second-to-last.

The important thing with these fights is to get as much distance on them as possible before you start firing. Have to score a certain number of hits in a row to stop them, and they rapidly regenerate if you don't get them down in one go.

Elsewhere, Raven Beak monitors Samus from an undisclosed location as the showdown looms. While the world falls apart and his soldiers become infected, Raven Beak has managed to stay above the fray by lurking in his spaceship just above the surface.

Arriving at the central Mawkin labs, I got excited for a moment when I thought those were Metroids in those glass cases. Nope, no Metroids in this game.

Though if the Chozo were on SR388 and Zebes right before both of them were destroyed*, you'd think they would have had time to grab some Metroids to clone. Or just made more of them since they made them to begin with. Either way, their lack of Metroids means they're helpless to stop the X.

* - I feel like the Chozo have been stalking Samus for a while.

The final EMMI is actually destroyed in a cutscene when Samus' latent Metroid DNA activates and gives her momentary super-powers. So that's one less EMMI I need to deal with, but I also feel a little cheated that I didn't get to destroy the last one.

At the end of the day, the EMMI were just Raven Beak's backup plan. He wanted Samus' Metroid power to awaken on its own, like it just did, thinking he could control her. If it failed to awaken, then the EMMIs would kill her and get her DNA so he could make a new Samus and try to control that one.

This leads to another Chozo Warrior, the fourth of five. No other Metroid game reuses bosses like this one does. Luckily this one isn't any tougher than the (already very tough) one in the ice area, so if you managed to get that fight down, this isn't any different.

ADAM is impressed...for once. Do I have a chance against Raven Beak now?

Finally, we arrive at the surface area, the endgame. Samus' ship is parked somewhere around here...as are lots of Chozo fighter ships.

The fifth and final Chozo Warrior fight is against a gold one, and he's the strongest out of all of them by pure attack power and HP. Though again, the patterns aren't much different from the previous fights.

At some point the Chozo Warrior fights become Elite Chozo Warrior fights. Not sure where the changeover happens, but goldie is definitely an Elite Chozo Warrior. I think the first two were regular Chozo Warriors and the third one (in the ice room) onward have been Elite.

After that, it turns out there's one last mini-area to the game: Itorash, the spacecraft of Raven Beak. In theory Samus could get to her ship and leave now, but instead it's time to settle the score.

The control panel in here is the same one we've seen Raven Beak with during cutscenes.

There are no enemies in here, just an elevator that goes to this latest ADAM, who makes a stunning revelation (that I already gave away). Samus' Metroid DNA has gone from latent to dominant so she is now a full-on Metroid in everything except appearance. Capable of absorbing energy, deflecting damage, etc. She is essentially now Super-Samus.

Also... what? ADAM is turning on Samus? Does this mean the Federation is hunting her now? "The last Metroid is in captivity" means so much more all of a sudden.

Things shift to this very claustrophobic cutscene as ADAM goes full-on HAL 9000, revealing that Samus going full-Metroid was the plan all along.

Samus then blasts ADAM to bits, revealing that Raven Beak is sitting right behind it and talking through it. That's right, Raven Beak was "ADAM" for this entire game. It never made any sense that there were ADAM network terminals here on ZDR, and the scrambled voice probably also gave it away. Also explains why ADAM constantly discouraged Samus from trying to fight Raven Beak.

This is it, time for the showdown with the Chozo Dictator that I've been waiting for since 2017's Samus Returns.

But first! Another cutscene, where he reveals that it was HE who supplied the life-saving Chozo genetic transfusion to Samus after the Chozo rescued her from Ridley, the transfusion that made her effectively half-Chozo. That's right...he is her FATHER. Or so he says anyway. I don't know if I like this and I'm not sure what the point is. She was raised by peaceful Chozo. It would have probably been more impactful if Quiet Robe had been her "father" instead. It also makes the Metroid universe feel a lot smaller when everyone knows each other, like how the Chozo have clearly had run-ins with Ridley and Kraid.

For those keeping count, Samus is now a combination of human, Chozo, Metroid, and her suit has absorbed upgrades from X-Parasites so she's kinda that too.

The fight begins, under a tremendous sunset background. I'm glad it looks good, because this is THE hardest fight in any Metroid game and it isn't even close.

Here is a rough approximation of how my first few fights with Raven Beak went.

Each time I did a bit better, though. It's all about learning his moves and how to react to all of them, and he telegraphs everything. It's still the hardest fight in the entire Metroid series, but I'd put it on par with an average Cuphead fight.

He has multiple phases, and every so often you get a crucial QTE where you have to parry. Miss and you end up losing ground.

He's got a power suit and an arm cannon just like Samus. This fight is awesome just for that reason, and the fact that he's Samus' most formidable foe to date just adds to it. I'd like to see him whoop Ridley's ass. I'm sure he could, given that he was able to single-handedly defeat an EMMI. That's right, the first one we encountered. Now we know who defeated it. He also wrestled Kraid into compliance, and might have created Mother Brain. The Chozo really are the be-all and end-all of this series and I don't know if you can top this as a final fight.

Defeat his first form and he goes to his second form, which is actually the hardest part of the fight. The first form becomes formulaic once you know all of his moves, so having to repeat it to get back to this form isn't the worst thing in the world. The key is to destroy the orbs he launches to get health back. The winged second form doesn't really have any ways to regen mid-fight.

He has a huge Kamehameha wave in this form that does devastating damage...if it hits, because he always fires diagonally down. It creates a window to unleash some damage to him.

For the third and final form, he gets rid of his own wings (which sorta sprouted out of nowhere to begin with) and goes back to his attack pattern from the first form, now sans cape. He has a few new moves here though, and got me the first time. At that point I knew victory was pretty close though.

Have I mentioned how rad this background is for a final battle? Reminds me of Final Fantasy VI, or the last boss of Alien 3 on the SNES (the one cool thing about that game).

More QTEs in this form and they're the key to beating him quickly. He also unleashes a fake sun that emits all kinds of projectiles and makes the fight virtually unwinnable. The key is to drop a Power Bomb the second he does that, which destroys the sun before it can start emitting attacks. That also results in a massive heal.

...oh yeah, you get Power Bombs right before the end. They're great for finding your way around in this game when powerup-collecting (since block types stay "revealed" permanently after you break/highlight them once).

Win the fight, and Raven Beak gets Samus in a chokehold, just like the beginning. He gave her his power once upon a time, now he wants her power.

My God. An army of Metroid-Samuses.

Raven Beak bids her adieu. IS THIS THE END?

Nope, as Samus goes FULL METROID and blasts him away while transforming into a new green suit. This whole thing is a lot like Xenogears and the Id transformation, in that it starts with her just blacking out and obliterating an EMMI, then ends with her going for the full-on physical transformation.

Green suit Samus is pretty fugly-looking, but it has Metroid characteristics and can absolutely walk through walls. Interested to see if they do anything with this transformation in future games...if she still has it that is.

Raven Beak is infuriated at his defeat because the fight should have been a shoe-in. This also caused his ship to crash to the planet, where X-Parasites immediately jumped on him.

The X-Parasites immediately take him over and combine him with Kraid's shambling corpse to become Raven Beak X Kraid.

...also the world's worst fan-fiction.

This is the technical final boss, but it's a gimme fight. Charge up and unleash a massive DBZ beam to annihilate both Kraid and Raven Beak once and for all. ...well, they're already gone so you're basically just annihilating a big X-Parasite.

Raven Beak will be missed. What a formidable foe. He sorta got gimped at the end by the X ravaging his troops, and I actually felt bad for him when he fell to the planet and got absorbed by them. Was also hoping he'd return in further games. Safe to say Kraid is also now dead for good, much like Ridley after Other M. (The "Ridley-X" in Fusion is a mimic)

Pretty much all of the series loose ends are tied up at this point except for the Federation and their creepy science division (which acts autonomously from the Federation and thus could easily be the villains in the future without the Federation itself having to be defeated).

All that's left is to end ZDR and the X-Parasites (again...unless someone ELSE stopped by SR388 between Metroid II and Fusion). The escape sequence is tricky in this game, but you get a checkpoint at the start. Also, Metroid Samus can fire a massive beam at will that absolutely disintegrates everything in its path.

Seriously, this beam is incredible. Any way I could have this for the entire game?

Reach the ship in time, and that's it for Dread. I think this is the same ship she had in Fusion.

A Quiet Beak X shows up on her ship, then bows and lets itself be absorbed. I'm not sure what happened there, but it reverted Samus to normal. If she's "cured" of her Metroid-ness now, that seems like a big wasted opportunity for future games to do things differently. I hope she can at least call back the transformation later as a temporary super-mode.

It was actually probably twice this; it doesn't count your time if you die, only successful runs.

Final thoughts on Dread? I like it but it isn't in my top tier of Metroid games. I'd put it in B-Tier, and I don't think it ever reaches the level of the couple of Metroid games that I'd consider S-Tier. It's a solid 8 out of 10 though. There are a few baffling decisions here like the control scheme (dash/blink is on a weird button, the Missile hold is annoying, toggling run is annoying). Most of all, I don't like the art direction of this game. It's bland as hell and I can't tell most of the first half of the game apart. It gets a 10 out of 10 on lore though, and expands the story quite a bit.

Some games/movies/whatever have this syndrome where they get a bad reception out of the gate and it sorta promulgates itself with the fans, to the point where the game/movie can do no right because everything is critical and herd mentality has set in (whether justified or not). This game had the opposite happen and was so well-received out of the gate that it can do no wrong. There are definitely things I would have done differently and I think this could have been improved on quite a bit, and I don't plan on playing it a second time to 100% it. The difficulty could also use some tweaking. As a Metroid game I'm not super crazy about it, but as a regular game it's good.

I will say though that I hope MercurySteam isn't making all of the Metroid games going forward. I'd like to see the 2D games in the series be less Samus Returns and more AM2R.

On a final note, getting 100% unlocks a secret art gallery, just like in SR. And it's just as interesting this time, showing you more behind-the-scenes Chozo stuff, including the subduing of the EMMI and the capture of Kraid. Raven Beak is a real badass, and you see him here taking down a number of the enemies from the game and generally showing off for his troops.

It looks like the Red and Gold Chozo Warriors were the Elite ones and the silver are the regular ones, meaning the one in the ice room is not actually an Elite. Also, the shot of one of the Chozo troops turning into an X-Parasite and catching the rest of the room off-guard is a chilling moment that John Carpenter would be proud of. My favorite shot however is this one:

One thing is for sure, the Mawkin are monstrously powerful. ...and now they're all dead, booooo.

We'll see what they do next with the main Metroid story but I'm not sure where else it can go unless we're gonna murder the Federation science division or clash with Exelion Star Corporation. The Prime series taking place so early in the timeline might be a better bet for further story developments, or at least seeing more Metroids in action. And speaking of that, I hope if we get a Metroid 6 that it utilizes Samus' Metroid Id form in some way. Lot of potential there. It could have Alpha, Gamma, etc forms and do all kinds of new things.

We'll see, I just hope it doesn't take another large amount of years to see what's next.


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