Playthrough: Metroid Returns

Box Art

Hello and welcome to The Starlight Megaphone’s playthrough of Metroid Dread, an exploration platforming (‘Metroidvania’) game released worldwide and exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on 8 October 2021.

Metroid Dread (also known as Metroid 5) is the fifth, two-dimensional (original style) game in the Metroid series, which tells the story of the intergalactic bounty hunter, Samus Aran, and her quest to serve the Federation by hunting down and exterminating the Space Pirates of Zebes and their leader, Mother Brain. Along the way, she encounters the titular Metroids–from planet SR388–which the Space Pirates initially use as a weapon. And, she learns about her history and the way in which it has been entangled with the ancient Chozo civilisation.

Following on the developments of the last 2-D game in the series, Metroid Fusion, the threat posed to galactic civilisation by the Metroids now seems to be negligible. Instead, new dangers lie in wait: the Space Pirates’ experiments ensured that many kinds of foes now fill the cosmos, from traditional Zoomers and Sidehoppers to newer and more devious technological foes, rogue AIs, and terrifying robotic monstrosities. The X parasites that Samus seemed to have destroyed, along with planet SR388, at the end of Fusion turn on not to have been so easily eradicated. X transmissions are detected from Planet ZDR, and when the EMMI units sent to investigate stop responding, Samus is sent in to find out what has gone wrong.

Samus can now climb and hang on walls, making her more versatile than ever.

The producer of Metroid Dread, Yoshio Sakamoto, has said that the game will conclude the story arc begun with the release of the original Metroid in 1986, finally resolving the conflict between Samus and the Metroids. However, earlier games have also offered the tantalising prospect of the elimination of the Metroid species, only to withhold finality in the ending sequences–again, an approach to cliffhanger-style story-telling that can trace its roots to the first game in the series.

Complicating this claim is the fact that fans may have trouble of conceiving of a Metroid game that contains no Metroids, raising the possibility of a potential Parasite Eve-style franchise reimagining for a future Metroid game as was done with The Third Birthday. Nintendo may want to attend to what became of the Parasite Eve series after such a drastic reinvention of its premises, especially given their own brief flirtation with that approach in the badly-received Metroid: Other M.

Samus is now equipped with homing missiles that can fire around bends.

As is typical of “Metroidvania”-style exploration platformers, the game involves the exploration of a large, two-dimensional world. At first, the small subset of abilities available means that only a small area of the world map can be accessed. However, as players explore the world, they will discover new powers, weapons, and skills which will give them the ability to enter areas which were previously unreachable, where they will find still more power-ups, along with requisite monsters and bosses.

Please use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, strategies and content you have uncovered, and any aids you are using in your playthrough. Do you feel that the Metroid storyline should finally come to an end? Do you prefer the 2D or 3D games in the series? Do you approve of the switch from 2D pixel art to 3D-rendered images presented on a 2D map? What sorts of changes would you make to the game? What features would you add or remove? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below! We will select some of the best comments, each week, for our podcast discussion.

As the series has progressed, the role of the Chozo has been increased.

The aim in this playthrough is to complete the entirety of the game by 19 November. Instead of milestones, we encourage you to play at your own pace–but please keep us updated about your thoughts and progress as you play the game. This will help to sustain our discussion and encourage other players to complete the game. Please also make use of our official Discord channel, where we have an #events channel dedicated to playthrough chat.

Please join in with us and comment about your experience! The playthrough time frame is intended to allow anyone and everyone to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the series. Comment and tell your friends!

Without further adieu, we invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone’s staff members and readers in Metroid Returns: a Metroid Dread playthrough!

20 comments

  1. Between podcasts, grading, and having friends and family over, last weekend did not afford me much time to play Metroid. Today I have a couple of hours of free time, so I’m able to get into the game a bit.

    I an with Tanzenmatt in that I would dearly like to swap L1 with L2 and R1 with R2. This is almost always the case in every game. I think that developers expect modern gamers to play with both the index and middle fingers resting on the buttons at the top of the controller. But–and maybe this is something about gamers of our generation, who grew up playing on the SNES with its single shoulder buttons layout–I ordinarily have *only* my index fingers up there, and they naturally rest on L2/R2. Yet for the reasons aforementioned, devs tend to put the more common movements on L1/R1 and the less common functions on L2/R2.

    I beat the first boss and have killed two EMMIs so far, and now I have the Phantom Cloak, Spider Grips, and Charge Beam. I also took my first transport to a new area: Cataris.

    I do have the Samus Aran amiibo (Smash Broa. Series), so I tried that out as well. It restored 100hp, but my life was already full, so no benefit there. I’ll try it a few more times to see if I get anything better than that, but I expect very little.

    Playing it today with the music turned up, I’ve softened a little bit on my opinion about the soundtrack: there are parts that are slightly memorable. Maybe in time, if I listen to them enough, I’ll become accustomed to them. But it doesn’t have any of the immediate appeal of Metroid, Super Metroid, and Metroid Prime.

    Other than these TINY quibbles, the game is amazing. It is genuinely the most fluid, natural-feeling action/exploration platformer that I have ever played, and it’s not even close.

  2. I’m mostly almost finished with the game by now, and I’m very impressed with the gameplay. I’d say it’s probably my 2nd favorite 2d Metroid after Super Metroid. I really enjoy the new powers, such as the flash shift, the invisibility cloak, and the cross bomb. It’s also interesting they went with a double jump as opposed to a high jump. The bosses are really fun, though the quick time/counter scenes can be a bit annoying. Later on some mini bosses repeat a few times, which probably could’ve been done without, but they can be taken out quicker with the new abilities you acquire.

    One thing that will probably get a told ya so from Silicon Noob is there are certain shinespark item puzzles that require precise movement controls that are pretty frustrating with an analog stick. As I received all the suit upgrades/weapons, I stumbled upon one shinespark puzzle after another going for 100% item completion from every zone, and it got to a point where it was like “Fucking Really? Another one?!”. These are, because of the analog controls, without a doubt the most frustrating part of the game. One requires you to shinespark, then wall jump, go into a ball, get out of the ball, shoot blocks, then slide then fall and start the sideways shinespark in the opposite direction from where you were sliding to get the missile tank plus, and it was so frustrating at one point I was cursing to the point of genuinely disturbing my wife. Hopefully everyone else here fairs better getting those final items, they are a doozy.

  3. Having just 100% replayed Super Metroid a couple of weeks ago, I can tell you that getting the speed jump > rocket boost to go where you want with the analogue pad is ANYTHING but easy, unless you want to go straight up. I spent ages doing some things over and over again (it doesn’t help that, in that game, rocket boosts drain your life).

    Likewise, there are plenty of places in Super Metroid where wall jumping and space jumping (and sometimes just jumping!) is a nightmare because the D-pad is very imprecise, and it will mistake your left/right for slightly up/down along with left right, which will pull you out of a spin and send you falling, helpless, to the bottom. I think that, in a spirit of nostalgia, we forget these issues. They are, ultimately, forgiveable. But they are with you through the entirety of Super Metroid, and they really are frustrating. To someone who has no nostalgia to pull them along and make them feel inclined to forgive, these things would be very annoying indeed.

    It’s a great game, one of my absolute top favs, but the D-pad is frequently (a) annoyingly inaccurate being only able to aim 45º or (b) an actual hindrance.

  4. I think that developers expect modern gamers to play with both the index and middle fingers resting on the buttons at the top of the controller. You must be right, and I don’t think of this as normal since I don’t ever see younger gamers hold a controller. It’s probably has more to do with FPS games, and maybe an effect of an outside developer rather then the conservative Nintendo. I even tried doing this last night, and thought it would probably make it easier if I could get used to it, but felt too unnatural in my hands, like I would spend more thought-energy on reminding where my fingers are than it’s worth. It also makes more sense to me for the functions to hold a trigger down than press a button.

    I spent about an hour with it last night, where I feel the first boss fight is looming soon. It does a good job with the looming dread feeling. I don’t particularly like that feeling (I don’t play survival horror games like Resident Evil, I’m more for House Of The Dead), but that’s nothing to the games discredit; it accomplishes what it promises. I just feel like an hour a night is as much as I want with it for now. More prominent, driving music might have made up for it too. It is definitely well-made all around.

  5. I’m feeling marginally better about the music having played it a little bit more this evening. Artaria really is pretty weak musically, and that is the first place you end up, so it’s not the best beginning. But Cataris is much better and, although the music won’t have you humming it hours later, it is good enough to notice now and again.

    I just reached Dairon(sp?) and got to the first save point. I was stuck for a bit because there didn’t appear to be a way to go forward, and the path back, in Cataris, was also blocked. But then I found a few blocks that I could break with my normal gun, and that allowed me to get further in. For a moment, I was wondering if it were possible to get irretrieveably stuck!

  6. I’ve made it to Cataris. One thing I didn’t like about Samus Returns was how often you’d need to use the melee hit, which I think they’ve struck a good balance with it so far in Dread. Only a couple enemies so far, and you don’t usually need to use it either.
    I’m kind of at a loss for these robots who have block-arms, maybe you’re supposed to jump over and shoot at the head but I can’t do it right – if that even is supposed to be what you do.
    The few new ways that you open doors and nagivate around is clever, and makes more sense to the environment.

  7. I am loving it! I have not had much time to play because we are still finishing up mid-term exams, but I was able to get the Wide Beam, Morph Ball, and Varia Suit. I’ve been deliberately spending an excess of time exploring, trying to find every single item in each area before I progress, and then backtracking whenever I get a new item that opens up new possibilities for exploration. As a result, I have nearly 70 missiles and the aforementioned items, but I have only fought one boss and three EMMIs. Exploration ho!

  8. Some delightful things that I have noticed:

    – There are brief snippets of music (and the famous musical cues too!) connecting to Metroid and Super Metroid.

    – The signposting in front of boss hideouts (enter through/under a huge monster head) is something from Metroid and Super Metroid that also makes a well-deserved return.

    I easily beat Kraid. Onward!

  9. Had a little time this afternoon, and made some more progress: beat EMMI #4, and picked up the speed boost, grappling hook, and bombs. Then backtracked to explore and get everything I can get with the new upgrades, before heading to Ferenia with 107 missiles, 5 energy tanks, and 2 ammo upgrades for what I assume are power bombs (which I do not yet have).

    Has anyone else been trying to fill in every map square (I don’t mean having them displayed–I mean filling them in where the colour changes when you have occupied the square)? I’m wondering if there is any benefit to doing that, or if I am just being ridiculous!

  10. I may not be the biggest fan of the in-game music, but the music for cutscenes is fantastic: the opening screen mix of the Metroid 1 title music, the intro cutscene mix of Super Metroid’s intro, and then the Super Metroid Brinstar Underground music during Quiet Robe’s speech–all very, very excellent.

  11. There’s a Portal 2-ishness to the third world, Dagon or whatever, suggestive of the techno-robotistry in the environment, and which increases in scope and intensity when the power gets turned on for a section, which I’m enjoying.
    Metroid is known for music with either very strong themes (i.e. Brinstar), or dissonant unnerving ambience (i.e. Norfair/Ridley). This game focuses heavily on the latter, but what would have helped is a hummable tune in the first area to latch onto.

  12. Our Discord #events channel is hopping!

    Now that I know that there is no benefit to carefully ensuring that I have stood in every single square on the map, I can stop doing that!

    I haven’t quite cured myself of spending inordinate amount of time trying to get upgrades that I cannot yet get! ‘Come back later when you have new skills,’ just isn’t in my vocabulary!

    I have 2 EMMIs left to fight, and I am a bit shy of 200 missiles. I have the Super Missiles, Plasma Beam, Ice Missiles, and Double Jump.

    I’ve found that most of the mini-boss fights are *really* easy with the use of the Flash Dash: with a few quick taps one can cross most rooms, and the cooldown is nearly instant. As a result, none of the Chozo Robots have posed much of a challenge. The only times I have had any issues is when I forget about the timed-parry cinematic sequences at the end of fights. I have the bad habit of putting the controller down immediately after I think that the boss is dead. But then ‘Surprise! Parry this!’ Oops.

  13. I too have been trying to clear every section of map so it’s good to know I’ve been wasting my time. 3 EMMIs down, just got the flash shift. So far having lots of fun! I’ve only gotten stuck figuring out where to go next a couple of times but it’s always been my own fault, missing a door or something. I tried to practice on the timing for melee countering EMMIs but it seems like they all have several different timings to prevent that. Still, managed to hit it probably 50% of the time. I’ll get there soon!

  14. After getting the grapple beam and speed booster, I had a clear spot on where I should go next, but also also a good opportunity to explore a lot more than before of the areas so far. I’ve done everything in Arthuriana I can for now, so I’m in Catharsis and I’ll explore around Daitona before going into that next elevator or teleporter or whatever it was.

  15. Now I’ve explored as much as I can in Catharsis, going to do the same in Daitona (which doesn’t look like as much as the first two areas, for now), and then hop into that next elevator. I’m uncovering every grayed out bit of map that I can, evem if it ends up being meaningless. It’s inspires me to be a better bomb-jumper at least. I’ve also 2 of what I now suspect to be power bombs, unuseable for the time being.
    I’m warming up to the music. It could have been pumped up more, maybe it was purposefully subdued from something stronger. In the 2nd EMMI area, there’s a strange worp-worp-worp sound that’s a little disturbing. Some if it reminds me a bit of Cluster’s work with Brian Eno.
    Very glad to have a break from EMMIs and bosses for a while and taking time to just wander around, I’m finding I’m liking the game more and more.

  16. STAR GET!

    Over the past ten years–between dealing with student e-mails, having a wife, and then having kids–I have developed the particularly bad habit of leaving games running on the TV for hours at a time. For JRPGs and most platformers, this doesn’t matter at all. But for a Metroid game it does matter. The more quickly a player beats the game, the better the little post-game graphic is (this goes all the way back to Metroid 1!). This time, I was particularly bad about it, and I have no excuse because I knew better. I left the game running during meals, during bath time, during time spent outside playing Cricket, during meetings with students, and–in a particularly egregious case–during an entire three-hour long class. Oops.

    This sort of stupidity combined with my obsessive backtracking and trying to break the game to get items earlier than I should led me to have a final post-game clock of 17 HOURS and 22 minutes. Don’t be like me! If you need to ‘pause’ the game so that your clock doesn’t run, PRESS THE HOME BUTTON and at least go to the Switch menu!

    PSA over. Now for some parting comments:

    MUSIC: The music grew on me, and I particularly like the little musical references to Metroid, Super Metroid, and Metroid Prime. And I am extremely grateful that they didn’t change the item collection, “load game”, chozo ball, &c sound effects. The new music composted for this game is never less than unobtrusive, although it never quite rises to the level of ‘excellence’ either. There’s no strong Brinstar-style theme. The remixes of existing Metroid music (in cutscenes) are simply brilliant.

    EMMIS: Beating the EMMIs is mostly about positioning, not about any difficulty per se. And I was right, they definitely get easier as the game progresses. The last one is a piece of cake! 😉

    BOSSES: I liked all of the bosses, and I thought that the last one was probably one of the best designed in the game: there is no way to ‘brute force’ it. Players who can’t or don’t learn the pattern of the boss and the mechanics of the fight, will lose. There is no other way to win. I appreciate that design particularly because it infuriates journo-pros who just try to overlevel or brute force everything they review, because they lack even the most basic capacity to learn how to play games properly.

    SETTING: I absoutely love the world, and short of Metroid/Super Metroid there is no better setting that I have seen in a Metroid game (even the excellent Metroid Prime doesn’t measure up to this). The amount of detail in the backgrounds, and the integration of the foreground with the background, and the suitability of monsters to the environments, and the difference and variety of environments, and the spectacular (in the literal sense of ‘a sight to see’) presentation are just jaw-dropping. Every single second-rate dev should look at this lush, baroquely detailed game and try to understand why their own empty, spartan designs feel so cheap. I would give large bags of money for Super Metroid or Metroid 1 remade in this game’s engine. It’s just gorgeous.

    CONTROLS: The controls are fantastic. Tight, fluid, just the right amount of floatiness combined with precision, everything is 100% perfect. I can’t think of many platform games where I have been so thoroughly immersed in the controls–never fighting with them, never fiddling with them, just cruising along controlling the character almost by thought. Comparing to my recent replay of Super Metroid (which I enjoyed!), there’s no contest. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but I am. Super Metroid is a great game, but Samus’ movement is frequently imprecise, especially when jumping/spinning and aiming, and there’s absolutely none of that here.

    THE SERIES: The claim that this game will ‘end’ the ‘Metroid’ storyline of Samus/Metroids/X Parasites worries me a little bit. It almost suggests that they won’t be making another 2D Metroid game and, if this is anything to go by, there is still plenty of gas in the tank. At no point did this game feel derivative, played-out, or tired.

    What a tour de force Metroid Dread is. It may well be the most excellent entry in the franchise history. Brilliant!

  17. “What a tour de force Metroid Prime is.”
    Metroid Prime playthrough confirmed!

    I was wondering if anyone here had an opinion on Metroid – Samus Returns. Worth revisiting? Obviously this is more than leaps and bounds better, more like a motorcycle jumping a canyon better – than most exploration platformers too.

    Here’s hoping MercurySteam gets picked to do the next Castlevania and applies the lessons learned from MD.

    I’m Gandharva now with the double-jump, about 9:30 on the clock.

  18. I’ve made it to Hetalia! Going to backtrack for a couple upgrades with the cross bombs, but I think I’ll wait for the power bombs to do a final sweep. I’ve got 5 p-bomb upgrades, just waiting for it to activate.

  19. @Tanzenmatt Power Bombs are the last upgrade you get–they are unlocked right before the final area. So, once you have them, you can get every remaining upgrade in the game. Excelsior!

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