Arguably the biggest surprise of E3 2017 was the announcement, finally, of a new 2D Metroid game. And not only was it announced, but it isn’t too far away. Metroid Prime 4 exists in the ambiguous future of, “beyond 2017,” but we will be able to play Metroid: Samus Returns on September 15.
For my hands on time with the game, I got to play the game’s opening. It wasn’t an isolated demo created for E3 as far as I know, as they let me play through the game’s opening and quite literally had take the 3DS out of my hand in order to prevent me from progressing any further.
A few stills open the game’s story, which benefit from the stereoscopic 3D. The game’s producer (and director of Super Metroid) Yoshio Sakamoto says the game’s story is unchanged from the original Metroid II released on Game Boy in 1991. After outlining her destination, Samus lands on the planet and departs from her ship. The game feels fantastic. Holding down the left trigger plants Samus’ feet so she can aim in any direction and the X button performs a melee attack that can counter enemy attacks. The prompts to counter are clearly broadcasted with audio and visual cues, and though I missed the first few prompts, it did not take long to block and blast nearly every enemy that I attacked.
Perhaps it’s a strange, specific element to point out, but the animation for quickly changing horizontal direction looks and feels particularly fantastic. It might be a small element, but it’s one that proves that the game’s developer, MercurySteam, is paying attention to the details.
Along with the new counter/melee attack, another new element is the ability to ping out a pulse to discover secrets. The ability to scan is attached to a meter that can be refilled by defeating enemies and it can help fill out your map and identify breakable rocks.
During my playtime I found a health boost, the ability to turn into a ball, and the ability to charge my gun – all familiar Metroid mechanics. I also found a Metroid and defeated it, which gave the on-screen prompt that I had unlocked amiibo functionality. Nintendo was not ready to explain what amiibos do in the game (though they did have some on hand), but I can at least verify that you have to play the game a little bit before you can take advantage of it.
As I mentioned before, I did not want to stop playing. The game plays smoothly, the new counter mechanic feels great, and the ability to to scan the environment will hopefully help reduce those moments where you are exploring aimlessly without clear direction.