Metroid Dread Impression

Metroid 5 Is Like Super Duper Metroid

For my birthday this year, I received a physical copy of Metroid Dread! I’m four hours into the game and have made it to the third region of the planet. So far, it’s been a fun and challenging game full of classic Metroid features.

Physical case featuring cool Samus portrait, with E.M.M.I.s photo-bombing the background.

Following polished and succinct opening cut-scenes with backstory, players quickly find themselves somewhere deep inside the planet, ready to explore with urgent caution. Like the world in Super Metroid (Metroid 3 for SNES), Planet ZDR is a huge labyrinth of corridors and passageways. Exploration is a constant room-to-room question of “Which way is next?” There are innumerable door types with different locking/unlocking requirements. Early in the game, there is a mostly linear path — yet it doesn’t feel linear — through the planet’s regions despite there being multiple ways to go between each room. Backtracking is present from the start, plus there are a few tricky-to-reach places for the random energy tank or missile expansion. After a few hours, though, Metroid Dread opens up slightly.

As in other Metroid titles, there are many places where players see a room or item that can’t yet be accessed or obtained — teasing. Sometimes these areas clue players into what might be needed before access is available — it’s pretty obvious where the Morph Ball is required — but other times the game surprises players with a special “switch,” such as reversing the flow of magma to open thermal gates, which unblocks a path somewhere.

Running-and-gunning action is the name of the gameplay loop on top of constant exploration for key items, which gain access to vital upgrades and new areas.

Due to numerous complex passageways, entrances, exits, doors, locks, and the like, level design is excellent, suggesting countless hours of thorough gameplay testing. Though rooms share a common theme in a particular region, there are enough details and differences to avoid gross monotony. The pristine 2D platforms with 3D-ish backgrounds look gorgeous in both handheld and docked mode, with gameplay on a big TV revealing more fine detail, like motes of dust floating through light shafts. Special effects fit the game engine perfectly: an aura like transparency in the cloaked suit, the subtle pulsating light of Samus’ laser sight, or the electric bolts of the spider magnet.

Music is adequately atmospheric and changes slightly, for example when sneaking or all-out running through an E.M.M.I. area. As in Super Metroid, music also changes for each region. Sound effects are perfectly suited to everything. What’s most fun for veteran players is the nostalgia of music tracks and sound effects slightly revised from Super Metroid.

Maps are indispensable for exploring planet ZDR’s massive maze of interconnected corridors.

Looking for the right items at the right time while searching for the right way through each area is a test of patience, a mental puzzle to solve. The E.M.M.I. areas are fun to blitz through, hoping to get lucky and find the next door to race out of before being caught. It doesn’t feel gimmicky at all; there’s fun in being chased. Afterwards, with a quickened pulse, players must consciously slow their pace in regular areas so as to not miss possible entrances, exits, or items. They also must slow down to properly engage each enemy as creatures are very well designed to require slightly different moves for defense or offense. For example, a certain flying creature charges players, then suddenly pauses in a sort of head fake, then rushes in again. Timing is everything, and players must use the parry move before shooting. Other alien-like insects simply require that Samus duck to shoot. However, these change a bit with weapon upgrades.

Metroid Dread’s atmosphere, size, and setting all contribute to a feeling of isolation, except for a handful of initial mission briefings from the in-game A.I. As for dread, players will feel more hesitant caution and sudden urgency. While E.M.M.I.s add appreciable value with their new gameplay element — viscerally annihilate when possible, otherwise avoid like the plague — the classic problem of quickly losing energy when entering a high-heat area without protective armor stokes panic, which then instills apprehension later upon seeing heatwaves emanate from an adjacent area.

An E.M.M.I. (All image credits to Nintendo.)

The game is quite challenging; I’ve seen the game over screen many times. The first major boss I fought began to frustrate and discourage me after several attempts because it seemed there wasn’t a way to effectively maneuver and fight. Finally, after much trial and error, and with my son’s helpful observation, I figured it out and was able to easily win at that point; it felt really good. Metroid Dread is also difficult to grasp because there are many moves mapped to many buttons; I often press the wrong shoulder button. It takes a lot of practice, but I find that once a bit of proficiency sets in with muscle memory, the game’s control scheme really flows. I have enjoyed several moments of rushing into a room, getting ambushed, but then being able to quickly react, defend, target, and neutralize threats like a pro bounty hunter should. It’s very satisfying.

Overall, Samus’ latest mission is filled with classic Metroid gameplay, and it might be one of the best titles in the series; it’s near the top with Super Metroid. The triple-A game appears to be a highly respectable addition to Nintendo’s trophy case. With several hours left to play, I may have a final verdict when I finish. For those who want a fun Switch game to play, Metroid Dread should be on top of the must-play list.

Renewed Horizons In Animal Crossing

For most of this year, I’ve played RPGs exclusively, one after another. I only dabbled in the arcade racer Asphalt 9: Legends last month. Now there’s another non-RPG in my controller grip. Thanks to last week’s Nintendo Direct for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, my love of the game has been renewed. Like when it was newly released in March 2020, I‘m enjoying island life every single day.

When Nintendo showcased all the upcoming features to ACNH, I was floored. For 25 minutes, it was one thing after another, whether altogether new or returning from previous AC games. For example, Kapp’n will be back!

There are two parts coming to ACNH: a version 2.0 update (free) and Happy Home Paradise (paid). Both add a lot to the gameplay and are well worth investing in. I definitely plan to buy the HHP DLC; my only question is when? Should I first enjoy the free 2.0 content for a while and, once exhausted, then buy the DLC to refresh the game? I don’t think I’ll wait that long.

I’m not waiting for either update really. Since it’s been so long since I played at all, and since I plunged so much into RPGs, the base experience of ACNH’s casual gameplay is fun and refreshing as is. I’m back to terraforming my island, collecting new bugs and fish(es), expanding my house in preparation to fully decorate, breeding new flower colors, and more.

The colorful hi-res graphics, chirpy sound effects, and melodic tunes create a chill atmosphere along with the casual gameplay. And there is no fighting; maybe that’s what’s so relaxing about the game. A recent RPG I’ve been playing has become a big challenge, forcing me to strategize and grind — a lot more than what I think is typical. It wore on me, so Animal Crossing has been laid back relief (this leads to an editorial I have in draft for RPGamer.com, so look for that to publish in the near future). You know how much grinding is in ACNH? None! I think the only tedious thing is paying off debt to Tom Nook.

Anywho, that’s some of what I’ve been up to lately. What games have you been playing lately?

Apple And Gaming Stuff

Well, hello there September blogosphere. While I’ve been somewhat scarce from the blog lately, that must mean I’ve been so busy with life experience that I’ve stockpiled stacks and piles of content in draft to write, right? Sounds good to me, but that’s inaccurate. No doubt, I’ve been mobile computing (iPad!) and gaming (RPGs!), but that’s only the half of it. I’ve also spent energy writing elsewhere and took a week off from everything for a big family vacation. Next thing you know, I’m flipping the page on the wall calendar and yearning for cool Fall temps to finally blow away the Texas Summer heat.

This month is bringing more cool stuff than just the Autumnal Equinox. First, next Tuesday is Apple’s first Fall event where they tell everyone what to spend their money on next, like new iPhones, maybe new iPads, or Apple Watches too. Oh, and how about new AirPods? Mobile tech is getting a boost this Fall for sure. My current iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods are working well. In fact, just yesterday I had my iPhone 8’s charge port repaired at a local shop. No longer must I wiggle the charging cord in the port and hope it sits securely enough to juice up; now I just set it and forget it. The port is a physical or mechanical point of failure, subject to wear and tear over time, and is probably why Apple rumors suggest future iPhones may be port-less, relying only upon wireless Qi charging. I have my doubts, and I’m pretty sure this month won’t see such ”courageous” advancement when Apple announces iPhone 13 or 12S or Year Model 2021.

The other new nice thing-a-ma-jig coming this month is an RPG. I’m excited to soon buy the physical edition of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – Prince’s Edition for Nintendo Switch! While it’s not a direct sequel to the the first game, it still features sublime Studio Ghibli-esque art design, youthful fantasy, and some other differences to earn a hearty play-through. I think the battle system may even be improved – very nice. Of course, the timeless dilemma is ever present with this upcoming release: when to play it. Can I pause life and disrupt the space-time continuum in order to play and finish all the awesome games available, namely the RPGs on my backlog? I wish.

Gaming has been fun lately. I continue to enjoy Fantasian Part Two; it’s become more addictive lately. But I’ve also gotten sucked back into Pokemon TCG. And then another fun game recently grabbed my attention: Asphalt 8 and 9. Ok, that’s two games, but they’re kind of the same thing. Apple Arcade launched Asphalt 8, which my kids enjoyed on vacation. So then we downloaded Asphalt 9 on the Switch, and instead of catching all the Pokemon, we’re now collecting all the exotic sports cars. Yeah, I know, it’s a racing game, not an RPG, but it does have stat boosts when upgrading car parts, and each race is like an action-battle system where you can crash other cars in order to win first place. That’s a stretch, but the Asphalt games are no less fun to play.

Anyways, this blog post is sort of a catch up for things of late. I hope to write more in the near future; I have some draft ideas slated. Here’s to the Fall being more fun and exciting than the Summer of 2021.

Books Gave Way To Games

We’re about half-way through 2021. So I figure it’s a good time to check on my annual reading challenge. I set the bar at the bottom, one book per month for a total of 12. So how am I doing so far? I’m sitting solid at one. Which is better than zero. Yeah, I’m not gonna make my goal this year. But it’s not for lack of stories, oh no. I’ve been reading plenty of fiction…through video games. True, that doesn’t count, really. Yet I’m getting my escapism either way. So there’s that.


There are many books on my to-read shelf. Good ones. But I’m focused on my backlog — all the games on my to-play shelf. And the ones I love most are role-playing games, the kind that devour time. If I were rocketing to Mars on a months-long journey, I’d take RPGs instead of books.

RPGs, the best ones, have engrossing stories. And text. Lots of text. I read it all, even though these days, most of the dialogue is spoken by voice actors. So I’m “reading” fiction, sure. But as mentioned, I know it’s not the same as a book, which makes the imagination conjure every sight and sound in a story. But I’m cool with that.

Maybe I could squeeze a good read into my schedule, at least a short one. But I don’t think taking only one hour a day for reading would work out too well. I’d be stretched too thin, like the last sliver of ice in tea. No, I prefer a simpler to-do list, one focused on a stack of RPGs to grind through with glee.

I’m now about 62 hours into Dragon Quest XI S on my Switch — a superb RPG, one of the best. And based on average play-throughs (main game plus extras), that means I’ve clocked around 2/3s of the game. I estimate it’s a 100 hour affair. Seriously, that’s 50 2-hour movies for just $45 (the price I paid at Walmart). I doubt $45 worth in books would get me 100 hours of reading.

All that said, I’m sure I’ll return to book reading. It will likely occur when a new must-read book debuts. I also can’t escape the general doctrine that book reading is a healthier endeavor for the mind than gaming. And sometimes, I just feel like reading a simple short story in a book. Until such time, my RPG backlog beckons. So I’ll keep mashing those buttons.

Looking Back And Forward On The Backlog

When I was a kid in the 80s and Nintendo became a thing, I knew I wanted to be part of that. Video games were cool. I first had an Atari 2600 and a small set of games that my Dad bought at a yard sale. I think the Atari cartridges sold for $0.25 each. They were arcade-style games — mostly without any real stories — and relied on quick reflexes. I didn’t play them to beat the game or finish a story. I played just to play. And show off a high score in Pac-Man.

One day, I got a Nintendo Entertainment System. Now I was playing with power! The games were a bit more advanced than Atari’s, but I still played for the gameplay experience and not so much to beat a game or finish one. That said, thanks to the Konami code, I managed to totally beat Contra. I think that was my first game I ever beat.

Since video games cost a lot of money and, as a kid, I had the opposite of a lot of money, I didn’t have many games. Back then, I would get one or two a year for Christmas or my birthday. The other games I had were temporary, rented from the local video store. Sometimes I’d play my friends’ games. True story: I pretended to be sick one day in middle school so I could stay home and play my friend’s GameBoy that I had borrowed. I played Tetris for hours.

In those days, there was no backlog. I had few games and a lot of time to play them several times over. I don’t know that backlogs were a thing for anyone back then, but I could be wrong.

Over the years, consoles and games grew in complexity. I got into RPGs with Final Fantasy III (SNES), finding for the first time a game that would last me months to play through. Having a huge story be front and center made finishing the game not just a cool way to brag to my buddies, but it was essential. You can’t NOT finish a sprawling narrative arc and leave the entire game’s world and characters hanging onto life by a thread. I had to save the world. So I did. Besides, those Espers were so dang cool. And Kefka was so bad.

Now that I’m an adult with full-time income (so grateful now after recently being furloughed), I can afford to buy my own video games for myself (and my kids). So these days, yes, I do have a backlog. It’s not huge, but it has hefty sized RPGs on it. In terms of gameplay hours, it’s…epic. I’ll likely be building up the backlog with new unplayed games indefinitely.

Before, there was no backlog. Now, there is always a backlog.

I don’t mind. There’s much gaming to eagerly anticipate. That’s fine as long as I don’t let it distract me from staying immersed in whatever game(s) I’m currently playing. On that note, I finally finished Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on Sunday. Final clock time was 71:11. I’m now also closer to completing Fantasian. I want to finish some other ongoing games too, like Link’s Awakening and Octopath Traveler. But I’ve got a new epic RPG to dive into soon, Tales of Vesperia.

I would feel better about my backlog since I’m moving the Tales game out of it, but yesterday I added yet another massive JRPG to it, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. The title alone is hours-long! Well, one game out, one game in. Fun times.