What is Metroid Dread? The Story Behind the First 2D ‘Metroid’ in 19 Years

by in General | Jun, 17th 2021

Video games take a while to develop, however not all of them get made. Plenty of cancelled games have fallen into what fans call “Development Hell”, however, Nintendo has managed to let Metroid Dread escape, and it is coming this October.

A Brief History of 2D Metroid

Metroid is a series that’s so well known for it’s gameplay that fans and independent developers have formed a entire genre based around the exploration found in not only Metroid, but in Castlevania. The genre known as “Metroidvania” is a genre that puts players in a large open map, with sections locked off not by progression, but through the ablitlies that players need to find. Whereas highly skilled players can complete the game without having to use those powers if need be. This All began with the first Metroid Game on the NES. Bringing players a story of a bounty hunter known only as Samus, who’s sent to the Planet Zebes to destroy a space pirate installation there, after they had stolen samples of the Metroid Organism. Made for the NES, Metroid was groundbreaking, letting players explore this massive open level, with players being able to go wherever they wanted if they were skilled enough. The game also revealed that Samus was a woman, with her design being a Mix of Ellen Ripley from the Alien Series, and Kim Bassinger.

The Next Game in the Series, Metroid 2: Return of Samus, had Samus sent to the Metroid home planet to exterminate the world of it’s life, preventing the use of the alien by the Space Pirates. Samus nearly completes her mission, until an Infant Metroid hatches in front of her, and imprints on her, thinking that Samus is it’s mother. Unable to kill the creature, Samus leaves with the alien, setting the stage for the next game in the series. Thus begins Super Metroid, also known as Metroid 3.

Samus Returns to the space colony of Ceres, bringing the last Metroid in for scientific study. However, After Samus leaves, Ridley, the commander of the space pirates and murderer of Samus’ Parents, returns and takes the Metroid with him. Samus chases Ridley back to Zebes once more, and explores the rebuilt space pirate base, eventually fighting once again with Mother Brain, however, as Samus is almost defeated, the Metroid which imprinted on her sacrifices it’s life to save her, allowing Samus to defeat mother brain and escape from the lab once and for all.

This all culminates into Metroid Fusion, the 4th entry in the original Metroid series, while more linear than the previous entries in the series, Metroid Fusion starts with Samus returning to the Metroid home world, only to be attacked by something called the X-Parasite, an alien lifeform that killed the previous civilization, however in an attempt to stop the X-Parasite, the previous inhabitants created the Metroid’s, only to be destroyed by their own creation. Samus ended up surviving the X-Parasite attack, however the parasite attacked her central nervous system, and a vaccine made from the Metroid she left at the beginning of Super Metroid saves her life, however her DNA is now fused with Metroid, Making her weak to cold temperatures. Samus returns to the home world, only to be confronted by the SA-X, a version of the X-Parasite that takes the form of Samus. Samus however eventually finishes her mission and stops the X-Parasite. And was Samus Last 2D mission for 19 years. Until now.

Metroid Dread’s Development

Metroid Dread was actually supposed to come out sometime in 2005, being the 5th Metroid title, as Metroid Prime is actually a separate continuity for Samus’ Story and is not tied to Metroid Prime In any way. The Series was considered scrapped, as the technology was not there to make the game that Yoshio Sakamoto envisioned, according to Nintendo’s video uploaded to YouTube about the project. However, the game was saved thanks to one developer. MercurySteam. This team helped Nintendo co-develop the remake of Metroid 2 for the Gameboy, putting the second game in Samus’ 2D story onto the 3DS. Introducing new ways to take on enemies as well as understanding what the Metroid franchise meant to players. This revelation convinced Sakamoto that Metroid Dread was possible, and both teams began working on the game to bring it to life, thus making the game that players will be able to experience this coming October.

Sakamoto was so insistent on what was needed to make a proper Metroid 5, and was unable to achieve the reality of its ambitious ideas at the time, to the point of almost scrapping the idea forever, leaving another game behind in Development Hell. With MercurySteam’s help Metroid fans will never have to worry about what could have been, as what could have been is now what is.

A New World, a New Threat

The “Dread” in the title of Metroid Dread isn’t just for show, as the point of Dread is to pit Samus against an enemy in which she has no way of defeating, this introduces the E.M.M.I’s massive robots built by the Galactic Federation who stalk Samus around the game world, and will kill her if they happen to catch her. Samus now has some new moves however, including the melee counter from Samus Returns, and a slide, in which she can use to slide underneath the E.M.M.I’s if she’s cornered. Samus also gets a new ability called the Phantom Cloak, which she can use to render herself invisible to hide from the E.M.M.I’s that roam the planet known as ZDR.

Same Gameplay Different Planet

Sakamoto emphasized that Metroid Dread was goingt o be more explorable than Metroid Fusion and the Remake of Metroid 2, as those were more linear titles. This brings Metroid back to It’s roots, being a game about exploring a world where players can go anywhere, but are blocked off by items they haven’t unlocked yet, unless they’re very skilled they can bypass those points in the game.

The End Of an Era

The Metroid Series has only gotten 2 remakes, one in the form of Metroid: Zero Mission, which is a remake of Metroid 1, and Metroid 2 Samus Returns. Both of these games, Super Metroid, and Metroid Fusion all culminate in a story about Samus’ Relationship to the Metroid organism, and according to Sakamoto, Metroid Dread is going to be the end of an arc for Samus, bringing the story of her relationship to the Metroids to a definitive conclusion. Does this mean that this will mark the end of the 2D Metroid series? That remains to be seen, as the title Metroid, is in fact the aliens who have both hindered and helped Samus from the beginning, however, it appears that players will have to find out when the game comes out this October. 

The reality of the situation remains to be seen however, with Metroid Dread officially leaving development hell, perhaps more games who’s titles are seemingly lost will come back in the coming years as technology changes, and players yearn for more. Fans have seen it happen Already with Half Life Alyx being the First VR Half-Life Game, and now with Metroid Dread. Regardless, it’s a good year to be a Metroid Fan. 


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