Remaking a popular portable game from more than two decades ago is a delicate balancing act. If you’re too faithful to the original, the new game will likely look and feel a bit dated after years of hardware and game design advances. Change too much, and fans of the original classic will wonder why you even bothered using the established template in the first place.
Metroid: Samus Returns on the Nintendo 3DS manages this balancing act pretty ably. Developer MercurySteam’s ostensible remake of the original Game Boy’s Metroid 2: The Return of Samus plays pretty loose with its source material, layering on new abilities, enemies, and features from later in the Metroid series as well as quite a few that are completely new to the franchise. Despite all the differences, though, the game shares a certain thematic familiarity with the very first portable Metroid that should please retro-minded fans.
The more things change…
Like the original Metroid 2, the overarching goal of Samus Returns is to track down all of the floating, amoeba-like, life-sucking Metroids hiding below the surface of planet SR388. Like almost every other Metroid game, this involves searching the maze-like underground caverns for suit upgrades that let you get past otherwise impassable barriers and enemies to find the Metroids’ hiding places.
The design of those caverns and barriers makes Samus Returns a joy to get lost in. Even when you’ve found the new ability you need to make progress, it takes careful observation and strong map-reading skills in the best Metroid tradition to figure out exactly where to go next or to find hidden upgrades peppered throughout the world.