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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Metroid Dread has a free demo!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - And I gave it a try.

Starting last night, every Nintendo Switch owner can go download an approximately one-hour (if you're not speed-running) demo of Metroid Dread from the eShop or this link. I wasn't expecting this to happen, but I suppose this is so you can't even have a “try-it-before-you-buy-it” flimsy excuse to pirating Metroid Dread, I guess.

The demo starts you off from what seems like the start of the game, with opening cutscenes explaining Samus's backstory from Metroid Fusion and the vaccine she took that saved her life, to her getting pwned by a Chozo warrior and getting physical amnesia so she can't bust up Planet ZDR right away from full strength. Samus starts off in the Artaria region.

Almost immediately, the main marketed threats of the game, the E.M.M.I.s, make an impact. Once Samus passes through creepily-marked E.M.M.I. doors, the whole flow of the game changes to accommodate the nearly-invincible super-killer robots as they hunt Samus down through an area. Samus can Melee Counter them to not get one-hit-killed, but I never could do this, despite numerous opportunities—and I got game overs from the E.M.M.I.s a lot. A lot! Though only from them. Stuff like this would happen because I'd take the wrong lessons from tutorials:

I don't really get the whole gameplay purpose of why the E.M.M.I.s were added. I get that it's to add a sense of... DREAD... but why are chase sequences in this genre of game? Is it to give a kind of tantalising tour of the areas where you might quickly observe things but you don't have time to investigate so you REALLY wanna come back later, which makes the payoff that much more satisfying when you do come later after the local E.M.M.I. threat is eliminated? ...Because that's my only respectful guess. Is that feeling more powerful than a normal experience of finding a new area and having reign over its exploration until you come across some kind of roadblock that you need to come back later to clear? ...Because the E.M.M.I. areas still have those, too. And I'd say that... lessens my feeling of excitement.

Not that I had much opportunity to explore in the demo, because I unintentionally ended it earlier than I could explore. How was I supposed to know that going through that particular door would end my demo? No warning at all! Since saving in the demo isn't a thing (save stations just give you a message saying no saving in the demo), I couldn't go back to an earlier save and explore more after obtaining the Spider Magnet. Points of no return are awful in this kind of game! The only other option is to play the demo again from the very beginning, and that's not something I felt like doing.

Metroid Dread dead end shoot at your surroundings tutorial text
I didn't get the opportunity to do this!

In the video above you can see what I think is new to the Metroid series: The map pixels will shade in when Samus has physically been in that exact spot in the room. That applies even to empty space in the air. This... has a huge psychological impact for perfectionism. And that's probably not intended since I don't know how you can even get to fill in all of those spaces (well, I'm sure later power-ups will greatly increase your vertical height). I did like that the map has flashing points when there are clearly visible, but uncollected, power-ups/collectibles.

This is the first 2D Metroid game that I've played with Free Aim, and I'm just dreadful at using it—both normally and with the Omega Cannon. Same with the Melee Counter. I've always found the controls for the 2D Metroid games (well, Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion) to be very complex and my least favourite parts of those respective games, and I guess Metroid Dread isn't any different. At least Samus feels nice to move. Not as nice as, like, Zero from Mega Man Zero, but...

Ludwig hasn't played a Metroid game since Metroid Fusion, though that was on the Wii U, so it was sooner than 19 years ago. He isn't counting the intolerable Metroid NES accessible from Nintendo Switch Online. Fortunately, Metroid Dread seems much better than that, though the demo didn't convert him into a $60-paying super-hyped fan.


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