⭐ Games that receive this star have a score of 95% or above. This is purely from a game design perspective and is not in any way related to our morality/parental warnings evaluation.
Have you ever heard anyone say Nintendo games are for children?
I sure have. It was especially common during the Wii and DS era, and I recall being looked down upon back then in elementary school for playing Mario games. All the cool kids had Xbox 360s and were into Halo, Call of Duty, Fifa and the like. I, however, was into Pokemon, Skylanders (remember that?) and Mario kart. Of course, children that age probably shouldn’t be playing M-rated shooters so I did end up turning out much better than them.
Just kidding. Maybe.
Point is. Nintendo is not particularly associated with mature games, although they for sure have their fair share of franchises that have… certain themes to them. However, just because a game is made for older folk doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. Media about war, famine, and evil can be very beautiful in their own right, like the famous example of the R-rated, Christian movie The Passion of the Christ. Beyond portraying God’s suffering though, mature themed games can still be fun in the sense that you are taking down great evils, or just wanting to kick some butt Super Smash Bros. style.
Personally, while I still enjoy many games with mature themes, graphic violence can still make me uncomfortable, which is one reason why I prefer the slapstick fighting of Smash Bros. compared to the more realistic battles that take place in Mortal Kombat. Games that are able to make me feel like a brave, cool hero without spurting blood all over the place are my cup of tea and in general usually a good sign that the game was designed well as it doesn’t have to lean on cheap crutches to get feelings across. Nintendo’s latest release aimed towards an older audience, Metroid Dread (Dread for short), fits into this category perfectly.
The first time I booted up the game and saw the game’s title screen I felt… different. But a good kind of different. The experience I was about to undertake seemed more akin to a Halo campaign than any kind of Nintendo title. This feeling lasted throughout the whole game and it was AWESOME. From the opening cutscenes to the very end I was well aware that I was trapped alone on a mysterious, dangerous planet where I was not welcome. Metroid Dread makes great use of lighting, environment/sound design, and pretty much anything else you could imagine that might affect the atmosphere. In some areas things are bright and colorful, others dark and gloomy. There are certain places of the game were it’s extremely hot or cold, and I legitimately felt like I was there, in a frozen over chamber or deep underground in caves filled with lava. That is how good these developers are at crafting a memorable experience. Mind you, this is in a 2D game on the Switch. And I don’t have an OLED TV.
Still, things aren’t perfect all around and I did experience a noticeable amount of frame drops from time to time, although I saw that in the Nintendo Life review they claimed the game was devoid of such inconsistencies, so it may have just been a problem with my Switch. Either way, the vast majority of the time the game was still running in it’s clean, 1080p 60fps glory.
It goes further than just the environments though. Samus Aran (the main character) is an extremely kick-butt kind of person all-around and it shows in her animations. Shooting, parrying attacks, and heck, even just saving all look incredibly cool, and it carries over into the controls as well. Everything you do is super snappy and quick, responding to your inputs perfectly – I never felt as though a death was unfair because Samus moved in a way I didn’t expect or the environment or enemies you interacted with was strange. The amount of different abilities at your disposal by the end of the game are borderline overwhelming, but I’m sure series veterans (this was my first game) will be pleased. I won’t spoil all the ones you get later on, but some earlier examples are the ability to stick to certain walls, turn invisible and perform a quick series of dashes in the air.
Wait a second, turning invisible? Why would one need to turn invisible in a Metroidvania?…
Because of the E.M.M.I., that’s why.
The E.M.M.I. is really what gives this game it’s identity separates it from the other titles in the series. what sticks it out from the other titles. It’s an incredibly powerful robot created by the galactic federation which was meant to hunt down some of the most dangerous creatures in the universe (the X), and it’s armor is borderline impenetrable. Although Samus is part of the federation and was never an intended target of these monsters, they’ve been hacked by an unknown force and will chase you down the moment you are detected. This only happens in E.M.M.I. zones, and if you are detected the doors are shut and will only reopen if you’re able to lose the E.M.M.I. Get caught, though, and you’re almost for certain a goner. You do have a very small window to escape if you press A at the right time, but this will only briefly stun the E.M.M.I., not even damaging it. Samus is told from the beginning of the game that even at her full power, she will never be able to defeat one of these robots. This remains true, and definitely helps establish the feeling of… Dread the developers are trying to impose on the player. The only options are to run, hide, and escape. This is of course how the cloaking device comes in handy and I can tell ya, few things in this game scared me more than standing in front an E.M.M.I. completely invisible, hoping that it would just turn around and not take another step…
In total there are 7 different E.M.M.I. for you to encounter, and each one gets progressively more powerful as you get further into the game. It’s more interesting than just getting faster though so I won’t spoil it. And while I did mention you would never be able to defeat them, that’s not entirely true – after exploring most of each area and completing a recurring boss fight – which don’t really change much throughout the game and do get less interesting – you obtain a omega blaster which allows you to slowly but surely line up a charged shot to take down an E.M.M.I. but drains all of the blaster’s energy. Like I said though, this only happens once you’ve explored most of an area so you will still be spending plenty of time running from each one of these killer machines and getting taken out dozens of times. Besides, it’s satisfying to get a bit of revenge on the things after you’ve watched them wipe the floor with ya over and over.
Yes, over and over and over. Dread is a pretty hard game, but it seldom feels tedious. Respawns are usually quick and generous, and while the game does automatically save when entering and exiting E.M.M.I. zones, boss fights, and new locations, I did have one perhaps 10 or 15 minute run where I did not save and it was pretty upsetting – but that was my fault for not taking the time to do so. Just make sure save your progress often enough. Most of the deaths you are going to be taking are from getting caught by E.M.M.I. or wiped out in a boss fight (most of which took me a good few tries). Overall, for a pretty hardcore gamer it was quite fun and there’s even a hard mode that’s unlocked upon beating the game. If you lean more towards the casual side though, do be aware you’ll be getting killed a lot.
That’s it for combat, so how about the level design? It’s pretty darn good in my opinion. Even though you are given next to no clues about where you should travel next to progress (keeping things pretty classic I suppose) somehow the world is designed in such a manner than even though it feels like you are running around aimlessly and forging your own path (which is the case to a degree) you almost always end up doing just what you were supposed to. Don’t think that this means you are at the whim of a linear path though, because the game is chock full of optional upgrades that you will only encounter if you discover secret areas and return to places you otherwise wouldn’t have a reason to. I went out of my way to get a lot of these and only had about 60% completion when I finished the game – definitely a lot of content on that front.
I still do have a few complaints, unfortunately. Once again without spoiling anything, there was one part of the game where, as usual, I needed to utilize the new ability I had just gained to progress. However, the description of the ability did not actually inform me of a certain unintuitive mechanic that I needed to know and it wasn’t until after about an hour of running around that I finally found out how I was supposed to use it. That was pretty much the only time I ever felt frustrated with this game at all, and it wasn’t even that bad since the whole time I was wandering around I was picking up plenty of useful optional upgrades that I certainly never would have obtained otherwise.
One thing I don’t have any complaints about is the story. It’s quite interesting and is actually the end of the Metroid story arc that began back in 1986. You shouldn’t have any problem understanding what’s going on even if it’s your first experience with the series, as it easily explains everything you need to know right at the start. Is it just me or are video games getting better at telling stories than movies these days?
Well, at this point I’ve covered just about everything the Metroid Dread has to offer… gameplay wise. But what does it have to offer to the Catholic faith?
Well, as usual we’ve got a pretty respectable hero here, risking her life time and time again in order to save humanity (and the galaxy as a whole). The destruction she is causing is pretty clearly in self-defense, and while I’m sure you could find some possible moral flaws, there’s nothing I can really think of off the top of my head, so I don’t have much to say in that regard.
Something that is much more noticeable to me, however, are the emotions Samus must be experiencing. You rarely get to see her face thanks to the huge suit, and although it’s implied that she is alone and afraid here, I was never really sure. I was constantly wondering, how do these endless struggles affect her mental health? This is far from the first time she’s been in such an awful scenario, after all. I can only imagine that when she isn’t busy battling monsters and saving the world… there’s probably a pretty broken person under that suit. Humans aren’t really built to endure such experiences, and as the world grows increasingly more educated about psychology, I’m sure any good psychiatrist would have a lot to tell Samus – and may not be able to make a diagnosis without seeing her face.
Therefore, I tell all you readers today – take off your deceitful helmets. God is here to help but oftentimes that is through the peers he has given you. Show your true emotions (unless it’s a game of poker) and friends will be better able to understand you. I often let pride get in the way of admitting my need for help, and it never turns out well. Tell others how you really feel so God can do his work.
Scoring: 100% ⭐ *Excellent Metroidvania (duh)
Violence: You are fighting pretty gruesome monsters and things occasionally get decently violent (Samus is seen getting stabbed by the E.M.M.I., some of the bosses have quite painful endings.) In general there’s nothing that really looks like blood – or so I thought until I checked the ESRB which gave it a T rating for animated blood and Fantasy violence, so maybe I’m just inattentive 🙂
Sex/Nudity: Samus’ suit under her suit (lol) is shapely but is only seen somewhat clearly when she dies and in one gallery image.