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Metroid: Samus Returns

Metroid: Samus Returns - Hands-On Impressions

As surprised as we were by its announcement, we're even more surprised after having played it for 90 minutes.

0:00 The mission

Samus Aran has been called to complete a mission. What started in Metroid cannot be left unfinished. Almost 26 years have passed since we found out what the mission was about in Metroid II: Return of Samus, the game that led to the blossoming of a vast universe that has given birth to sequels and spin-offs that are among the best their respective genres has to offer.

The story is the same, but the way it is presented reflects how much technology has improved in 26 years. Mercury Steam, the Spanish studio entrusted with bringing this new version to life working under the guidance of Yoshio Sakamoto, has used static images with a strong 3D effect to draw the player into the script, to set the mood. The introduction is brief and not very incisive, so as not to scare away those who don't know much about the franchise and just want have fun and enjoy the game's platforming and action.

5:00 The Morph Ball

It's an statement that becomes obvious just a couple of minutes later, when we see the first image running in the game's real engine: the ship lands and Samus comes out. Metroid: Samus Returns is a game with 2D movement and a polygonal base that shows stunning depth in its environments, at least during those few seconds before we bury ourselves underground and start digging through the corridors, alleys and rooms ahead.

The trailer revealed at the E3 showcased the melee counterattack system, an essential element to the game. The new enemies charge at the bounty hunter as soon as they notice her, but a timely button press allows Samus to cause critical damage. The 360º aiming system, which can be activated by holding the left shoulder button, is just as important. This system shows that the levels are no longer made up of scaled blocks, they now form a continuum that requires more precision. Just a few steps ahead, we find a Chozo ruin containing orb that happens to be the Morph Ball.

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9:00 X-Ray Scope

We kill a few more enemies to keep practising shooting and counterattacking, as well as getting to grips with Samus' movements. She's agile and fast, but much slower while crouching, particularly compared to previous entries. When we reach the orb that activates the X-Ray Scope, we get a taste of how the map can be changed to take advantage of our character's abilities, albeit in a very simple way. The newly acquired ability will be one of our best allies through our adventure, as it will keep us from getting stuck by showing which surfaces can be broken to reveal the main path or secret locations hiding missile and energy tanks.

10:00 Charge Beam

Character upgrades appear unbelievably fast during the first few minutes of play. The Charge Beam can be found just a few meters away from the X-Ray Scope. For the time being, we won't use it much in combat, but mostly for solving puzzles involving doors that can be opened using different types of equipment. Then we go up a bit, break something, get into a ball, come back from behind... even if it tries to mix things up, the map in Metroid: Samus Returns is linear and predictable so far. A few save stations and the first teleport station point the way, and between the X-Ray Scope and the map, that lets us leave notes using a colour code, progress is a piece of cake.

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16:00 The first Metroid

Ten minutes ago, we passed by a ruin where we saw ten circles placed in order. We could see one of them lighting up via a quick and brief transition to in-game video, which means that we needed a sample of metroid DNA to activate it. Thanks to our new abilities and the beeps coming from the sensor on the touch screen, we manage to find the creature easily. As expected, we head into battle, but instead of a close quarters combat, we have more of ranged affair as it jumps at us from a distance. We must counterattack and blow it to bits with our missiles. The battle is short and easy, but provides us with a nice show.

This is the moment when Metroid: Samus Returns really begins. Putting enough genome into the ruin activates it and triggers a change in the world. In this case, poisonous liquid disappears and opens a route to the deepest areas of the map. We now enter Area 1. Everything we've seen before was simply a slyly hidden tutorial in a simple level designed to help us learn and have fun at the same time.

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Metroid: Samus Returns