Metroid Dread

Metroid is such an important video game that 50% of a genre is named after it (yes, the term Metroidvania is a reference to Metroid and Castlevania, for those who weren’t aware of the origins of the genre). Metroid is known for its exploration-style platforming, which has you collect upgrades and key items to unlock new pieces of the map. It’s a good formula — one that’s still getting a lot of use to this day. In fact, the Metroidvania audience is much like the roguelite audience: They’re insatiable.

The Metroid Prime series took the basic Metroidvania premise and reimagined it in a 3D space. The result feels a bit like a mashup between The Legend of Zelda and Halo. As weird as that sounds, it really works, especially with the unique atmosphere of the Metroid franchise. So the eventual release of Metroid Prime 4 is definitely worth getting excited over if you own a Nintendo Switch.

However, at the Nintendo Treehouse event at E3 2021, Nintendo was light on Metroid Prime 4 details. Instead, they unveiled Metroid Dread, which is set for an October release date, making it the first 2D entry in the series in almost two decades.

That’s all fine and good, I guess, but Nintendo insists on sticking with a 2.5D look for this. And, I don’t know, I just can’t get behind 2.5D platformers. I’ve tried. I really have. But 2.5D just… well, it straight-up looks bad. Unless you go with a super cartoony aesthetic (which admittedly works for 2D Mario and Donkey Kong Country games), 2.5D almost always looks cheap and low-effort to me.

Metroid Dread

And I feel like 2.5D is kind of going out of style at this point. When you look at the gameplay footage, Metroid Dread already feels dated. Even though straight-up 2D is much older, it tends to age better. And without the need to create 3D models, 2D art can be incredibly detailed.

Nintendo has this weird way of acknowledging what players want, and then giving them something that feels like a parody of that thing. Like, remember Nintendo Land? That was the Wii U launch game where Nintendo said, “Look, we know you want more Mario. We know you want more Zelda. We know you want more Donkey Kong. So we listened to the fans.” And then the result was a collection of minigames starring these characters. Yes, Nintendo, we did want more Mario. But we wanted more Mario with actual Mario gameplay, not some Mario-themed minigame.

And making another 2.5D Metroid game sort of feels like that to me. What I really want — and I hate to speak for other fans here, but I don’t think I’m alone in this — is an actual 2D Metroid game. Screw the 3D character models and backgrounds. I’m not interested in swapping to an over-the-shoulder viewpoint for certain gameplay segments. I want a real 2D Metroid game.

There are really just two options here.

Option 1 is a modern-looking hand-crafted 2D look. Think Streets of Rage 4, which uses amazing-looking cartoony sprites and a whole bunch of gorgeous backdrops. And, I mean, the current art direction of Metroid Dread is really close to that already.

Metroid Dread

Option 2 is, of course, pixel art. Yes, I’m biased here. I adore pixel art, and I always will. If a game has pixel art, I will immediately be at least a little bit interested in it.

But Metroid originated as a pixel-art series. It had to. Back in the NES era, 8 bits was all you had. Of course, I would probably ask for a 16-bit art style if I could truly have exactly what I wanted. Just imagine creating a 16-bit Metroid game that makes use of modern hardware. Imagine how detailed and incredible the sprites could be! Just think of the animated backgrounds you could create! Just picture the collective retro-gasm that fans would have!

Of course, it’s way too late to steer Metroid Dread in that direction. The release is a few months out at this point, and the game is probably mostly done by now. But in the future, can we pretty please get a modern pixel-art Metroid game? One that’s a true Metroidvania? If returning to the series’ roots worked for Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog, it could work for Samus too, right?

Metroid Dread is a Metroid game, so I’m almost certainly going to play it. I’ll probably like it too. I just know I’m going to spend the entire thing just imagining what Nintendo could have done with pixel art, and that’s inevitably going to make me grumpy. And believe it or not, I don’t actually enjoy being grumpy!

You can check out the announcement trailer for Metroid Dread below.

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