Sunday, October 31, 2021

Age of Calamity War Log, EX Entry 4

Expansion Pass Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • EX Battles: 8 (4 Completed)
  • EX Research Quests: 35 / 35
  • EX Quests: 60
  • EX Challenges: 24

For a moment there I was almost having fun with the game, but thank Din that Koei Tecmo knows how to keep you frustrated on the hardest difficulties. And you also should be careful what you wish for. Yesterday I was complaining that the new stages don't really seem to get used outside of the new scenarios, but there is a small selection of new Challenges, where some of them even use the new stages.

And more Challenges is really the last thing this game needed, at least not more of the same old time-limited multi-boss-battle nonsense that was already plaguing the main game to no end... This DLC really wasn't aimed at people who are just looking for some carefree content additions, it's all endgame stuff.

Mipha with the hills around Kakariko in the background and Vah Rudania towering above everything

Anyway, I'm finished with the playing through all the new memory scenarios, which unlocks Robbie & Purah, and I'm also done with the all the new Challenges, which all get unlocked at that point as well.

I haven't unlocked the second new character, however, where my best guess is that this is tied to doing all the "Memory Quests". And here I'm at a loss, because I simply didn't get what some of the "???" conditions want me to do. Now, I could look this up on the internet, but this would risk me of learning about the final character prematurely – and I don't want that. So, I'll have to keep playing the new scenarios and figure it out eventually...

But it's kind of like the hard Gold Skulltula conditions in Legend Mode of the first Hyrule Warriors, only worse, because you don't get any clue at all. You have to do something special and that's all you get to know. Well, in some missions it seems pretty obvious what you have to do with what's going on on the battlefields, but in others it's really not...


"The Princess and the King" was a very unique and beautiful scenario, which takes place at Lanayru Road. The environment is absolutely gorgeous and it's amazing to see how the whole place looked before it all grumbled down.

Link standing against a Guardian at fountain at the center of Lanayru Road

It's also interesting to have a battlefield that's essentially split in two, where you have to switch between characters to do things in the respective areas. This was already done on a smaller scale in the Kakariko Village scenario, but here it's on a whole other level and also gets used in an interesting way for the story.

It appears like these two fights are not actually happening at the same time, because Urbosa shows up at the end to save King Rhoam, while for Link and Zelda she should be still trapped inside her Divine Beast. It's either that or it took King Rhoam's group a very long time to get from the Cliffs of Quince to the Great Plateau for some reason. During the scenario there is only really one point that suggests that the fights are happening simultaneously, however, so both explanations are possible.

King Rhoam with the Cliffs of Quince in the background

After this battle there is one last, named after the second DLC, which loops back to the first EX scenario and also reuses the Mount Daphnes / Coliseum stage for this. I personally think that this one wasn't really necessary, where the first scenario would have been enough to tell about Terrako's heroics. It's also hard to pinpoint when this event actually takes place.

And while the fact that they actually came up with a new boss for this is pretty awesome, it felt equally unnecessary and uninspired. The boss is way over-the-top and also doesn't make much sense within the storyline of the game. But I suppose they needed a somewhat meaningful finale for their DLC missions.

Even More Challenges

Once you're done with the new scenario, it actually gives you some new Challenges. Not many, but enough to want you to be done with them forever. Well, yes, it's called "Challenges" for a reason and the "Very Hard" difficulty is supposed to be very hard, so I shouldn't be whining here, but it feels like it would physically hurt every employee at Koei Tecmo to implement something fun for a change, instead of the usual stuff that we already had to endure a hundred times in this game.

Well, to be fair, it's not all bad. There is an interesting challenge at Lanayru Road, called "EX A Moblin Feast", where you go against all the different types of Moblins one after another, now that there are actually like ten of them... And the training mission for Purah and Robbie is a lot of fun, but this is thanks to them.

It's also nice that Coliseum finally gets actually used for two more Challenges at the Coliseum, instead of the Sheikah Shrine, "EX Coliseum: Master" and "EX Utmost Strength". This place really should have been in the main game since the beginning, but it's nice that it's finally here. The new Challenges couldn't exist without some "fight two bosses at once" shenanigans, however, where the former has two Malice Lynels and the latter partially makes you fight Windblight and Fireblight Ganon at the same time. But I'm surprised it wasn't all the Blights at once in these closed quarters...

If you want something different for a change, then "EX Evacuating Hyrule" has a you covered, where you have to protect fleeing forces as Link, Zelda and Impa. This can be equally infuriating, however, because the way this game works is that NPCs don't take any damage (or only very little) when the player is in their proximity. But here you have three NPCs in three different places, which constantly get swarmed by dangerous foes, and when you're not next to them they lose all their health very quickly. And you can't protect them all at the same time, of course. At the end they were all almost dead for me, but I was lucky enough to make it anyway...

Malice Hinox with Hyrule Castle in the background

"The Final Battle" was a lie and the game actually added one more Challenge going even further with the recommend level. It takes place on the Hyrule Field part of the Hyrule Castle Town stage and wants you to defeat all types of Malice enemies within a time limit, before facing the new boss at the Lon Lon Ranch (which looked totally awesome). And I really had to make a plan for this one, because even with my four Level 100 fighters and Lv. 30+ weapons the time limit was rather strict... Well, I could have used the last months to grind for Lv. 50 weapons if it wasn't so boring.

But my plan was very simple. At the beginning you go over Hyrule Field with everyone of your characters and plow through the many Silver Bokoblins to fill your Special Meters. When you're done with one of the characters you send them to the targets at the outer areas and then switch to the next. The last character then can take care of the Malice Guardian at the center and then you simply have to switch from character to character to quickly kill al the major enemies and bosses. The Special Attacks will help a lot with the interfering enemies, but you can also utilize rods quite nicely in this mission.

The Purah & Robbie Show

Well, you have to say it, Purah and Robbie are really the stars of the entire Expanion Pass. They run the Royal Ancient Lab in the "Pulse of the Ancients" pack and come up with new weapons for the heroes while doing so. And now they narrate the "Guardian of Remembrance" story, while also finally becoming playable at the end...

Robbie and Purah fighting a Stone Talus together with Kohga at the Yiga Clan Hideout

But they are simply another bonus character, where they get two Challenges (including their training) and that's really it. It feels like yet another missed opportunity that they didn't get a story scenario of their own, where they can't rely on the heroes and have to find their own way of battling foes, or something like that. They just decide to enter the fight at what's basically the end of the game, where everything is already said and done. And this doesn't feel all that satisfying...

Their moveset is pretty entertaining, though. The weapon type is called "Sheikah Arms" and Robbie even has installed his Ancient Blade Saws for the third tier, which looks so cool. The ZR ability, which summons different devices based on the Divine Beasts, is also quite powerful. You can easily bombard a Stone Talus with the Vah Medoh power for example. It adds a random component to their moveset, but you always see what you get next, so it's not too bad.

The dynamic of these two characters working together like that is also quite hilarious. For the finishing move Purah teleports Robbie up like two meters, just so he can jump slash the enemy afterwards... You would think that there is an easier way to do this, but it certainly looks cool.

Overall I'm very happy with this character addition, despite the fact that I might not be playing them as much at this point. But they are fun and quirky. Well, let's see who the final character is going to be... I hope it's not a disappointment. (Please be Sooga.)

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Age of Calamity War Log, EX Entry 3

Expansion Pass Progress

  • Difficulty: Very Hard
  • EX Battles: 6
  • EX Research Quests: 35 / 35
  • EX Quests: 42
  • EX Challenges: 17

This time getting back into the game felt almost natural, like riding a bike. And it's good to be back for more with the "Guardian of Remembrance" expansion. Yesterday I've played some of the new memory battles, but I haven't gotten very far. I don't even have any of the new characters yet, where I've also avoided social media like the plague to dodge spoilers about the last fighter. I'm really excited about this, but I want to find out at my own now that the DLC is already released.

New and Old Places

The highlight of the second DLC wave so far were certainly the new stages, because that's a first for a Hyrule Warriors game. The only time they've added new stages to Hyrule Warriors was with the battlefields from The Wind Waker in 3DS version, Hyrule Warriors Legends, but those didn't make it onto the Wii U. And it always felt like a missed opportunity that they didn't include something from Majora's Mask for example.

Terrako at a house near the bridge to the Ancient Tree Stump

Of course this DLC comes with some missed opportunities of its own, where in this case it's mainly the fact that these new stages don't seem to be utilized much outside of the new story scenarios. And that's a shame, because they've put quite some work into them, where it would have been neat to get a hand full of Challenges for each of them. But there still might be and I just haven't unlocked them yet... In the very least there is a new "EX Alert" challenge that takes place at Kakariko Village, which is awesome.

Vah Rudania above Kakariko Village

Speaking of Kakariko Village, the music there is godlike and the scenario was overall pretty cool with the Gorons watching over the village, much like in old times. It's extremely narrow inside the village, however, which might fighting all the waves of dangerous enemies somewhat annoying. It was also interesting that you could visit a Divine Beast as an actual part of the stage, instead of just being a glorified boss chamber.

Mipha in Goponga Swamp

Sidon in a fishing village

Again, one of the highlights is looking at places before they got destroyed by the Calamity, like the fishing village at Goponga Swamp.

The DLC is also reusing old stages for new scenarios for the first. The original Hyrule Warriors liked to do this a couple of times, especially in the DLC with Cia's Tale, but whenever Age of Calamity did this it heavily altered the look, atmosphere and sometimes also the layout of the stage to make things fresh. But not in this case... You're getting back to the same old stages without any alterations. Together with the fact that there are no new Koroks or even treasure chests to find in the reused stages, it makes it seem quite lackluster. In the very least it would have been nice to visit these places at a different time of day, e.g. the Breach of Demise during the night.

Memory Quests

While there are no Koroks in any of the DLC scenarios, you have to fulfill new tasks to truly complete these battles. Some of them might not be as easy with the initial characters, but you can replay the scenarios with any character to make things easier.

Best example is probably "EX Searching Hyrule Forest", where you have to keep the health of a Rito Captain above 50%. Not so easy with all the enemies around and when there are also other tasks at hand. In my case he lost most of his health to a giant Chuchu when I wasn't paying attention... But with Mipha this shouldn't be much of a problem.

The most annoying part are probably the "???" Memory Quests, where the game doesn't tell you what to do. In some cases it's easy enough to figure this out, but in others I have absolutely no clue. I feel like I have to look this up on the internet, unless I want to replay these scenarios over and over again in the hopes that I find the answer myself...

Poor Sooga

The biggest mystery right now for me is who the final playable character is going to be. I always thought that it would be Sooga, because he made the most sense to me. But after "EX The Yiga's Clan Retreat" I'm not so sure anymore...

Kohga and Sooga pursued by Waterblight Ganon

However, it technically makes sense that he wasn't made playable at this point. It's supposed to be a memory and we already knew that he effectively sacrificed himself for Master Kohga, who arrives at Zelda's army alone. But we also know that he is alive and well in the Terrako credits... So, let's see. The memory of how he arrived at the Yiga Clan as a small boy was pretty awesome, however. They really managed to make you feel emotional about these crazy villains and this would have been the perfect opportunity to add Sooga as a playable character, which is why I'm bummed about this.

It was also strange how the only new Challenge in the beginning made you collect Monster Extracts... For a moment there I was worried that the final character was going to be Kilton. But let's leave it at that. The fact that Tulin also made it back in time also opens up the possibility for more time travelers, e.g. Kass.

Still, I'm not a fan of Teba, in any way or form. He's alright as a character personality-wise, but it's all so boring. I would much preferred to have a Rito lady as the descendant, one who doesn't have a high opinion of Revali, where their personalities clash a bit. A character like him shouldn't get a whole fan club...

Friday, October 29, 2021

Age of Calamity: Guardian of Remembrance Released

Zelda and Link in front of the diminuitive Guardian

Today was the day and the Expansion Pass for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is now finally complete with the release of the second wave, "Guardian of Remembrance". This post is going to be a rough overview of all the new features, but it's work in progress and will be updated continuously. The unannounced playable character will be treated as a spoiler.


EX Chapter

The main addition of the second DLC wave are new major battles, which take place in memories. They come with new cutscenes and show certain events all over the storyline of Age of Calamity, while the narration is done by Purah and Robbie this time. The first battle features Terrako's first encounter with Harbinger Ganon, where he is also playable, so this DLC does take place after the main game and probably won't be unlocked any earlier.

The early of the DLC scenarios put the Champions together with their descendants on different tasks. It seems that every one of the main characters is getting at least one new battle dedicated to them in some form.

There are no any hidden Koroks to be found, instead there are certain "Memory Quests" that have to be fulfilled. Those can be a variety challenges, like "Defeat 100 enemies with ice attacks", or conditions, like not letting certain allies flee. One of the Memory Quests is always obscured, however, where you have to find out yourself what has to be done. Here is a list of the secret conditions:

Clearing all of these scenarios once will reward you with Purah & Robbie as a playable character and also unlock a small series of new Challenges. For the other unlockable character you have to fulfill one of the obscured Memory Quests.


New Enemies

Even more enemy variants were added together with the new scenarios and Challenges. These include flying Moblins, which are tied to Octo Balloons, as well as "Malice Moblins". There is also a new major boss in the game.

the Coliseum

EX Stages

Half of the EX battles feature new stages, the rest does not. Likewise, about half of the new stages come with new music. Here is a list of what you can expect:

  • Mount Daphnes (featuring the Coliseum)
  • Goponga Village
  • Kakariko Village
  • Lanayru Road

The reused stages don't really have changed in any way, though you might go through them in a different direction. For example there is a new battle at Crenel Peak, where you have to go all the way up instead of down. The reused stages also don't have any new collectible treasure chests on them, instead they are shared with the original scenarios.

EX Challenges

Despite the addition of new stages, they don't seem to come with many new Challenges, which were the focus of the first DLC wave. There is one new challenge, "Lv.59 EX Zelda's Culinary Research", unlocked right after downloading the DLC, which takes place at Fort Hateno, but completing the new scenarios only unlocks few new Challenges and not even all of them use the new stages.

There are new Vicious Monster Battles, however, the so called "EX Alerts", which take place on all of the new battlefields: Mount Daphnes, Kakariko Village, Goponga Swamp and Lanayru Road. The Coliseum gets also used for real this time for some new boss battle Challenges.

Here is a list of the new Challenges:

EX Quests / EX Enhanced Abilities

After completing one of the new scenarios, the featured fighters will get new Quests, where you can unlock another "Enhanced Ability" for them. This requires the new "Report: Hidden Battle" item, which is obtained from clearing Memory Quests.

Similar to the enhanced abilities of the main game this can be a new mechanic added to the character, but sometimes also an additional combo move. So, the moveset of the every original fighter has been extended by a bit.

In addition, the Champions and their descendants can unlock a new weapon with base 36 damage, similar to the Prototype Ancient Short Sword. These can also be gotten (once) from new Quests and are locked by default. You can also lock more weapons now, as of version 1.3.0, around 20 in total (the number seems to vary a bit).

EX Characters

Purah & Robbie are unlocked by beating all of the new memory scenarios once. They are treated like any of the other bonus characters, so they don't actively get used in any of the major battles.

Their weapon type is called the "Sheikah Arms", where Robbie uses some sort of suit with robotic arms. The "Ultimate Sheikah Arms" are even designed after his Ancient Blade Saw from Breath of the Wild

Robbie and Purah performing a Special Attack

They ZR ability lets you summon Purah's "inventions", small devices which emulate the power of the Divine Beasts. What invention gets used next is random, but it shows the corresponding symbol next to a bar below your Special Meter. The Vah Medoh invention for example summons a small airstrike and the one from Vah Ruta is a hydraulic apparatus, which shoots a strong water stream, similar to the one found in Damel Forest during the "When Courage Fails" scenario.

These attacks can also hit Robbie, however, but he won't take damage, only get stunned and alike. They also will drain the Weak Point Gauge of enemies, which makes them quite powerful, almost like additional Special Attacks that can be deployed regularly.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Metroid Dread: Demo Released

Metroid Dread Halloween artwork

When I said earlier this week that Nintendo did everything possible to promote Metroid Dread this wasn't entirely correct... until now. There is now a demo of the game available as an early Halloween treat (see Twitter), which lets everyone try the game for free.

The demo ends after defeating the white E.M.M.I. and leaving its zone. You can sequence break, however, and get to Corpius before that, but the demo will crash after obtaining the Phantom Cloak... Maybe it should have officially lasted this long to get one of the awesome bosses in there for everyone who isn't familiar with using fake wave projectiles.

But it's overall a good point to end the demo, because I still remember how awesome it felt to have your first E.M.M.I. defeated. It's very rewarding and makes you keep going... except that you can't in case of the demo. With that I'm not even mad that the demo wasn't released before the official release of the game. The hardcore Metroid fans will buy the game anyway and for the undecided there is usually no rush.

Nintendo Switch Online's Nintendo 64

Ocarina of Time title screen as seen on the Switch

This week was the release of the "Expansion Pack" for Nintendo Switch Online, which makes your membership cost double in Europe and even more in North America, while it only comes with the three following items:

  • Nintendo 64
  • SEGA Genesis
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise

The latter can also be purchased separately as normal DLC and is probably only worth it in family memberships, where everyone plays Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Otherwise you're better off to just buy this normally. The SEGA Genesis games are also available in collections on cartridges with SEGA Genesis Classics and again you're better off to just get this instead.

So, for most people this will leave the Nintendo 64 as an incentive to get this, which is what most Nintendo fans should be interested in anyway, but it appears that Nintendo doesn't cover itself in glory with this one. At first at seemed like the 60Hz could be an incentive for everyone in Europe to get this, because we only always had the 50Hz versions, but the emulator comes with even more issues than usual.

This video by ZFG goes over these issues quite nicely using Ocarina of Time as the example, so take a look. But here is a summary:

  • Input lag got even worse.
  • The control stick is even more sensitive than it used to be on Wii and Wii U.
  • You can't change the button layout and the right C-button is awkwardly mapped, either by pressing the right stick to the right or by pressing ZR + A, where holding ZR turns A, B, X and Y into the C-buttons. While this is a nice idea, there really should be options for these things. If you want simple controls, you'll need the new Nintendo 64 controller from the My Nintendo Store.
  • The fog has been removed for some reason and the visuals just look different overall, where a lot of the original atmosphere is gone.

So, no, this doesn't look like something you want to get. If I ever want to replay the Nintendo 64 Zelda games, I'll probably stick to the Nintendo 3DS versions, until we get some (U)HD remasters at some point (probably not on the Nintendo Switch). Hopefully those will take the complaints about the Nintendo 3DS remakes into consideration and get everything right.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Age of Calamity: Version 1.3.0 Released

title screen with version 1.3.0 at the top right corner

Today we can already download the latest update for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, which seemingly contains the data for the second wave of the Expansion Pass, "Guardian of Remembrance". You won't be able to play it until the official release date, October 29th, however...

The update itself doesn't seem to contain anything new, other than fixing some unspecified issues, so there is no reason to boot up the game yet. And that's a shame, because the original Hyrule Warriors also had its share of free content, where Age of Calamity isn't getting the same luxurious treatment. Cia, Volga, Wizzro and Medli all got added as free characters, even though their weapon upgrades and all that were tied to the paid DLC. But it was still something that everybody could give a try for free, potentially bringing some players back to the game, which isn't the case with Age of Calamity. Free content is always the best promotion.

It would also be so much easier to integrate new characters in the new Hyrule Warriors, because they don't actually need that much and you could add their Challenges and Quests anywhere on the map. There are already four optional characters in the base game, which follow the same principle – a principle that could have been easily applied to additional DLC characters to create some more standalone content. They could have added Beedle for example, as another fun bonus character.

But overall it seems like Age of Calamity is currently flying under the radar, where Nintendo doesn't promote the Expansion Pass at all, outside of the Nintendo Directs. Maybe we will get a release trailer today or tomorrow, but it's also possible that the second DLC pack simply drops and that's it, where we will have to find everything out ourselves.

They haven't even revealed the final character yet, but to be fair this might be because it's a spoiler. Nintendo kept things unusually spoiler-free last year with the base game, where they had only revealed Link, Zelda, Impa and the four Champions as playable characters in advance. They have teased some additional characters, like Hestu and King Rhoam, but they have never confirmed them as part of the playable cast. That's all for the players to find out.

Now, if the final character really were to be Sooga, then this would raise a question mark for all those people who aren't really familiar with the game's story and don't know that Master Kohga is already playable, where the Yiga are joining the forces of the good guys. So, this could be a reason why they haven't revealed the third DLC character and have only focused on Robbie & Purah so far, because everyone knows these two from Breath of the Wild.

We still might find out who the last fighter is in advance if someone is going through the effort of data-mining the new update, but we're so close to the release that it should be easy to be patient. See you on Friday!

Update: According to reddit, version 1.3.0 fixes a variety of exploits with certain characters (see here) and you can also now get the new base 80 damage weapons from Vicious Monster Sightings (see here). The latter is a pretty good change. Luckily, the update doesn't seem to extend any of the current maximums yet again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Metroid Dread x Tetris 99

Tetris 99 Metroid Dread screen with Samus on the left and an EMMI on the right. The placed Tetrinos look like Screw Attack blocks. 

This is going to be one busy weekend. Not only will the second DLC for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity release this Friday, October 29th, it's also the start of a new Maximus Cup for Tetris 99, which will feature Metroid Dread this time, as announced by Nintendo of America on Twitter.

They've used the classic Samus Aran theme for the start, then it plays the lower Artaria theme, which is one of my favorites, and finally the E.M.M.I. chase theme for the finale. It's quite nice and luckily it doesn't take too long to unlock these themes, so give it a try if you have Nintendo Switch Online.

But Metroid Dread certainly got the full promotion package from Nintendo. It was one of the main titles at this year's E3, it got weekly coverage with the "Metroid Dread Reports", a Special Edition, two amiibo, a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Spirit Event and now this. They certainly have done it all to give this game all the attention it deserves, but now this journey will probably come to an end...

Metroid Dread (Review)

For almost twenty years now Metroid Fusion has marked the end of the line for the Metroid series and fans had to wait a long time for its successor to arrive, to finally learn how the saga of Samus Aran will continue with its fifth major title, Metroid Dread.

According to the series producer, Yoshio Sakamoto, this is mainly because his visions of "dread" couldn't be realized with earlier hardware, like on the Nintendo DS. So, was this vision worth the wait? Is this the game the fans were hoping for? Let's find out...


Metroid Dread finally unveiled the next chapter for the classic Metroid saga, where the Galactic Federation has received a mysterious message showing that the terrifying X Parasite from Metroid Fusion still exists on planet ZDR. They've sent a unit of seven "Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers" (E.M.M.I.) to investigate, but the signal was lost. So, Samus gets sent instead, since she is the only one safe from the X Parasite thanks to her Metroid DNA, which used to be the natural enemy of the X before they got wiped out. But on ZDR the hunter becomes the hunted, as the nearly indestructible E.M.M.I. are now in pursuit of her to extract her unique DNA.

Samus facing a mighty Chozo warrior in the depths of ZDR

Now, both the X and the idea of Samus being hunted by an invincible foe were already explored in Metroid Fusion, so this technically isn't the most revolutionary storyline for the franchise. What's really new and exciting about Metroid Dread is the fact that the planet ZDR is also home to a hostile tribe of Chozo Warriors, where Samus gets overwhelmed by their leader right in the beginning of the game. There is a lot of potential here, but sadly this potential gets wasted somewhat, because the game wants too many things at once and the Chozo Warriors ultimately take a backseat, instead of being the focus.

As usual for the Metroid series, there is a lot of ambient storytelling where you can study the environments and connect the dots. Like in Metroid: Samus Returns, there is also gallery telling what has happened on planet ZDR before Samus arrived there, where you can unlock the different pieces by obtaining all items a single area.


Overall Metroid Dread looks pretty, where the animations are smooth and the backgrounds are usually full of details. Sometimes you are even able to spot bosses, which you will fight later in the game. It's in many ways similar to Metroid: Samus Returns, which was made by the same studios, just now in HD and without the technical limitations of the Nintendo 3DS. Both the visuals and the sound have a high level of quality to them, everything is very much polished, but it's also somewhat... uninspired.

grey early game caves

This starts with the music, which features a lot of ambient tracks. If you like this type of music, it's actually pretty nice and there are certainly more melodies to it than in Metroid: Other M. The powerful rhythms of Cataris and Ferenia come to mind for example, so there are some good tunes in there, but it's nothing where you feel like you have never heard anything similar before.

It also takes some notes from other mainline Metroid games, mostly Metroid II - Return of Samus and Metroid Fusion, which both also have the biggest influence on the story of this game, so it makes sense thematically. The most notable inspiration here are probably the sonar sounds of the E.M.M.I., where those originally used to be these ambient chirping sounds in Metroid II, which makes those much more creepy in hindsight.

All of this creates a great and fitting atmosphere for this game, but it also fails to create its own identity somewhat. Metroid Dread doesn't really come with memorable melodies that stick with you for life. There are some good tunes in there, but it just doesn't compare to Super Metroid or the Metroid Prime Trilogy.

The environmental design can also be somewhat bland at times. Most of the world is made out of Chozo laboratories and stations, where there is a clear lack of variety here. The worst offender in this are easily the E.M.M.I. Zones, which are these Tourian-like areas that cover huge chunks of the map and all look completely identical... Still, there are some visual highlights in the game, like the storming waves at the shores of Burenia or the lush background jungles of Ghavoran.

UI & Controls

With a game like Metroid Dread it's really hard to put the controller down, because the game just flows so smoothly, which makes it very enjoyable to play. It's rather addicting, really, especially with Samus's new slide and Flash Shift abilities, which add even more momentum to the already fast-paced Metroid series. You can also now use the Melee Counter while moving, which makes it so much better.

Sadly, it's not all as simple as it could be, where the use of multiple shoulder buttons can make things rather convoluted. The worst offender here is probably the Grapple Beam, which now works similar to the Missiles, where you have to hold down ZR to toggle it. You still have to fire and hold it with the Y-button, however, all while jumping with B and aiming with L in addition. And this requires quite some heavy finger acrobatics.

It would have been much more comfortable if the game had an option to let you fire the Grapple Beam and Missiles directly with their respective shoulder buttons, ideally separate for both. But the game is lacking any real options, which is a shame and really shouldn't be the Nintendo standard any longer.

The most important part of the user interface is the map, where it's probably the most detailed map in a Metroid game so far and shows you everything on block basis. You can also set markers, but for items, which you can't get yet, this is usually not needed, because the map shows you exactly what you might be missing, e.g. Speed Booster blocks, given that you have uncovered them.

It also keeps track of your movement on the map on the same block basis, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand this gives you very detailed information of your path through the game world, which can be very useful for tracking any missing secrets. On the other hand it makes the map look rather "ugly" with its darker, unvisited blocks, where filling the entire map is a lot more fiddly than it used to with the chunks in Metroid: Samus Returns. It's a nightmare for true completionists.


Items & Abilities

For the most part Metroid Dread brings back the usual suspects for Samus's arsenal, but it also tries some new things here and there. The most important novelty, which you also have right from the start, is the sliding, which lets you move through narrow gaps without the Morph Ball ability. And once you have the Morph Ball, you can slide right into it, which feels very natural. It's similar to the ledge grab, which got introduced in Metroid Fusion and was an excellent mechanic as well. It really adds to the overall flow and movement of the game, which makes a fantastic addition.

New is also the "Spider Magnet", which lets you grab magnetic walls and climb on them. Well, in reality it's pretty much a limitation of the Spider Ball mechanic, which doesn't return here, to certain surfaces, except that you can't use these in ball form. And it's overall not much of a game changer, where it's really just an extension of the ledge grab from Metroid Fusion.

Another addition for the early game is the "Spin Boost", which lets you jump a second time in the air and essentially works as an intermediate power-up before the usual Space Jumps. It can also be seen as a replacement for the High Jump Boots, which doesn't make a return in Metroid Dread for some reason.

What does return, though, is the Speed Booster in all its glory and some more, where now you can also retain the boost after wall jumps and slides. This gives you crazy possibilities for traversing the map in addition to the Shinespark. While there are some really tricky Shinespark puzzles in the game required for certain items, it never gets as bad as the many chained Shinesparks in Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission. And often there are some really creative solutions to these problems, which may or may not be easier to perform.

Semi-new are the "Storm Missiles", which work like the Seeker Missiles from the 3D games, but also let you fire everything on a single target. And this is quite powerful and one of the best moves in the game against bosses. The Bombs get a similar upgrade this time with the "Cross Bombs", which will detonate Bomberman-style and can even propel you in the respective direction, no complicated bomb jumps needed.

That's really it for Samus's normal gear and all the other novelties are tied to Aeion, which returns from Samus Returns, but brings a completely new set of abilities and also works differently this time around. Instead of having to refill the Aeion energy by collecting orbs dropped from enemies, it will refill automatically now as part of a cooldown, which makes it feel a lot more natural.

The cooldown only is relevant for the new "Phantom Cloak", however, which makes you invisible and inaudible to enemies while using it. But your movement will be restricted and any actions will drain the Aeion very quickly. Once you deactivate it, you will also have to move around in order for the Aeion energy to refill, which is a massive nerf to this ability and makes it rather difficult to utilize properly in some situations, because sometimes you're just stuck in a position where you can't move.

The "Pulse Radar" replaces the Scan Pulse from Samus Returns and simply reveals any special blocks around you. It doesn't leave any marks on your map this time, so you can use it without any concerns whenever you feel like you're missing something in the environment. It's also a lot more comfortable than the X-Ray Scope in Super Metroid.

Samus performing a flash shift in a jungle area

Last but not least, is the "Flash Shift", where you can quickly dash around. This certainly took some inspiration from the Mothwing Cloak in Hollow Knight, but that's only fair and it can also be used on the ground. You can chain it up to three times and Aeion replenishes almost instantly after using it, so you always have it at the ready. And this an insanely useful tool, both for moving swiftly through the environments and for dodging enemy attacks.

Other than the new Aeion abilities, Metroid Dread doesn't really go beyond what Samus was already capable of in past Metroid games. Some of it might even feel weaker than it used to... The Super Missiles and Ice Missiles for example are again upgrades to the normal Missiles, much like in Metroid Fusion. But by the time you get these upgrades all the enemies in the world also become much stronger, where you don't really notice the difference of the Super Missiles. The same with the reduced damage of the Varia and Gravity Suits. It's there, but it effectively gets negated by the tougher foes. The only item that is truly as liberating as it always used to be is the Screw Attack... And overall it would have been interesting to see some new suits and new beams instead of just the usual suspects.

Game World & Progress

This time the development team tried a somewhat unusual approach, where you start at the lowest point of the map and have to work your way up back to your ship, which you can't really access during the game. They also tried to mix things up with the item progression, where you get certain abilities much later than you usually would in a Metroid game, which is quite refreshing.

The planet of ZDR is a maze of multiple interconnected areas, much like the Planet Zebes in Super Metroid or Tallon IV in Metroid Prime, where you will be going back and forth between the different areas quite a lot. They are all connected via elevators, but also shuttles for a horizontal connection. In addition you have pairs of colored "Teleportals", which you can also use to travel between two areas, but ultimately these are just glorified elevators as well, since they are also only connecting two points with each other (at least until near the end of the game). Often they are used to provide shortcuts for where you need to go next.

shuttle station

Now, Metroid Dread was designed with sequence breaking in mind, where the fans have already discovered all sorts of crazy possibilities to do things out of order. But this doesn't really change the fact that the game is heavily sequenced and likes to funnel you to your next destination, often by closing or even destroying the paths behind you. It's never as extreme as in Metroid Fusion or Metroid: Other M, where passed doors got shut one too many times, but it's still noticeable and sometimes limits your options of backtracking needlessly.

The game also has no optional upgrades (sequence breaking aside), which is quite unusual. The only power-up that you don't really need to progress is the Pulse Radar, but you have to get it anyway on the main path. And all the other items and abilities are needed to open the path forward somehow. There are even a variety of special covers for doors, which require all the different beams, or even special sensor-lock doors and shutters, which require the use of the Phantom Cloak and Flash Shift abilities respectively. So, a lot of the game is very much gated based on your current equipment.

It's also all designed in such a way that the way forward is very much obvious, because the places where you need to utilize your newest upgrade are often not far away. For those who want to truly think about exploration this will feel somewhat uninteresting. But for everyone else it certainly helps that there are no confusing moments in the game, where you simply don't know where to progress.

Still, all of this makes it feel so much more special to actually find ways out of this given path, which also adds to the replay value. Sequence breaking is a big part of the game and adds many exciting possibilities. And the developers even made sure to reward you properly for certain sequence breaks, like easier boss fights.

Enemies & Bosses

If you have played Metroid: Samus Returns, then you will know what to expect from Metroid Dread in this department. Overall there is an overuse of the Melee Counter ability, which is performed by pressing X whenever the enemy flashes. It can now also be used while moving and in the air, which helps a lot with the pacing, but doesn't eradicate the original problem.

The world is flooded with small flying foes charging into you, or machines wanting to be countered when activating their special attacks. And it's a reliable way of dealing with most of the enemies, as long as you're quick to react. It's very powerful, while the penalty for missing these counters is also quite high, where ultimately the normal "run and gun" combat of Metroid takes a step back as a result, at least early on. It's best to wait for the counter with many of the enemies, instead of actually shooting them.

Samus performing a Melee Counter while moving

The importance of the Melee Counter also returns with the boss fights, but here it's even more extreme, because for some of the bosses it became a necessity to beat them. In Samus Returns landing a successful Melee Counter was a guaranteed way of dealing a lot of damage, but you could beat all the bosses without it. In Metroid Dread, however, you have to land the counter with certain bosses in order to move to the next phase or even beat them, which effectively turns this into a glorified quick time event. And that's bad design.

But otherwise the boss design is absolutely excellent, where you get some of the best boss battles in the entire Metroid series. They will all overwhelm you at first for what feels like some cheap Game Overs, but the game keeps telling you that every attack can be avoided, which is true, where you will learn and master these bosses like a dance and in the end they won't be able land a scratch on you. Like Samus Returns and Other M, the game also creates checkpoints right before each boss, so you can try again right away without much frustration. And finally besting them like that feels fantastic, where you want to do it again right away.

Some of the mini-boss battles get repeated throughout the game, but it's not as often as the various Metroid evolutions in Samus Returns. The variety of the normal enemies is also better than in the Nintendo 3DS title, but don't expect too much, because ultimately many of the enemies feels somewhat similar, especially thanks to the counter mechanic.

The E.M.M.I.

Now, there is one set of enemies in Metroid Dread that can't be defeated right away and those are the E.M.M.I. – near indestructible robots that will hunt Samus through their respective areas and can kill her in a single attack. It's a core aspect to Sakamoto's vision for this Metroid game, which now finally was realized on the Nintendo Switch... Past 2D Metroid titles already have played with the idea of Samus being chased by undefeatable enemies, mainly Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission on the GameBoy Advance. But the E.M.M.I. really take this to the next level.

They will hear Samus when she even takes a single step and then rush to investigate the sound. When she then gets into their sight, they will chase her relentlessly and also close off all the exits to the E.M.M.I. Zones, where you have to shake them off somehow, which is easier said than done. If they catch you, you can also counter their attack and stun them for a short while, but this is tough to pull off. There is a lot of "trial and error" involved here, where the only remedy is that your tours through the E.M.M.I. Zones are usually rather short and the game creates checkpoints right before each entrance, so the frustration in this stays within limits.

Samus chased by an EMMI

But the game also cheats, because it always puts the E.M.M.I. into your proximity when you enter an E.M.M.I. Zone, even though these are usually very large and the E.M.M.I. should theoretically patrol all of it. This removes any level of suspense that this idea might have had on the paper, because the threat is always present, where the E.M.M.I. are not scary – they are just annoying. Since the Phantom Cloak is heavily limited, your best bet is often just to run for it and hope that the E.M.M.I. doesn't spot you, while it chases you the sounds that you make... So, it's often not stealth gameplay, it's flight.

Here the quick and smooth movement can shine more than ever, where the E.M.M.I. Zones are all designed as these huge obstacle courses that you need to navigate swiftly in order to make it to the other side. And this can be quite thrilling. Also, finally getting to the Central Unit, which temporarily equips you with the Omega Stream and Blaster to defeat the E.M.M.I., is extremely satisfying. Not only give the E.M.M.I. Samus some of her traditional abilities back, the possibility to freely traverse the E.M.M.I. Zones alone is already very rewarding on its own right.

This doesn't change the fact that this puts a rather big dent in what could be an otherwise excellent Metroid experience. The idea of the E.M.M.I. is not all bad and offers an interesting change of pace and gameplay at multiple points throughout the game, but it's not for everyone and can feel like a roadblock at times, where passing through the E.M.M.I. Zones is very often necessary to progress with no real alternatives.


With its smooth and quick gameplay and the potential for sequence breaking, Metroid Dread really invites you to play the game again and again. It was also designed with speedrunning in mind, where traditionally it rewards you for beating the game fast. There is a gallery with different artworks that can be all unlocked by beating the game under four hours in both difficulty modes.

Hard Mode is unlocked after beating the game once, but it only really increases the damage that you take. But to beat this mode you must really prove that you have mastered all the boss fights.


Metroid Dread isn't perfect. Like Samus Returns before it, it comes with a variety of flaws, like partially convoluted controls, the overusage of the Melee Counter, the sometimes bland environments, and in this case the whole idea of the E.M.M.I. chase sequences, which are simply just not much fun. But despite all of this it's still Metroid at its finest, where it all smooth, fast and masterful, which can be incredibly addicting.

If Sakamoto can finally let go of his obsession with turning the huntress into the hunted and MercurySteam can overcome some of its problems (working environment and game design issues alike), then Metroid will have a very bright future ahead of it. See you next mission!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Metroid Dread Mission Log, Entry 5

Samus pointing at a reactor in the final area

Today I have finished my second 100% run of Metroid Dread, where I don't think that this will be my last. I might even try to go for all the different gallery pictures, which require you to beat the game on both Normal and Hard difficulty in under four hours...

And that I'm willing to go for this is a good sign. Replayability is an important aspect of Metroid games, where the ones that did it best for me so far were actually Super Metroid and – you might not believe it – Metroid: Other M. For very different reasons, however. With Super Metroid it's the general possibility for sequence breaking and with Other M it's simply the fact that I was tremendously enjoying how the game played, despite all its flaws with story and progression. Also, its boss battles were quite addicting, especially in Hard Mode. (Samus Returns was also quite close to these qualities, but I didn't play through it as often.)

Metroid Dread manages to capture both of this. It plays and feels so smooth, the movement is very swift and slick (aside from the Grapple Beam, which is still a pain to use), and the game just flows. It flows very well and this alone makes it a joy to replay, especially once you've mastered many of the fights and mechanics.

The bosses are also pretty well done, for the most part, where it's fun to apply what you have learned once more. If it weren't for the Melee Counter quick time events, which are sometimes necessary to beat the bosses, they would be pretty much perfect. But it was a good feeling to be able to beat some of these bosses on my first try now.

And while Metroid Dread is overall quite linear, there are some intended sequence breaks in this game, which can be very rewarding, in one case even with a special scene. On my second run I was doing two of them, where I wanted to talk about them a little bit...


Early Grapple Beam & Bombs

After obtaining the Varia Suit in Artaria the game conveniently funnels you back to Kraid's lair via the Red Teleportals, but if you actually take a detour to Dairon you can gain some good extras before the big boss battle.

You want to go to where the Purple Teleportal is found and get into the low level here via the destroyable blocks on the floor. From here you can now proceed to the right into some heated areas. This is the tricky part in all of this, where you want to cross the long lava room. And in order to do so you have to pull off some perfect jumps out of slides through small gaps. If you screw up, you will fall into the lava and most likely die, so this can be somewhat frustrating...

But once you've mastered this, you can take the elevator down back to Artaria, right to where the Grapple Beam is found. Normally, you wouldn't get here until much later, when you've already obtained the Speed Booster.

With the Grapple Beam in your possession you can now move forward in Dairon through the E.M.M.I. Zone to the second dark area, where we can get access through a Grapple Beam block, which normally would be blocking the way here. Alternatively, you can also do a tricky slide jump inside the E.M.M.I. Zone to get a wall jump done, which allows you to access said dark area from the right side. This way you can even skip the Grapple Beam in this, but having it early is quite useful in any case and it's not that big of a detour.

Anyway, once you're in the dark area, you can just activate the generator normally and then get the Bombs. Once you're back to Kraid, you can now use the hidden Ball Launcher during his second phase to finish him off quickly. It will shoot you right into the infected stomach hole, where you can lay some Bombs to end the fight. Take a look:

Early Gravity Suit & Screw Attack

This is arguably easier to pull off, but even more rewarding than the early Bombs. After obtaining the Pulse Radar in Ghavoran, the game basically funnels you to Ferenia, but there is a way of escaping this. You want to be speed boosting towards the Energy Recharge Station, store a Shinespark, then drop down and use it to cross the water, which will get you to the Green Teleportal.

Back in Burenia you just bomb the floor to the right of the portal. Here you now have to do that multi-Shinespark-parcours that nets you a Missile Tank+ at the end, which you will have to do anyway for a 100% run. And from there you can make your way right to the Gravity Suit. Simple.

You will now still have to go the frozen Artaria and face Experiment No. Z-57 without the aid of Storm Missiles and Space Jumps, but it's doable with Shinesparks. You might even be able to beat it quickly with that Shinespark trick, where you hit its head with it after the stormy wind attack. I tried, but failed, because I wasn't fast enough, but I still managed to complete the fight anyway.

So, there is a downside here, but the reward is that this completely trivializes Ferenia from now on. You can go get the Screw Attack afterwards (you can even take the shortcut via the blue Teleportal) and this will deal with all the electrical enemies right away. And the Wave Beam E.M.M.I. will have a hard time chasing you, because you can just run through the water without any effort.

You can also get the Storm Missiles, Space Jumps, Cross Bombs and the Wave Beam all one after another, so you don't have to go back to any of the lower areas from now on, unless you want those 100% items. You're ready for the finale right away.

Samus flying away from the exploding ZDR

So, overall this was pretty fun. The E.M.M.I. can still be a pain and are probably the main reason why I don't consider this to be my favorite Metroid game. But it's bearable, because the E.M.M.I. sections are usually rather short. And with additional help like the early Gravity Suit, you can make things much easier for yourself here.

In Metroid: Zero Mission you have a similar part with Chozodia, where Samus has lost her Power Suit and is left in her Zero Suit. But this part is gigantic and takes quite a while to get through, where this is the thing that I dread the most about the game, so it kills any motivation to play it more often...

Metroid Dread doesn't really have the same issue. The E.M.M.I. are still a problem and overall the game would probably be more fun without them, don't get me wrong, but with the very nimble and smooth movement, as well as the short length of these flight sections (it's hardly ever "stealth") it's a challenge I'm willing to take in order to enjoy the rest of the game.

Normal Mode clear time 7:25:36. See you next mission!

Next time I will be going through Hard Mode.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Metroid Dread: Connected Teleportals

All Teleportals on the map are now connected.

While I have completed Metroid Dread with 100% items, it turned that I was still missing one significant upgrade in the game: at the end it does connect all Teleportals, so you can use them exactly like the Teleport Stations in Metroid: Samus Returns.

This is insanely useful and I wish I had known this before going into the last backtracking phase. In order to trigger this feature you simply have to visit the final area once. I went for all items before going there, because I didn't know whether you can return or not. Well, you can and you should go there first chance. So, keep this in mind for your playthroughs.

Metroid Dread Mission Log, Entry 4

Samus fighting a red Chozo Warrior with the orange EMMI destroyed in the background

E.M.M.I. Defeated: 7

Mission complete! 100%. My first run of Metroid Dread is over and I had a blast at the end. Final game spoilers incoming, so don't keep reading, unless you've already beaten the game yourself or you simply don't care.

Now, I've went into the final part of the game expecting the worst, only to be greeted with the very best it has to offer. While my fear that the last E.M.M.I. has the Power Bomb ability came true, you're essentially getting it for free, because Samus's true powers finally awaken and make quick work of the machine. So, out of the seven E.M.M.I., you only really have to deal with five of them, since both the first and the last are essentially freebies.

I suppose that the developers didn't know how to handle the threat of such an E.M.M.I. either, though it could have really forced you to use the Phantom Cloak more, if you truly want to survive, which is something they were already trying to achieve with the Wave Beam E.M.M.I., but that didn't really work for me there.

Instead of the E.M.M.I. you're fighting a new color of the X-infected Chozo Warrior, where at the end of the Hanubia area you're also against the golden version, the one that was shown in the second trailer... Now, many people completely avoided Nintendo's coverage of the game after E3 and those people will have gotten lot more out of their first time experience.

Sadly, I'm not one of those people, because I'm too curious by nature, where I've read all the "Metroid Dread Reports" and so on. I was hoping that Nintendo would show us about half of the game in advance at max, but of course I was a fool to believe that. In fact, with the exception of some of the bosses, they've shown us pretty much everything in advance. They even went over all the major areas of the game...

This also completely shifted my expectations, where I kind of saw Ferenia as the middle point of the game and that there will be a variety of additional areas past this point. And since Adam kept teasing how Samus doesn't stand a chance against Raven Beak, I also expected that you would get past the usual set of upgrades, like Gravity Suit, Screw Attack, Wave and Plasma Beam, Power Bombs and so on. But the only real new ability was the Cross Bomb.

And many of the things that you get back don't feel as powerful anymore. Take the Wave Beam for example, which is one of the last upgrades you obtain in the game. Therefore I would fully expect it to shoot through the armor of this guy, the Golzuna:

Samus facing a giant armored crab

But it doesn't. You still have to get behind it and shoot it from there. It also doesn't penetrate the shield of the Chozo Warriors. It can shoot through walls, but that's really it, where it feels less like an upgrade than it used to in certain other Metroid titles. Same with the Plasma Beam, which you get much earlier this time.

The missiles and their upgrades are also not very satisfying, especially when compared to Metroid Fusion, where the Ice Missiles were quite good. Only the Storm Missiles can be really useful, like against the Chozo Robot Warriors, when set to a single target. Otherwise, I've only been using the missiles when I had to against certain bosses, because they didn't seem to have the right impact. This was different in Samus Returns, but that's mainly because it had a lot of bosses where your normal beam shots didn't do anything, like all the Metroids.

At least the Screw Attack is as satisfying to use as ever and made backtracking (as well as filling out the map) a total breeze. Who needs weapons, when you can just jump through enemies, right?

Samus in a underground cave completely filled with magma, it's all red against the black walls

Now, after getting the Power Bombs it was finally time to explore the depths of ZDR once more. This is where you want to be backtracking through all the areas and pick up any leftovers. I've did so a couple of times already, but usually you're still missing something. And some of the Shinespark puzzles had me convinced at first that I'm still missing a power-up somewhere, something like the "secret" Ball Spark in Samus Returns, where you combine the Power Bombs with the Spider Ball. But there is no such thing and instead you're simply dealing with some really tricky puzzles...

Shinespark Shenanigans

Well, yes, the Speed Booster... It can be an amazing power-up to do all sorts of crazy things within a Metroid game. It's the best tool for speedrunning and sequence breaking. But it can also be a nightmare for completionists if those Speed Booster Blocks turn up in the weirdest places. Now, I absolutely hated those puzzles in Metroid: Zero Mission, to a point where I would never play the game without save states. And therefore I very much dreaded the return of all this in Metroid Dread.

But... it's actually not that bad. In fact, whenever I was struggling with getting one of the puzzles done, it was often because I was overcomplicating it and trying to achieve something that was impossible or near impossible to execute. Sometimes the "obvious" solution isn't the best and you have to find other ways, where this really turns into Shinespark puzzles. With some of them I was also simply missing crucial information... Well, let's just get over the most interesting ones.

Samus next to a shutter door with an crawlspace above her

So, this one in the upper areas of Artaria is probably one of the most difficult Shinespark puzzles in the game and therefore probably a bad example to start with. You have to run from the room to the right, shoot the monsters when you enter the room, store a charge, get into the Morphball tunnel and drop a Cross Bomb, then quickly use Flash Shifts to get through the shutter and the end of the room, where you can activate the Shinespark to destroy the blocks above you. It's a tight and execution-heavy sequence, where a single mistake will screw you up. Especially the respawning monsters at the beginning are very annoying.

a Missile Plus tank surrounded by walls and three Speed Booster Blocks, there is a crawl space below it, covered by bomb blocks and some ramps above it

The above puzzle at the center of Dairon is another tricky one and I'm not sure what's the best solution here. I came running from above, stored a charge and then laid some bombs on the Bomb Blocks. Now, you have to jump up again, release the Shinespark against the slopes, so that you are speed boosting again and store another charge. Then slide through the crawl space and space jump up.

Now, getting out of Space / Spin Jumps into the Shinespark is the real tricky part here. I had no idea how to do it properly, so I just fired some beams and then quickly pressed B without moving. But it turned out that you can simply press L (for aiming) to get out of the Spin Jumps. (Update: simply pressing Y + B at the same time also works.)

You want to remember this, because this method also comes in handy for the Shinespark puzzle in the frozen upper area of Darion, where I came in running from the Map Station, stored a charge at the end of the way and then quickly used Space Jumps to get up again. But there is actually another way to do it, which leads us to the following:

Samus in a crawlspace enclosed by beam blocks and with some pitfall blocks inside... there is a vertical tunnel in the middle with some Speed Booster Blocks at the top

The Shinespark puzzle at the very top of Ferenia is probably the one that had the most people confused and frustrated, including myself. My original "solution" was to run in from the room to the right, store a charge, jump up, shoot the beam blocks, use a Cross Bomb to get over the pitfall blocks and then destroy the Bomb Blocks (where Samus is standing in the above picture). However, the Shinespark simply doesn't last as long. Maybe if you're doing it just perfectly it may work, but there is a much, much easier and faster solution anyway.

I had to look this up, because I had no idea that you can do this. But the crucial piece of information was that you keep a Speed Boost even after sliding and Wall Jumps. I suppose you can figure this out quickly by yourself by playing around with the Speed Booster, but I haven't really used it that much, unless it was necessary. But this allows for some really cool tricks.

Now, the solution is very simple. You start boosting at the outside shuttle area to the left. You then spin jump up at the end of the path, jump against the wall above the door and then slide immediately into the crawlspace, which boosts you into the little room to the left (which otherwise would have been pointless). There you finally store your charge, then simply roll back, drop bombs and use your Shinespark. Easy.

This actually made me appreciate the feature so much more, because this gives you so many possibilities, also for some of the other puzzles, like the one above at Dairon, where you can actually start boosting from the E.M.M.I. Zone below. No Shinespark needed at all. I can't wait to see what speed runners will do with this. And after some of the Shinespark puzzles in Zero Mission felt like torture, I think that Metroid Dread really struck a good balance between making challenging puzzles and not making them too heavy on the execution. I like it. It's so that you don't lose motivation to keep trying, just like with the bosses in the game. Which brings us to...

The Great Finale

When Adam first told me that Raven Beak was waiting in a fortress in the sky, my first thought was that Samus would need her ship to travel there. But the path to your ship was still blocked by a massive gate, where it became immediately clear that there would be an escape sequence and that you could use something like the Omega Blaster during this sequence, because the door with the red, round light on it looked like that... So, I was already mentally prepared for this while going up.

Samus coming out of a pod

Overall this setup feels very similar to the Sky Temple in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and is equally relaxed at first. You can go up there, refill everything and save your game right before going into the final boss battle. You can also go back and collect any missing Energy, Missile or Power Bomb Tanks if you want to.

I personally love this, because it's a really good way of finishing a Metroid and making yourself at home there. I remember how Metroid Fusion completely shut you out from backtracking before the final boss, which was bad. And I'm also not a fan of having some kind of hazardous obstacle course as the final area, like Tourian (despite my name) or the Impact Crater. I like it simple, where the focus should be on the final boss.

And that was one great final boss. If you see people asking for Raven Beak to make it into the next Super Smash Bros., you know why. It's really well executed and fully shows the strengths of MercurySteam. At first this boss will completely overwhelm you, but if you keep trying, you will learn all the patterns and all the tricks, up to a point where you can take him on without getting a single scratch.

For me the turning point was when I learned that you could destroy his giant orb attacks with your Power Bombs (or Missiles), which even gives you ammunition and health back. It's actually rare for the Power Bombs to be this useful in a final battle, where that's another similarity to Metroid Prime 2. But finding this out made things click and from there it was just all about familiarizing yourself with all his attacks. The game really means it when it says that every attack can be avoided.

It's like learning a dance. If you get hurt, then that's because you've screwed up somehow. And this is a very satisfying and addicting way of designing boss fights. It's also one of the reasons why I've enjoyed playing through Metroid: Other M in Hard Mode twice, because it just feels really good to master the bosses there.

And I think this will be very similar here, where I might like it even more than Metroid: Samus Returns on that regard, because there some of the boss attacks were just incredibly difficult to dodge and I kept abusing the Lightning Armor way too much. There is no Lightning Armor in Metroid Dread and it's also not needed... You have the Flash Shift instead, which is a much better use of the Aeion feature.

Speaking of Aeion abilities, I love how Raven Beak uses some of them himself, which makes a lot of sense, because those are Chozo techniques. He effectively has a Hazard Shield in the first phase, he uses the Flash Shift, and one of his attacks in the second phase is basically the Beam Burst.

That Samus effectively turns into a Metroid in the end, where her suit looks completely organic and like the armored skin of the later Metroid evolutions, was a really nice twist and also quite poetic. She finally became the thing that she has been hunting down for so long.

And it also made the escape with that crazy beam weapon a lot of fun. It's similar to Super Metroid in many ways, but I found the escape sequence there to be too stressful, where in Metroid Dread it really is more about having fun with the blaster in crazy ways, without getting too comfortable with it. It's a cool sequence and a very crazy ending for this game, where I'm hyped to see where the Metroid series will be going after this. 

With this evolution in mind, it somewhat makes sense why the story insisted on throwing back the X into all of this, because Samus kept growing stronger from absorbing them, which ultimately turned her into a Metroid herself. Though, this could also be explained from her absorbing all those Central Units / E.M.M.I.s and it's still a shame that the Chozo Warriors had to take a backseat for this, but at least the final battle was purely focused on fighting their strongest without any X involved. Well, mostly...

Oh, and the credit music kind of reminded me of Twilight Princess for some reason. It didn't really fit the rest of the game, to be honest.

Post Game / Replaying

Like in Samus Returns, you get some Chozo Archive memories for every area with 100% item completion. These memories are all tied to the respective area and are equally sinister to the hidden memory in Samus Returns, which foreboded the evil of Raven Beak. He's not one to make prisoners.

The secret entry to the archive is just a nice artwork of all of Samus's adventures and you can also unlock artworks for the six different main Metroid games, which actually includes Other M in this case, unlike with everything inside the Special Edition for Metroid Dread. Or anything from Nintendo's coverage for the game. You get these based on your clear time in the two different difficulty modes (4 and 12 hours are the marks), where my first performance only scored me the one for Zero Mission:

Clear time 16:04:32. See you next mission!

Well, since this was my first playthrough I wasn't in a hurry and I did a lot of unnecessary backtracking. Plus, I've actually filled most of the map, because it looks so good and I'm crazy. Still, I wish the map completion would work the same as in Samus Returns with the larger chunks.

But I'm actually eager to replay this game. First I want to get better at it in Normal Mode and then later go for some good runs in Hard Mode. My first impressions weren't the best, as you may know from reading this series, where I didn't think that I would want to replay this game anytime soon, mainly because of the E.M.M.I. sections. But I think this is also something where you can learn lots of tricks to make those more bearable or interesting.

With the Temple of the Ocean King in Phantom Hourglass it was similar for me. When I first played the game I hated the thing, like most people probably did, but once I've learned all the shortcuts and neat tricks that you can do there, it actually became a fun challenge. Maybe it could be the same for the E.M.M.I. or maybe they are just too unpredictable for this, let's see...

But there is also some other things I want to try for myself, like some of the sequence breaks. For example I've learned that you can actually get the Bombs before Kraid by bypassing a puzzle that normally requires the Diffusion Beam. And the developers have actually anticipated this, where there is a neat reward here. If you have the Bombs during the second phase of the Kraid battle, there is a Morph Ball Launcher that can actually shoot you inside Kraid's stomach to finish him off quickly. Very awesome. Since I've never liked this part where you have to jump on Kraid's stomach projectiles, I will certainly make use of this in every run from now on.

Well, when I replay Metroid Dread I might post about it. Otherwise, see you next mission!