Metroid: Samus Returns is now out for the 3DS, finally giving us a new, 2D adventure in Nintendo’s sci-fi series. I loved it. If you’ve ever enjoyed Metroid, you’ll want to bust out your 3DS for this one (yes, even if you retired it after getting a Switch).
But even though Samus Returns is a homage to the great Game Boy classic Metroid 2: The Return of Samus, it’s almost a new game. And while its mechanics will be familiar to anyone who played the classic Super Metroid, it has new features and abilities.
That’s why we put together some tips that we think you should know before you start exploring the planet SR388 on your Metroid hunt. I hope these will make your long, lonesome journey a successful one.
Do most of your backtracking toward the end
Metroid is not linear. You’ll come across many areas that require powerups you don’t have in order to advance. Sometimes, these will include hidden items. There could be Missile Tanks near the beginning that sit behind a barrier that you can’t get through without an item you find toward the end.
Every time you get a new powerup, you might be tempted to go back to every little place you’ve already been in order to see what new items you can find. But this can be a big waste of time. Many of these are hidden behind doors or other barriers that you won’t be able to get through until you some of the final abilities. In a lot of cases, you need the final powerup to access a lot of these hidden items.
Instead, wait until you’re toward the end to do your extensive backtracking. Even if you just collect the Missile Tanks, Energy Tanks, and so on that you find on the normal path, you’ll have enough ammo and life to finish on the standard difficulty. This is especially true for missiles. You’ll be drowning in them. I’d be impressed if you ever ran out.
For most players, getting all of the items is more of a badge of honor than a necessity. But even if you are a completionist, hold off on going back to the start to hunt down every collectible until you’ve almost finished Samus Returns.
Scan Pulse often
You get the Scan Pulse early in Samus Returns. With the press of the A button, it will map your surrounding area. It will also highlight any breakable blocks near you.
Unlike past Metroid games, you wont’ find any Map Stations. If you want the lay of the land, you’ll need to use this often. Doing so takes up some Aether, a new resource that also powers other abilities (like one that reduces the damage you take or another that slows down time). But you can get more Aether by killing enemies, so as long as you don’t spam the Scan Pulse, you won’t shouldn’t run out.
If you’re ever in an area that you know has a hidden item (you can tell because it will show up on your map as a circle), use the Scan Pulse, find any highlighted blocks near you, and then use your bombs or missiles to blow it up. This will usually set you on the path to acquiring the upgrade (if not revealing one immediately).
Use the Ice Beam on Metroids (and not much else)
This is common knowledge to hardcore Metroid fans: the namesake creatures of the series are weak to your Ice Beam. But Samus Returns has a lot more Metroids than you typically encounter, and they come in many types. For all of them, you’ll want to use the Ice Beam to freeze them or bring them to the ground. Then you can follow up with Missile shots.
Besides fighting Metroids, the Ice Beam isn’t all that useful in Samus Returns. You can use it to turn some enemies into frozen platforms, but you have a lot of other movement abilities that usually make that unnecessary. You eventually earn the Space Jump, which lets you soar in such a manner that it might as well be called “Fly.” At that point, turning enemies other than Metroids into ice is useless.
Learn every enemy’s counter timing
Unlike past 2D Metroid games, Samus can counter enemies. Most creatures have a specific attack that Samus can reverse. Before this strike, the enemy will briefly blink with a flash of light and you’ll hear a ding noise. That’s your cue that to get ready to counter with the Y button.
But don’t push Y as soon as you hear that ding. Each counter requires different timing. Some enemies will attack you right away. Others will slowly charge at you. Bosses can be especially tricky. They won’t use their counter-able attack often, and the timing can be difficult to get down.
But it’s worth it to land these counters. For normal enemies, you can follow it up with an attack that will often immediately kill them. For bosses, counters trigger small action sequences during which you can keep spamming attacks … and they look cool. It’s your best way to deal a lot of damage quickly.
Don’t tilt over boss fights
Samus Returns has some difficult bosses, especially toward the end. To win, you’ll need to have good aim and evasion skills. But you’ll also need to memorize the patterns.
This is going to take a little time. It can get frustrating, since boss attacks will do a lot of damage. And before you know the pattern, there’s not a whole lot you can do.
But, thankfully, the game puts you back to the moment just before you triggered a boss fight if you die during it. This gives you a chance to go hunt for health or ammo if you need it. But it also means that you can quickly fight the boss over and over again. The fights can be long and difficult. Be persistent. You’ll eventually figure out the patterns and defeat them.