Metroid Dread – Over a Decade in the Making

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By Sam Cooper on July 13th, 2021


What’s the longest you’ve ever waited for a video game to come out? A year? Two years? Five? A decade? Sixteen years? That’s how long fans have been waiting for Metroid Dread, the latest volume in the original Metroid saga. Originally said to be in development in 2005, it wasn’t until this year’s E3 conference that the game was officially announced. It will be released this October on the Nintendo Switch.

Dread was originally conceived as a Nintendo DS title – but since little was said about it, it became little but a rumor. Nobody was sure if the game actually existed and if it was what stage of production it was in.

So naturally, last month’s announcement caused the fandom to go wild. Be prepared for nothing but Metroid Dread talk in October because that’s all any gamer is going to want to talk about. 

Metroid Dread will be the first original, side-scrolling Metroid title (that is not a remake of a previous game) since Super Metroid in 1994 and the first original 2-D title since Metroid Fusion in 2002. The game looks to be a return to form that many Metroid fans have been demanding for years.

And judging by the trailer, it seems like it will be worth the wait.

Getting up to speed

The Metroid games follow the adventures of bounty hunter Samus Aran, who protects the galaxy from space pirates and their attempts to harness the power of the parasitic Metroid creatures. Samus is one of the first and most popular female video game protagonists.

She has been a playable character in every Metroid game since the first title, Metroid, was released in 1986.

The games are characterized by their distinct isolated atmosphere, lack of NPCs to interact with, and emphasis on non-linear gameplay. The earlier games were also known for being side-scrolling adventures, which were well-received by fans and critics alike.

The original series is highly rated by players – as are the remakes. The series was nearly killed by the release of Metroid: Other M in 2010. The game was heavily criticized for its characterization of Samus as well as the reduced emphasis on exploration. It was also a first-person shooter. 

2016’s Metroid Prime: Federation Force was panned as well, mostly for its multiplayer focus. The games had always been single-player – allowing for the gamers to really get to know Samus and the world they were exploring.

But the series found life again with the revival of Metroid II titled Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS in 2017. Samus Returns’ popularity likely allowed Dread to finally come to fruition.

And it is possible that the franchise has entered a new Golden Age.

Dreading HISTORY

Metroid Dread was originally announced in an internal Nintendo software list of “key DS games set to be announced in the future” in 2005. This led many to believe the game would be announced at the 2005 or 2006 E3 Conference. 

In 2006, the game was listed in the February issue of Nintendo Direct with a November release date. But nothing was said about Dread during the E3 conference. And so people waited. And waited. And waited until the game became a rumor.

There was a hint of the game’s existence in 2007’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption in the form of a message but the game’s director denied it. The message was later changed in the Japanese version of the game but remained in the other versions.

It was not until 2010, five years later, that any further confirmation was given on the game. But it was not much.

Series producer, Yoshio Sakamoto said the game had existed at one point – but if he were to return to the project, they would need to start from scratch. However, this news still excited many fans because it left open the possibility that the game could be made someday.

Following the announcement, interest in Dread surged as many fans and game critics were eager for a throwback to the classic, old-school Metroid games. Many of them put the title on their “Most Wanted” games list. Sakamoto was bombarded with questions about the title for years.

People really wanted this game to be made. It was likely due to this intense interest and demand that Dread was able to get through development hell.

Now that the release date has been announced, Dread has been setting records. It became the highest pre-ordered game on Amazon’s American, British, and Japanese websites following the conference. It has also become the most pre-ordered title from GameStop.

Undoubtedly, those numbers will only increase as we get closer to the release date.

What took so long?

So – what took so long? Sure, games take a long time to make – but sixteen years? Why would a game take that long to come to fruition?

The answer is pretty simple really.

The Nintendo DS wasn’t the right medium for the game.

The technology Sakamoto wanted to bring the game to life simply didn’t exist in 2005.

He has gone on record saying that the DS had technical limitations that made it impossible to bring Dread to life in the way he envisioned. He wanted an “intimidating, unsettling antagonist” and found that wasn’t possible with the gaming console. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. There were attempts at making the game in 2005 and 2008, but after those failed Sakamoto halted production.

There was a playable prototype available in 2009 during that year’s E3 – which was only available to Nintendo of America staff. But the game had a different title and was more stylistically similar to Fusion – than the 2-D art style it was originally going to bear.

Not much is known about the prototype – the name it bore, or what the gameplay was like. But that doesn’t seem to be a concern to the fans. They really just want Dread. And who could blame them? This game looks like it will be totally awesome.

Revitalizing the classics

Dread will be set after the events of Metroid Fusion and will follow Samus as she takes on a new robotic enemy on the planet ZDR. 

It will be a throwback to the original games’ style: having 2D art and being a sidescroller game. It will also retain the free aim and melee encounter elements as seen in previous titles.

The title comes from the idea that Samus is followed by “dread” on an unfamiliar planet. Sakamoto said his inspiration for this direction was “the tension surrounding the SA-X from Metroid Fusion and how we wanted to take that style of gameplay and put it into what is considered to be the normal Metroid gameplay”.

The game will explore “fear-based gameplay” but will NOT be a horror game according to Sakamoto.

Metroid Dread will also have some new gameplay elements.

It will also still have But the game also has some new elements: Samus will have magnetic grapples allowing her more movement and a cloak that will render her invisible for a short amount of time. She will also be able to run faster in this game than in previous incarnations

The game is being produced by Retro Studios, the developers of the original Metroid Prime trilogy. It will not be the finale of the Metroid series meaning fans have a lot to look forward to.

This is certainly an exciting time to be a gamer, especially if you’re a fan of classic titles – and hopefully, the long wait will be worth it…which if the trailer is anything to go by, it definitely will be.

The game will be released in October and will retail for $59.99.

Writer, Story Teller and Animation Enthusiast. Runs


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