Before I get into the details that make this such an excellent game and expansion on the Metroid world, first let’s look at the physical release that I opted for. Purchased from RetroGamesRemastered, an operation that produces physical releases of ROM-hacks and retro gaming rarities, the Metroid: Rogue Dawn print has everything you need to feel like you are back in the 1980s opening a fresh, crisp Nintendo game. Here’s what’s included:
- Dust cover
As for the game, the attention to details shines:
- Aran’s helmet comes on and off depending on the environment she is in. Such a simple act of having two looks for Aran does more than add some eye candy. It deepens the sense that you are exploring dangerous, unknown spaces, and all areas are not created equally.
- Unlike the original, you always start with 99 health (in the original it was only 30). Plus, there are health and ammo refill stations. Having to start each life by farming for health was always a stand out negative in the original Metroid.
- The twists and turns of the craggy caverns creates a claustrophobic feeling and sense of despair. It truly feels like an alien world.
- The NES classic, as with many NES games, has some limitations, flaws, and minor bugs that continue to exist in Rogue Dawn and only add to the charm of the experience. For example, there’s noticeable slow down when too many moving objects are on screen, exploding enemies wrap on the edges of the screen, crawling foes will get suck spinning in place if you open a door as they climb over it, and Aran “skates” like Gumby when you turbo fire while running.
- The story is expanded by text displayed on the backgrounds of some screens, usually representing the speech of a static character on the screen. It’s a simple and cheap solution to add lore and deepen the narrative.
- The inclusion of a radar and map is a much needed feature for such a maze like world
- It parallels the original in terms of overall framework, without ever feeling too similar. In other words, you must seek out item upgrades and two remote bosses before proceeding to a final metroid dense area. Even the bosses have similar patterns since much was leveraged here. Yet never does it feel like a copy in any way. It just feels familiar.
- There's a second quest!
Sadly, the days of Nintendo Power are behind us, where we would seek out hints and tips for NES games. Sure, there's this thing called the internet now, but for a niche ROM-hack like this I didn't see a ton of helpful information published out there. So, without spoiling anything, here are some strategies I found to be quite useful:
- Instead of exiting an area by backtracking, simply save and then resume. This will place you at the starting position of your current area, and you’ll still retain your health and missiles.
- Take notes on a printed or hand drawn map. Even with the in-game radar you’ll find yourself getting lost in the intricate labyrinths. And since this is a metriodvania you’ll thank yourself for noting spots to revisit.
- Recharge stations are plentiful so take advantage of those missiles and use them on the enemies with high hit-points
- The game becomes much easier when you acquire the Varia Suit as it greatly reduces damage taken. I won’t spoil where it is. Seek it out as early as possible.
- Bomb everything and look for small spaces to roll through. There are a ton of secret areas not depicted on the radar.
This is a must play for any NES fan. For those that grew up with the NES it will instantly transport you back to your childhood, regardless of if you have a physical copy or not. Next on my list is Another Metroid 2 Remake.