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The Real Reason Returnal Feels So Familiar

Housemarque's "Returnal" finally launched last week, treating players to a new type of roguelike. In "Returnal," players take on the role of Selene, a space explorer who keeps being killed and revived, becoming more powerful in each run through an ever-shifting alien environment. With bullet hell-style combat and gameplay that takes full advantage of the PS5's DualSense, critics and fans are finding a lot to love about "Returnal." However, players are also starting to realize that Selene reminds them an awful lot of Samus Aran, the star of the "Metroid" franchise.

Even before "Returnal" officially launched, some people were already talking up the similarities between the two games. Aside from the fact that both games feature a badass female protagonist, Game Rant's Shane O'Gorman pointed out that "Returnal" also featured a dark atmosphere and an impressive array of weaponry that brought to mind Samus' arsenal. O'Gorman predicted that "Returnal" would be a suitable replacement for "Metroid Prime 4" while fans wait for that sequel to someday arrive.

Now that "Returnal" is out, the comparisons have continued. Polygon's Ryan Gilliam ran down a list of ways in which "Returnal" appears to wear its "Metroid" influences on its sleeve, with Selene's movements feeling particularly familiar for fans of Samus Aran. In "Returnal," Selene moves at a brisk pace at all times, which can make the necessary backtracking and exploratory segments feel much quicker and less laborious than in some other games of its ilk. Gilliam remarked, "It's interesting to see 'Returnal' learn so much from 'Metroid Prime's more immersive environment while also digging back to the 2D era to adapt Samus' super speed."

Of course, not all of the comparisons between "Returnal" and "Metroid" have been favorable. In a negative review for Paste, Dia Lacina argued that the similarities between the games meant that "Returnal" didn't quite work as a roguelike. Lacina wrote that exploration, not randomized runs, is what makes games like the "Metroid Prime" series so appealing, adding, "I'm not sure the cycle and speed that roguelikes require is well suited to the kind of thoughtful adventure game with moderate platforming and action that "Prime" gave us."

In other words, by the end of your first couple of runs, you may either enjoy all that "Returnal" has to offer or pine for the days of classic "Metroid." You'll have a good amount of time to figure it out, though; depending on your play style, it can take around 20 to 30 hours to beat "Returnal."