Back in October 2021, Metroid Dread released to critical praise, despite being a very mechanically unforgiving title. When I covered the game here on Access-Ability at the time, while I praised the game’s implementation of dynamic map labelling techniques in a non linear exploration game, I criticised the game’s inflexible difficulty, overall lack of even basic accessibility settings, and at times overly complex controls.
Recently, as part of a Nintendo Direct, Nintendo announced that Metroid Dread would be getting a new difficulty mode, called Rookie Mode, designed to make the game easier to complete. While details during the direct were light, the mode promised to make the game more accessible to those who had found its difficulty a barrier to entry.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to talk about Metroid Dread’s Rookie Mode. We’re going to talk about what it changes, what it does not, and what changes could have been made to further make the game accessible to a wider range of disabled players.
Let’s start off with what Rookie Mode actually changes in Metroid Dread. The major changes the mode implements are increased effectiveness of resource pickups, and decreased damage dealt by boss enemies.
Both of these changes are pretty simple to understand. When playing Rookie Mode, any time the player picks up a health pickup, they will recover more health, and whenever they pick up an ammo pickup, they will recieve more ammo. Health and ammo pickups will not be more plentiful, but those you collect will do a better job of keeping you topped up.
While boss encounters will now do less damage, there are a couple of caveats worth knowing here. Boss enemy attack patterns are not simplified at all, a usually expected step of creating an easy mode for a game, and enemy damage outside of boss fights is also not reduced.
Where easy modes in most games will tweak overall encounter balance, Metroid Dread’s Rookie Mode has taken a very basic stat altering approach, and as a result there are a lot of aspects of the game which have not been made easier to navigate.
EMMI sections, where unkillable robots stalk the player attempting to one hit kill them, are essentially unchanged in Rookie Mode. They still hunt you with the same speed and determination, with the same tiny window of frames to execute a counter. When you get access to a temporary power boost to fight each Emmi, you still have to hit a very precise area of a moving enemy, for a sustained amount of time, before the creature can reach you for a one hit kill attempt. These moments are not made easier to progress through in Rookie Mode.
Metroid Dread’s controls are also still just as complicated to pull off, with no changes made to make things like difficult platforming sections easier to progress through with more leniency.
Metroid Dread’s Rookie Mode is a welcome addition, but falls short of what I would ideally expect from a well designed easy mode.
Rookie mode feels like a slapdash addition made to technically make the game easier, while avoiding the hard work that a more fleshed out easy mode would entail.
While I am glad Rookie Mode has been added to the game, its changes are minimal enough that many disabled gamers who would have struggled with the game at launch will still find it inaccessible, even following this update.