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I think 2017 makes us ask the question of where certain fracnhises should go. Zelda, RE7, and Metroid since they have big fandoms, it makes me worry, the main criticisms is debating if they change too much. I think it's only natural, and I think it's fair to say when it has gone far into becoming a different entity.
In regards to Samus Returns, combat certainly is pushed more than the exploration, while not eliminating exploration entirely, combat is much more relevant.
I think it isn't as surprising considering that's what Mercury Steam does. I also think it's not as severe, since this is technically a retread of an old game, so even if it was more exploratory, there's little in the sense of giving surprises if we're doing an old story.
What I worry in regards to the fandom, is getting the feeling that if it's not Super Metroid it isn't a Metroid experience. I always comeback to the quote from Reggie, where he says, "fans want what's familiar BUT with the excitement of the new."
WIth all that said, IMO. Samus Returns, is better than Fusion, mechanically better and different from the original Return, better combat than Zero Mission, but no better exploration or freedom in terms of progression. Better than the original Metroid. And finally when compared with Super Metroid, I think aside from exploration and progression, I think Samus Returns lacks the presence, and IMO that's because the visuals are limited by the hardware, especially because of it being 3D, the enemy designs are limited, the environments aren't as memorable, and it lacked more subdue moments, like when awaking the Diggernaut.
Nintendo still makes games first and then worry if they're telling something. I suppose that's also why people have some expectations shattered when getting serious about their games.