FGC #165 Another Metroid 2 Remake: Return of Samus

The wait is over/foreverMetroid II: The Return of Samus will always hold a special place in my heart. I was not allowed to have a Gameboy as a child, but when my father decided to paint the entirety of our home, he let me temporarily swap systems with a friend of mine. Vinnie got my Genesis, and I got a Gameboy with Metroid II. In the time it took (my dad) to paint an entire house, I guided Samus Aran through SR388, and wiped the Metroid threat from the galaxy. To this day, whenever I smell wet paint, I think of Metroid hunting, and the sheer joy of first discovering the space jump.

That said? I’m never playing that thing again. Metroid II: The Return of Samus is a fun, beloved game from my childhood, and now it may as well be a pile of puke.

Another Metroid 2 Remake: Return of Samus is brilliant in every conceivable way.

For those of you that haven’t yet discovered this gem (or those from a near future present that has legally obliterated all traces of the game), AM2R:RoS is a fan made remake of the original, monochrome Metroid II. Despite the fact that Nintendo seemed to once be very proud of the teeny Aran adventure (Metroid II was used in a lot of Super Gameboy promotional material, including the dang box art), Metroid II has been pretty much ignored since the release of Super Metroid. Maybe it’s out of respect for Gunpei Yokoi, maybe it’s the fact that the Metroid series has never been that popular in Japan, or maybe it’s just that nobody wanted to reanimate that Alpha Metroid sprite; but whatever the case, it seems inordinately unlikely to see a Nintendo made Metroid II remake at this point, particularly given it’s been twelve years (geez!) since Metroid: Zero Mission, the remake of Metroid (1).

Nature abhors a vacuum, though, so a small collection of dedicated fans decided to make their own damn Metroid II remake. It took eight years or so, but it was Dorkfinally released last week (relative to this article’s original posting date), and, naturally, I leapt onto this game like some sort of floating, fanged jellyfish monster. I waited for a quiet Sunday afternoon, and played through the entirety of the game in one sitting. And guess what? I liked it! I liked it a lot!

This is the first Metroid game that actually feels like Super Metroid. Yes, this remake primarily uses the physics of Metroid: Zero Mission, but it doesn’t adhere to the overarching design philosophies of either GBA Metroid title. Both of those games had a tendency to rely on the “Metroid with levels” design theory wherein a screw attack or space jump might unlock a new area, but once you’re there, it’s basically a challenge course in some particular skill or obstacle. Here is lava area. Here is ice beam area. Here is where you find gravity suit. It’s more overt in Metroid Fusion, but Metroid: Zero Mission seems to subscribe to the same philosophy, albeit slightly more subtlety. This is absolutely not the case in Super Metroid, where great swaths of Meridia and Brinstar are entirely optional. Yes, Kraid and Ridley have “level” lead-ups, but it’s entirely likely you’ll complete the whole game and never encounter a giant, spinning turtle or submersible digging bot. AM2R:RoS follows Super Metroid with its share of secrets and areas that exist simply to be explored, Weeeeelike Samus is venturing through some kind of labyrinthine planet or something.

In short, Another Metroid 2 Remake: Return of Samus is the first 2-D Metroid game since 1994 that I actually wanted to “re-explore” after completion, and that’s huge.

And, to be clear, this is a “fan-made game”, but it avoids the typical “fan-made” pitfalls. There is not some byzantine fanfiction plot that elucidates how Original Character: Do Not Steal has been responsible for everything from the get-go (or, conversely, a Mary Sue that winds up being more powerful/helpful than the protagonist). There is not a default challenge echelon that exists only for people that have dedicated their lives to genre x (looking at you, Mega Man Unlimited… and even Street Fighter X Mega Man to a lesser degree). And the bane of every Super Metroid hack out there: this game does not require perfect mastery of bomb jumping, shinesparking, or wall jumping. Yes, these techniques will help a speed run or someone going for 100% item completion, but they’re not required at any point, which is super, because bomb jumping has been crap since Metroid (1), and we’re all just afraid to admit it.

Under normal circumstances, I’d say that the greatest praise I could offer this game is that if Nintendo released it as a “real” title tomorrow, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is an excellent, professional game, and completely ignores any need for a “well, for a fangame” qualifier. Unfortunately, Nintendo seems to be currently incapable of producing a Metroid game of this caliber, so I think we’d all know something was up if this gem was actually released under the actual copyright owner’s banner.

It's still not funThat’s right, I’m saying Another Metroid 2 Remake: Return of Samus is too good for Nintendo.

Bah, that was 800 words on why you should damn well be playing this game. I’m going to close out the article with random observations that are about specific bits of the game, and thus will spoil random nonsense. If you want to play AM2R:RoS without being spoiled (which I highly recommend), don’t read any further. If you’ve already played the game or don’t give a damn, then lay on, MacDuff.

The lore entries are amazing in their simplicity. They’re unobtrusive, add to the general tone of particular areas, and make a maze that was originally a series of monochrome hallways a living, breathing planet. The Chozo entries seem to slot perfectly into the recognized Metroid mythos, and perfectly illustrate a race that is dealing with a creature that maybe has the potential to get a little out of control (“Hey, I know, let’s build a bunch of laser-flinging robots!”). The boss entries do a great job of establishing the threat and offering hints on where to shoot. And the Metroid entries are fun entirely because trying to analyze the biology of goofy blobs is such an enjoyable losing proposition. Yeah, sure, a creature that can freely float through the air would eventually settle on becoming a bipedal t-rex. Right.

Conversely, I don’t think the Metroid series needs yet another reminder that Metroids are dangerous. Seriously, guys? Does Samus need to discover another doomed group of scientists? Girl has bad enough PTSD from exploding her entire home planet, I don’t think she needs to watch anybody else die thanks to her adopted family’s science experiments. BULLET HELLI appreciate that the Federation Science Team brings some interesting sprites and locations to SR388, but they seem like a wildly perfunctory addition to the story.

It’s a rare Metroid game that actually grants me a choice of favorite bosses. Metroid bosses have recently hewed closely to the Zelda mold of “did you just get an item? Use it.” And before that, they were either impossible (Metroid 1 Kraid) or based entirely on limited patterns (Super Metroid Kraid). Here, there are a number of bosses that are dodge and shoot affairs, and, frankly, when your heroine has a gun for an arm, that’s the way it should be. That said, the Torizo statue’s eventual flight abilities were an amazing addition to what could have been a rote affair, and The Tester was just amazing. Of course the Chozo had to find a way to test power suit beams, and of course it would wind up turning Metroid into Gradius for a room. Also it’s a giant ball, and the Chozo love them balls. … That came out wrong.

On the other hand, I never need to see another Omega Metroid as long as I live. In general, the Metroid battles are excellent perversions of the typical Metroid formula, as the creatures basically exist to challenge Samus’s traditional loadout (“You want me to shoot missiles where?”). Unfortunately, Omega Metroid is built like a big, scary boss. This wouldn’t be so bad on its own (its first appearance is a tense battle for a number of reasons, not the least of which that you’ve got no easy refill options), but it then returns three times in rapid succession in the near-final area. This is akin to a boss rush where the boss is exactly the same… three times in a row. And, unless I missed something (entirely likely!), there isn’t even anything different about the separate boss arenas, so… same thing, three times. I guess this is a way of creating a “final challenge” for your combat skills and exploration ability (these battles certainly would have been easier if I’d found more super missiles), but after some really Squeelcreative boss fights, this comes off as entirely unnecessary.

Similarly, the final battle goes on way too long for there to be no real change in the pattern. Missile the head, beam the metroid breath, dodge, repeat. That didn’t need, what, five phases? God help me, I feel like the original Metroid II final battle even had more tension (assuming you didn’t cheat).

Speaking of Power Bombs, there are a number of places in the game where Power Bombs and even Super Bombs are actually useful offensively. I literally cannot remember the last time that happened (maybe Metroid 1?), and it’s fairly impressive to see. Also, the way the Charge Beam releases the Power Bomb cache is delightful.

Also delightful: frozen Metroids fall. That went from shocking to amusing to downright annoying (“Get off those spikes and let me missile you!”) really fast. The whole experience made me want another sixty corridors of Metroid soccer (and not Federation Force),

And, of course, there are a million little things I’m missing, like the fun of some of the “pack” Metroid fights, or the way the charge beam sucks. … That came out wrong, too. It’s clear that oodles of care went into this experience, and, as someone who holds Super Metroid as one of the greatest, most important games ever made, well, it’s appreciated.

Way to go, AM2R: Return of Samus Team, this is a damn fine game.

FGC #165 Another Metroid 2 Remake: Return of Samus

  • System: PC. Incidentally, you don’t see that very often because I’m not much of a PC gamer. This is entirely for my own sanity, as I know that if I keep a controller plugged into a computer too long, well, I’m never going to get anything done.
  • ChillyNumber of players: SR388 is a lonely place. Also, congratulations on avoiding Mighty No. 9 creep and not implementing some crazy multiplayer nonsense.
  • Sightings of Samus’s butt: Zero. This game is astounding.
  • A shape of things to come: Alright, yes, I have to make special note of the room from the opening of Metroid: Fusion somehow worming its way onto the surface of SR388. We might not get a fight against an X-Parasite, but all the uninfected fauna hopping about is pretty awesome.
  • Ridley is too big: I’m kind of amazed the team didn’t find some way to wedge a Ridley fight somewhere in the main game. Doesn’t have to be Ridley-Ridley, just some ersatz dragon monster would do. A Chozo “experiment” or simulation of some kind? “Shadow Ridley”? That sounds rad.
  • Did you know? Auxiliary materials in the Metroid canon seem to indicate that the Chozo were responsible for creating Metroids in response to the X-Parasites. Nothing in this game seems to confirm or contradict that information, and congratulations to everyone involved for not touching that one with a ten foot pole.
  • Would I play again: Oh God yes. If every game I played for the FGC was this good, this site would update daily.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Project X Zone 2! Wow! I was just talking about fanfic and lousy original characters, and now here’s a game based on it! Please look forward to it!

I was trying to be cool...

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