Metroid 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 finally 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, like 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.
That’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.