Welcome to my new segment: Emulator Hour! Where I review games from past systems that I always play on the original cartridge in the original system. Today, We're going to talk about Metroid II: the Return of Samus, on Nintendo Gameboy.
I first played Metroid II when I was in sixth grade. I borrowed it from my friend Paul and I have fond memories of playing it, which led me to revisit the game now, many years later. I think that Metroid Two is a bit like unsung hero of the series. (I should note that when I talk about the Metroid Series, I am referring only to the first three games). Metroid 1 introduced all of us young, bright eyed, impressionable kids to the world of Metroid: Samus, Justin Bailey -----------, Kraid, Ridley, Mother Brain and all the rest. That game was totally interesting and totally hard. Metroid two tones down the difficulty a bit, dials up the graphics (yes, the game boy version looked better). It also progresses the storyline.
Metroid II: introduces us to a more detailed Samus. Her armor takes on a lot more definition than the first game showed. She's much more the big shouldered, cyber-suit wearing heroine we've come to know and love. As seen below, we also get a look at her spaceship.
The basic gameplay of Metroid II is pretty straightforward. You have a Metroid Count, which starts at 39, and you want to get down to 0. So you look around for some Metroids to kill. Different areas are sectioned off by liquid hot magma, and you can see how many metroid remain in a given area by pressing the start button. When you've destroyed all the Metroid in a given area, the magma will lower and reveal more room to explore.
Metroid II introduces a bunch of new gear. The spring ball- allowing the ball form of Samus to jump. My favorite is the Spider Ball, allowing the ball form to stick to walls-- this item is incredibly useful in Return of Samus, but did not make it into Metroid III. The Space Jump is another that didn't make it into Metroid III, but was fantastically useful.
Space jump allows you to continually jump - in mid air-,and basically fly through a level. The timing is tricky, but when you get that down, Space Jump is an essential tool for progressing through the zones in Return of Samus. But the best part is when you acquire the Screw Attack. Combined with Space Jump, Samus becomes a floating vortex of death, bouncing through each screen, destroying everything in her path. For Metroid fans, that should be reason enough to play through Return of Samus.
The biggest pitfall of Metroid II is that it is very easy to get lost. This can become maddening. One innovation that had not yet been developed is the Metroidvania Map system. Metroid II could really use it. Because it was on game boy, there were only four shades of gray, not allowing the designers to make one section purple, one yellow, one red, like in the first Metroid. In addition to that, the designers didn't choose to create radically different textures to help distinguish one area from another. Bubble design, of which, in the original Metroid, I was so fond, only makes it's appearance in the last 10% of the game.
I also have to say that the music is kind of lame. The main theme is okay, and the ambient tracks are so-so, but nothing half as cool as the haunting beeps found in Metroid I- you know the song, when you find your different power upgrades. I had to revisit Metroid I after playing this game, and that song is still awesome.
After having played through it again, I may have to say that Return of Samus isn't as good as Metroid 1 or Super Metroid, but that's not saying a lot. Super Metroid is, in my humble opinion, a top contender for the very best game on the Super Nintendo. The execution of Super Metroid timely, and flawless. Metroid 1 was so original that it's really hard to compare. Return of Samus is caught in the middle, but I don't mind. There were a bunch of new approaches from Return of Samus that made it into Super Metroid, so, really, I am thankful for Return of Samus because it laid further groundwork for one of my favorite games of all-time.