i’ve been playing through boatloads of sequels lately, including metroid II: the return of samus for game boy. this was the last 2-D metroid game i hadn’t played (metroid prime 3 is the only other game in the series i hadn’t finished) and i wanted to try to get caught up on the series before the release of other M. i’d purposely avoided finding out too much about the game, so i wasn’t sure how it was going to bridge the stiffness of the NES original and the superlative pacing of its SNES sequel.
it turns out that in retrospect the game functions as an extremely good bridge to the SNES game, and in many ways holds up better than the original. samus is much more limber and has new abilities that have become standard, including crouching and shooting down while jumping, and the additions to her arsenal have also become core powerups in the series. in the interest of avoiding spoilers i won’t mention which ones in particular are included, but suffice to say they’re often among my favorites in the series.
as for the drawbacks, the main criticism of the game is that it’s very linear, and that instead of open exploration you’re often progressing from one area to the next. at the beginning of the game i wasted time wandering around because i didn’t know beforehand how the game was structured, but even after i was well into the game i didn’t find myself missing the backtracking much at all. i definitely wouldn’t want every metroid game to be so linear, but i don’t mind it occasionally. the game is pretty generous with the energy and missile recharge stations and save locations so the frustration factor is quite low, and the graphics are quite good for a game boy game. i agree with one of the other common complaints which is that the music definitely pales in comparison to the rest of the series.
overall this ranks somewhat low in terms of the whole metroid series, but as with nintendo’s other franchises that’s not so much because the game itself is subpar, but rather it’s due to the extremely high quality of the other titles. the now-famous ending was fun to see, and now that i’m caught up on the main story of the series i’m really looking forward to playing through other M, although i’m still debating about whether or not i’m going to finish up MP3 before then. depends on how much i get sucked into it. given the mixed reviews of other M i’m unsure of how much i’m going to like the new take on the beloved series, but i’m trying to avoid reading too much about it and trying to keep an open mind. we’ll see.
the return of metroid II links:
– entry at wikipedia
– review at nintendolife.com
– good page on the game at metroid recon including screenshots, a scan of the manual, and mp3s
– entry at metroid.wikia.com
– collection of maps
– PDF of the manual at replacementdocs.com
– screenshots of the endings at vgmuseum.com
– video of the best ending at gamespot.com