Metroid II: Return of Samus
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US November 1991
    • JP 01/21/1992
    • UK 05/21/1992
Score: 80%

This review was published on 07/13/2013.

Metroid II: Return of Samus is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game developed by Nintendo and originally released for the Game Boy. It's the second game in the Metroid series, the first of which was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. From home console to handheld, Metroid II is the black sheep of the Metroid series. Well, unless you count the more recent Metroid: Other M, but we're not going to talk about that one. The first Metroid was a pioneer in its field, exploring the depths of exploration based game play. Metroid II aims to provide a similar experience, with tons of exploration, upgrades, and all the things that make a Metroid game good. However, the move to Game Boy handheld format was seen as a downgrade, due to the smaller screen and monochrome graphics. The game isn't a complete downgrade, though. While the graphics certainly lack color, the sprites are more detailed, and the game's mechanics have been improved. For all intents and purposes, Metroid II is actually a good game. It just gets a lot of flak for being released on the Game Boy.

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Return of Samus refers to the return of Metroid's heroine, Samus Aran. The big plot twist at the end of the first Metroid game was that the bounty hunter hidden inside of the space suit was, in fact, a woman. By the time Metroid II came out, a lot more people were aware of that fact. Samus fought against the Space Pirates, a bunch of aliens that pirate stuff in space, and defeated them in their base on planet Zebes. The main ploy of the Space Pirates was to use a dangerous alien species known as Metroids to try and take over the galaxy. In Metroid II, Samus' mission is to travel to the Metroid's home planet, SR388, and annihilate every last one of the unholy buggers. It's basically tantamount to genocide. The Galactic Federation, Samus' main employer, decides that Metroids are far too dangerous to exist, so their non-existence was commissioned to the female bounty hunter we all know and love. This operating procedure seems a bit primitive for a highly advanced government, if you ask me. The plot is really simple when you get right down to it. As always, the game takes place in the far flung future with many sci-fi influences. The futuristic setting of Metroid is a nice departure from Nintendo's other properties like Mario. Metroid II's story wastes no time and gets right to the point, immediately giving you the main objective of the game.

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The main objective of Metroid II is killing Metroids. SR388 is a lot like Zebes, in that it has an enormous underground labyrinth to explore with plenty of snaking pathways. What's different this time around is that your exploration is marred by a harmful and highly acidic acid. In order to explore new areas, you need to defeat a certain amount of Metroids to lower the acid. As you destroy Metroids, the acid will continue to lower, bit by bit. Any time the acid lowers, you can hear an earthquake in the distant, signifying your progress. There is a counter at the bottom of the screen that shows you how many Metroids you have left to destroy, which comes in mighty handy. Something that a lot of people criticize about Metroid II is the linearity that is present in the beginning of the game. Early on, the scope of your exploration is severely limited, thanks to the acid. There is usually only one path to explore at a time. This does change as the game goes on, though. Later on in the game, the scope of exploration increases incredibly, with plenty of ancient alien ruins to explore, and a lot of that is optional. Metroid II is not quite as vast as some of its console counterparts, but its linearity is greatly exaggerated by its detractors. The game still has a vast world to explore, and it's entirely possible to get lost in this world for hours. That unfortunately brings me to my next point. There is no in game map. The first Metroid didn't have an in game map either, so this problem isn't unique to Metroid II. It is, however, a big problem for both games. If you own the manual for Metroid II, then there is a miniature map inside of it that can alleviate this problem slightly, but it's too ambiguous to help you for the long haul. You'll have to create your own map, or look one up from an external source. Besides the lack of a map, Metroid II still has the awesome exploration you come to expect from the series.

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Metroids are jellyfish like creatures that can float through the air and latch onto organisms to sap away their life energy. In the original Metroid on the NES, Metroids were encountered near the end of the game, and they could only be killed by freezing them and then shattering their frozen bodies with an explosive missile. Most of the Metroids in this game are slightly different. They still can only be killed by missiles, but they no longer need to be frozen. As a matter of fact, most of the Metroids in this game can't be frozen. Don't take that to mean that Metroids are weaker in Metroid II, though. If anything, Metroids have gotten much more powerful. There are no real bosses in Metroid II, beyond the Metroids themselves. That might sound lame, and it kind of is, but Metroids come in a variety of shapes and sizes this time around. Metroids can evolve into more advanced forms in this game, and the different forms are named after letters in the Greek alphabet. The forms are Alpha, Gamma, Zeta, and Omega. There is a final form, the Queen form, but few Metroids make it that far. This is evident by the fact that this game only has one Queen Metroid, which is the final boss. The Queen can lay eggs that will hatch into one of the aforementioned Metroid forms. Each form has its own attack pattern and strengths, but they all share susceptibility to missiles, making missiles the most important weapon in your arsenal. The odd thing is that you don't fight Metroids in their original form until the end of the game. You'd think the weakest form would be at the start. Also, this is one of the only games in the series that actually shows other forms of the Metroids. Even though Metroids having different forms slightly alleviates the issue of no other bosses, you do fight quite a large number of the same forms over and over. This makes the Metroid extermination a little repetitive. It's not a huge drawback, but more boss variety would have been nice.

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Samus is still equipped with her amazing Power Suit that can be upgraded throughout the course of the game. Her suit is equipped with a gun that can shoot an unlimited amount of harmful energy beams. Unlike some of the future Metroid games, Samus actually starts out with a few upgrades from her previous adventure. The main upgrade she starts out with is the missiles, which are limited in ammo but do copious amounts of damage. Another important upgrade Samus starts out with is the Morph Ball, which allows her to morph into a small ball that can fit into tiny passages. Oddly enough, she doesn't start out with the rest of her other past upgrades. What does she do with them all? Many of the upgrades Samus collects in this new adventure are similar to previous ones, like the Energy Tanks and Varia Suit. The Energy Tanks will extend Samus' life energy, enabling her suit to take more punishment before being destroyed. This gives the game an almost RPG feel to its progression, as Samus gets more powerful as she continues on her quest. The Varia Suit continues that trend by giving Samus' suit increased defense. Missile expansions are littered all over the place and will enhance the total amount of missiles Samus can carry, and that's pretty handy. In addition to returning upgrades, there are also a plethora of new upgrades, many of which were first introduced in this game. Among these new upgrades, the Spider Ball stands tall as the absolute best. I'd go as far as to say that it's one of the best upgrades in the series. The Spider Ball is simple; it makes Samus' Morph Ball stick to walls, ceilings, and any other solid surface. This upgrade greatly opens up the game, allowing you to explore almost anywhere. Another cool upgrade is the Space Jump, which lets Samus jump an unlimited number of times, essentially giving her the ability of flight. The Spider Ball is still cooler, though. Metroid II provides an ample upgrade to the upgrades in the previous Metroid game.

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Metroid II: Return of Samus is the return of the greatness seen in the original Metroid. The graphics and music have taken a hit as a result of being put on the Game Boy, but the design is still solid. There are still plenty of hours jam packed into this tiny cartridge, provided you decide to explore every nook and cranny. You'll find tons of helpful upgrades everywhere, many of which are totally optional. Samus' enhanced abilities also make the exploration a lot more enjoyable. Metroid II has been easily surpassed by future games in the series like Super Metroid, but it's still a decent title. While this isn't one of the best Metroid games, it certainly is one of the best Game Boy games.

Word Count: 1,626

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