It’s February! Are you all sticking to any resolutions? My initial resolution, to read more frequently, was interrupted by my attention span. However, I’ve actually been using my synthesizers a lot! I consider it an even trade. I’m going to try another resolution, a February resolution – I’m resolving to play this month’s game! I love Metroid and despite my considerate amount of Game Boy playing I’ve just never gotten around to playing Metroid II! That changes this month!
Peter is our contributor this month and it’s his second time! He’s got a whole lot to say so I’m just going to shut up now and go toast a bagel.
“Peter II: The Return of Metroid II: The Return of Samus
First, thanks to Rick for allowing me to choose this month’s game, my second selection since becoming a member of this fine community. Just as with my last selection (Motocross Maniacs), I wanted to choose a game with which I had actual experience as a child. Unlike Motocross Maniacs, I did not own Metroid II. I borrowed it from my friend Tim. Tim’s family (or maybe just his father) made somewhat frequent trips to Hong Kong and so he always had a bunch of cool stuff and was always kind enough to share.
Its funny the things that you can remember from your childhood and the varying levels of detail around those memories. Metroid II is one of those funny things for me. I first played it while at my friend Tim’s house for his birthday party. It stands out in my head despite being a relatively non-descript party. I remember that I was late, though I cannot remember why. I remember when I got there I had Domino’s Pizza for the first time (which I am still surprised about because I’m from Staten Island and you just don’t eat Domino’s here). Tim showed me his Gameboy 400 in 1 cart that he had gotten from Hong Kong. There was a little rubber button on the back you would push to switch games. It was cool, but something else had caught my eye – Metroid II: Return of Samus.
I loved Metroid for the NES. I had made my own maps and would explore that game for hours and hours looking for new hidden items or new pathways to make the game easier/more difficult to explore. I had to try Metroid II. I fired it up and was hooked. Tim was kind enough to let me borrow it. I remember struggling with the final boss until I beat it one morning on the car ride to church. I returned the game to Tim. Since then, I have only played it 1.5 other times.
Tim’s family used to live near the coastline. When Sandy hit in 2012, I went down to help with the cleanup efforts. I went to his block and started cleaning up around his house when Tim came up to also help by his old home. I hadn’t spoken to him in at least 10 years, but it was good to see my old friend. It made me think of this game (among others) and I played through it one more time, the only other time I had played through the game. I say I had played it 1.5 times because I did also play the (very good, IMO) 3DS remake.
Enough strolling down memory lane. Let’s talk about the game itself. Much like the first Metroid, you start off with no real direction; you just go places you can reach until you encounter your first Metroid… except it’s not like a regular Metroid. It comes out of a Metroid shell and is attacking you rather than trying to suck out your energy. A few missiles and boom, it’s gone and the little Metroid counter on your screen goes down by one. And just like that, you know what the goal of the game is: kill all of the Metroids. You reach certain parts where you cannot go lower because of lava until you kill a certain number of Metroids. Then there is an earthquake and the lava level lowers allowing you to progress. The Metroids themselves also become more difficult until you reach the final boss, which is one of my favorite boss fights in all of Metroid. You then encounter the last Metroid in one of the best storytelling moments of any game in the series, all without any words. Just an absolute masterpiece of a game, one of my favorites from the entire series.
Given the hardware constraints, it’s unsurprisingly the most linear of any entry in the Metroid series (but not too far behind Fusion), though you can still find yourself getting turned around a fair bit if you are not careful. The sound effects are good, though the music is a bit disappointing. Not only does it lack that true banger that most Metroid games have (sometimes more than one), there are long periods of silence and other periods of just noise. The graphics are among the best that the console has to offer. The sprites are a good size and well detailed, especially Samus, most notably with the Varia suit. The story and pacing are excellent. Controls are tight, though sometimes maintaining the Space Jump is difficult. The new weapons created new styles of puzzles that didn’t exist in the original and many of the items and innovations in this game were carried forward into future entries in the series.
The game has a special color palette built into the GBC hardware. I’ve never played it in color before so for my third full play through, I will be taking advantage of that color palette. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”
It was cinnamon raisin with cream cheese and maple veggie sausage. –IF