Nintendo Reimagines “Metroid 2” With a Few New Tricks
By: Steven Aiello
Although Metroid is one of Nintendo’s most iconic franchises, the past decade seemed rather forgettable for the franchise.
Barring fan games, only two games were released for the Metroid series, which were both met with poor reception from fans and critics.
Much of the complaints were directed towards the fact that these games strayed from the classic Metroid formula, opting for more focus on story and other innovations.
“Metroid: Samus Returns”, a remake of the franchise’s’ second game Metroid 2, aims to stay true to what made the series iconic while adding in new features to keep the gameplay fresh.
Just about everything in “Samus Returns” is different from its source material, from the power ups to the bosses and the levels themselves. Almost everything about “Metroid 2” has been completely altered, with only the story and basic structure intact.
In short, Samus ventures to planet SR388 to wipe the metroids and their queen out of their home planet. To do this, Samus must eliminate all the Metroids in one area before moving onto another and repeating the process.
Being a 3DS game, the main screen and the touch screen are used simultaneously, with the main screen displaying the game and the touch screen displaying the map, your energy and ammunition.
It’s a convenient design choice that puts the two screens to good use without being gimmicky or obtrusive.
The overall game design is incredibly linear because of this, which takes a slight toll on the experience. Most Metroid games come with the benefit of complete freedom, while exploring your environment regardless of your arsenal or story progress.
This form of game design resulted in an experience that could vary from playthrough to playthrough, strengthening replay value in the process. “Samus Returns” lacks this, leading to a game where everything progresses as intended by the developers with little opportunity to diverge from the path.
The individual areas are still well designed because they avoid this aspect of linearity. You can navigate these areas and go about defeating metroids any which way you please, provided that you have the right upgrade.
Each area is also connected by a series of teleporters, which allow for fast movement in and between areas. The teleporters make backtracking for upgrades easier and less tedious, a welcome feature in a Metroid game.
These areas are also enhanced by the atmosphere of the game, which does a beautiful job of capturing the feeling of a Metroid. Unlike the more generic caverns and mundane music of “Metroid 2, Samus Returns” puts more effort in the looks and music of its areas.
No detail was spared in these areas, be it the colors, textures and especially the backgrounds, which contain neat little details and depth to them.
The game definitely looks pretty for a 3DS title, which is compounded by a more varied soundtrack that captures the idea of being isolated on a dangerous planet.
Adding to this sense of danger are the enemies, which are more aggressive and powerful than in previous games. Though the enemy selection is slim, especially with bosses, learning how to dodge and fight enemies is necessary to completing the game.
Fortunately the mechanics of the game work brilliantly, with a variety of new moves and abilities that help you combat SR388s foes. While standing, Samus can now aim in a 360 degree range, she can counter enemy attacks with a melee and even use a number of new aeion abilities.
These abilities include revealing nearby objects and map design, absorbing all damage, making Samus’ attacks rapid fire and slowing down time. All four abilities come in great use throughout the adventure and provide great situational and non-situational applications in fighting enemies or navigating the planet.
The scan pulse ability is especially useful because it almost entirely does away with the confusing design of Metroid, where you would normally look endlessly for a hidden upgrade or a new path.
This and a slew of minor changes, such as respawning at checkpoints, rather than save points and ability to mark key locations using the map, make “Samus Returns” more accessible for new players, despite the increased difficulty.
The game does have a fair share of unintuitive design choices though, like a special move involving power bombs that isn’t explained or suggested, and a boss that has an equally unintuitive weakness that involves using bombs in a hazardous way.
Despite its shortcomings, “Samus Returns” is still a much needed entry to the Metroid franchise.
It might not have as much replay value or variety as previous titles, but it captures the essence of what made Metroid games enjoyable, while adding something new to the old formula.
With “Samus Returns” and the announcement of a new “Metroid Prime”, things are looking rather hopeful for the future of the Metroid franchise.