Thursday, July 6

Metroid II: Return of Samus

Metroids, metroids, and more metroids!

We have now arrived at the beginning… of my fascination with Metroid. This was the title that began my affinity for the adventure, and my curiosity about the story of Samus Aran. Because Metroid II was a departure from anything I'd previously played in my few years of games, the learning curve I encountered was a bit steep: memories come to mind of being stuck near the beginning of the game after several failed attempts to push through the game's main obstacle mechanic. Had I simply read the manual before playing, my first foray into what would become one of my favorite series could have involved far less confusion. However, it was that very challenge that forged my appreciation for the Metroid experience, and what enthralled me to follow the story through every new mission.

Returning to the planet SR388 resurges my fond feelings of that time. Similarly, the original presentation even influenced Claudia in the same way, although this chapter was completely new for her. Within those past generations of video games is found a profoundly refreshing charm: although the Metroid Prime Trilogy is exemplary in its genre, Metroid II has the sort of simplicity in controls and aesthetics that continues to be relevant in gaming. The world I held in my hands, although now considered rudimentary by current standards, in that time ignited desires of my own adventures; grand journeys of exploration and mystery.

Although the truth of my memories is powerful for me, it seems the time has come for Metroid II to acquire a power-up of its own: with the announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns, this pivotal chapter in the story will be officially updated. Developed for the Nintendo 3DS, this remake looks to be an action-packed narrative driven by expressive animation, and some fast-paced battle scenarios. It's certainly quite the revision, so let's hope this new direction can effectively add story while preserving the exploratory charm that enthralled me in my novice youth.

So pivotal in the series is this game for me, that I was inspired to create a piece of art based on some of the final moments. For the unfamiliar, it is a bit of a spoiler, but anyone who's played Metroid II and onward will also be privy to its content. This piece marks the moment I feel that Samus' view on metroids begins to change; the spark that calls her to eventually question the motives of the Galactic Federation.

With each of my countless passes through the caverns of SR388, my confidence and finesse grew, granting my thumbs the skill to guide Samus back to her ship with greater efficiency than ever before. Eventually, that mission time would fall to just above an hour; however, I desired a rewarding experience of discovery for Claudia, so our stay for this mission would last 3 hours, 21 minutes. Since the file with my record time is still saved, it was only a few extra minutes to wait for the end credits to roll so she could meet this retro version of Samus, as the Zero Suit is fully expected to appear in the remake.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- The simplicity of Metroid II is a breath of fresh air after being steeped in the complex action of the Metroid Prime Trilogy. Feelings of youth are rekindled in me for having returned to this title, just as they have been in Claudia for reminiscing on that generation in gaming.

- What's gathered about the story in the manual also has a refreshing simplicity. As was the model of the time, the stories of games could more appropriately be described as scenarios. In any case, the mission is clear in Return of Samus; we'll see how the plot thickens (or perhaps doesn't) in Samus Returns.

- Retro music is always fun. What I've always appreciated about it is the level of music theory happening in the most memorable tunes; in fact, that's the reason those sound tracks are so iconic. The limitations found in the audio processing capabilities of the time required compensation in the form of more creative compositions.

- The relatively linear nature of Metroid II is again a refreshing respite after the Prime games. Many consider this linearity a mark against the game; however, life has variety, and so too can the situations that comprise it. Regardless, the approaching remake may align this chapter of the story with the rest of the series' conventions.

- The original iteration of the Spider Ball is still the most versatile: having the ability to traverse all terrain is one way the classic 2D gameplay surpasses more recent implementations. However, any 3D environments with open features would require such extensive modeling of the world due to the freedom afforded by the original version of the Spider Ball, so it's reasonable that limitations were placed on the Prime Trilogy version.

- Saving and loading game files is instantaneous, thanks to the tiny data size of Game Boy software. As system and data storage hardware have both improved, solid state software storage has always been a solid advantage for Nintendo's handheld systems.

- Claudia and I both noticed during the Prime Trilogy that nearly every creature we encountered was hostile. This sort of behavior is rare in Nature, and seemed dubious to us. With a few exceptions, the lifeforms of SR388 are simply carrying out their existence aloof to Samus' presence, and is another pleasant leave from the gauntlet the Prime Trilogy can be.

- Items in Metroid II are a fairly regular occurrence when all their locations are known. Because of the intricate nature of the terrain, there are many small spaces and hidden paths to explore and discover, providing plenty of rewarding replay value.

- Again, the final moments of this chapter are pivotal for me, and Claudia thought they were touching ("sweet baby!"). My belief is that it's the beginning of something profound in the series, and to eventually see how it all unfolds beyond Fusion is something that I continue anticipating.


Cons

- One drawback to the simplicity that games of this generation had was repeating tiles in their environments. Despite the many variations of tiles in use, some corridors and caverns appear identical to others, so Metroid II can confuse the unfamiliar player. On the other hand, this may have been an intentional implement meant by the developers to challenge players.

- Not yet included as a feature when this title was released, there is no current mission time available in Return of Samus: only the mission clear time at the end is given. Super Metroid is the first in the series to have been released with such information displayed on the file select screen.

- Finding items has always been part of the reward and puzzle aspect of the entire series; however, despite being a classic tenet of the series, the frequency at which Samus begins missions from scratch actually seems fairly ridiculous, especially in these scenarios, where the opportunity to thoroughly prepare herself seems critical. You simply must improve upon that, Samus!


Revisiting my entry point into the Metroid series has reminded me of my positive past, but with more to share with my Love, we now look forward to my favorite chapter next and to what brilliant new adventures the future has for us.

Happy gaming,
- Aaron -

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