Metroid II: Return of Samus Review
I never owned a Game Boy of my own until 1999, and even then it was a Lime Green Game Boy Color, not the brick-like Game Boy. However, Metroid II is a game that I remember fondly. You might find that quite odd at first glance, but picture waking up every Saturday during the nostalgic year of 1991 to watch cartoons, and this Metroid II: Return of Samus TV commercial plays during every commercial break. I always wanted Metroid II because of that TV spot, but never took the time to seek out a cartridge. Well, fast forward 22 years – I do feel my age – and I’ve finally wiped out every Metroid on Planet SR388.
As alluded to above, Metroid II: Return of Samus takes place on Planet SR388 and the objective is to find and defeat every Metroid within its devious caverns. This is the plot of Metroid II, a simple seek and destroy mission that ends with a confrontation with the Metroid Queen. Don’t let the simplicity of Metroid II’s plot fool you; this is the kind of Metroid game you’ve come to love.
Like every other Metroid game, you play as Samus Aran, a galactic bounty hunter who kicks a whole lot of Metroid ass. Samus has received a lot of upgrades which make controlling her much more enjoyable than in the debut Metroid game. Samus can now shoot in all eight directions, plus she can duck, both of which are brilliant additions to the overall gameplay experience. Also, Samus feels much lighter when she jumps, giving you more control of its direction.
Familiar power-ups, such as the Ice Beam and Screw Attack, make their return from Metroid, but a few notable ones make their first appearance. These new power-ups give the player more options when exploring SR388. The most innovative of these new power-ups is the Spider Ball. The Spider Ball lets Samus climb any surface while the Morph Ball is activated, and believe me, you’ll be using this to uncover a lot of new areas on the Planet SR388.
Exploration still plays a major role in Metroid II: Return of Samus, and for the most part, the gameplay is largely the same. Certain areas can only be travelled after retrieving the power-up needed to access said area, and energy tanks and missile tanks are hidden in nooks and crannies throughout the game. While there are also plenty of non-threatening enemies to defeat as you travel between areas, the Metroids you must find and extinguish can be considered boss battles, and there are a total of 39 (plus a few regular Metroids) to defeat.
Lava can be found around nearly every turn on Planet SR388 and it acts as a barrier to other areas of the planet. Defeating a specific number of Metroids in an area will cause an earthquake to occur, which will drain some lava and open a new path. You will encounter a variety of Metroid evolutions (Metroids, Alpha Metroids, Gamma Metroids, Zeta Metroids, and Omega Metroids) that vary in behaviour and strength. While Metroid II: Return of Samus feels like other Metroid games, this particular mechanic gives Metroid II a unique feeling.
Metroid II: Return of Samus is an enjoyable game, but it isn’t without faults, all of which drag the overall gameplay down. The lack of a map makes Metroid II frustrating to navigate. I often found myself travelling back and forth between areas – mostly during the beginning portions of the game – until finally finding a way forward. I’m not asking for a map that gives me the locations of every Metroid, instead, I would have liked it to show me areas I previously visited. Another small element that could have been tweaked is something that was brought forward from Metroid. Upon obtaining a new beam, Samus will lose the previous beam she held to use the new beam. I would have preferred the option to select the beam I wanted to use.
Graphically, I feel Metroid II: Return of Samus is superior to Metroid. The sprites are impressive in size and detail, which is surprising given the Game Boy’s limitations. Atmosphere is achieved especially well in Metroid II using a combination of dark backgrounds and ambient music. There are only a handful of theme songs in Metroid II, but the ambient music that is used is better for creating frightening and isolated environments.
3.5/5 D-Pads: I don’t often experience that unexplainable feeling of mystery I used to feel when I gamed as a kid, but Metroid II: Return of Samus hammered me with that feeling. Metroid II is a fun entry in the Metroid series with only a few slight flaws bringing it down. It’s slightly better than the original Metroid, but not nearly as epic as Super Metroid. Metroid II: Return of Samus is an above average Game Boy title, and one worthy of sitting in any collection.