Reviews from

in the past

Samus never really returned to my childhood gaming life since the day I first met them back on the NES, it was quite a hole there between that and 2002, aka The Year Metroid Beat Everyone's Ass. Metroid II for all intents and purposes was just the cover for the box of the Super Game Boy, that was everything I knew it as. Just the front of a piece of cardboard that I saw at some store or in a JC Penny catalog maybe. It existed, that's all I knew.
I have many bones to pick with the way Nintendo treats it's back catalog of classics and oddities, but if there's any silver lining to the dripfeed of past content it's finding a reason to finally give a serious go at Samus' mission to genocide a race of beings for the supposed sake of the galaxy. The final enemies that you were once scared of back on your original adventure are now the sole focus of your mission, and as it turns out those were just the little baby forms. The nightmarish vampire jellyfish can evolve into monstrosities that could no doubt devastate many a civilization.
This is a fight for survival on both ends, it's us or them. It's not pretty.
The sprites are huge and chunky, resulting in screen space being closed in on you. This isn't just the screen, this is the darkness that Samus must traverse as she delves deeper into SR388. There's no telling what's coming up, and you're allowed just the faintest sighting of a Metroid before it spots you and begins it's attack for you to contemplate a battle or to make a strategic retreat to restock. Missiles require more and more care as the Metroids grow stronger and more terrifying as fear begins settling more and more during your first venture into this journey, and the music joins in on making your life go from disturbing to downright hellish with one of my favorite scare chords in recent memory.
Metroid II is a milestone for gaming as a medium, it truly drives home the utter misery that is to carry out a mass killing of other living beings who wouldn't think a second thought to do the same thing to you and your loved ones. It is...dare I say, an early example of Survival Horror. I don't see this game brought up a lot, but it really leans into much of the same pillars of which that genre builds itself upon. You traverse unexplored maps, looking for either dangerous creatures that make your universal counter go down one by one, or energy and ammunition to keep yourself strong to carry out said objective with more confidence. Your little vacation at SR388 begins all fun and games, then only gets more and more visceral as it becomes apparent just how destructive the Metroids truly are with long pathways that bear little to zero life. Violence to end violence...and at the end of all the destruction, an innocent that you can't go through with the killing of....a shred of hope that peace could be theoretically achieved with these lifeforms still intact.
Peace Sells, I'm buying.
Over the course of the 2010s I used to hear a lot of hollering of this game requiring a remake. It got them, all two of them. Personally, I feel once you take the aesthetic of the Game Boy away from Metroid II it dampers the experience a smidgen and it's identity is lost. That fear isn't really there anymore and many AAA-isms get thrown in to make the experience more "epic", which puts a bit of a bad taste in my mouth when the original foundation was to be a legitimately Dreadful experience as opposed to Samus doing kickflips off an Omega Metroid and striking a pose for the camera as the cutscene does the actions for you. Maybe it's just my age showing, but considering I only got to play this seriously recently and formerly brushed it off myself, I think there's legitimacy behind it.
Give this one a go, wait for the sun to go down, close your curtains, and play this on your Switch while under your blanket in your room. Simulate that feeling of a child playing this haunting game alone with only the sounds of that experimental atmospheric soundtrack going off as you wander the caverns of SR388. Perhaps even get a worm light on a Game Boy Color to get the ultimate experience. I don't think you'll regret it. It's an experience I wish I grew up with.
Respect the originals, don't replace them. Admire them.

This review contains spoilers

Maybe going to write more long form about this so I'll keep it brief, but I thought this was shockingly powerful and horrific honestly. This game really makes explicit that Samus is an arm of the state, she ensures the slow methodical death of every single living thing on this planet. I'm sure there's a backstory on the box or in the manual about why she has to hunt down these metroids, but the game itself is really bare. Which makes the final moment of kindness all the more strange and haunting. It's also just scary! Seeing the metroids' abandoned shells is such an effective signpost and a little scary treat. All the horror is helped by the surprisingly expansive areas, cut down to a small frame. Exploring is not exciting but isolating and frightening. You are not here to do good work and this abandoned world treats you in kind.

The violence of the machine expressed further, dimmer now that the lights are off. Samus is no longer liberating a planet from its oppressor, she has become the cruel fascist, destroying all life. In her first outing, she did this as well - but it was all under the pretense of helping fight the Space Pirates. Here, she gives into them.
The premise of Metroid II is framed around an extermination order against the Metroid species so that they can "never be used as biological weapons again". Instead of questioning this decision, Samus relents, and we enter the torturous, sickly green spaces of SR-88. There is no joy to be had here, no pleasure to be taken in the act of killing.
The game is repetitive and numbing, with no end in sight to the slaughter of a life form. Right up until the very end, where Samus finally grows a conscience after executing a Metroid's mother right in front of it. This moment, where the baby begins to follow you back out of SR-88, is odd in its juxtaposition. It's calm but also anxious. There's a tension here: why did Samus grow a conscience now? Why is the act of walking past all those she killed so relaxing?
And so a perpetrator of systemic violence is allowed to choose which are "worthy" to survive. She is allowed her "moment of conscience." The cycle begins anew.

it took me ENTIRELY TOO LONG to understand that this is a quintessential video game. my past attempts at plumbing its depths have failed—it felt cramped and clunky compared to super metroid or even the nes original. every so often i would make another failed attempt and come away with the impression that it was one of those "you had to be there" experiences and i had simply missed the boat forever... (i scarcely even knew of it until after i had played SUPER metroid, despite my age (i turned 11 in june of 1991, setting na release dates aside)) which sort of reinforced my uncertainty about its whole appeal, because, i mean, i HAD a game boy and i love and cherish the handheld mario and zelda games of the same era. what was i missing?
maybe first and foremost—and i am certainly not saying anything new or revelatory, here—that cramped screen space is a boon to the claustrophobic atmosphere of this thing, definitively setting it apart from other games in the series. you especially begin to feel this when you've made some progress and begin to hurt for a map, or some indication of where precisely the metroids you've yet to find and defeat may be lurking. the sheer empty darkness of these chasms is both smothering and informative of the barely fathomable scope of the world around you. this rules! metroid 2 is a HORROR game. its music often being sparse gothic dirges, all discordant 4-bit harpsichord, pulse wave doom and skittering alien noises, the vibe is relentlessly eerie. an even spookier precursor to the dank jams of castlevania: harmony of dissonance. it takes you back to a time when nintendo weren't afraid to experiment and make strange, almost avant garde art with their games. this is just about a masterpiece of exemplifying the beauty of technological limitations.
i won't get deep into the storytelling aspects, but one of the more impressive things to me, here, is the fine balance of streamlined, almost arcade game like flow to things (read: yes, it can feel a bit repetitive (though i DO feel this has been overstated, as the quake and lava-lowering that marks its gated progression is actually pretty satisfying when you've been hunting for a while...)) and environmental, cinematic (dialogue-free) storytelling. the events of super metroid resound in my mind now that i have my own experience with the oddly bleak return of samus in there, too.
(note: i played this in retroarch with one of those game boy color shaders that represents the handheld's screen as a frame around the game itself and i 100% recommend this.)
(extra side note: if metroid was inspired by alien, metroid 2 would seem to be obviously inspired by aliens in that it is primarily a mission of extermination... but it also presages the ideas of prometheus—specifically with regard to the fate of the chozo and the engineers and their role in the existence of each's lethal cosmic progeny—in some pretty interesting ways. makes u think.)

If there ever was some good to come out of the NSO service, it would be the new opportunity to find out just how much Game Boy games rule. After enjoying Wario Land 4, the Japanese app's catalog planning to include the never localized The Frog for Whom the Bell Tolls was the kick I needed to finally find it on the information superhighway, and it was a blast too. The misadventures of the Prince of Sable (Note that hurts me to write: the Assist Trophy guy that turns into a frog) got me thinking about how the console's library tends to stick out from a lot of Nintendo's usual lineup. I was originally going to write something longer about that game itself, pointing to how Game Boy games having a smaller technical scope, and perhaps a looser leash than their console counterparts, could enable them to explore more unique narratives. In particular, the role of the protagonist is oddly subversive across the library. The aforementioned and often incompetent Prince of Sable, the way in which the Mario Land series was supplanted by its own antagonist, or even the bittersweet nature of Link's quest in Link's Awakening. But I could never really get beyond that thesis statement. Sure, I could point out how telling it was that the Prince had to buy his own transformation items, but nothing ever came together in an interesting way.
Well, the latest game for the system that I played, Metroid II: Return of Samus, turned out to be the final piece of the puzzle I was trying to construct from my previous thoughts. This comes in part from how cruel and callous the whole journey felt, distorting the role of a video game hero well beyond the lighter satires of Mario and Zelda I had checked out before. It's a game where the only goal is to exterminate the whole species of the Metroids, a fact that even the UI makes inescapable with the everpresent Metroid counter. The act of fighting these bosses should characterize the whole experience, and the game chooses to make them rather static and predictable fights in which you blast them apart with missiles. Especially as I found the Varia Suit, these creatures who were supposed to pose an unknowable threat in the last game devolved into a pretty mindless chore. The original Metroid didn't have particularly interesting bosses, but the likes of Kraid and Mother Brain at least put up a fight. Here, what you would expect to be the highlights of the game end up being a curbstomp, and I think that's telling of the kind of story they were going for.
In games, combat often empowers and uplifts the player by having them overcome obstacles, marking your proficiency and domination over the game's systems. The Metroidvania genre in general loves to use your ever expanding arsenal to facilitate a power trip in locations where you once struggled. However, Game Boy games, running on hardware far less suitable to twitchy action than the contemporary SNES, often deemphasize the role a player has in fighting through their play space. Wario, for instance, does not get damaged by enemies at all in his second and third outings, as an effort to alleviate the problem of enemies bumrushing your small screen in the likes of Super Mario Land 2. Without the stakes of violence inflicted upon him, enemies often serve as minor inconveniences or puzzle solutions rather than something to gain instant gratification from besting. Likewise, the Prince of Sable's cartoon dustcloud slapfights are purely automated, doing more to characterize him as feeble yet well-meaning than as to reward the player. In Samus Aran's case, the rote boss fights deglamorize the violence she is committing towards the Metroids. It takes relatively little effort to blast these creatures out of existence, all the while hearing their singular cry of pain. The fights in the game's 3DS remake would contrast this simplicity, obscuring a lot of this violence behind complex aiming challenges and flashy cutscenes. Meanwhile, the barren fights of the original leave no room to hide the brutality of your hunt.
If the Metroids can't stop Samus, then nothing else stands a ghost of a chance. The wildlife of the planet are often just weird and in the way, and it's almost trivial to rip most of them to shreds. Even outside of the creatures, the whole space of SR388 feels incredibly disposable. Part of this owes to the linear structure, where you rarely have any reason to look back unless you're in dire need of a recharge station. Beyond that, though, SR388 itself is characterized as being irrelevant. Outside of long decayed Chozo temples, there's no culture that can be deemed as significant. There's hardly any backgrounds either, further decreasing the vibrancy of this world. Even the name is based on the convention we assign to (presumably) uninhabited celestial bodies in real life. Each bit of this design contextualizes this planet as an empty husk to run over in pursuit of your mission, with no need to regret anything caught in the crossfires. Sure, the Metroids seem to be relatively sustainable predators on the food chain of SR388, as most life does just fine staying out of their nests. But yet the political tensions of completely separate planets necessitate that this natural equilibrium gets demolished with no regard for any consequences. From what I've learned of this series through cultural osmosis, that will probably not go so well in the future.
Outside of the violence represented through gameplay, one thing that stands out about this adventure is the soundtrack. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say soundscape, as when leaving the overworld theme, much of the songs devolve into discordant beeps. As these weirder tracks play in the areas more inhabited by the Metroids, they enhance the unease of hunting them down. The low health sound also stood out to me as having this unbridled annoying smoke alarm energy, droning on constantly and even warping in pitch based on health. I can't even put into words how these sounds get so... invasive in my own thoughts, the kind of thing that just makes me think way too much about what's going on. Even the ever sudden return back into the overworld track functions more like a gasp of fresh air than simply getting back to a better tune. It's certainly a hard sell, but I can't think of a better way to capture the soul-crushing mundanity of Samus's mission.
And that's probably how I'd describe Return of Samus as a whole. The Game Boy's low fidelity works full throttle to wipe away the heroics you would expect from most Metroid games, leaving you on your own to think about how it feels to go along with this extermination. I finally understand why there's been so much discussion of this game on the Internet, as it leaves so many interesting ideas up to interpretation. Even the final twist of sparing the baby Metroid feels so open ended as to the motive that it's hard to pin a particular meaning to it. It's no wonder that a game that accomplishes so much in such a small form factor stuck with people enough to be remembered so many years later, to the point of getting remade twice. That being said, I kind of doubt the ability of either successor to replicate the sorts of emotions I got from this game. While the work on both is admirable, I've already expressed my issues with Samus Returns, and AM2R seems to play much more in line with the sort of thrills you'd get out of Super Metroid. Throughout the years of the Metroid series and the discussion surrounding it, Metroid II: Return of Samus remains a one of a kind beacon of the Game Boy, and reflects everything I find special about the console's lineup.

transcendent and emotionally affecting in a way not dissimilar to link's awakening, and genuinely unnerving even 20 years later. metroid's first masterpiece

Metroid -> Super Metroid is a commonly discussed evolution of the series and one that is absolutely true, with the start of Super Metroid all but spelling it out for the player. But how about this: Metroid II -> Metroid Fusion is a completely parallel yet similar evolution of taking an older title's unique ideas and modifying them. Both of them offer more linear experiences than the game they preceded (Metroid/Super Metroid) that offer a more "horror" vibe to them and revolve around the idea of hunting, with Fusion having you take the role of the hunted and Metroid II taking the role of the hunter. This dual track of Metroid development is very interesting to consider, but how about the quality of it as a game? Well, I'd call it a game that succeeds in spite of itself.
This game runs a LOT on the general atmosphere and "vibes" of the game, this light horror tension as you're walking through stark white (or puke green if you're playing the original original Game Boy) stone enviroments while waiting to see where you're going to run into the tough boss you're going to be hunting down, seeing their discarded shells or floating awaiting your approach and THIS part of the game is pretty effective. There were multiple times where when I came across a long corridor and would move forward in little bursts so I wouldn't trigger a boss if I wasn't ready health-wise and that kind of feel is exactly what the game feels like it is going for. The final Area is particularly strong at this, nearly empty save for the final enemies and a few secrets. It really gives the feeling of traveling through a ruined and desecrated facility, continuing the Metroid trend of strong enviromental finishes to Metroid games which is what kept the game in the 7 star range for me. The strong music helps in this regard, spooky bit tunes and screeches and lowkey enviromental noises that really set the tone. The title theme is a particularly strong one, the transition from the little "scree....scree..." noises to a more relaxing tone is basically how the game goes, the kinda frantic stomping anger of the final boss theme, the general surface theme. This game really doesn't have a LOT of music but it takes full advantage of the primitive Game Boy sound options to make a pretty memorable OST.
I was also impressed by this game's use of visual langauge and how it made a game without a ton of tile variety quite legible, in addition to servicing the background story. For example, you come to the same tiered tile set of platforms in pretty much every area, which is a visual indicator of being that area's "hub" from which you'll be exploring the other areas for their designated Metroids, which gives an effective way to know when you're in a new area when combined with each area having either a unique flying enemy OR a unique hazard at the bottom of it. Simply by looking to see "oh, is this the one with spikes?" was enough to give me a good idea of where I was via mental map, helping with the total lack of an in-game map. Blast doors you need to use missiles on pretty much always lead to something good, while if they lack the missile doors you're in league for a boss fight. That sort of thing permiates the game and is very helpful.
This is great and all but all runs into some pretty serious flaws in the game. I actually didn't find the boss fights too repetitive, there's enough exploration that it turned into more of my brain tinkering how best to exterminate the next boss which given the hunting / "genocide ALL metroids" theme feels intended, but instead the problem I had is how often the fights just felt like a health/missile check. You simply do not have the mobility with Samus' stiffer Game Boy controls and the chunky sprites vs. the screen size to effectively dodge your opponents, let alone easily hit weak points, meaning that a lot of fights felt to me like spamming missiles while tanking hits and hoping my chunky dodging was enough. The Ai exploitability (which I don't blame them for it's an OG Game Boy game for god's sake) adds to this. It DOES mean some of the fights were quite intense, but it adds a pretty hollow element to a bunch of them. There's also a few of them that just do NOT work right, usually involving long vertical drops, the one with fake blocks was a specific low point as 80% of the fight was just trying to even jump to fight it. The fact that the boss only moves when on screen and the way the music/sound effects work also makes it feel incredibly artificial, just not good.
This dovetails nicely into another issue I had: For some reason this game HATES recharge stations, but it doesn't fully commit as something like Super Metroid would later do by locking you OUT from them until you finish a specific area. Instead it just puts them in horribly awkward locations, like on the ceiling or random crevices, making them really easy to forget location-wise or just take a long time to get to. Some even have enemies that circle them you need to dodge and they'll do like NO damage but force you out of the Spider Ball or Space Jump (which you need to access most of these) and now you have to go through like a whole minute of them to get back there. Why is this a thing? I could understand if it was survival horror style scarcity, but no, not only are they often not locked off, but the game frequently puts farming areas w/ enemies that respawn constantly on screen (compared to leaving and re-entering) for you to get your resources back up, so the scarcity isn't really a "thing". It is a very confused design choice.
The map is mostly easy to navigate, but I will say I ended up looking at a guide three times during the game, although I think only one was really the game's fault. The first time was wholly on me because I thought I had checked an area multiple times but despite knowing what each screen is I apparently didn't jump all the way to the top of one. The last time was just convenience after I died to the final boss to see if the area had health/missile refills or if I had to backtrack. The middle time was because I forgot what area had lava to recede after beating one Metroid batch, which DID feel like an issue as it can be kinda easy to forget where the lava areas are, this isn't too bad but it does feel like this game could use a rudimentary in-game map if possible. Even moreso than Metroid 1 in a way: It's more viable to make an in-game map on your home console Metroid game than the Game Boy one that's absolutely gonna be played on the go constantly.
A few general and short thoughts at the end: The platforming here is very simple and never too challenging, but it is still fun if chunky at times. Annoying how various late-game stuff can be when you do it without the High Jump Boots, which ARE optional and which I never found. Enemies being placed at annoying heights was overly common, especially with flying enemies, where it was hard to find a jumping OR crouching height to hit them. This is a rare game where I feel like it looks better when NOT played on a Game Boy Color, so I recommend that.
Real Life Time: 8 Hours 32 Minutes
In-Game Time: 6 Hours 55 Minutes

There's no reason to play it anymore. Samus Returns and AM2R are fantastic remakes of this game, play those instead.

You're going to need a guide for sure, but this is surprisingly fun. It's primitive, and some of the different metroids are really difficult, but it's somehow a huge leap ahead of the horror that was the original, and I had a lot of fun.

I wish i had bad enough taste to fuel a contrarian love for this game

My favorite art game for the Game Boy.

I didn't enjoy it most of the time tbh because gameplay feels so clunky. But it's surprisingly well designed and atmosphere is great, i'm looking forward to play the remake!

death metal on a 3 inch screen
+ literally about descending into hell
+ makes great use of the game boy’s dimensions to create a claustrophobic world
- or +, depending on mood: feels a little like playing NES on cough syrup

Like it's predecessor, another game that's really good for it's time but hasn't aged well at all and in pretty much every way outside of some minor points the remakes, especially AM2R are just kind of better.
Though I think this game has different strengths and issues compared to the first metroid, on the good side, Samus controls MUCH better in this game than she does in the original, being able to aim in every direction and the physics to the jumps feel nice.
The world is kind of a double edged sword, on one hand, it uses many more unique screens than the original Metroid which had a habit of repeating things constantly. On the other, the game feels much less vast and interesting than the original in my opinion. The Metroid fights aren't very good and there's less cool secrets hidden around the map unlike the first game.
Regardless of that, the strengths of Metroid II are very obvious in what will come 3 years later in Super, the first amazing Metroid game. So I can't say this game is any worse than 1 but I'd consider them equals with very different strengths and weaknesses.
I would definetly try this version out, there's also a pretty cool colorization hack that gives areas a little more of a sense of identity, which is nice. Of course, AM2R and Samus Returns are must plays, but I think you should check out the original first to get an appreciation for it.. It IS only about 5 hours long!

It’s a common joke that Samus Aran never hunts bounties. She’s always either stumbling into heroics for free by accident or hired for, essentially, mercenary work by Da Army. The only game where Samus’ work could I think be conceivably considered actual Bounty Hunting is Metroid II: Return of Samus. She’s given her hit list and she trudges down into the depths to do her job.
And what we get out of it is arguably the most ambitious Metroid game to date, clearly pushing the limits of its hardware in terms of delivering a gameplay experience that, similar to its predecessor with the NES, is just clearly beyond the ken of the Gameboy but also accidentally in terms of themes and mood. It’s not a secret that Metroid 2 has gotten the coolguy art gamer reevaluation over the years as a secret death of the author gem but that doesn’t make it work any less well as one.
Samus takes up a huge chunk of the screen. You can barely see where you’re going. You can barely remember where you’ve been. The world isn’t hostile, necessarily; how could it be hostile when you dominate it so powerfully from the very beginning? Samus is untouchable – more agile and powerful than anything she’ll face from the first second to the last as she trudges down, down, ever downward, through endless twisting corridors as she practices the tedious chore of genocide. She only becomes more durable and more powerful as her targets become fewer and more vulnerable to her weaponry.
No, the only resistance is from the world’s indifference, its ambivalence to Samus and her violence, and even then only in the few places where she cannot enforce herself upon it. The only dangers on SR388 are momentary environmental hazards, getting frustrated by disorientation, being frightened by surprise or by unknown sounds. But never by anything remotely similar to what Samus herself brings to the Metroids, to the other fauna she might encounter.
Atmosphere is king in Metroid, and narrative – explicit and implicit – is rarely given much heft in these games, especially early in the series. It’s hard to imagine that Samus, given what we know of her (with her military background, her most frequent contractor being the Federation marines, literally spending all her time with one of her hands replaced with a gun) has spent a lot of time considering the morality of her place in the galactic landscape. She probably doesn’t have to think much about it, since she mostly seems to fight, like, animals and the Space Pirates who do seem like assholes (I don’t have time to go into the absolutely batshit colonialism allegories happening in Prime 2 but that game is a weird can of worms). So I really have to wonder what’s going through her head when she’s struck by the burst of compassion that leads her to spare the last metroid. What’s she thinking about as she makes that long ascent back to the surface with a little buddy who doesn’t know that its mom just butchered its race. Does she think she’s done a kindness? Is she considering the enormity of the act she’s just failed to complete? Are these things she thinks about at all?
I don’t know. Metroid 2 is a masterpiece.

one of the more encouragingly dissectible metroid games. yeah you’ve heard it everywhere; the hardware limitations enforce a more anxious atmosphere and the dull colors convey it yada yada yada. but one thing i don’t always see people highlight are the hellish soundscapes that blanket the entire experience. exacerbating your trek through rubbled caverns and cities lost to time. as you creep and crawl your way up, down and all around confusing and numbing passageways a nightmarish clusterfuck of a melody backs you up. anxiety slips its way into the foreground. a fleeting silence ensues before reaching the inevitable encounter with one of the dozens of metroid creatures. business as usual. as you escape the decayed yet entrancing ruins, the ever gratifying main theme plays, signifying your triumph and carries forth motivation to continue the monotony. one more thing to add would be the setting: ancient ruins and forgotten tunnels laid to rot in the pits of hell. how did this happen? why are these places left extinct aside from the disconnected monsters that lurk? we will never know. stuff like that gets my brain going you know? insanely impressive for a game of this caliber to invoke such boundless emotion. definitely should not be overlooked.

Systematic Genocide Simulator, brought to you by Nintendo. Complete with jump scares, labyrinthian and borderline non-euclidean oppressive spaces to stumble through, bizarre and uncomfortable musical choices, a camera that manages to convey uneasy claustrophobia in a 1991 handheld game, and an ending that gives you the very companion that you set out to kill and makes you contemplate your actions through 5 minutes of uneventful walking set to melancholic yet vaguely friendly music as you realize you're the monster. How did this get made?

This is better than I remembered. Everything is right in its place. Disregarding the obvious inherited aspects of the original (lack of a map, floating jump mechanics, only having one type of weapon at a time) that work just as well here, the changes reshape the meaning of the experience. The close camera to represent a dark cavern where watching ahead is difficult, the repeated tiles to simulate the feeling of getting lost the more one enters into labyrinthine places, and the black-and-white coloration that strengthens the limited vision. In a sense, you can interpret these elements as the developer's way to put the player in Samus's perspective, and they help as well to give thrill to the anticipation of an encounter. Even if the game is linear, it's easy to stop having track on where to go if you don't pay attention, and even if the game has some modern conventions such as save points and healing spots, it's not nearly as bad as modern works because they're hidden, more dispersed across the world, and require effort to get there. So even if the game isn't as radical as its predecessor, the modern conventions it applies aren't nearly as disruptive to the experience as later games.

The only real major drawback however are the Metroids themselves. They are fittingly aggressive and non-deterministic in their behavior, which contributes to close, even personal brawls, but their lack of solid damage output in combination to the game's floating physics allowing maneuvering over them made them non-threatening, and the fear of facing them diminishes once the player realizes that merely staying healthy for the fight suffices to engage them. It's an exploit in the design, but one that doesn't make the experience of facing them ring false.
The most beautiful aspect of the game for me however is in the little spaces that Samus can enter. Paths in the ground that lead nowhere, but exist as an extension of the landscape. These places, which have no purpose, are representative of the developer's intent to create a wild planet, a place not built for the player but to be an habitat to its fauna. Or edifications in ruins, abandoned long ago that tell the history of the planet with just their existence. And the feeling you get by navigating through them is to be in virgin soil, untouched by human hands, even sacred, through mere abstraction. And this feeling, unique in any game I have seen, is why Return of Samus is one of the vital games of 1991.

It was nice to learn about Hiroji Kiyotake, one of the directors of Metroid II, and probably a leading force in the sheer personality and fun that a run of good GB platformers have - Metroid II, Super Mario Land 2, the Wario Lands...
Despite having played most Metroid games I'd never played Metroid 2. I bounced off of it a few times, but after roughing it through Metroid 1 (another brilliant game), I went ahead and played through 2.
At first I was hesitant about the structure of the game - seeming to move away from the chaotic maze of Metroid 1 for a more linear experience. But I think the structure of Metroid 2 - that of burrowing into an ant farm, exploring smaller labyrinths budding from a main path - works well. It enforces the narrative of Samus as this bounty hunter, cold bringer of death, her triumphant "overworld medley" song being replaced by the quiet nature and sounds of Metroids merely living at home.
The black and white graphics look amazing at times - especially level 3 with its mechanical sand maze and the vertical, overgrown shafts. At its best there's a real sense of encroaching into disturbing territory, the way it feels to peer from a safe path into a deep patch of forest. The variety of 'nests' the game manages to convey is inspiring! The game fully understands its visual format and how to exploit it. Metroid fights remain tricky to cheese, with the metroid becoming invincible offscreen, always feeling claustrophobic and chaotic, thrilling.
There are a handful of rough edges (the lack of save points, occasional missile/energy grinding) but I think the rest of the game makes up for it. I love the setpieces with the Metroid counter resetting in the lair, or the omega metroid attacking you after killing the alpha, or the lair of the omegas. I do think that the art could have been a bit more interesting at parts, especially with all of the vine background layers in level 3 - some later levels feel a bit empty .
That being said, the atmosphere never feels overexplained. It was fun to stumble upon the massive Chozo compounds, with dangerous robots, butted right up against Metroid caves and lush caverns.

Shoutout to the ambient music, which works really well! Unsettling, dark stuff, really understanding the 'texture' of the game boy sound palette.
Overall, it's a very strong game, but I can't give it the "5 stars'... I think it might be related to the economy of ammo and energy and how they inevitably shift way in your favor as you progress through the game - enemy encounters always feel a little less exciting once you have the screw attack, plasma beam, etc. It feels a bit counter to the narrative they're setting up with you diving into more dangerous lairs. The Omega metroid may look spooky, but it's not much of a threat with my 150 missiles, varia suit, and 500 energy.

The original metroid on nes isn't the most flattering game out there, it has its rough edges but I can ultimately appreciate what it goes for and it's place in gaming history. So, it was a shock to my system that the metroid game on gameboy (essentially a portable nes) was actually a considerable step up from its console counterpart.
I know its odd to call a gameboy game atmospheric but Metroid II finds a way. The faint hints of music sounding like the organic life of this alien planet, the fantastic spritework and art direction, and the black and grey color pallet of the gameboy pocket really elevate the feeling of exploring deeper and deeper into the depths of an underground cave.
This is all just to say that Metroid II is a survival horror game. Encountering a metroid borders on being a jumpscare, with the mutated aliens making their presence known with their harsh and sudden theme contrasting brightly with the atmospheric tunes prior. The metoids' freakish mutations as you delve further into the caves of SR388 also don't let up and can kill you at a moments notice if you aren't on your toes. Just like a good ol' classic survival horror!
This may be one of the most linear metroid games, if not the most linear. However it's linearity encourages exploration as you explore left behind ancient ruins and hunt down every single last metroid hiding in the caves. It feels like every single nook and cranny rewards your exploration with some goodies. The constant stream of abilities you gain all feel meaningful towards further expanding your moveset, and are fun to experiment and play around with. The exploration ties beautifully with the gameplay, which is a significant step from Metroid I. Finally being able to crouch and shoot in more direction feels like a relative breath of fresh air combined with the tight movement.
Overall, Metroid II is a classic example on how you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. "How good can it really be? It's just a gameboy game after all," I foolishly thought before playing. But Metroid II proves to be a great time throughout, despite some annoying Metroid moments™ here and there.

While I wouldn’t consider it as great as future installments, and while it is definitely outshined by its remake, the original Metroid is still a classic of the NES library, and it still holds up somewhat to this day. And of course, Nintendo being Nintendo, after seeing the success of the original Metroid, they went right ahead to developing a sequel. Unlike the sequels to Nintendo’s other games, however, this one would be released after a five-year gap of no games (which, let’s be real, Metroid fans are pretty used to at this point), and it would be developed for exclusively for the Game Boy. Makes sense, considering the producer of Metroid 1 and 2, Gunpei Yokoi, was the main creator of the system in the first place. So, after plenty of time, Nintendo then released Metroid II: Return of Samus.
As a follow-up to the original Metroid, as well as the first handheld title in the series, it manages to do a pretty damn good job at improving on the formula of the original, as well as being a great game all in its own right. Sure, I wouldn’t say it is too great, as certain problems still linger, along with new ones popping up in this installment, but it is still a pretty good continuation for the series.
The story is similar to the first, while also changing it up to where it feels unique, and makes the player want to dive right in and eliminate every Metroid in sight, the graphics are Game Boy graphics, but the sprite work is some of the best that the system offers, and it holds up extremely well, the music (and by that, I mean like the two to three real music tracks in the game) is not only pretty good, but also provides a great sense of atmosphere that not too many other Game Boy games can provide, the control is pretty good, even if it still feels a bit stiff, and the gameplay improves upon the original while keeping the same style and flow as the original, which I appreciate for a game like this.
The game follows a pretty similar formula to that of the original Metroid, where you travel through numerous caverns in the planet SR388, defeating enemies and bosses, taking out every Metroid you can find, collecting new items and upgrades to make yourself stronger, with minor beats of storytelling also present to keep the player intrigued as they keep going, such as Metroid carcasses lying around the environment, as well as the many different mutations that the Metroids can take. The selection of items this time around is pretty good, bringing back a lot of the same powerups from the original, as well as adding more that will become staples in the series, such as the Space Jump, the Spider Ball, and the Varia Suit, and with these new items and upgrades comes new changes to Samus herself, which are a welcome change from the original. Not only is her suit upgraded to what would become her most iconic version, but also you can now crouch, aim up and aim down in this game, making taking on enemies MUCH easier, and more satisfying overall.
In addition, the bosses this time around are also pretty memorable. While there aren’t that many, with the Metroids taking center stage for most of the game, the few that we fight are fun to fight, while also providing a good amount of challenge, especially with the Queen Metroid at the end of the game, with her design being the best in the entire game. Alongside her, the many different Metroids that you fight in the game are definitely the highlights of the game in terms of designs, which are amplified with you being able to witness them “evolve” into these forms as you encounter them, making them a more menacing and memorable threat.
Finally, if there is one thing that I will give this game a lot of props for, it is how it guides the player through the game. While there are no waypoints or maps, the game is structured in a way to where you will never get truly lost whenever you maneuver through the caverns, and if you just dedicate enough time to exploration, you will find your way to finding the Metroids that you need to eliminate. Thankfully, this is also aided with how a lot of the upgrades and items aren’t too out in the open, so it still encourages you to search around and explore more, to benefit the most from what you could find in the caverns. Yes, it is still a bit of a guide game, but it isn’t quite as bad as the original, at least in my opinion.
Now, with all that said, some problems are fixed in this installments, and with those out the door, new problems arise, with my main new issue being the main method of progression through the game. As I have mentioned plenty of times, you need to eliminate all of the Metroids not only to beat the game, but to also explore more of the planet to find more items, upgrades, and Metroids. However, as you would expect, this gets extremely repetitive and tiring after a while. Sure, the new Metroids you encounter keep you on your toes and keep you guessing as you play, but that doesn’t stop the game from getting repetitive, even after encountering these new Metroids.
Not just that, but there is still the problem of where you cannot carry all items at once. Sure, there are plenty of improvements in terms of Samus’s arsenal, such as having the Long Beam, missiles, and the Morph Ball immediately from the start, but you still cannot hold the Wave Beam, Plasma Beam, Spazer Beam, and Ice Beam all at once. You can only have one, and considering how the entire game is about killing Metroids, there should only be one beam that you would need throughout the entire game, making most of the other beams worthless in the long run. There are other minor issues that I have with the game, such as me taking a lot of damage at once a lot of times in the game, but that is just a skill issue, not something wrong with the game.
Overall, while it does still have its issues, this is a great improvement over the original Metroid, and a great sequel and continuation of the series. With that being said though, you would still be better off playing the remakes of the game rather than the original, fan-made or official.
Game #151

backloggd community be like oh yeah this game super good even if has no redeeming qualities outside its music

Return of Samus marks a fascinating and significant moment for Metroid. While the original NES title punches above its weight, Metroid II scales its ambitions to the limitations of its hardware. The open-endedness of the original is replaced with a segmented world design, a move resulting in a game that is playable without a map, something complemented with more distinctive level-design. This linear progression now builds greater tension, as you descend deeper with no "aha!" moment as you loop back on yourself.
Mechanically speaking, we're still far below the standard set in the next game, but it's a huge jump up regardless. Notably, the abilities to aim downwards in mid-air and to crouch are added. One-block-high enemies in the original were more of a pain than was reasonable, and these abilities make them the trivial foes they ought be.
While all the above is nice, it's the elements outside of the core gameplay that truly make Return of Samus a unique experience. The core task of culling Metroids from existence is morally dubious. While they are scary and possess properties which could be dangerous in the wrong hands, Metroids are not evil, just predators, and the game is keen to bring this to the player's attention in a key subversive moment. The general clunkiness of the gameplay arguably complements this through-line, as the Metroids are not particularly fun to engage with.
A lot has been said of the atmosphere and environmental storytelling, and while I generally agree, I think there's a recency bias at play, with most of the great stuff coming toward the end. The shed Metroid skins are a great touch throughout though.
Despite being held back by limitations, Metroid II also works within those limitations to deliver a minimalist piece of storytelling with surprising emotional and thematic complexity. In its uniqueness, it remains one of the most significant titles in the series, as well as one of the more interesting to discuss, even if it's not best in a normative sense.

Wait, Seamus Metroid is a girl?!
An improvement over Metroid, which I feel I should point out is a game I actually like. The signposting is certainly better here; all it took was some empty Metroid husks, a Metroid counter, some screen-shaking, and a few different tile-sets to keep me from getting lost more than a few times. The two-tone color-palette and minimal soundscape are limiting, but the relative linearity of the game was appreciated.
As someone who has not played Samus Returns or AM2R, the ending took me by surprise. After the all-out smackdown I just put on the Metroids, I was expecting the usual timed detonation/escape sequence, but what I got was more gentle. Fusion and Zero Mission for NSO when?

Really? Of all games to act like the original is better than the remake, you guys think it's this one?

Metroid II is an interesting sequel. It makes some changes to the gameplay of the first and introduces things that would become franchise staples like the shoulder pads on the Varia Suit, Screw Attack, Space Jump, and proper save rooms. While those gameplay changes are very much appreciated, just like the first game, it's limited by the hardware it was designed for.
When comparing the two in terms of which is better, I'd almost consider them equals in a lot of ways. But the reason I give the first the edge over this comes down to something that I think is crucial to the series: the music.
Metroid II has some very good tracks. The reoccurring overworld theme is well done in getting you excited about your adventure through SR388, and when it comes back into play later, succeeds at motivating you as the Metroid counter decreases further. Other tracks worth highlighting are the final area, the Queen Metroid's theme, and the lovely piece of music that plays when you and the baby Metroid are heading back to the ship. However, if you noticed what tracks I highlighted, most of them come from the endgame. For a good chunk of the game, it relies heavily on silence and the occasional Game Boy bleeps and boops to have something go on in the background.
Its attempts at trying to be more atmospheric are welcomed, but I don't think it really succeeds in being scary or tense. Never found the Metroid fights intense or exciting. Besides the annoying bastards that are the Omega Metroids, they're nothing special gameplay-wise, but they do have some cool designs. In fact, I dare say that this game is easier than the first because you aren't dealing with old-school jankiness as much as you did in the NES original.
Having finished both Metroid I and II, it's pretty clear to see why these got the remake treatment. In Metroid II's case, it happened twice. The game continues to build upon the foundation of the original to help solidify the series' identity, but like its predecessor, its successors do a much better job at refining the formula. Also like its predecessor, this is really only worth checking out if you're a die hard Metroid fan. Besides that, check out either of the 2 remakes, which I will get to soon.
(Still figuring out what to do about Samus Returns but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.)

This game is... not awful! I expected this to be the worst of all the Metroid games (except for maybe NEStroid) but with the help of the colorization ROM hack and a map it ended up being surprisingly decent.
The music (or lack thereof) helped add to the atmosphere of the areas, and the super-cramped screen made it pretty tense when you were exploring with the possibility of a Metroid suddenly appearing at any moment. This definitely isn't a traditional Metroid, though, as there is zero backtracking whatsoever. However, I think the overall difference in its formula makes it that much more charming!
As someone who's played through AM2R and Samus Returns I like to see how differently they interpreted this game. AM2R is very faithful to the original, while Samus Returns takes the ideas and makes it into its own thing.
If you're a big Metroid fan I'd suggest giving this game a play, ESPECIALLY with the colorization ROM hack.

The first two Metroid games did not age well. The 3DS remake is much more enjoyable, even though this version still has its merits.

A fantastic if unorthodox Metroid game. Despite its greyscale presentation and linearity, it has an incredible atmosphere. I recommend using a map if needed.