Why was this considered the black sheep of the series? Metroid 2 holds up a lot better than expected and is way more fun to play than NEStroid. Going for 100% is satisfying and feels rewarding since it makes the later metroids much more manageable.
I really liked the environmental storytelling. I already knew metroid 2's story going in, but the way the planet works and interacts with you throughout is engaging and still provides a nice level of mystery. The ending is really good too, but it felt a little underwhelming without the little additions made is Super's recap. It's still effective, but I'm not sure it would have the same effect on someone going into the game blind and without any prior knowledge of Super's opening.
The controls are a lot better and Samus is starting to feel a lot closer to how she did in super and fusion. Samus is still a little slow but she's just the right amount of floaty and weighty that was missing from the NES original. It's really cool seeing how many series staple upgrades came from this game (even if they can be a little janky). Being able to crouch and shoot downward make the game so much more fun than NEStroid and help fix a lot of those games' issues that should never have been present in the first place.
There are a few little controls quirks that annoyed me but nothing overly frustrating or game ruining. I never fully got used to not being able to activate the morph ball in midair and activating/deactivating the spider ball can be a little janky. The space jump timing feels pickier than later games and took some time to get used to. I also didn't like how if you messed up the space jump timing or were in the air for too long, Samus would uncrouch and you couldn't do anything to recover. This made using the screw attack to deflect bosses a little janky at times and is something that NEStroid does better. It was also a little awkward trying to short hop to shoot enemies at first since samus crouches mid air and you end up shooting a little lower than you'd initially expect. This only happens during the ascending part of the jump and isn't a big deal overall, but I'm happy future games fixed it.
The multiple missile and health recharge stations are very much appreciated and provide a nice way to reward exploration and eliminate the need for tedious grinding sessions.
The bosses are about on par with the NES original since they're all pretty much just missile sponges in those games. The bosses in metroid 2 have a few different attack patterns which makes them a little more engaging than NEStroid's bosses but none of them are as engaging as the bosses in the future entries.
The soundtrack is alright, but definitely a downgrade from the first games. The only track I really like is the SR388 surface theme which is one of the best themes in the entire series. The soundtrack tries to be more atmospheric and contribute to the storytelling and it's very effective towards the end of the game with the final area and the final walk to the surface, but tracks like the ruins were a little too short and repetitive for me.
Overall, Mettroid 2 is a decent time. It feels like a really big improvement on the first and there was never a point where I had to force myself to keep playing like with NEStroid. It's really interesting to see the series develop, but future entries do a lot of what it does better.
TL;DR: I feel like it's kind of unnecessary to complain about the obvious shortcomings that the Game Boy imposed upon this game. I feel it's much more useful to consider the benefits of this game being on GB, that being that it adds to the atmosphere that you can't properly see the screen, and how the backgrounds are so dark. Interestingly enough, this means that the original Metroid II has a better, more faithful ambience than Samus Returns, and some ways even AM2R.
That said, this game is a frustrating play, despite being on the better side of early Game Boy titles. Wouldn't really recommend trying this over replaying Samus Returns or AM2R unless you're a really die-hard fan.
I've been trying to play every Metroid game in order of release because the only one I ever beat was, ironically, this game's remake, Samus Returns, and I'll replay that and review it eventually, but because I had already played that game and my friends wanted me to play Super, I was advised to skip this one here, and I did, I played Super first, really enjoyed it, but then I decided to go back to this anyway, I just felt wrong skipping it, and I'm so glad I did.
Metroid II is very different from the rest I've played, including it's own remake, you're not trying to escape the planet, you're there with a purpose, kill every Metroid, it's pretty fucked up and the game is clearly trying to tell you (especially at the end) that maybe what you're doing here is at least morally dubious, and I absolutely love that. Is the gameplay a little rough? yeah, for sure, but outside of that I think pretty much every technical "limitation" of the gameboy ends up working in it's favor. The screen being so small makes the game feel really claustrophobic the whole way through, the music could barely even be considered music sometimes, it's mostly composed of... weird, creepy sounds, the atmosphere is honestly as good as it got in Super, maybe even better at points. The reason it's not equally rated however, is the bosses, there's 40 Metroids to defeat, and they're all pretty uninspired fights, most of them die in 5 missiles, non of them have any interesting patterns to learn, and I understand that this is also probably due to the gameboy's limitations but I can't justify it in this case because it's such a huge part of the game.
Overall, I highly recommend everyone reading to at least give this game a chance, especially if you skipped it for how it looks or for it having so many remakes out there, this is a completely unique experience that I think every Metroid fan would appreciate.
This review contains spoilers
Impossible to understate how impressive this game is. Not as much from a technical standpoint (though it has aged remarkably well for an early GameBoy game), but instead in terms of its themes and storytelling. The creators had their finger on the pulse of the medium, both for its state then and in the future. Metroid II’s deconstruction of the medium is sad and terrifying. What impressed me most is just how good it is at immersing you in its goal: the Metroids are cumbersome, fearsome, and irritating, and after a while you begin to blend with the cold, mechanical process Samus follows on her mission. Even knowing the thematic angle the game takes, its hard to view the Metroids as something worth preserving until the very end.
And then the end comes. A single, tender moment leaves your victory hollow and turns your relief to guilt and horror.
I'd played this some back in the day but had never finished it as I'd inexplicably found myself stuck and/or lost in a fairly linear game (something a quick glance at the instruction manual would have clarified had I had one in my possession.) Coming back to it now was fairly eye-opening after long since been Metroidvania pilled to an extreme. I'd really expected this to play closer to NES Metroid instead of being the prototype of so much to come. The game itself is extremely straightforward but that's befitting of something on a battery powered portable system. The emphasis on the hunt in lieu of exploration was certainly something I'd forgotten about as well. Given the short length of the game even by series' standards, I can see myself coming back to this now and then. If there's any criticism to be offered, it's probably centered around the metroid evolutions acting as mini-bosses throughout. While typically not a challenge, I was jump scared twice by them in general play and quite anxious against an Alpha that I finished with my last missile so perhaps they're fine as is. I'm looking forward to the opportunities opened up to me after having completed this as AM2R and Samus Returns both await.
Actually, Return of Samus is the best out of the 3 well-known ways to experience the darkest and most genocidal chapter in Samus' life. It's old, I get it, but it uses the Game Boy's limitations to create atmosphere and tension, and that's what this series is best known for. It deviated itself from the formula stablished by the first game, but somehow captures the same feelings of isolation, visceral horror and bittersweet adventure. The ending has to be one of the most impactful and groundbreaking moments in all of gaming, specially in how it tackled one of the hottest topics of debate this medium has sparked, violence in video games, as far back as 1991.
I played AM2R and Samus returns before coming back to this finally. Honestly I kind of loved it for what it is. Despite being on the gameboy it does a much better job than the first Metroid of distinguishing areas and correct paths to follow. Bosses are simple and it needs a map but it was a pretty good handheld experience and I would’ve loved it if I had played it when it came out.