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.