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.

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.

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

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

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

Wait wtf how is this actually pretty good

(This is the 48th game in my challenge to go through many known games in chronological order starting in 1990. The spreadsheet is in my bio.)
I think if you're looking to get into the much-beloved Metroid series for the first time, Metroid II: Return of Samus (Dev: Nintendo R&D1 / Pub: Nintendo) won't be the best place to start. The game released in November 1991 for the Game Boy, unlike the original which came out for the NES, and if you really don't want to pass by this game, you would probably be best served going for its remake from 2017 for the Nintendo 3DS.
The game isn't 'objectively bad', not even close actually, but it suffers from pretty much all the lack of QoL features that you'd expect from games of this time. This makes it tough to play unless you don't mind looking for the way forward for, potentially, hours at a time, and even then, the future releases will serve you with much more enjoyable gameplay in pretty much every way. But all of that I talk about in detail below.
STORYTELLING/CHARACTERS | 3/10
As in the original, you play Samus Aran, who is a Space Hunter working for the Galactic Federation. Her goal is once again to go to the planet SR388, where she is to exterminate the remaining Metroids after both a ship full of researchers and armed soldiers went missing. All of this can be found in the manual. In the game, you press START and are immediately loaded in and stand in front of your ship and are not given any further information.
The main things you will take away from this game in terms of story/characters are the following
Samus is a badass character just simply based on design and she gets shit done when others can't (not unlike many other one hero vs the world games, but effective)
The fact that there was no color for the Game Boy meant that the devs had to add the round metal shoulder pads to differentiate between her Power Suit and Varia Suit, a feature that has stayed with Samus ever since
POSSIBLE SPOILER: The ending cliffhanger, without dialogue and voice acting, is really well done. Samus finds an egg of a Metroid hatchling, which follows her to her ship. What will this cause in the sequel?
So Metroid II doesn't really do much different from many other platformers / Action Adventure types like this in terms of story, but it does manage to stand out a bit thanks to its ending and its main character.
GAMEPLAY | 9/20
You will most likely be familiar with the Metroid formula by now. Start with limited abilities, explore multi-pathed levels multiple times by leveraging new abilities that you gain constantly as you progress. It's a pretty popular genre, and Metroid games pretty much pioneered them. Unfortunately, early iterations come with some growing pains as the developers looked to find a balance of their vision and what they could realistically expect players to be willing to push through.
Before we get there, here is the gist of how this game plays. You control Samus in a 2D side-scrolling game where you can shoot projectiles, jump and even roll up into a ball to squeeze through holes. Your goal is to traverse this map and find all Metroids, which are parasitic creatures that, unsurprisingly, form the main enemy types in this series. Throughout your journey you get access to new skills and attacks, which not only allow you to stand a chance against later bosses, but to also unlock areas that were previously inaccessible.
I personally have a mixed relationship with Metroidvanias, though "utility-gated progression" usually isn't my main issue but rather the convoluted design of the maps and/or the gameplay itself, and both creep up their ugly heads here as well, though I can excuse it much more for a 30 year old game rather than some of the newer entries into the genre.
Firstly, this is a Game Boy game, and unlike the NES version, Samus covers 1/4 of the screen here, which from the get-go makes for an awkward affair when trying to dodge enemies reliably. Her jumps are not sensitive to button presses at all, so you need to press JUMP quite a while in order to make a long jump, and in areas where platforms are separated by some sort of health-evaporating substance in between, these jumps can become quite unreliable and hence frustrating.
Frustrating is actually a big thing with this game. The reason why you want to take hits as few times as possible is because there are few save points here and they are pretty far from each other, so you will constantly find yourself warp all the way back to the checkpoint whenever you die. And due to the level amount of health you're playing with, you'll find yourself die a lot. There are no immediate do-overs. Die and you go all the way back.
The worst part however is the fact that there is no map. So you either have to draw the map along as you play or have great memory. Plus, progress forward isn't as cut and dry as moving forward. Sometimes, progressing means finding some randomly placed hole in a wall that you can only reach by turning into the balled-up shape I was just talking about. It doesn't help that many areas look exactly the same in this game, adding to the confusion of it all.
Overall, the concept of this series I definitely like. This one just didn't age well and I don't know how children at the time could possibly beat this unless they'd spend dozens and dozens of hours of running through walls and having to rely on magazine guides, and whether it's fun to have to use those sources to beat a game is in the eye of the beholder I suppose.
MUSIC/SOUND/VOICE | 7/10
No voice acting. There is an interesting that happens from time to time where the music simply cuts off and you're left playing for a while whilst just listening to the sound effects. It's odd on the one hand, but satisfying on the other because I actually like the various sound effects that you hear, whether it's shooting your projectiles, the sound of each step you take, collecting items and some beep sounds that play that apparently are part of the "Caverns 1 Theme". Whenever the music does play, you've got to understand the limitations of the Game Boy sound engine. So what they managed to do with that is pretty impressive. Obviously, if you give a listen to the 3DS remake OST, you'll see what increased technical capabilities will allow you to do, but the soundtrack here plays into the atmosphere of the levels very well here, and gets downright eerie whenever you get into a boss fight. In contrast, the surface of SR388 theme sounded a bit too playful to me, but I get it considering that's the music that kids will spend most of their time listening to. Do you dare and get further into the game than you're expected to? That's where you are met with tracks that match the increased tension and where this gets a lot more atmospheric.
GRAPHICS/ART DESIGN | 5/10
If you rate this based on the capabilities of the Game Boy, the game doesn't look all too bad. If you rate it compared to what you would have gotten had this been an SNES game, it doesn't rate quite well. If you go somewhere down the middle, you can appreciate that this game was the reason that the Samus sprite got changes to it that would last until today, that the Metroids look positively disgusting and .. well yeah, that's pretty much it. The blackground is simply black, levels look very similar in design, the sprite size of Samus looks kind of awkward and creating holes in walls that hide progress and not giving any graphical indicator that something might be behind there is just an odd choice. And overall, the game simply doesn't look so good due to being a Game Boy game, which you might like yourself but is what I'd call an "acquired/nostalgic taste".
ATMOSPHERE | 8/10
The game does a pretty good job actually of throwing you into hostile territory filled with vile and disgusting creatures. Whenever the non-music track plays or the tracks that hit the eerie tones of the graphical presentation play, this can become quite atmospheric and immersive, and downright scary I'd imagine for young gamers whenever a Metroid is chasing you down.
CONTENT | 5/10
Many different abilities that you can get your hands on as you play the game. The journey there can be rough however, as you will spend many hours trying to figure out where to go next, which some might call intentional and I'd call boring and not well executed here. Apart from that, there isn't much content here, but if you enjoy the bashing your head against walls aspect of it, this will be enough to keep you occupied for a dozen hours+.
LEVEL/MISSION DESIGN | 3/10
I appreciate the idea behind this game of having to traverse a hostile environment and find your way through it without any hand-holding. Unfortunately, my idea of a fun game is in contrast to what the game design philosophy of Metroid's creators is, at least for the early entries in the series. No map is tough on its own, but progress hidden in walls (forcing you to check every wall), same looking areas and abilities that don't control all that well (the spider ability) makes for too many (subjective) issues here.
CONCEPT/INNOVATION | 6/10
The concept remains intriguing, though I'd say the sequel has not yet gotten it to where it will eventually go in this series.
REPLAYABILITY | 1/5
There isn't really any particular reason/motivation given for replaying this. Chances are, if you somehow beat this, you'll be satisfied and ready to move on.
PLAYABILITY | 5/5
The game worked well at all times.
OVERALL | 53/100
Unless you really enjoyed the original or really, really enjoyed the later entries in the Metroid series, I think this game is very skippable. Even if you did enjoy later Metroid games, you will likely miss the QoL features that will be introduced later. What this game does well is create a tense atmosphere, but I would agree that that's the gist of it, unless you are a big fan of the concept of hitting early wall to see if you can go through some of them, or if you enjoy drawing a map as you go. Otherwise, you will likely have to rely on guides to make progress, and have to do so many times. So right now I would call this a good proof on concept, just like the original, but the next step hasn't really been taken yet in my opinion.

As weird as it is to say, I consider Metroid 2 a rare example of a Nintendo-made horror game. You're all alone on a dangerous planet, full of lifeforms that are continulously evolving into ever more dangerous forms. It feels like you're in a race against the clock, before the Metroid race evolves to a level where not even you will be able to stop them from consuming the rest of the galaxy. So, there you are, wandering deeper into the caverns, caverns that seem to be stretching on for infinity, your footsteps the only audible sound, until... wham! A metroid is flying straight at you, and a frantic battle of survival ensues.
Okay, so it's not actually scary at all, but I think that's what the developers wanted to evoke, I think that element of claustrophobia and "hunt or be hunted" is Metroid 2's core goal. The attempt at creating this kind of atmosphere for a Gameboy game is a respectable one, and is really the game's most redeeming aspect. I will always think of that "moment" when you enter the final area, it gives me goosebumps everytime. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself has aged even worse than the original Metroid 1, which is why I cannot ultimately recommend this one.
Taking away color and zooming the screen in did Metroid's exploratory focus absolutely no favors. Areas look even more dull than they used to be. There's caves upon caves, all repetitive, most difficult to memorize and distinguish from each other. And there's still no map, other than the one I heavily relied on from a guide.
There's something to be said about the pros of getting lost in video games, but I think that only applies when the areas you stumble into are distinct enough to a point where the feeling of discovering a new location heavily washes over you. Like when you decide to explore a different part of town in real life, after wandering throughout the same locales you've known for years, and this intense feeling of unfamiliarity hits you. I hope whoever reads this gets the analogy, because I have no better one to offer at 2AM in the night.
Anyway, Metroid 2 does not offer the feeling of getting lost in unfamiliar territory, all it has is the uncertainty of whether you're even lost or not. Constant doubt gets in the way of genuinely enjoying the game, and by a certain point, I get impatient and just want it to be over.
Other than the neat little thought about this being a horror game in disguise, I've gotten little out of the experience. The next Metroid game, Super Metroid, will be where I have more positive things to say. There's also the fanmade remake of Metroid 2, AM2R, which is so good that I treat it as an official Metroid game and wholeheartedly recommend you make that version of the game one of your top priorities.

👍
be sure to play it on the game boy color palette, NOT the super game boy palette.

So, when I beat NEStroid a few days ago I said that my biggest takeaway was how impressed I was by the technological leap to the SNES and Super Metroid. With that fresh in mind, I don't know if anything could have prepared me for how amazed the Game Boy entry would leave me.
To me the Game Boy has always been this antiquated piece of gaming history, like the evolutionary second step from calculator to video game, not entirely there yet. From the few games I'd given real time to, I don't think that was an unfair assessment, and in going through every Metroid game I initially skipped 2 because I thought there was no way it could hold up given the hardware it was chained to. I was wrong.
Metroid II is a game that, despite having many more, or at least many different, roadblocks than it's NES counterpart, manages to be a rousing success on nearly every front. It improves almost every element from the original and adds dozens of changes and new mechanics that would be series staples from here forward. The lack of a map still makes the game confusing, but the more linear and fair structure of the game makes it fully playable without a guide with very minimal friction.
The more legible structure of the game was a huge boost to my enjoyment already, but what frankly blew me away is the way that movement and combat function moment-to-moment in this game. Super Metroid, for what clunkiness it has, remains one of my favourite-feeling games to play, and so when I started playing Metroid II and found the gameplay to be nearly identical, with crouching, more manageable jumping and rolling, and other QOL features I missed, my jaw dropped to the floor. How was this running on what is functionally a souped up calculator?
It's not perfect. In some very obvious ways it's not perfect, like the lack of real bosses and the holdover of some identical rooms which make it very easy to get yourself turned around, but from start to finish there wasn't really a moment where I felt that the game was failing in any of the things it set out to do. Metroid II is a core link to what we know as Metroid today, and it's no wonder that it has been remade as many times as it has.

It's funny how back in the day you could just get away with releasing a mainline sequel to a home console game on a handheld.
No one would question you.
"Isn't this gonna severely limit the scope of our game?"
"Don't you think that mechanically this might end up far worse than its predecessor?"
"Can we even do a map as big as the first game, let alone bigger?"
"Do you think people will get tired of the same black and white temple environment for the entire runtime?"
All of these questions and more are ones Metroid II is willing to answer!

This game is fascinating. I'm kinda kicking myself for not playing it in all the years it's been out. Better late than never eh?
So this is my second foray into the Metroid series after starting with the fantastic first entry and I'm kinda blown away by how solid a sequel it is especially since its on Game Boy. I can only imagine the reaction of the game at the time. Metroid II is every bit the game Metroid was ALSO with some excellent improvements all on a portable device! Crazy to think. The only way it's lacking a bit is in the graphics department I guess but even that is remedied a bit by playing on Game Boy Color!
As I said, the game is mostly the same strengths as the first one. You explore around with non-linear progression and can find yourself in tricky areas you aren't best equipped for. Hell the game can be beaten without half the power ups. The game, like the last, does reward curiosity as you can find upgrades and additions in areas found through the tiniest hidden passages and they all feel well worth getting. The game is a bit easier on exploration too in general as there aren't really any annoying enemy types like the first game had, nothing dive bombing you or matching you jump and following you through screens. Also there are certain spots you can find that fully replenish your missile anmo and your suit energy. All this makes for a maybe easier experience but to me it's less annoying and enhances the exploration aspect. There are still enemies to fight and challenges to be had but now it isn't as irritating as it could be.
The biggest challenge faced in this game ties brilliantly into the continuing story of the game and offers a unique and interesting change of pace to gameplay. In Metroid II, Samus is tasked with traveling to the homeworld of the Metroids, SR388, and eliminating the rest of them for fear of their threat to the galaxy. So in the game you start with a counter at the bottom if the screen showing how many Metroids you have left to kill through the whole game. Each area has a set number of Metroids and the way to access new sections of the map is not merely by finding appropriate suit upgrades but by finding all the Metroids for an area and defeating them. Throughout the game you'll fight Metroids in various stages of their life cycle which become increasingly ferocious and dangerous the deeper into the planet you get. It's an excellent little twist to the core gameplay mechanic and felt pretty fresh for such a robust sequel.
Metroid II is an excellent game and intriguing sequel. The game plays as good or arguably better than the first one. The events of the game also seem like they'll impact the lore of the game's and Samus' personal journey in a big way. I'm really glad I have the opportunity to play these games in order and as close to the original format as I can in our modern age. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys action and exploration. Bonus points if you can appreciate old games and the achievement of getting something so substantial right on a handheld. I can't wait to see what's next in the series!

Metroid games are broken up into two groups: the good ones are 5/5, and the bad ones are 2/5. This is one of the good ones.

You know, back in its day, this game didn’t get a lot of love. In fact, it was considered worse in every way to the first Metroid.
Which is utter BS. This game is fun. I enjoyed exploring this labyrinthine world.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.)

Technically cheated by playing this on GBC emulation and with a map but fuck do I care. Metroid II: Return of Samus still successfully scared the shit outta me.
A lot of what I have to say has been said already by the top dogs of Backloggd.com so I'll keep it straightforward. By far the best thing about Metroid II is the well-crafted, incredibly creepy atmosphere of SR388 that is backed by not just its uncanny sound design and music, but also its monotone, dull environmental design. An entire planet where everything looks just about the same with long, acid pool corridors and towering pits that blend together so well, the player barely knows where they are half the time, creating the illusion of entrapment. Metroids that are disturbing in design (except the Zeta Metroids which look more cool than creepy) which also emit some of the most haunting and chilling sounds when hit, almost as if it were a wail of pain as you mercilessly tear it to shreds with your missiles.
All of which culminates in a final act where immediately after a grueling gauntlet of 3 Omega Metroids with minimal resources, the environment suddenly shifts to a bone-chilling rollercoaster ride where the tension rises tenfold as the Metroid counter suddenly spikes, allowing a looming sense of dread to drip slowly into the player's mind as they struggle against the unexpected onslaught of Metroids. But when all is said and done, Samus, whose journey has been hallmarked and can essentially be written off as federation-mandated genocide, has a rare moment of compassion as it spares a singular, child Metroid as the terrifying shrieks of the final phase die out to be replaced with a melancholic, bittersweet tune that compared to everything the player has experienced beforehand, is relieving and somewhat... calming, yet does not completely brush off Samus' insufficiently justified actions of murder. It's a beautiful game.
But as much as it is a well designed game thematically, just like God of War, in practicality there are a lot of flaws present within Return of Samus.
Despite all its positives Metroid II still suffers from being a game of its era, with all its hardware limitations making modern game standard affairs like an overworld map absent. This also means that the game suffers from clunky controls and questionable design choices. Most notably the space jump, which is not only absurdly precise in its timing, but is also inconsistent in its activation because Samus will either jump without curling into a ball, or awkwardly jump straight upwards. This issue is further worsened by the aforementioned amount of tall pits, especially those in the late-game that mandate the usage of space jump to traverse; it also hurts the Omega Metroid fights substantially, not getting a Screw Attack jump when you want to consistently absolutely stinks.
The spider ball, meanwhile, as a crucial element for Metroid II's exploration is slow, clunky and just as inconsistent with its movement as the Space Jump, with most of my issues stemming from unresponsiveness when I attempt to scale the various pillars needed to unlock extra item expansions.
Finally, there's the... interesting design choice regarding Samus' hit detection. While from a design standpoint, Samus' large sprite enhances the sensation of entrapment within SR388, it also has the unfortunate side effect of making her more prone to getting hit by attacks. And for whatever reason, instead of being granted i-frames for a brief moment after getting hit, Samus instead rebounds in an awkward angle that more often than not results her in getting hit... sometimes even by the same enemy. Yes, you have a recovery jump after getting hit, and sometimes the optimal choice is to intentionally take damage to reach higher ground, but in most cases, especially Metroid boss fights, it becomes a major inconvenience.
Oh, and the plasma beam is fucking useless with its tiny hitbox.
All of these issues combined are sufficient that despite my best efforts to appraise the overall package of Metroid II: Return of Samus as a thematically rich work of art like most have, I am constantly taken out of the atmosphere by one small problem or another that sours the experience. This leads to Metroid II feeling more like a flawed game that happened to accidentally struck upon a stroke of genius. Yes, video games can be works of art, but I suppose the main takeaway here is that despite that being the case, video games are meant to be... viewed as video games to most people, including myself.
And that saddens me somewhat.
Final score: 8/10
Focus: The flaws that claw at Metroid II: Return of Samus' achievement as an artform.

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.

i, for one, am very impressed they managed to make a game that is both too confusing AND too linear

Decided to play this after playing Metroid NES on the NSO service and used a map, and I have to say, it's a major improvement over the original! You can aim downwards now, jump in morph ball without needing to bomb jump, crouch, and have a slew of new handy abilities in this game to traverse the world such as the Spider Ball and the introduction of the Space Jump.
The game is fairly repetitive with mostly easy bosses (other than the troublesome Zeta and Omega Metroids), but the final boss is far better designed than in Metroid NES. I actually had a lot of fun figuring out its pattern on how to stun it and drop bombs in its gut, and the lead up to it with the Metroids guarding it was also well done.
The game is fairly linear which is a good design choice after Metroid NES was insanely labyrinthian and given this was also a handheld game to begin with. Looking up a map will help you get most of the missiles and health upgrades you need and to avoid getting stuck though, even if it's not nearly as easy to get lost as the original game is, and I recommend playing the game with that rather than without.
While this game is even more visually bland/samey than Metroid NES's locales (even if that game also looked like a lot of the same), the atmosphere is a lot better in terms of setting a more dreary tone and the adventure theme is pretty nice for a GB title.
I played this on the NSO service and used the Gameboy Color option for this game which made it look a lot nicer, giving all of the walls and such a nice blue color and Samus a contrasting orange/red that fit her well. I would've gotten more annoyed at the tedium of the scenery if I was forced to look at the game in pure black and white or pure green/black so I'm very thankful that was an option.
While still not an outstanding game, it's a major improvement over the flawed original Metroid, and I can see how this game set up a lot of the foundation that Super Metroid went on to polish to a shine to make one of the best Metroidvanias ever that captured the minds and hearts of many players. Definitely play this with a map if you plan to at all though, it helps a lot in making the game more fun.
With this, I've officially beaten every official iteration of the 2D Metroid mainline games, remakes and all. Now I'll turn my attention more toward the appealing Metroid Zero Mission and Super Metroid hacks that this passionate creative fanbase has made to stave off my Metroid craving, at least until we hopefully get another 2D Metroid title in 2 years or so.
Total playtime (including game overs/rewinds according to my Switch Playtime): Roughly 4 hours
Total playtime from in-game file counter: 2 hours, 23 minutes.
See you next mission!

Metroid II is a pretty decent improvement over the first game, thanks to it’s more linear structure, the absence of a map isn’t anywhere near as bad here as it was in the original game.
Its got problems, like how there are no real bosses aside from the final boss, everything else is just metroids, which are decently fun to fight but man the repeats of them just get stale after a while.
Oh yeah, I had to play this on switch online since I have no access to Samus Returns or AM2R, and since I used switch online, I had to experience this game in good ol gameboy vomit green.
One last thing I do like about this game is the ending sequence after the final boss, it’s honestly nice to play a Metroid game that doesn’t end in the planet imminent explosion sequence.
Overall it’s a fun experience that I was pleasantly surprised by, idk if I’ll ever play it again but it’s pretty nice.
Now onto Super Metroid

O jogo tem limitações gráficas, por falta das cores as áreas são muito parecidas e não ter um mapa atrapalha bastante a navegação pelo cenário.
Se eu puder te dar uma dica procure um mapa, imprima ou pelo celular mesmo vá marcando as áreas por onde você já passou, itens que recolheu e inimigos que já enfrentou, isso melhora muito a experiência!
Apesar desses problemas a jogabilidade se mantém muito boa, o jogo é divertido e essa é mais uma das pérolas do Game Boy que valem ser jogadas até hoje!

(Played on NSO, sparingly used a map.)
Better than Metroid 1, by miles.
Combat is more fleshed out. you can crouch down to shoot short targets and can shoot under yourself when jumping now.
The new upgrades are pretty cool. the space jump is fun to fly around with and the new beams are pretty fun to mix up combat and the spider-ball fucking rules.
Metroid 1's bosses sucked pretty bad, but the bosses here are actually really good. The game revolves around hunting Metroids. the Metroids mutate over the course of the game so the farther progress get the deadlier they get. i like how they kinda get stronger at the same rate as you so they never get to easy. the later mutated metroids are pretty high-octane which is a rarity in games from this era.
It is less easy to get lost then Metroid 1. still possible but, I don't mind it near as much.
The game does have a save system, however it only has about 10 save points throughout the whole game, two of which are literally RIGHT next to each other, so there are really 9.
Overall; would recommend. great game especially considering it was made on the game-boy.

What the hell guys? This game is a masterpiece. A giant leap from its predecessor, introducing almost all skills and items (in 1991!?!?) that the franchise has ever seen and utilizing them in ways that all sequels have not even come close. (The vertical gameplay with space jump and spider ball is just brillant)
They should have called this game „Metroid: Annihilation“. The main plot is as badass as anything I have ever played. Miss Aran travels to the home planet of the Metroids with only one goal: To eridicate every last one of them before the Space pirates can get them. The main objective to actually hunt down all metroids is extremely motivating and delivers great exploration opportunities and encounters with many suprising secrets and clever traps.
Since you have to scan every corner of SR388 to eliminate every last one of the evil brains or whatever the metroids actually are (their various and challenging evolutionary states are both fascinating and horrifying) , I automatically found every uprade which was very rewarding. The map and general presentation is beautiful and feels very authentic and mysterious.
The late game or let’s say Samus' final rampage completely changes the pace of the adventure and really lets you show off all the weapons and skills you have gained on your journey.
The plot twist at the end made me tear up and I will boldly claim that Moon Studios have been paying a huge homage to this narrative in "Ori and the Blind Forest".
It's the perfect Gameboy game. Anybody who does not believe me, please turn on your switch, print out the map and let the great space genocide begin!

This little Gameboy game fucks hard

Wonderful atmosphere and environmental storytelling, especially given hardware limitations