Metroid - Samus Returns (Part 1) - A Metroid II Remake
By Brian • 25 April 2022
- Nintendo 3DS
- This isn't the only Metroid II remake in existence. Hmm....
I played Metroid II: Return of Samus on Game Boy once, long ago. I liked it, but I cannot claim it ranks among my favorite Metroid games. To be honest, I think the game overwhelmed me at the time. While I could navigate the corridors of planet Zebes from the original Metroid on NES with some degree of comfort, the Game Boy’s smaller screen created a truly claustrophobic experience for Samus and me on her mission to infiltrate the metroids’ homeworld, planet SR-388, and wipe them out. Of course, I was also too lazy and impatient and teenaged to draw my own maps, so I likely spent the majority of my time with Metroid II hopelessly lost and frustrated. I beat it, but I remember getting the worst ending, so it must have taken me quite a while. I suspect that if I played Metroid II again today, with patience, better taste, and more appreciation for the suspenseful elements of the series, my opinion might change for the better. I guess I ought to grab it from the 3DS eShop before it’s too late.
In the meantime, lucky for me and my less-than-stellar take on Metroid II, a remake for Nintendo 3DS, known as Metroid: Samus Returns, released in 2017, some 26 years after its inspiration. Slobbering, unkempt Metroid fans burst from our hibernatory cocoons at the chance to play a new 2D Metroid game for the first time since 2004’s Metroid: Zero Mission.
True to form, it took me almost an extra five years to get around to it. In my defense, I bought Samus Returns in 2018, intending to play it on a plane ride to visit Craig and his wife, but I wasn’t in the right headspace at the time, finding myself knee-deep in a deranged (but ultimately successful!) attempt to beat Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse with all the optional secondary characters and taking all possible branching paths. That was quite an undertaking, so trying to start a new Metroid game in the middle of it didn’t stick. After that, I just, y’know, forgot about it for another four years.
Fast-forward to 2021, and the release of Metroid Dread, the latest 2D Metroid installment. Okay, no more excuses. With Dread waiting in the wings, Samus Returns needs my undivided attention, at last.
[I don’t have a means of capturing screenshots from my 3DS, so apologies in advance for the stock imagery.]
Samus Returns has some new features for a 2D Metroid game that I know I’m going to struggle to remember. First, there’s the parry, which is a melee counter-attack which, if timed correctly, can be used to deflect the attacks of charging or swooping enemies. The parry also briefly stuns said enemies, leaving them vulnerable to a volley of beams or missiles. I have a feeling the parry is going to be a critical part of the important fights in the game, and that I am going to forget it’s available and be unable to figure out how to win the fights.
Secondly, the scan pulse reveals breakable blocks in an area for a limited time. This is a handy convenience feature that eliminates the need to bomb every block in a room to find hidden passages. Instead, activate scan pulse, listen for the tone that a breakable block is nearby, and look for the pulsing highlights on the appropriate blocks. If you’re a particularly hardcore wall-bomber or Metroid traditionalist, you probably won’t like this feature, but I welcome it as a time-saver.
Lastly, the ability to free-aim allows Samus to fire in 360 degrees. I like this, too, but I haven’t played my 3DS in such a long time that I’m struggling to readjust to the circle pad. It provides fluid and precision aiming, but I have trouble getting it to aim exactly where I want. Precise, but not accurate.
But, besides my terrible aim, I’m off to a pretty good start. After a successful traversal of SR-388’s surface, I dove into a cave and, with some light exploration and resistance from the natives, I have the Morph Ball, the Charge Beam, and my first energy tank. I also defeated my first alpha metroid, an evolved form of a regular metroid, which was no small task. As I suspected, the parry was an important means of speeding up the fight, as a well-timed parry opens up the opportunity to plug the alpha metroid with a half-dozen missiles in one salvo. I was able to sneak in a few extra missiles periodically, but stunning the metroid with a parry seemed my best bet for victory. That being said, the parries were difficult to time—the metroid swoops in, and I have to smack them in the head at just the right moment to stun them and avoid taking a hit.
One of the gimmicks of Samus Returns (and Metroid II, its source material) is that here on the metroids’ homeworld of SR-388, metroids molt and mutate into more evolved versions of themselves. However, I think it’s arguable that the evolved metroids are less dangerous than their vanilla counterparts. For example, a regular metroid can only be defeated if frozen with the ice beam, then pelted with missiles. Without an ice beam, the best option is to run (if you can). The evolved metroids, on the other hand, have weak spots always vulnerable to missiles—no ice beam required. It’s also arguable that their attacks are not as dangerous or terrifying as a vanilla metroid’s ability to latch on and suck all the life out of its prey, and can only be dislodged with great difficulty. I guess it’s a matter of opinion, but if it were up to me, I’d rather take my chances with these evolved metroids than the originals. Yikes.
I got discouraged, briefly, when I found some blocks that appeared to only be breakable with bombs, which I didn’t have, yet. But, then I found the bombs like thirty seconds later, so my discouragement was short-lived. That being said, I have discovered a number of other gates I cannot penetrate, including some blue crystals, some kind of block with a shining red light in it, and a big purple blob with three eyes covering a door. Hm, that last one sounds like a job for the Spazer, a weapon that fires three beams simultaneously. But I don’t have a Spazer, so a fat lot of good that’s doing me!
Oh, I also discovered a hot room that I can’t enter without losing energy. I’m gonna need a Varia suit to take care of business in there. The Metroid series tropes are on full display, and I am here for them.
At this point, I’ve cleared the Surface area and Area 1, and I find myself near the Area 2 elevator. Nearby, there are some blocks that require Screw Attack to break, and there’s a door with some kind of pulsing blob attached to it that’s holding a big rock in front of it. Okay. I apparently don’t have what it takes to open this door, yet. But, the good news is that I have found one or two teleport stations, so I can backtrack to this door pretty easily when the time is right. Fast travel in a Metroid game?! These are truly extraordinary times.
My biggest takeaway thus far as I close out this first entry on Samus Returns? The enemies here on SR-388 are absolutely beating the stuffing out of me in the early game. Flying lizards, mutant frogs, burrowing things, metroids?! All ping-ponging me from one end of the caverns to the other. I have died so many times, already more times than I have died in a single playthrough of any Metroid game in years, and I’m not even very far into the game. Am I being careless, or is Samus Returns just harder than most Metroid games? Getting this parrying right is proving to be even more essential than I initially thought. The good news is that I haven’t forgotten about it nearly as often as I expected. Is this proof of good game design? To be continued….