After the landmark Metroid on the NES (1986), Nintendo went about making a sequel. Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991) was the rather disappointing result.
The Game Boy was a huge hit, so it’s no surprise the Japanese developer wanted to shift some major franchises over to it (such as with that plumber dude, which resulted in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins).
But with the limitations of the Game Boy, we guess Metroid couldn’t really live up to heady expectations. Damn and blast!
Metroid II: The Return of Samus (in black and white)
Metroid II was directed by Nintendo’s Hiroji Kiyotake and Hiroyuki Kimura (rather than game design genius Shigeru Miyamoto), which kind of shows in how the game plays out.
The lack of a map (so integral to any Metroidvania experience) was common back then, but frustrating now. But the main issue we have with the game is it’s a bit dull. It lacks the sense of nervy atmospherics other Metroid games create.
The result is Metroid II tends to be thought of as the weakest entry in this storied series.
Not that Nintendo R&D1 didn’t try. As Metroid II follows on from the plot of the first Metroid (steeped as it was in Ridley Scott’s Alien) and involves battling Space Pirates and alien beings called Metroids.
With the technological limitations of the Game Boy, we’re thinking it probably wasn’t best to try a Metroid game this early on with handheld technological.
But the bleeps and bloops are all there. And it moves along at a solid pace—as you can see in the Metroid II’s opening moments.
The Metroid games are about muscle memory and remembering areas of the open map to travel as you power-up with new weapons. That’s all there in Metroid II, but it is all just a bit curiously flat.
Considering Nintendo followed this up with the iconic Super Metroid (1994), which is one of the best games ever, is something at least. Metroid II laid down the foundations for the SNES entry. For that, it did at least have a mighty purpose.
To give the game a new burst of live, Nintendo and MercurySteam remade the game in time for a 2017 launch. This became Metroid: Samus Returns and launched on the 3DS.
This met with excellent reviews and has helped add new life into a game that was looking a little worse for wear.
We’re not usually in favour of going back and updating retro games with fancy HD stuff, as so many older titles are still fantastic as they are.
But Metroid II has benefited enormously from the upgrade.
Although Nintendo just added the original to the Switch’s new Game Boy library of titles to play. Which has allowed everyone who didn’t get the game in 1991 to relive its strange mediocrity and boring level design.
We don’t want to end on a Debby Downer, so let’s just say make sure you get the outstanding Metroid Dread (2021) over this any day.