Why Metroid II: Return of Samus is Way Overdue for a Remake

Metroid: Samus Returns should've been in our laps over a decade ago, but better late than never.

Analysis by Nadia Oxford, .

When Nintendo revised the original Metroid and released the upgrade as Metroid Zero Mission in 2004, the world at large assumed Metroid II: Return of Samus was up next for a Game Boy Advance facelift.

We waited patiently.

And waited.

And waited.

Well, we're all 13 years older, but the time has arrived: Our Metroid II remake is coming for the Nintendo 3DS under the name Metroid: Samus Returns. Samus is plunging back into SR388's hostile tunnels to incinerate the soul-sucking Metroid threat at its roots. For some of us, the Nintendo 3DS adventure will be a return. For many others, it'll be a maiden voyage. If that's the case for you, don't bring along any clothes you're particularly fond of. The sulphuric atmosphere will liquify them in no time.

Nintendo's brief trailer for Metroid Prime 4 caused quite a stir, but there's no small amount of excitement around Samus Returns. There is, however, some apprehension: The game's being developed by MercurySteam, whose re-invention of the Castlevania series is a mixed bag at best. Still, Metroid II: Return of Samus is a solid game hobbled by technical limitations of the time and a few easily-fixed design flaws. If Nintendo keeps a watchful eye on its work like it always does, I don't think Samus Returns will give fans a reason to raise their pitchforks and call for MercurySteam's staff to be fed to the Metroids.

Heck, we already have proof that Metroid II is a top-notch platforming / adventure game when you apply obvious fixes like a mapping system and offer more opportunities for hunting and exploration. Last year, the "Another Metroid 2 Remake" (AM2R) retooled the original Metroid II Zero Mission-style. It's a work of art, and you should play it – if you can find the executable file. Nintendo ordered a cease-and-desist on AM2R, but not until the game was released in the wild, so you should be able to find it if you're so-inclined. Like the truth, it's out there.

Science has already proven the world benefits from a Metroid II remake.

Metroid II: Return of Samus may be the last Metroid game in dire need of an overhaul (though Other M is up for debate), and there are several good reasons why fans are excited to frag the Metroid Queen in an airier setting:

Metroid II: Return of Samus is built on an interesting idea that encourages exploration, but it translates poorly to the Game Boy's monochrome screen

The original Metroid on NES has some repetitive areas and enemies, but Zebes is a veritable rainbow of biological diversity compared to SR388 on the Game Boy. Aside from Samus' large, detailed sprite and the cool designs for the evolved Metroids, Metroid II's graphics are flat and featureless, and areas lack defining characteristics.

Your goal in Metroid II is to go deeper and deeper into SR388 to destroy the Metroid queen seething in its core. I still like this idea: Metroid is traditionally a series that asks you to plunge into a planet's depths, but Metroid II's environment becomes noticeably more dangerous and oppressive as you do so. The small alpha Metroids that hatch near the planet's surface become a distant memory by the time you start tussling with zeta Metroids closer to the core.

This Chozo in the black chamber is totally different from the other Chozo in the other black chamber.

Metroid: Samus Returns should be able to add more atmosphere and distinguishing markers to the places Samus visits, which will make exploring SR388 more interesting, but no less nerve-wracking.

The overarching story for Metroid involves Metroid II's hatchling, and now players can experience it first-hand

If the first Metroid game is brought to you buy Aliens, then Metroid II is brought to you by Ender's Game. After purging SR288 of Metroids, Samus keeps one hatchling who mistakes it for its mother. Samus takes her role as a surrogate mom to a space-parasite a little more seriously in some games versus others, but there's no denying the hatchling is very important to the Metroid series' storyline. The Space Pirates successfully wrench it away from the good guys in Super Metroid, it indirectly saves Samus' life in Metroid Fusion, and so on. Metroid: Samus Returns will give players a chance to see (or remember) how Samus first met her gelatinous bundle of joy.

Metroid II has an interesting setting, and it provides a good opportunity for Yoshio Sakamoto to tell a compelling story

Sakamoto kind of blew it with the story for Metroid: Other M, but not all of his attempts at giving Samus turned out badly. He seemingly has trouble trusting himself to do "more with less," leading to situations where Samus opens her mouth and her guts come pouring out while the player furiously mashes the "A" button to little avail.

Sakamoto's already confirmed the story for Samus Returns hovers in the background and helps set up the game's atmosphere. In other words, we can probably expect it to be less chatty than Metroid: Other M and more reliant on background visuals, like Metroid Zero Mission. And before you say "That's boring," consider the "sketch" we glimpse at the end of the game, clearly made by a very young Samus of herself and her Chozo guardians. Sometimes a single still frame is worth a thousand cutscenes.

Also, kid Samus literally defaced a holy monument to make this.

Metroid II has an interesting soundtrack that will translate well to more sophisticated hardware

Whereas the first Metroid has classic tunes that are still well-loved and referenced by the gaming community, Metroid II: Return of Samus goes for a more minimalistic soundtrack. Outside of the excellent music that kicks off your adventure on the surface of SR388, most of Metroid II's soundtrack is comprised of ambient sounds. Problem is, though the Game Boy has a great little sound chip, it can only do so much. Most of that ambience drips forth in weird bleeps and boops.

Thankfully, the 3DS is well-equipped to weave those beeps into something more substantial. Again, the remastered soundtrack for AM2R retools Metroid II's vision material without stripping away its soul.

"I will enter the big mouth." [Seconds later] "A smooth bird is eating me."

Unlike the original Metroid II, Samus Returns will almost certainly have an in-game map

Praise the Mother of all Chozos, whomever she may be. Apparently Chozo can't reproduce, but I'm still certain she's the one to thank for the fact I'll no longer have to stumble blindly around SR388.

Defenders for Metroid II's map-free state claim that getting around SR388 is easy because "all you need to do is keep heading downward," but it's not that simple. Instead of traditional road blocks, there's a lava-barrier that lowers whenever you defeat a Metroid, which opens more areas to explore. That's fine, except finding freshly-revealed areas is difficult without a map and without any environmental indicators to let you know where you are. "Head back to the red cavern filled with purple acid" is a more useful instruction than "head back to the place with the black background and grey stones. No, the other one."

Long story short, map = good. Don't make me stagger around SR388 like an old lady who got separated from her intergalactic tour group.

(Thanks to Crazy Boris for the always-relevant gif)


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Comments 14

  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #1 Wellman2nd 8 months ago
    I always wanted a Metroid 2 remake. Although my dream version would be in first person, Prime style with moments of actual hunting or being hunted by the planets Metroid and other life forms. I will take the traditional flavor all the same so long as it does not suck.
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #2 Godots17thCup 8 months ago
    It's a small feature that's pretty common these days, but I'm still kind of excited that you'll be able to pin the map in this game. As a somewhat forgetful dope, I've been wanting to do that in a Metroid game for ages.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #3 brionfoulke91 8 months ago
    Counter-point: I like that Metroid 2 doesn't have a map. It actually works well for the game.

    When Super Metroid first came along and brought with it that mapping system, of course it was exciting. We had never had that before, so the convenience it added to exploration was exciting. But then we got addicted to that mapping system and it started appearing in every Metroid game, or Metroid-like. And that is a problem, because while a mapping system has some big pros, (convenience) it also has a big con: it tends to really water down the feeling of exploration.

    Don't believe me? Exhibit A: Souls series. One of the big "hidden" reasons people love those games is the lack of map. In most 3D games you spend a lot of your time staring at the mini-map, but Souls did away with that and suddenly gamers were forced to actually explore the world. One big reason exploration is exciting is the lack of information. Starting into a passage and not knowing where it goes... the possiblity of getting lost. Trying to remember the layout of the land. These things are all really important aspects of what makes exploration exciting.

    Of course, the Souls games are impeccably designed so that you are able to generally learn the layout and not get too lost. I would argue that the best Metroid games are designed this way too. In Super Metroid you have that shiny map, but how much do you really need it? I would argue you don't need it as much as you think you do. The map design does a good job of making various areas feel distinct. Now arguably, Metroid 2 isn't able to do this as well because it is a gameboy game and every area looks grey. But it doesn't do a bad job either. The game has many landmarks and interesting level designs, like the part that is mostly composed of vertical corridors, or the huge caves that have little horizontal corridors connecting them, or the places where you can crawl through tubes to get from one area to another.

    What I'm saying is this: if a game is well designed, it doesn't really need a map. I don't hate maps, I loved the mapping system in Super Metroid as much as anyone else because it was new and exciting. But every modern Metroid-like game uses the same mapping system and it's boring now. That Souls-like feeling of exploring an area using your mind, without the crutch of a map, is completely absent from modern Metroid-likes. That's a huge problem. Not every game should be the same. The convenience of maps is nice, but the excitement of mapless exploration is also important.

    I'd love to see a new Metroid-style game that goes mapless. Metroid-likes are real common now, and they all tend to feel the same... they lack that excitement that the original Metroid games had. I hope that comes back, someday!
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #4 VotesForCows 8 months ago
    Never really played a Metroid game, bar a few minutes of Prime 3 that I really didn't enjoy. But looking forward to this - looks like its a game with some style about it.
    @brionfoulke91 You make an interesting point. Generally speaking, the less time I spend in menus and maps the better.
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  • Avatar for photoboy #5 photoboy 8 months ago
    I'm still amazed I managed to beat Metroid II back in the day. I've revisited it a few times over the years and I very quickly get completely lost, I've no idea how I managed to find all the Metroids without a map. I must have been much more patient back then.

    I do still wish this game was coming to the Switch, I'm not sure why Nintendo are so reticent about making 2D Metroid games in general or bringing them to their main consoles.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #6 Monkey-Tamer 8 months ago
    Metroid 2 was amazing for its time, but hasn't aged well. Even with a Super Gameboy offering enhancements it got blown out of the water by Super Metroid, and has remained the game we all know of but rarely talk about. It was a product of its time, which unfortunately resulted in a stunted vision. I'm looking forward to its revival, and I hope Nintendo played AMR2 and learned from it.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #7 cldmstrsn 8 months ago
    @VotesForCows dude you need to play Super Metroid stat! If you enjoyed SoTN then you will love most dude scrolling Metroids.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #8 VotesForCows 8 months ago
    @cldmstrsn I've got that lined up to play soon actually, albeit on my Raspberry Pi (I don't currently own a Nintendo system, but getting the new 2DS soon).

    Also, 'dude scrolling' games sound awesome, big improvement over the more traditional 'side scrolling' :)
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #9 cldmstrsn 8 months ago
    @VotesForCows that's what I get for using my phone for comments!
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #10 AstroDemon 8 months ago
    Today, I just played through the black and white Gameboy version on my 3DS and I think it still holds up pretty well.

    In a new game, I'd rather see a new 2-D Metroid experience, personally, but I'll take what I can get.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #11 NiceGuyNeon 8 months ago
    @VotesForCows out of the Prime trilogy 3 was the weakest by far.

    I actually started with the Prime trilogy and then moved to the main 2D entries after. Despite that fact I can say with certainty that Super Metroid, Zero Mission, and Metroid Fusion are all better than Prime 2 and 3. The original game really stands out though. But I'd still put Super Metroid over it.

    You should definitely check out one of the 2D releases or the first Prime if you're curious about the series.
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  • Avatar for vincentgoodwin88 #12 vincentgoodwin88 8 months ago
    @VotesForCows - Super Metroid is also available on the "new" line of 3DS/2DS systems.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #13 VotesForCows 8 months ago
    @vincentgoodwin88 Excellent, I always forget that the Nintendo e-store is a real thing!
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  • Avatar for Outrider #14 Outrider 8 months ago
    Beyond Metroid 2, I'm surprised Nintendo hasn't gone a similar remake route with Zelda II. The Zelda series is easily one of Nintendo's most popular series and Zelda II is notoriously a bit of a oddball in the series. I would have loved to see a Zero Mission-style remake of Zelda II that smooths out the rough parts. I actually think it's a pretty good game with a few major issues that make the game suffer. (Still haven't beaten it, though I got to Thunderbird back on the Wii virtual console. I need to try playing it again sometime soon on 3DS with save states enabled so I can actually get to the boss in a reasonably healthy state.)
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