“Metroid II: Return of Samus” was released for Game Boy as the sequel to “Metroid”, and eventually the prelude when “Super Metroid” was announced. It is a classic Metroid game loved by fans (now available as a Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS) and under MercurySteam’s development, we were given an updated, reimagined version. “Metroid: Samus Returns” brings the Samus we knew back with all her glory, and more.
In “Samus Returns,” we play as Samus Aran once again with a 2D Metroid style gameplay where you get to explore SR388, find upgrades, and destroy the Metroid threat. Samus is more athletic compared to her Game Boy incarnation, with her movement more agile, flexible aiming, and ability to grab ledges (a trait passed on since “Metroid Fusion”).
She also came to the planet with new features to help her mission. The Melee Counter allows her to backhand enemies (after a flash indicator) with her Arm Cannon and ready a Beam shot for the kill. Firing the Beam will usually kill them, but you may need to use other methods for the finishing blow. It can also be used to knock enemies back and deflect some projectiles. Free Aim Mode allows her to aim in any direction with a laser sight to help, using three colors to indicate whether you’re in sight of something or not. The laser sight even works on enemies and objects off-screen.
The Aeion Abilities are four new powers that Samus will use to help her mission. The first ability is Scan Pulse which records a portion of an Area map with items and hazards indicated, so you don’t run into a fiery room without a Varia Suit like in “Other M”. Lighting Armor adds an electric shield that damages enemies on contact and powers up your Melee Counter. Beam Burst increases the Beam attack power and adds rapid-fire shots. This ability only uses the Primary Beam and can’t be coupled with the Ice Beam (a separate weapon). Finally, Phase Drift slows time around Samus to slow down fast enemies or quick-moving platforms, though it doesn’t slow it down enough for trial and error on puzzles.
As you run around SR388 to find Metroids, with the help of the Metroid Radar, you’ll find that those parasites are not like their Game Boy incarnation, as they have a few new methods to kill you. To navigate around the planet and its depth the touch screen acts as a map (among other functions while paused). You could also put pins on the Area Maps if you find a spot of interest (something I should be doing).
Samus will eventually come across stations scattered across the ruins to make the job more manageable. These stations include Recharge Stations for Energy and Ammo (Separate), Save Stations that are out of harm’s reach (no save rooms, just like the original), Elevators to access different levels and Areas, and Teleporters that send you to other platforms you’ve activated elsewhere (they are similar to Post-SotN Castlevania games).
To progress into the lower parts of SR388 you need to exterminate the Metroids and collect their DNA to put into Chozo Seals. These Seals are the release mechanisms that lower the hazardous liquid as you upload the DNA strains. However, if you could only find one or two, then the Chozo Seal will mark down the location of a Metroid’s previous shell. Of course, there are more than just Metroids to deal with as SR388 has plenty of threats, both of old and new.
Needless to say, the graphics in the remake are overhauled when compared to “Return of Samus”. I have noticed some slow frame rates with my original model Nintendo 3DS, but this is limited during elevators and teleporting scenes and one other sector of an area. Other than those instances the frame rate is pretty good. Instead of having one large map like in “Return of Samus” SR388 has different environments within its depths. Among the different biomes you’ll come across Chozo ruins among the Areas you’ll explore, adding to the ominous design of the environments. And since this is a 2.5D game the backgrounds add more to the Areas, giving them more depth and some life with animations going on in the back.
There are some enemies from the original that got the remastered treatment with new 3D models along with a few other additions. Some of these creatures have been recolored but it’s to show they’re a bit tougher. As for the Metroids, they resemble their Game Boy incarnations but have a more menacing look with their new polygon models and feral-based animations. And Samus Aran not only looks great, but her Power Suit resembles the older designs. Along with some new lighting effects, it looks slick and her animations make it look flexible. She also has a Fusion Suit that, despite a few changes, looks spot on. Sadly this is only available if you’re one of those Amiibo collectors.
The sound effects are really good in “Samus Returns” with different alien and Metroid cries as well as simple effects like foot steps from running and clunking from getting hit by an enemy. Samus’s sound effects are very similar from those from her past 2D titles. Her Game Over jingle from “Metroid” was also brought back for the game. And when Samus is submerged under water, all the sounds have an underwater muffle filter, which is a neat effect. As for the music, it has ominous ambient tracks going for it, which is perfect for a Metroid game since you’re supposed to feel uneasy when exploring alien planets (also considering that this series was based on Ridley Scott films). You’ll also hear some remastered tracks if you have a good ear.
The controls aren’t customizable, but they are very user-friendly. Everything is accessible and spread out nicely with the Touch Screen helping out with the Weapon Type selection. Again, Samus is more agile compared to her Game Boy counterpart, and her movement is very fluid. Wall jumping is also back, and it is much easier to pull off. It’ll take some practice to time the Melee Counter just right, but it can become second nature. The Grapple Beam makes a return as well, but you don’t necessarily need to select it. You can use Free Aim Mode to point at a grapple point (which the laser sight will turn blue) and hit the fire button to grapple onto it. This makes it easier until you run into a hasty situation where you need to select it.
After spending some hours with “Metroid: Samus Returns” (I won’t be getting the good ending) I have to say MercurySteam developed a fantastic comeback for 2D Metroid games. It improved a bit from “Return of Samus” as well as reimagined it to fit with the theme of the original 2D series. I haven’t played “AM2R” so I can’t make a comparison between the two, but I could say that it is still unfortunate that it had to be taken down. From the looks of it, however, I think the “AM2R” creator, Doctor M64, seems to be interested in “Samus Returns”.
The only real sin with this game is the Amiibo goodies that can only be unlocked with those figures. It’s not as bad as paying for individual locked content since you can reuse Amiibos for other titles but for something as amazing as this game it’s kind of disappointing that you have to hunt down a Metroid for exclusive “Metroid Fusion” fanservice wrapped in the hardest difficulty the game has to offer.
+ A return to 2D Metroid gameplay with new features added to the “Metroid II” story.
+ The brand-new presentation adds to SR388 and adds a bit of fan service.
+ Improves “Metroid II: Return of Samus” while staying true to the Metroid brand.
– Some frame rate slowdowns in some points.
– Amiibo locked content.
Replay value: 4/5
“Metroid: Samus Returns” throws a nod to its Game Boy incarnation and has rekindled some faith with the Metroid franchise (at least for me). Furthermore, in the near future, there will be a new Metroid Prime game heading to the Nintendo Switch. However, we have no details about it (at least not for now). Nevertheless, with “Samus Returns” being faithful to the franchise, we can assume that, whatever happens, Samus is back on the job, and she’ll be seeing you on the next mission.
Title: Metroid: Samus Returns
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Resolution: 800 x 240/320 x 240
Release date: 2017-09-15
Spent time: 9+ hours
Average grade internationally: 89.05% Gamerankings.com
PEGI/ESRB age rating: PEGI7+/Everyone 10+
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
More by David Lucas: