AM2R: RETURN OF SAMUS
Start Date: August 7, 2016
End Date: August 13, 2016
AM2R stands for “Another Metroid 2 Remake,” and true to its name, this is a fan-created remake of the notoriously crappy 1991 Game Boy game Metroid II: Return of Samus. After being in development for years, the game was finally released on August 6th. Unlike a lot of other people, I hadn’t been following the project’s development, so it was very lucky that I happened to read about it on its release date and immediately download it. The reason I consider myself lucky is because the game has since been eradicated from the internet after receiving a takedown notice from Nintendo.
Some people have gotten pissed at Nintendo for this, but I actually think they handled the situation in a remarkably generous manner. This game’s development was long and very public, and Nintendo could have easily squashed it before it was even finished. Instead, they waited for it to actually come out and find its way onto torrent sites before they took action. Considering the fact that Metroid II is available for sale on the eShop, and this game provides a superior experience for free, they could have been way more aggressive about this. I applaud them for their approach here, but then again I’m a huge Nintendo fanboy, so feel free to draw your own conclusions.
When I called AM2R a superior experience when compared to the original game, I wasn’t kidding. Metroid II is widely thought of as a dark spot in the franchise’s history. It wasn’t an awful game, but the technical limitations of the Game Boy thoroughly ruined any potential it might have had. There was no map, the locations all looked bland and identical, sprites were way too big for the screen, and it was pretty much just an all-around gimped version of Metroid. The remake takes the basic skeleton of the game, and adds modern flourishes which make playing through it less of a bland, agitating nightmare, and more of an experience on par with Super Metroid or Zero Mission. It also looks much, much prettier:
I owned the original Metroid II both on my Game Boy as a child, and – because I’m a fucking sucker – as a Virtual Console download on my 3DS. I don’t think I’ve ever played it more than a half hour before throwing my hands up in utter frustration. So I dove right into AM2R, excited by the prospect of finally beating Metroid II without having to, y’know, actually play Metroid II.
And it was great! The structure of Metroid II is a little bit different than other games in the franchise – it’s kind of like an extended scavenger hunt, where the player must hunt down and destroy a set number of Metroids within the game world. At first, you’re primarily killing typical jellyfish-like Metroids, but before long you start to come across advanced forms of the creature, such as the Omega Metroid:
Encounters with these guys make up the majority of what could be considered the game’s “boss fights,” which is one of the only disappointing elements of AM2R. Not only does it get repetitive to battle the same monster over and over again, but the rooms all seem to have a convenient little hidey-hole, where you can camp out and attack the Metroid without taking much damage yourself. I am not sure if these spots were included intentionally or not, but they pretty much erased any challenge that might have existed in these fights. Every time I entered a room with an Omega Metroid, I just looked for the hiding spot and stuck there like glue until I won the battle.
However, there are a handful of other, unique boss battles in the game, most of which are awesome and creative enough to make up for the endless flow of Metroid encounters. I am not sure if these bosses were included in the original Metroid II or if they’re wholly original creations, but they’re fucking fantastic either way. I especially loved The Tester:
Aside from the bosses, this was a fairly typical Metroid game, focused on exploring, discovering new abilities, and then exploring more. Unlike the original game’s array of identical grey passageways, the areas in this game are designed to resemble the look of later, better games in the series. That is to say, they are all distinct, memorable, and lovely to look at.
AM2R does more than just imitate other games, though. There are a few ideas in here that I’ve never seen in a Metroid game before. My favorite was a little segment where Samus remotely controls a little robot, making it pick up power bombs and blast open a new path.
Again, I’m not sure if this concept was in the original game, but I really, really doubt it. And if it’s appeared in any other Metroid title, I guess I don’t remember it. So until I find a reason to do otherwise, I’m giving full credit for this to AM2R‘s developers!
Anyway, after a couple of days and a shockingly easy battle against the Queen Metroid, I beat the game. Here are my stats:
Nine hours of enjoyable playtime is a pretty hefty experience for a free fan game, and I’m very glad I downloaded this when I did. AM2R is way less available than it was when I grabbed it, but if you make like Samus and go exploring in the subterranean caverns of the internet, I bet you’ll eventually find it. And if you’re a Metroid fan, you really should.