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Metroid II: Return of Samus

Developer / Publisher: Nintendo
November 1991
Metroid II: Return of Samus - cover art
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3.11 / 5.0
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357 Ratings / 2 Reviews
#2,547 All-time
#38 for 1991
Bounty hunter Samus Aran returns to wipe out the Metroid threat once and for all by targeting their native planet, SR388.
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1991 Nintendo  
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XNA 0 45496 73019 2 DMG-ME-USA
1992 Nintendo  
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ES DMG-ME-ESP-1
1992 Nintendo  
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JP 4 902370 501469 DMG-MEA
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Metroid II: Return of Samus Players Choice Million Seller
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XNA 0 45496 73019 2 DMG-ME-USA-1
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Metroid’s debut on the NES possessed plenty of unique and admirable elements, hence why it has influenced countless subsequent video games since its release. However, I grant the first Metroid game much less clemency than its fellow Nintendo icons during their freshmen years because navigating through the hostile hedge maze of an alien planet was too absurdly rigorous a task while being rendered in 8-bit graphics. It’s a brilliant idea whose execution in this vestigial era of gaming couldn’t possibly have been feasible, which is probably what inspired so many imitators to replicate its design philosophy when the gaming hardware could emulate it effectively. Because I’m already adamantly critical of a Metroid game on the NES, you can imagine why I’ve avoided its sequel on the original Gameboy like the plague. If Metroid on the NES is aggravatingly primitive as is, imagine how it would be downscaled on a handheld. It’s something I’ve shuttered to comprehend for some time now. However, Metroid II: Return of Samus on the original Gameboy is still an essential piece of the franchise’s evolutionary history, so I feel obligated not to eschew it from my gaming repertoire. Upon playing a game akin to eating my Brussels sprouts, I was surprised to find more positive aspects of Metroid II than I initially anticipated. Do these additions and rearrangements make Metroid II more pleasant than its console predecessor? Uh…

As detailed in the game’s manual, Metroid II is a direct sequel to the original Metroid in that its narrative follows the events of the first game when Samus defeated Mother Brain on Zebes. Now, the Galactic Federation is taking the fight to the metroid’s home planet of SR388 to exterminate the intergalactic parasites, ensuring that the dastardly Space Pirates will never harness their deadly biological properties ever again. However, upon storming the hive, an entire fleet of Federation mercenaries goes missing. Evidently, not even a gang of men can be relied on to do a woman’s job, so the Federation assigns Samus the intrepid mission of causing the metroid’s abrupt extinction. Future Metroid games would utilize the premise of invading an enemy hive as a climactic point, but Metroid II revels in the thrill of infiltration for the duration of the game. Because entering the heart of the threat is more of an intimate attack, Metroid II immediately raises the stakes of the narrative compared to the previous game.

The first Metroid certainly portrayed the dim nothingness of space effectively with its blank, black backgrounds setting the scene, whether it was an intentional artistic display from the developers or an inadvertent advantage of the NES’s primitiveness. At least the unseeable abyss of the backgrounds was contrasted with a pleasantly diverse color palette that gave the foregrounds their discernibility. Little known fact about the original Gameboy model, the handheld was so rudimentary that it could not support colors, so every game was rendered in stark black and white like the golden age of Hollywood. While the lack of colorization wouldn’t necessarily impact a Mario or Zelda game on the go, Metroid suffers completely. Contrasting a completely black background with white amongst grainy shades of more black turns any game into a graphical slurry thick as pea soup. Some later versions of Metroid II provide color where the foreground of SR388 is a cool blue, with Samus sporting her trademark red power suit with tinges of yellow. Still, the improved color scheme is only marginally less monochromatic than its original in black and white or the other version where it is shaded in a blanched, greenish-brown. To compensate for the lack of graphical discernibility, Metroid II’s camera perspective for the player is zoomed in to the point where it feels as if Samus’s body takes up half of the screen. I appreciate the consideration that Samus wouldn’t be sighted as easily from afar in black and white, but it’s a tad too close for my comfort threshold.

Considering that Metroid II couldn’t possibly stand up as a bonafide sequel to the NES Metroid with graphical enhancements, the developers sure did attempt to amend the awkward regression of hardware with several quality-of-life enhancements. Then again, the first Metroid was in desperate need of these enhancements anyway, so they were ultimately still a necessity even if Metroid’s sequel was on the same system. Firstly, the ability to aim Samus’s blaster in more directions than horizontally and vertically is a blessing. With a flexible dexterity that allows Samus to aim downward in the air, Samus is much less vulnerable and will take less unfair damage because the blind spot has been rectified. Acquiring energy tanks and missile upgrades will no longer involve borderline sequence breaking, although the paths to a number of them will sometimes be behind illusory walls like a number of upgrades throughout the games of this era. Most importantly, save stations are strewn aplenty as well as places to replenish health and missile ammunition, mitigating the need for an excruciating grinding session shooting at enemies to stave off dying and reverting all the way back to the beginning (which is now defined as where Samus parks her ship). If the Gameboy could implement a functional save feature, what’s the excuse for the NES rarely offering one? Outside of my general delight that all of these features heightened Metroid II’s accessibility, what surprised me was how many of Metroid’s power-ups made their debut here. The Spider Ball climbs up the coarse terrain of the metroid’s home planet as smoothly as seen in other Metroid iterations, and the same goes for the Spring Ball that jumpstarts Samus in ball form as sprightly as a reflex test. I had no idea that something as dangerous and erratic as the Screwattack could be implemented onto something as fragile and unsophisticated as the Gameboy but nevertheless, Samus is able to spin herself airborne with deadly energy to her heart’s content. The new spazer and plasma beams accompany the returning ice and wave beams, but Metroid II continues the problem from the previous game in that these beams cannot be alternated in an inventory of sorts.

You know what other feature Metroid II continues to omit? In all their wisdom and experience, Nintendo still did not find a map to be an indispensable facet of their exploration-intensive IP with cramped corridors galore and a smattering of secret upgrades. If I were on the decision board, I’d heavily protest. The visually muted depiction of this (literally) uncharted planet is really an insult to injury. Also, to compound how egregious this glaring oversight is, SR388’s world here is at least three times larger than Zebes. Have fun trying not to struggle at every waking moment trying to find your position in relation to where you’re intended to go. While the exclusion of a map is still just as unacceptable, at least SR388 is constructed a bit more prudently than the series of stairs and hallways that was Zebes. SB388 is organized incrementally, meaning that the entirety of one section has to be completed in order to proceed to the next one. Once everything is cleared out, the game gives them an indication to move onward: shaking the map like an earthquake, signifying that another section has been unearthed. Still, not providing a map for this instance renders this neat progression point moot because it’s incredibly unclear where the next area is.

Constantly scrambling to find the next area notwithstanding, how does one progress through the catacombs of the metroid’s home planet? When I stated that Samus’s mission was to eradicate all Metroids from the galaxy, this isn’t merely a narrative catalyst. Forty metroids have hatched from their cocoons like caterpillars and the overarching quest of Metroid II is to eliminate all of them. However, these are not the same jelly-headed brain suckers seen in the first game (and the ones we’ve become familiar with through subsequent titles). The homebound metroid resembles something of an intergalactic hornet, also buzzing around with the aggression of one once they encounter Samus. As Samus continually blasts them to bits, the genome of the metroid species is going to adapt to Samus’s opposition, scrolling down the letters of the Greek alphabet for categorization. The Zeta and Omega metroids that Samus will eventually be forced to contend with will look gnarlier, uncategorizable space monsters. However, their formidability will only prove to be an aesthetic evolution as a few missiles will still be the tried and true formula for this “superior” genetic line of metroids as it was for the Alpha and Gamma ones. Defeating them will always be a facile undertaking, but I cannot proclaim relief for the challenge of finding all of these bastards without a map. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’d scour the map frantically if I missed one. Anytime I eventually found the untouched metroid, I always felt my efforts were due to dumb luck.

It isn’t until the final boss against the Metroid Queen that Metroid II offers something on this planet that Samus won’t be able to gun down in a matter of seconds. This monstrous matriarch isn’t the overwhelming endurance test that Mother Brain proved to be, but its retractable head and screen-spanning spike balls it regurgitates is bound to graze many unknowing players. Instead of a spontaneous self-destruct sequence occurring as a falling action, Samus looks behind the remains of the final boss to find an egg on the verge of hatching. Suddenly, a little metroid hatchling in the classic model appears, but it does not approach Samus with the same hostility as the adult ones Samus has been laying waste to. Samus takes the little guy back to her ship at a leisurely pace, and the process of walking this unexpectedly cute and docile baby metroid like a pet is quite gleeful. It almost gives some perspective on how dangerous the metroids really are despite what the narrative has been feeding us. A nature versus nurture argument, or maybe it turns into a monster when its innocence is inevitably lost somehow.

Was it really necessary to put the sequel to Metroid on the Gameboy? Nintendo’s first console overstayed its welcome far past its commercial peak of the late 1980s well into the next generation, so why couldn’t Metroid II have joined its predecessor on the same system? Metroid II would have benefited greatly from being developed on a more reliable and stable piece of hardware because it should by all means be unequivocally better than the first game with all of its successful advancements. However, the opaque, black-and-white graphics, uncomfortable angle of sight, and no map to reference for progression yet again make Metroid II nauseating. At least some of these issues could've been remedied on a home console. The next game in the Metroid series was when the series definitively joined the primetime of gaming royalty, but it’s a shame to think that it potentially could’ve happened three years sooner if a mechanically inferior Nintendo product didn’t mar Metroid II.
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Erockthestrange 2024-03-31T05:04:49Z
2024-03-31T05:04:49Z
5.5
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Well, what a fool I was for being afraid to play this game after experiencing how much of a miss the original Metroid [メトロイド] was. This in comparison is a dramatically better game, but also still far from perfect.

Let's start with the positives. It improves upon the original in a lot of places and I think that's particularly clear in the overall map and enemy design. It's far more linear and while it makes it far less of a metroidvania than the original, it's at least actually more fun and sensible to traverse now. No more vastly repeating rooms with confusing direction and no more annoying enemy placements to be found here. It also helps that this game has actual save points now! Now I don't have to spawn with 30 health anymore and start from a more fair location when I die. Another thing it does well is the power-ups. Pretty much everything from the original returns here but is done a bit better but there are three new additions I really appreciate. First is the plasma beam, a very fun weapon that is pretty much a precise sniping tool since it kills most enemies instantly. Next is the spider ball, a very surprisingly fun power-up in how much it allows you to explore some hidden or otherwise hard-to-reach areas Finally, the superjump, another fun mobility tool that gives you a lot of control of where you head and probably would be gamebreaking if the game's map was far more open in design. One more thing I want to praise is that, while the aesthetic is arguably worse due to it being on the hardware it's on, it does still maintain a sort of spooky aesthetic with some fun ambient cavern music.

Unfortunately with all these positives, there are a lot of negatives to the point where I don't think I can even comfortably call this a good game just yet. In terms of boss design, this isn't much better than the original with the main strategy being "spam missile until it dies" for pretty much all of them as you inevitably take a lot of damage.. It's not very fun to deal with even at the final boss which at least somewhat requires you to think. Also while the level design does benefit from the linearity a lot now, I still wouldn't call it very good. There are still a lot of secrets that you could easily miss such as an area that happens to have a lot of missile upgrades and an E-tank, some still confusing areas or areas with cheap design like the one long pathway you go to after you've killed all but one Metroid, and some really odd decisions like putting two save points almost next to each other with exactly one enemy in between them.

Overall, definitely more fun than the original but Metroid [メトロイド] still had a long way to go to be considered truly great. I don't really recommend it but considering this is an early GameBoy title that is actually not super short... yeah I think I can get away with saying that it's a solid experience.
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Sothras 2024-01-19T17:49:07Z
2024-01-19T17:49:07Z
3.0
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6.5

The upgrade in controls, enemy design and power ups are enough for any fan of Metroid 1 to play this game. It gets a lot of trash, but for someone that loves the original game, this was a joy to play through. I still appreciate the games where you had to make a map and the atmosphere in this is off the charts. The black and white does get samey, but it’s like you’re playing a lost classic and you just have to give yourself to it. The big downgrade for me is the limitations of the system that make the variety a downgrade from the first game. Otherwise this was a good time.
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FatherMcKenzie 2023-09-18T21:12:30Z
2023-09-18T21:12:30Z
3.0
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Released 5 years after the fact, Metroid II: Return of Samus is a slower and floatier Game Boy sequel that's nevertheless a two-pronged update: One for structure, by replacing the debut's roundabout mystery with more complex areas and a well-defined objective - and the other for gameplay, by adding new combat options and upgrades useful for secret-hunting and platforming alike (e.g. Spider Ball, Space Jump). The result improves upon their model of hostile sci-fi expedition, a slightly more feasible but no less intense effort when compared to the original, only the personality is missing.
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Blah_Blee 2021-10-06T18:06:48Z
2021-10-06T18:06:48Z
6 /10
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Metroid originally wasn't a huge hit for Nintendo, it had moderately decent sales, but was nowhere near the cashcow the Mario and Zelda franchises were. So when the sequel came out they released it on their handheld hoping maybe that would help it take off since Gameboy was extremely popular and sold tons of games. Well unfortunately Metroid II sort of bombed, even if the game wasn't horrible. Its more or less limited due to the limitations of Gameboy. Its not a horrible game, but its inferior to the original game and doesn't have enough to stand its own. The design is okay but the graphics and design sort of hold this back, plus there really are no bosses in this until the end. The remake of this from a few years back AM2R is way better.
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jweber14 2017-07-21T23:06:53Z
2017-07-21T23:06:53Z
3.0
1
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foiebump Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-04-05T00:24:53Z
2024-04-05T00:24:53Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Erockthestrange Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-31T05:04:49Z
2024-03-31T05:04:49Z
5.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Baller16 Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-29T23:07:20Z
2024-03-29T23:07:20Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Tumpp1zon3 Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-27T13:42:14Z
2024-03-27T13:42:14Z
3.0
1
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cityofleeches Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-23T15:56:26Z
2024-03-23T15:56:26Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
figurehead Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-21T01:28:37Z
2024-03-21T01:28:37Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
jamep Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-17T04:29:29Z
2024-03-17T04:29:29Z
4.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eliottstaten Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-15T04:42:53Z
2024-03-15T04:42:53Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
MilesTaco Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-13T05:31:21Z
GB • XNA
2024-03-13T05:31:21Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
hopeascendchaos Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-12T01:47:25Z
2024-03-12T01:47:25Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Gibbous Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-06T17:20:45Z
2024-03-06T17:20:45Z
3.0
1
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Nomorechie Metroid II: Return of Samus 2024-03-04T08:08:21Z
2024-03-04T08:08:21Z
3.0
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Single-player
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1x Cartridge
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  • Previous comments (5) Loading...
  • Lind 2021-10-14 15:02:07.777579+00
    It's mainly the technical restrictions holding this one back. It's a better game than the first on paper, at least.
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  • SMZXW 2022-02-03 08:22:08.522527+00
    better than both remakes
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  • Qwertchi 2022-07-10 01:34:13.051351+00
    Absolutely mogs the first one
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  • Aysenthesys 2022-11-14 00:46:55.451291+00
    Played for an hour or so and I think it's got the same issue as the original: a lack of automap, and the fact that several areas are same-y and it's easy to get lost or miss something. Mind you, the only way I could finish the first one was to draw the map myself on graph paper, but I'm not currently in the mood for counting screens and making notes. Perhaps I'll finish it later. I also don't want to consult a guide or walkthrough because I guess it would beat the point of games like these.

    The truth is it feels much better than the original in other aspects, mainly the movement and combat. Seems like I'd actually enjoy this when I have the time for mapping.
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  • Goomy 2023-02-27 06:54:45.704426+00
    one of the most underrated metroids. the claustrophobia, the minimalistic ambient soundtrack; i believe this game is great because of its limitations, not in spite of it
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  • kramerfromseinfeld 2023-11-06 04:06:57.34919+00
    a game about going down further and further and further into an obscure orifice of reality that no intelligent species was ever supposed to see. the soundtrack here did a lot of shit vastly ahead of its time too, the caverns tracks feel like digitized field recordings of the malevolent space the game occupies
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  • figurehead 2024-01-20 02:25:15.242052+00
    absolutely massive game for the gb. i love the confusing map and exploring the ceilings with spider ball
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  • Jaxijin 2024-04-12 22:18:19.392051+00
    Really annoying that someone uploaded the remake cover to the 3DS Virtual Console release.
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