“What's past is prologue.”
September 13, 2017 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Metroid: Samus Returns [Polygon] “Metroid: Samus Returns [YouTube][Trailer] is the remake no one was asking for. Sandwiched between the birth of the franchise and the beloved Super Metroid, Metroid 2: The Return of Samus was the first portable entry in the series. And it was a very solid, if safe, follow-up to the original game. Which is why no one was really demanding that it be remade. But thank god it was. Metroid: Samus Returns reforges the broad concept of the Game Boy original while adding modern gameplay mechanics and the best graphics yet seen on the 3DS, making it an essential part of the Metroid catalog.”

• Metroid: Samus Returns: A Sci-Fi Classic is Reborn [The Verge]
“But while it’s billed as a remake, Samus Returns is really more of a reimagining. It keeps the same basic structure, but updates or changes pretty much everything else. At the outset, Samus lands on SR388, the home planet of the metroids, a race of energy-sapping parasitic monsters. At the bottom of the screen is a counter that starts at 40 — that’s how many of the alien creatures are on the planet, and once they’re wiped out, your job is done. As in all Metroid adventures, you start out with a limited arsenal of weapons and abilities, but over time you’ll unlock new ones, which in turn let you defeat new enemies and open up new areas of the planet to explore.”
• How Samus got her groove back. [IGN]
“In gameplay, Samus Returns distinguishes itself from the old-school Metroid games it pays homage to by adding some new moves, the coolest of which is a timed counter attack. It’s an acquired taste, because you have to come to a full stop to perform a counter; the beginning of Samus Returns has you do this a lot, slowing down the otherwise-blazing pace of the action. Luckily, deeper in the campaign your weapon upgrades allow you to slice through enemies quickly, leaving counter attacks as an optional way to grind for more Aeion (which recharges special abilities). In boss fights it becomes even more useful, and a desperate counter can often mean the difference between life and death. That’s where I learned to love the new move. One particularly large boss only offered the chance at a counter after a complicated series of dodges and attacks, making the fight almost Punch-Out!!-like in its complexity.”
• 'Metroid: Samus Returns' is harder than you remember [Engadget]
“Despite sharing notes with its inspiration's soundtrack and borrowing Metroid II's story beats, Samus Returns feels very much like an original Metroid experience -- complete with vast caverns to explore, satisfying puzzles and new mechanics to learn. Better still, a lot of those new mechanics are designed specifically to address the pain points of classic Metroid games. Don't like backtracking to another area of the game to search for power-ups or find a door you missed? Now you can use teleport stations to fast-travel across the game, instead. Can't find that one square that Samus can bomb to proceed to the next area? Use the new "Scan Pulse" Aeion Ability to get a hint. These additions give Samus Returns a good foundation, which it wraps in a detailed stereoscopic side-scrolling landscape that offers a peek at the planet behind Samus Aran's adventures. The game is still played on a 2D plane, but turning on the handhelds' namesake 3D effect lets you peer deep into caverns behind the side-scrolling stage. This gives Returns more background detail than any other Metroid, letting players see landscapes, valleys and wildlife of the planet beyond the game's playable area.”
• Time makes fools of us all. [Kotaku]
“But there's nothing that approaches the sort of magic twist that Zero Mission pulled when it re-told the story of the original Metroid. Metroid II exists in this strange state — its storyline and events represent this key moment in the series' chronology, but the game itself, on the black and white Game Boy, is difficult to go back to and enjoy. Samus Returns presents a much more palatable way to experience this story, and for diehard fans who know every inch of the monochrome version of SR388, this stereoscopic 3D version is vastly different enough in gameplay and geography to be considered an entirely new entry in the Metroid series. The Metroid story is one of feast or famine. That avalanche of new games in the early 2000s itself followed nearly a decade of dormancy. I hope that Samus Returns' title has some greater meaning beyond being a simple inversion of the Game Boy game's, and indeed heralds the return of this sadly neglected series. Samus's return to the past was fun; now here's looking to the future.”
• The One Thing That Makes Samus Returns Different From All Other Metroid Games [Paste]
“For the first time Samus has a melee attack. She swipes up in an arc with one of her arms, normally dealing only minor damage to the deadly denizens of SR388. When timed right, though, and unleashed right when an enemy charges at her, Samus can leave a foe stunned and reeling, quickly finishing them off with a well-timed blast. With its bright arc of energy, it might look a little bit like Guile’s Flash Kick from Street Fighter II, but it’s less of an attack than a defensive position. It’s a parry, not a strike. This might not sound like much for a series that has added numerous weapons and mechanics over the years, but it actually has a big impact on how you’ll play what is intended to be a nostalgic flashback. Metroid: Samus Returns is a “reimagining” of 1991’s Metroid II: Return of Samus, an early Game Boy title that was the first sign from Nintendo that Metroid wasn’t just going to be a one-and-done NES classic. Samus Returns, like the original Metroid games, is a side-scrolling platformer, the first time the series has returned to its original perspective since 2004. It’s specifically appealing to the original strength of these games and the audience’s memory of them, so it’s a little surprising that it also introduces something so quietly revolutionary.”
• Metroid: Samus Returns Is the Remake Metroid II Deserves [The Mary Sue]
“The first Metroid, originally launched on the NES, already got the remake treatment in Metroid: Zero Mission, and Super Metroid holds up well enough not to need it, but Metroid II had been mostly left in the dust. Metroid: Samus Returns is about to change all of that. The 3DS remake is a complete reimagining of the game that makes revisiting this important piece of Metroid history a lot more fun than the Game Boy original. In terms of graphics and gameplay, it’s such a massive overhaul that there’s little point even comparing to the original, though some of the remake’s minor flaws do stem from its source material. While the plot is the same, the whole thing has brand new 3D graphics and environments (though it’s played in 2D), new abilities to acquire, new boss battle mechanics, and extremely satisfying new combat mechanics. It’s basically a whole new game, and it’s one well worth playing for both fans of the original and those who missed it. [...] On top of the other changes, Samus Returns also reimagines those Metroid encounters into a series of increasingly satisfying boss battles, as well as adding some additional exploration to that linear progression, resulting in what feels like a perfect hybrid of Super Metroid and Metroid II. ”
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Samus it ever was.
posted by fairmettle at 5:27 AM on September 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'm excited by this (re)release but the YouTube Trailer I linked up above has the most dude-bro voice narration, and I cannot stop laughing.
posted by Fizz at 5:53 AM on September 13, 2017


Looks like I’m gonna have to buy a 3DS, or 2DS
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:15 AM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

DoctorFedora, I have a feeling that Nintendo's support for the 3DS is going to be very limited in the next year or two, at which point it'll officially be abandoned. They're obviously going to want to push people towards the Nintendo Switch.

That being said, there's a whole backlog of gaming you can get into. So picking up a 3DS is not a bad idea. You have soooo many games to dive into. If you do end up purchasing a 3DS, be sure you pick up Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, another (re)release that will blow your mind. Also Fire Emblem: Awakening.
posted by Fizz at 6:25 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Huh. None of these reviews really addressed the music, which was a frequent criticism of Metroid II for Game Boy. I'd be interested to know how the music has (or hasn't) evolved over time. I actually liked the atmospheric sound in the original, though it's perhaps too simple and repetitive. There's a great bit toward the end, when you reach some freshly spawned metroids, where the music gets uncomfortably atonal and creepy, and while it's not precisely aesthetically pleasing, it's very effective.
posted by duffell at 6:28 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

duffell, I agree completely. The music of the original Game Boy version was phenomenal. It was creepy as hell and a big part of my love for this game. Metroid II on Game Boy was my first entry into Metroid and it will always hold a special place in my gaming history/life. It's probably best to not think about the amount of time/money/batteries I poured into this game/hand-held. I cannot wait to dive into this game.
posted by Fizz at 6:33 AM on September 13, 2017

A Link Between Worlds was a re-release?

I'm still trying to make my way through Breath of the Wild (I have 3 of 4 divine beasts but only half the shrines). I still have the 3DS Majora's Mask to play through, too.

I loved Metroid II, though, so it looks like I need to add another game to my pile. (I even remember liking the music.)
posted by minsies at 6:34 AM on September 13, 2017

A Metroid game from Nintendo that doesn't make Samus into the victim of emotional abuse and present it as a good thing? I'd say "sign me up", except that Yoshio Sakamoto seems to be involved in this, and after the debacle of Other M I'm very nervous about any Metroid project that he's involved in (which is really weird since he created the series).

Also, isn't there a new Prime game coming soonish? Retro, unlike Yoshio Sakamoto, never tried to make Samus into a broken bird and depict it as a true love story.
posted by sotonohito at 6:39 AM on September 13, 2017

A Link Between Worlds was a re-release?

I should have been more specific, you're correct, it was not a (re)release. It's a spiritual successor/sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
posted by Fizz at 6:39 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the clarification! I thought I'd missed something (which is completely possible, though maybe a little less likely than normal with anything Zelda-related, which apparently occupies about 85% of my brain).
posted by minsies at 6:42 AM on September 13, 2017

I am: more than a little excited for this game. As a lifelong Metroid fan, the past seven years have felt pretty dry, and it really felt like Other M had put a pin in the series. (I'm also a Half-Life fan, so long waits and disappointment are not unknown to me). At least we've had some pretty excellent Metroidlikes in the meantime, most recently Axiom Verge and AM2R if you can get your hands on it.
posted by Monster_Zero at 7:21 AM on September 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I kind of love that this and AM2R came out so close together, because they go in drastically different directions re-envisioning Metroid 2 but both seem to do a really good job with it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:08 AM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Not An Edit: AM2R is a fan-made remake of Metroid 2 for PC that is basically "here's what Metroid 2 would be if it were Super Metroid." Since Super Metroid is one of the greatest games ever made, this is not a bad thing.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:10 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

No problem getting a 2DS/3DS in 2017 for this game (I have it preloaded!) due to the amazing backlog, especially on Virtual Console. I have most all of the NES,SNES, GB & GBA marios, zeldas, metroids on the device as well as their modern DS/3DS counterparts. And the 3 DS Castlevanias are still top 10 of the 2000s games.
posted by neustile at 8:37 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm cautiously optimistic... This series had me from the very beginning, but I've been super disappointed from Prime 3 onwards. I even made an effort to try to like Federation Force - which while not as bad as many have said it is, should really not have the Metroid name attached to it - it has zero of the magic of the earlier ones.

Nintendo seems to do much better with "silent protagonist" style games - I really hope that they took the series more back in this direction.

If you do pick up a 3DS for this, as others have said - there's plenty of greatness that may not be new, but is still quite good. If you have any interest whatsoever in turn based strategy, I can definitely second Fire Emblem awakening, or FE Echoes: Shadows of Valentia if you want more of that but with a slightly different take, and FE: Fates only if you are really into the gameplay of the series and don't care much about story. It's probably the most controversial of the newer FEs, mostly for the three paths and rather non-subtle overtones of traditional japan = good, western = bad. Conquest has very challenging gameplay (it remains the only I've never beat on hard), the others are relatively easy by comparison. The story in Revelations is extra ridiculous, but it has a good mix of gameplay.

In case it isn't clear, the 3DS is basically a Fire Emblem machine for me. But there are plenty o f others to consider: Code Name Steam is very underrated and absurd and is a very unique take on turn based strategy, but also pretty brutal as you get further into it. All the N64 Legend of Zelda games are there in addition to the aforementioned Link between Worlds. Definitely a good way to play Ocarina of Time if for some reason you haven't - It still holds up well in many ways. Super Smash Bros is excellent on the New 3DS if that's your sort of game, Kid Icarus Uprising is worth it just for the constant narration which is legitimately hilarious and very well done (but the controls may drive you bonkers) and Super Mario 3D land is - well, a Mario game, and a decent one. I'm like the one person who could just never get into pokemon, but there are some good options there as well - at least three, i think? And there are plenty of more casual options - Pushmo/Stretchmo are quite good.

I think there's still a bit more life in the console. If you can, I'd try to find the "New 3DS" in it's hard-to-find small size vs the "New 3DS XL" or any of the other variants. The improved 3D is nice, but the size difference is significant - you don't lose too much screen real estate or battery life, and it just fits the hand better and is truly a go-anywhere pocketable machine at that point.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:54 AM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not trying to derail my own thread, but agreeing very much with MysticMCJ's comment up above. The Nintendo 3DS is a great portable and has so many high quality games to choose from. And I too basically use my 3DS as a vehicle for Fire Emblem games.
posted by Fizz at 10:42 AM on September 13, 2017

So I just read "“Metroid: Samus Returns is the remake no one was asking for." and clicked the trailer link expecting a hate-on for another Other M. Instead... this actually looks alright.

I could wax poetical about how important Super Metroid was to me at a time in my life, but I'll spare you. Instead, since it hasn't come up, I'll mention that Metroids: Zero Mission and Fusion both seemed to get overlooked a bit as later-day GBA titles, and while they lack some of Super Metroid's atmospheric grace, they're both pretty dang good in their own right.

Also I'd been unaware of Axiom and AM2R, and I'll be checking out both of those, so thanks.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 11:37 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Metroid infestation? Call JUSTIN BAILEY.

I was a huge NES Metroid fan and I must have played it through hundreds times. Super Metroid was ok. I haven't been able to really get into any of the others, and I was really excited by the idea Metroid Prime and other 3D takes on the game system.

For me none of them really captured the sheer terror and thumb-wrecking gameplay of original - and there are reasons for that.

The original Metroid was fiendishly, sadistically difficult on a first play through without a map or clues. There's very little instructions. They just through you into it. There's no training pregame or any of that crap.

The game physics and mechanics are glitchy and weird, give them impression that the gravity is just a bit off, that you're fighting your way through thicker air, or like the constant of mass/acceleration is off just a little, and this throws you off. A lot.

Meanwhile, the enemies move in bizarre ways that were totally new for a platform-shooter, crawling along walls and then shooting out at you, dropping and swooping from the ceiling in arcs, popping out of holes. And they're relentless, and most of them respawn on every screen shift. Worse, many screens feature enemy spawners/dispensers that can't be destroyed.

You're basically constantly moving,, jumping ducking, rolling and shooting. There are very few places in the game where you can park Samus and leave her there to idle on a screen for more than a few seconds. You're being chased constantly. Even in Super Mario Brothers in the first few screens there's a dozen places Mario can stand and just chill as harmless Goombas or Koopas march back and forth. Even Zelda has lots and lots of places you could leave Link and just walk away without hitting pause.

Sure, today the map and world is tiny. We're talking like maybe 50-75 screens. But back then it was a really expansive map filled with hidden secrets, with none of this "clue" revealing tools like scanning or automapping. If you didn't know these secrets were there it could take you days or weeks to find them probing at a room, even if it was as simple as "crouch here and drop a bomb"

There was no map. If you wanted a map you drew one, and people did chart maps on graph paper until Nintendo Power released maps and guides.

The graphics were dark and strange looking. It wasn't a brightly colored cartoon. It felt gritty and slimy.

And then after an epic, wearying slog through this hellscape you're finally, finally faced with the Metroid, which move faster than anything else in the game and hunt you down like a brain-seeking missile. They actually chase you down a nearly impossible maze, which none of the other enemies did. They're huge and terrifying, there's dozens of them and when one latches on you it drains your energy so fast it gives you heart palpitations and makes you want to quit and throw the controller in disgust. And they're basically impossible to kill. You can really only run, no matter how many power ups you collected, which at this point should be all of of them.

Because then, after all that and you really just want a break you have to face the Mother Brain, sitting in an armored tank and surrounded by guns and missiles and more Metroid, where you basically have just a tiny platform to attack it from. Finishing off the Mother Brain can take up to 15-30 minutes if it's a first time and you don't have the patterns down, and you manage to dodge enough crap and not die, and it's constant, relentless jumping, dodging and shooting.

And when you finish that? You're offered a brief respite, you get the elevator ride to the top and a bit of back story, and inexplicably you lose some armor. And then you're prompted to do it again. If I remember correctly, you're asked to run through it four more times, losing armor each time.

None of the other Metroid games have really felt this mean, this cruel, this sadistic and hellish. None of them have made me feel this chased or harried or utterly terrified.

But on top of all of this, the part that really ties the original Metroid together is the music and sound design. Even for electronic music the soundtrack is really dark and alienating. It's like Cronenberg and Kraftwerk had dystopian minimalist electro ear babies. It sounded like something from another planet, like Yellow Magic Orchestra ate a bunch of bad mushrooms and caught a case of the brain worms.

Music is used really effectively for atmosphere and tension in the game, and, well, the fact that I'm talking about atmosphere in a cruddy old 8 bit (well, 7 bit) game ROM is telling.
posted by loquacious at 11:38 AM on September 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

You know I hadn't considered the Cronenbergian vibe to the original, but that's a fair assessment. There was a twisted, organic tension about it that must have taken a great deal of skill to express on an NES.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 11:44 AM on September 13, 2017

Nthing the recommendation to pick up a 3ds, it's very good hardware with a very good library -- two actually, since you get the DS library as well. The New 2ds XL that just recently came out is an excellent hardware revision, lighter and slimmer than the 3ds XL but with the same size screens and a very swash color scheme.

You lose the 3D effect, but honestly that's not that big of a loss. It was cool when it was well-implemented, but it wasn't often well-implemented, and was never important.
posted by rifflesby at 6:13 PM on September 13, 2017

IMO, the Metroid 2 soundtrack was super out there, borderline unlistenable. They really nailed the 'alien' part with the music. And like loquacious says, there's really no respite from it in game. Even the save and recharge stations are 'in situ'. The tracks are pretty short at about 60 second loops, which enhances the grating aspects of the more (I repeat) near unlistenable themes.
posted by pwnguin at 10:36 PM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

And it's worth noting that pwnguin linked what is, far and away, one of the most melodic pieces of background audio in the game (with the exception of the first area).

What a cool and weird soundtrack Metroid 2 had.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:30 PM on September 13, 2017

Yeah--the music during gameplay was mostly atmospheric--creepy crawly noises and so forth. The few exceptions include the Chozo ruins music linked above, which DoctorFedora points out is on the more melodic side. The "main cavern" music at the beginning is sort of the friendliest tune in-game. Really the only other music-music in-game is the hatchling theme, which is very effectively nightmare-inducing.

There's music in the opening and closing credits, and in the post-final boss denouement, but otherwise it's just the scratchy, clawing, peeping, burbling creepy noises of cavern life.
posted by duffell at 5:56 AM on September 14, 2017

Oh, and the final boss theme, which isn't exactly cuddly. Like most boss music, it's adrenaline-pumping, but more because it induces revulsion and creepitude rather than fist-pumping excitement. Goddamn, but they made the most of a shitty platform.
posted by duffell at 5:59 AM on September 14, 2017

The music of Metroid 2 was fantastic. I hope the remake does justice to the game; it's different to the rest of the games in the series but it's fun and there's plenty of exploration.

And 3ds is certainly worth it. I'd also mention Luigi's Mansion 2, Bravely Default and the sequel (basically old Final Fantasy games) and the Ace Attorney games including the Professor Layton crossover.
posted by ersatz at 6:21 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Of course, as we all know, the best Metroid music is by the Minibosses.
posted by duffell at 3:10 AM on September 15, 2017

This is mostly good. My gripes are minor in light of how much seems right so far... mostly that I suck at the X button.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:46 AM on September 15, 2017

Correction from my link above: the horrifying, terrible, excellent "Metroid Nest" theme is here.
posted by duffell at 12:53 PM on October 2, 2017

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