For one of my favorite franchises of all time, I never had the fortune to play the original Metroid II: Return of Samus. Now, with this remake, I was afforded the opportunity to finally play through it, and it stunning new graphics.
And, I have to say, it did not disappoint.
As I said, I have ample experience in the Metroid Universe. My first game was Super Metroid, and I was playing it before I could read. Thankfully, the script within the game was so sparse that reading was not even a requirement to enjoy the game. I spent countless hours exploring the world, testing its limits, and trying to replicate the “secrets” that were revealed if you watched the intro video play out.
I know, I know, you came to read about Samus Returns, not Super Metroid. Trust me, I’m getting there. I preface my time with an account of Super Metroid for the simple fact that the game taught me to explore and push boundaries. Now, let’s fast-forward to Samus Returns.
The day I picked up the game was a busy one. I had been rushing around, running errands, meeting for dinner with my wife and child, and then running more errands. It was late when I was finally able to sit in my chair and kick back. I looked at the game, still wrapped in its cellophane, and thought, “Man, I’m way too tired to enjoy that right now. Oh well, let’s see,” and I tore it open and popped the game in. Some amount of hours later, I hear my wife asking if I was okay, and was wondering when I was coming to bed. The game had completely pulled me in, and I had to force myself to put it down.
The first thing that I noticed when I started a new game was, as usual, a brief introduction of the plot, followed by my ship reaching the surface of the planet. from there, the gloves were off; it was up to me to figure out where to go, how to get there, and what to use. Only occasionally would the game stop me to introduce a new mechanic, like the combat counter (which I feel is overused, at least by this point in the game). It wasn’t long before I found the morph ball, and, subsequently, the morph ball bomb.
It was at this point that the game diverged slightly from what I’m used to. In previous titles, exploration rewarded you with extra energy tanks, missiles, and other items, but generally the game set you one some loose rails; that is, you couldn’t move past the red doors until you had missiles, etc. In Samus Returns, I quickly felt like I could explore the world in whatever order I wished.
It was this freedom, coupled with the skills I had obtained so many years ago, that nearly got me stuck. I entered a vast cavern and, knowing that there had to be a top, I began to perform morph ball “bomb-hopping,” a technique in which you time your bombs to be able to perpetually gain altitude, until you hit a surface and bounce. It took me only a few minutes to get the timing of the new game down, and then I was on my way, finding item after hidden item. In fact, I had actually found another Metroid using this method.
I quickly dispatched my quarry before realizing that my only way out was a hole in the ceiling, and it took me forever to time my bombs just right to get me out. A nagging feeling in the back of my mind was telling me that something was amiss, but I quickly fell back into stride, backtracking to cover an area I had skipped over before.
Not three rooms into the new territory did I find a shiny new item, one I had never used in another side-scrolling Metroid game: the spider ball. This neat little invention allows the user to roll along walls and ceilings, and…
…really? That whole section that I had just explored was supposed to be inaccessible until I had this item, and I was already done and prepared to move on.
Honestly, though, that’s what I love about this game. Samus Returns, just like many of it’s predecessors, anticipates that you will find shortcuts and roundabouts, and simply takes it in stride. Metroid Fusion even added a cutscene to a particularly crafty shortcut, as a little reward for solving a “shinespark” puzzle. As early in the game as I was, to have already uncovered one of the “alternate” paths through the game had me elated to play more.
In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to this game, so uh, see ya!