Nintendo’s tragic treatment of fan projects paying tribute is almost as bad as its own attitude toward remakes and ports of its own old games. One of the most prominent examples is the recent case of AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake).
Years in the making and released this past August to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the release of Metroid on the NES, the creator was issued a takedown notice from Nintendo promptly after its release. Thankfully we live in the Information Age, and it is impossible to remove anything of value from the internet. I don’t know if AM2R is the best remake, but it did get my attention got me to play it.
Re-energizing a Classic
As the name implies, this is not the first remake of the original title Metroid II: Return of Samus. With good reason, other projects have popped up over the years attempting to take the source material and expand and improve on the classic game but have since faded into obscurity. Metroid 2 was a great Game Boy game for its time, but one that doesn’t completely hold up today and begs to be modernized somehow.
I got Metroid 2 for my 3DS in the last days of Club Nintendo when they were trying to make up for a lack of physical goods with digital ones. With no map, no hint system, and a world that changes several times as you advance, I spent hours on end backtracking and groping around with no way of knowing where my next objective was.
It was more frustrating than fun. Perhaps I could have consulted online guides, but I prefer to play my 3DS on the go and not in front of my desktop, much like we used to play on our Game Boys. Ultimately I lost interest in Metroid 2, but this AM2R gave me a chance to satisfy my love of Metroid and my desire to play out this pivotal part of the Metroid mythos.
The game takes place after the original NES Metroid, which already received an official, loving remake in the form of Metroid: Zero Mission. Our hero, Samus Aran, is tasked with exterminating the dangerous Metroid race of parasitic aliens on their home planet of SR388. Like all games of the series, Samus proceeds through a long series of mazes, solving puzzles and fighting off alien monsters as she acquires new weapons and tools along the way. What sets Metroid 2/AM2R apart from the rest of the series is her overall mission, to hunt down and exterminate the many Metroids throughout the world stage. More than simple respawning enemies, they act as mini-bosses which evolve as you progress, either getting tougher or otherwise using dangerous terrain or numbers against you.
This remake borrows heavily from other 2D Metroid games, especially series favorite Super Metroid and criminally underappreciated Metroid Fusion. Unlike in Metroid 2, in AM2R Samus has diagonal aiming, the triangle jump, and the Power Grip ledge grab. Super Missiles, Power Bombs, the Speed Booster, and other foreign items make appearances in new areas designed with new obstacles for them to overcome. All this adds up to a fine compliment to the old Metroid 2 content which makes everything feel fresh and crisp, rather than a dated game with a graphical facelift.
On my playthrough, it often felt like I couldn’t go two areas without tripping over a missile container. The game’s map usually alerts you to hidden items in an area, making it usually a simple matter of covering as much ground as you can until you find the loot. It seemed excessive at first, but around every corner is either a Metroid enemy or a boss to battle, so it is necessary you are well-armed at all times. Mercifully, there are plenty of save points that replenish your health and ammo. At early parts of the game this may come off as condescending to gaming veterans, but later they are critical for any expectation for your survival.
Bigger Venue, Bigger Baddies
Boss battles run the gambit from simple to thrilling. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of watching patterns and exploiting weaknesses. The non-Metroid bosses especially gave off a sense of danger and usually left me battered if I didn’t figure out what I was supposed to do quickly enough. Six non-Metroid bosses are newly added to AM2R, though some are borrowed and tweaked from other Metroid games. However, I barely noticed a passing similarity between bosses from previous titles, as I was fighting for my life.
Returning from Metroid 2, either by design for authenticity or by a bug, you can usually see a Metroid waiting for you on the edge of the screen waiting for you to get close to it before it will begin to move and attack you, usually giving you the opportunity to retreat or seek tactical advantage.
Another fantastic addition to AM2R is the log book, describing in detail the enemies, areas, and lore of the game as you uncover new areas. The log book adds a thick layer to the game’s ambiance that was previously only available in a typo-laden instruction booklet few bothered to read.
Another Fan Triumph, Another Disappointing Decision
AM2R is the Metroid 2 remake the fans want and the series deserves. It never ceases to amaze and disappoint me that fans can so often do a much better job with an IP than the company that owns it and sinks millions of dollars into making its own products, be they game remakes, fan games, subtitled anime, fan manga translations, or whatever else. At the least, companies like Nintendo should stand back and allow fans to create and enjoy projects that pay tribute to their works. If Nintendo is so worried that people won’t spend $4 on their 25-year-old game, they should do a better job of remaking it themselves.
Here’s hoping Nintendo doesn’t discover Link’s Awakening 64…
- Very necessary gameplay improvements
- Thrilling boss battles
- New log book system adds rich lore
- Solid musical score
- Very low resolution
- Sometimes easy to get lost
- Minor imbalance & bugs present but fixable with patch (which I didn’t know about until after I finished)
- Super Missiles felt scarce though perhaps ultimately unnecessary