After Nintendo’s surprise announcement of not one but two new “Metroid” titles at this year’s E3, fans of the company and the series itself are abuzz. Years of perceived neglect towards everyone’s favorite parasite-fighting bounty hunter seem to have been lifted during Nintendo’s main Spotlight segment of their conference. They revealed that work is underway on “Metroid Prime 4” for their console/handheld hybrid the Switch. Though right now there is not much to go on aside from a simple logo and a small, atmospheric musical cue, this has been enough to get people riled for the classic series again.
What is perhaps even more surprising, however, is the announcement that came after the Spotlight segment. A classic, Metroidvania sidescroller is not only in the works but fairly far along into development on the Nintendo 3DS. So far along, in fact, that Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé brought the game out to be demoed at the show for all to see. It was revealed during this demo that the game, titled “Metroid: Samus Returns”, is a reimagination, a complete overhaul, of the 1991 Game Boy game “Metroid II: Return of Samus”.
With brand new 2.5D graphics and a shot of adrenaline to really quicken the game’s pace, this looks almost nothing like the chunky black and white (or honestly puke green) of the original Nintendo Game Boy. Due to be released in September “Samus Returns” looks to be an atmospheric action-adventure game that brings a handheld classic up to the modern industry’s standards.
A fan project once attempted this with the unofficial game “Another Metroid 2 Remake”, attempting to recreate “Metroid II” as a smoother, more attractive experience on the PC. They took the pixel-art styling of “Metroid 4: Fusion” and “Metroid: Zero Mission” and emulated the Game Boy Advance’s more sophisticated sprite work. This effort has, unfortunately, received the ire of Nintendo’s ever hostile legal team, a copyright hit squad that pounces on fan projects whenever they grow conspicuous enough.
With “Metroid: Samus Returns” appearing to be just around the corner there seemingly has not been a better time to go back and revisit, or maybe experience for the first time, “Metroid II: Return of Samus”. Seeing as “Samus Returns” is more a reimagining than a direct remaster or remake playing through the original game, and comparing and contrasting the games upon the release of “Samus Returns”, is a worthwhile experience. The technological limitations of the past versus the free-for-all jamboree of the modern gaming industry.
Playing “Metroid II: Return of Samus” has also grown increasingly easy in recent years. Outside of going out to find a (probably expensive) classic Game Boy cartridge “Metroid II” is now available on the Nintendo 3DS’s eShop. The digital copy of the game has been cleaned up and includes virtual console amenities such as save states and the ability to swap between screen colors, but the essentials of the game have been kept entirely intact. On a brighter, higher resolution screen in 2017 “Metroid II” has never looked better, and the 3DS is far more comfortable to hold for extended periods than the Game Boy ever was. To sweeten the deal even further the eShop copy is only $3.99 and takes up a measly 37 blocks of system storage space on the 3DS.
“Metroid II” certainly shows its age at times and the pacing is a far cry from the zippy combat and finishing moves of its upcoming remake, but to hold the years too harshly against the game is to ignore the eerie atmosphere, creative structure, and sheer fun of this Nintendo classic.