METROID 2 / Nintendo / Gameboy
|It's not surprising that a lot of gamers actually don't know that there's a Metroid 2, given that Super Metroid is only called "Metroid 3" briefly on its title screen, and that this was a low-key Gameboy release about 15 years ago.
Samus is now on a quest to the Metroid homeworld to rid the galaxy of the buggers once and for all. The game is more linear than its predecessor, starting you off at the top of a series of vertical shafts, with your goal being to go directly downwards. However, what will happen is you'll travel partway down the shaft only to find it blocked by lava. Now, at this point, there are two or three passages branching off to the left and right that lead to sort of mini-sectors which contain Metroids. Once you track down and wipe out all the Metroids that you can, there's an earthquake and the lava rescinds some, and that opens up more branching paths for you to explore. And so the game repeats until the end. There are the standard power ups to be found strewn about - missiles, energy tanks, etc. - but they are usually only quasi-hidden at best. One interesting powerup that you get in this one is the Spider Ball, which has only been used (and in a limited way) otherwise in the Metroid Prime series. In this incarnation the Spider Ball alows you to stick to floors and ceilings and roll along any continuous span. Unfortunately, there is plenty of jank in the Spider Ball's control - more often than not you'll be stuck in one place and unable to move after using it, and have to do it a second or third time until you get moving. It also sometimes gets hung up on little corners and crevies that it shouldn't.It's one of those things that I can't believe QA actually let go by like it wasn't that big of a deal.
The game has no map, and even though it's more linear than the usual Metroid game it can still be hard to keep track of what Metroids you have already killed and where, especially if you break from the game for a few days. The design overall is sparse and kind of frustrating, with lots of dead falls with cheap hits you can't really avoid. Samus loses health and missiles quickly, yet the game gives you very few places to restore them short of trucking all the way back to her ship. The presence of a Metroid is usually indicated by a discarded shell, and if you creep along carefully you can see the Metroids sitting there waiting for you before they move, and you can plant a missile in them while they are helpless (even if you fire a battery into them from safety, it seems to only register one hit once they get moving). The game really just feels like a lot of dead empty space with repetitive, annoying enemies scattered about. I've never actually been able to finish this one - the combination of spider ball jank, annoying layout and punishing difficulty always drives me away before I even come close to tallying up all the Metroids.
The one really positive thing I can say about this one is the use of sound gives it one of the creepiest ambiences of any of the Metroid games, even the latest high-tech ones. The one thing that the weak Gameboy sound chip is good for is creepy, minimalist audio and this game is the prime example of it. Samus has a peppy heroic theme that plays in the opening area, but after you descend a bit into the caves it is abandoned totally. The music alternates between this one creepy off-key tune and total silence punctuated only by odd alien noises. There's also a sort of jarring sound effect that occurs when transitioning between areas where the music changes, and the points at which it switches over are seemingly random. A nice job by Koji Kondo, he used these creepy techniques to the same great effect in the dungeons in Link's Awakening. I think this games does suspense and tension better than any other Metroid game, even the gorgeous high-budget graphical fests of the Metroid Prime games. Outside of that, though, it's hard to recommend.
Metroid 2 Remake Project - Exciting project, looks good from the screenshots