Metroid is a Nintendo franchise that I got into fairly late in the game - not until Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii. I've picked up *most* of the series since then, but one that I still don't have is Metroid II: Return of Samus for Game Boy (although I do have it downloaded on my 3DS). When I saw the announcement this summer of a full remake of the game for 3DS, then, I was ecstatic. Not only do we get another modern 2D Metroid game, but it's a remake of the second chapter in Samus's story, one that I'd not gotten yet.
The basic premise of the game is that, after destroying the Space Pirate's Metroids and putting an end to Mother Brain, she is contracted once again by the Galactic Federation, this time to exterminate the Metroids on their home planet of SR388 to remove the threat that they could ever be used and weaponized again. So basically she's paid to commit a complete and total genocide. Aside from the plot and basic 2D action-platforming genre, however, Samus Returns is pretty much a completely different game from Return of Samus. The levels are completely different, there are power-ups and enemies that didn't appear in the original game, and the game is about twice as long. Both games do come on cartridges, however, but Samus Returns is actually in color, so that's a nice plus.
A lot of folks were disappointed (to put it lightly) when Metroid: Other M came out on Wii years ago, and without getting into that particular debate, I think all of those who felt burned by Other M will be extremely pleased with Samus Returns. This is the 2D Metroid game that longtime fans have been wanting and dreaming of. With one exception, the game plays like a dream with a near flawless framerate and silky smooth movement. My only complaint with the control is the grappling beam. Nine times out of ten, it works just fine and does exactly what it's supposed to, but there is one particular room in which the only way out - either back the way you came or forward - involves using the grapple beam to swing and grab on to a nearby ledge. This particular jump (it's the same on both sides) requires PERFECTION in your jump, and even when I was doing the exact same thing every time (as far as I could tell; clearly I wasn't actually), it was a total crap shoot whether or not Samus would actually grab the ledge. I probably had a 5% success rate on that jump, failing so much that I actually closed my 3DS and googled how to use the grapple beam just in case I was doing something wrong. That one instance aside, I never had a single complaint with the controls; every other screw up with clearly and obviously user error on my part, and with some practice, I managed to correct all of those.
While it really shouldn't surprise me that Nintendo manages to coax every scrap of power possible out of their hardware, I was surprised by just how good the game looks on 3DS. As I mentioned above, the frame rate is absolutely smooth, but the game looks beautiful as well, and those two things don't always go hand in hand. I've not played many Vita games that look quite as good as Samus Returns, and while there have been a few, that number isn't very high. The soundtrack, too, is every bit as impressive as the visuals. At no point, really, does the background music not fit the tone of whatever's going on, be it a boss fight, a sprint through a lethally hot room, or an unnerving gait through a barren clearing. It doesn't stop at the music, though; the entirety of the sound design is superb from the weapon effects to the enemy screeches to the minute ambient sounds, everything is expertly balanced so as to enhance the tone while never stealing the spotlight.
Although it's a late release in the 3DS lifespan, Metroid: Samus Returns is definitely one of the brightest first party gems of the handheld's library and an absolute must-play for fans of the Metroid series. While this is going to be a VERY unpopular opinion, I personally preferred Other M as far as gameplay goes, but Samus Returns is still an absolutely fabulous game. It's not particularly long - one can finish it in less than 10 hours if one foregoes a lot of optional backtracking - but it's an incredible journey with some seriously tough boss fights that will have you screaming in frustration. As is the case with well designed bosses, however, they're extremely manageable once you learn their patterns and their attacks. I absolutely recommend this game to anyone with a 3DS, and if you're a Metroid fan, I'd seriously suggest buying a 3DS or 2DS just for this game. It definitely makes up for the craptastic Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.