Thursday, June 18, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Metroid 2

Today's game is the somewhat obscure Metroid 2 - Return of Samus, released by The Big N themselves for their black 'n green Gameboy system, in 1991. Wow, it depresses me to think how old that game is! I say "obscure" in consideration of the fact that although many people are aware that this game exists, not many people seem to have actually given it a playthrough.

Ah, I remember being a kid and having the flu, and so with a couple of days on my hands (and a feverish headache) I borrowed this game from my friend to give it a go. No, probably not the best of circumstances to investigate such a title, but even so I loved it very much!

A sequel to the very strange, bleak, but enormously fun NES version released several years earlier, Metroid 2 showed up with even more stripped down graphics and kind of a clunkier feel than it's predecessor - but the world felt just as alive and inviting, in it's xenophobic and lonely way.

That was the thing about these metroid games - they always felt so atmospheric, so moody, and the primitive tech of the Gameboy system only enhanced that. Sure, the SNES sequel (following this) was much prettier to look at, much more rezzed-up, but Metroid just felt more "right" operating within the rigid technical constraints of the NES and the even more stripped-down GB. In fact, that there was a battery save in this GB title (as opposed to that long painful password of the NES version) almost felt like it was making the game TOO easy. Metroid was supposed to be all about being a pain in the neck, and clawing your way up from the depths of despair.

Alright, so maybe I was a little too dramatic as a teenager, we all had our moments right? Anyway, I actually do not have much more to say about Metroid 2 - it's been so long since I have picked it up, and I can't really remember enough of the details of the game to go on at length about it's feature set, but I will say this - I do recall they changed enough of the powerups and layout from the first title to make this feel like a worthy sequel in itself, not just "a second chapter to an established engine." There was nearly half a decade between the two games' release dates, and it shows!

Would I pick up Metroid 2 again now, all these years later? Honestly, I played through it back in the day, it was one of those titles which was immediately captivating from the get-go (I picked it up and couldn't stop playing until I beat the thing!) and it was satisfying enough of an experience that I felt complete with it. If they released another game like this (style-wise, not how they make new Metroids now - 3D or 2D!) then I'd certainly be interested, but no - this is the type of game who's style is obsolete. If you are a younger gamer, this won't be for you, the tech looks so dated and the style of gameplay is gonna be asking a lot of you. But if, like me, you were the type of player who could get sucked into the atmosphere and gameplay styles of the first NES Metroid and games like Blaster Master, games that feel so very lonely and spartan and yet so lush and beautiful for that reason - than you just may love this as well, and find it quite timeless.

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