Come along with us and take a glimpse into an alternate reality. It's not much different than the one you currently live in; in fact, it's nearly indistinguishable. The only change is that this is a world where Nintendo never stopped producing amazing Metroid games. On a relatively frequent basis, the company continued churning out modern classics that were both critical and commercial successes, and things never looked better. The series' 30th anniversary rolled around on the same date as it did here, and as a thank you gift to the fans that supported the series over all the years, Nintendo produced a remarkable remake of the Game Boy game, Metroid II: Return of Samus. The Chozo have heard the cries of frustrated fans in our reality – where none of these games were ever made – and through a cosmic tear, we too were granted an opportunity to play this remake, albeit via different channels.
Another Metroid 2 Remake, or AM2R, is to Metroid II what Metroid: Zero Mission was to the original Metroid. Nothing has been left untouched in the restoration process, leaving us with something that really functions more as a complete reimagining than just a remake. That all being said, this is a title that feels entirely worthy of the Metroid lineage, and is something that we would highly suggest to anyone with a passing interest.
For those of you wondering, AM2R is a project spearheaded by Milton Guasti, a fan known online as "Doctor M64". Guasti got the idea for the project after playing through Metroid II and wondering what it would be like with a modern touch, envisioning a game that would be something like a cross between Zero Mission and Super Metroid. Though he wasn't an experienced programmer at the time, he managed to get a prototype working on the GameMaker engine which used the Metroid II map with sprites from later Metroid games. Years passed, more people joined the project, new content was added, the game engine changed, and it eventually grew into the finished product available today.
Also of note that, following its release as a free download for PC, Nintendo acted to take it down. Guasti, however, shared a rather noble update to advise fans to support Metroid II on the eShop and to avoid hate against Nintendo. The process of making the game, he explained, taught him valuable skills and helped him secure work in development.
AM2R's story picks up shortly after the end of Metroid, with Samus returning to the surface of SR-388 to exterminate the Metroids once and for all. Even though she only faces a few dozen Metroids on the quest, it's a more in-depth and lengthy adventure than its predecessor, and new story elements have been infused in this second pass. As with most Metroid games the story is mostly there to give context to events, but additional lore gives AM2R more depth than the original ever had.
The control scheme has support for GamePad and keyboard options. We tried both, and while using a real controller is definitely preferable due to the button layout, the keyboard controls are also perfectly comfortable. Rooting around in the options menu lets you rebind keys on either control type, too, so you can tweak the experience however you like. Considering that Samus has new weapons and new abilities, like diagonal aiming, controls are more complicated than the two-button scheme of the original, but it still feels manageable regardless of your control preference.
As for gameplay, it's functionally a continuation of the structure established in Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion. The map is designed in a semi-linear way, in the sense that a certain number of Metroids must be eliminated before you can progress further to find more, but there's still plenty of breadth for one to explore and feel their way around. In fact, AM2R seems to strike that perfect balance between direction and open-endedness; you won't find yourself as lost as you did in Super Metroid, but neither will you be told where to go like in Fusion.
In all honesty, the map bears little resemblance to that of the original game. This remake was made with the later games in mind, so upgrades like Super Missiles and the Gravity Suit have been retroactively added in a way that feels seamless and organic. To compensate for new content like this, old parts of the map have been vastly overhauled and entirely new ones have been added in, yet none of the new content feels remotely out of place.
Aside from the new upgrades and remixed map, a logbook feature has been added that fleshes out the history of the planet and the environments and creatures that live there. Often when entering a new area you'll unlock a new Prime-style entry that includes a blurb about the place you're exploring. These add a distinct flavour to the experience that give the environments greater depth; for example, you aren't just exploring some cave, but the campsite of a Galactic Federation recon team that was wiped out by Metroids. Entirely new boss fights have been added in, too, and while there's nothing nearly as memorable as the Nightmare fight from Fusion, many of the fights are creative and challenging enough to feel like a cut above what's come before. We won't spoil anything, but many of these fights are unexpected.
The graphics have obviously been given quite a facelift, and we'd argue that this surpasses Fusion in terms of graphical fidelity. The worlds are diverse, colourful and detailed, really giving the feeling that the team took great efforts to get the atmosphere just right. There are even some cool new lighting effects, such as a light ribbon that trails behind the Morph Ball, or a memorable sequence through a dark and overgrown part of the map where Samus' charge beam shots provide temporary illumination. The atmosphere of Metroid II has not been compromised here, but enhanced.
The soundtrack is right up there as well, featuring an impressive mixture of new tracks and remixes of old ones. It seems to have taken heavier inspiration from the Prime series' soundtrack, and while no particular track may stand out as being memorable, the soundtrack as a whole provides an excellent dimension to the effective atmosphere of isolation.
Nintendo may have come under fire for not exactly giving Samus the greatest 30th anniversary celebration, but AM2R is a fitting tribute to the bounty hunter's sophomore outing and stands as an excellent anniversary piece. In all fairness, this has the same level of polish that we would expect out of a Nintendo developed remake of the same game, and it would be lovely if the creators were to somehow collaborate with Nintendo on a deal to get this sold on the eShop. Until then, you'll just have to settle with playing the version that can be found on gaming forums all over the internet, but we would highly recommend you give it a look. This is a game that not only fixes most of the problems of the original with modern touches, but it introduces new and innovative concepts that take it a step further. Bravo.