On August 9th 2016 in honour of Metroid’s 30th anniversary, which saw very little fanfare from the series’ creators, a fan remake of Metroid II, ten years in the making, was released.
That remake is a little project called AM2R, Another Metroid 2 Remake.
AM2R resurrects the, admittedly, dated-looking 1991 Game Boy sequel to the NES classic, bringing it more in line with GBA titles Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission.
I should make it clear that I have never played Metroid 2, so AM2R was my first experience of the game in any form.
The premise of AM2R is pretty simple: you are Samus Aran, the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy. The Galactic Federation have charged you with journeying to the planet SR388 and eliminating all metroid organisms.
However, AM2R doesn’t simply give Metroid 2 a fresh lick of paint, there’s new abilities, puzzles, bosses and mechanics to go along with it. There really is enough to rival an official release here. The team has gone above and beyond, expanding and yet still retaining the feel of the original.
That’s not to say that the original is unplayable and discard-able, far from it. Although I haven’t played it, I acknowledge that Metroid 2 introduced many mechanics that future 2D Metroids have built upon, such as save points, the space jump and numerous other upgrades.
Perhaps the most important thing about AM2R is how does it play?
Controlling Samus with an Xbox 360 controller just feels incredibly natural and precise. Moving around with an analogue stick gives you precision that simply isn’t possible with a d-pad. It’s actually hard to go back to Super Metroid now, because of how floaty it feels in comparison.
There’s so many customisation for control options including aim style, missile selection and much more. This makes AM2R one of the most adaptable 2D Metroids ever, in terms of controls.
As a result of all of this, the game plays like an absolute dream. The physics are on-point, just like the controls.
However, the thing I love most about Metroid, as a series, is the exploration of alien planets; planets that are so intricately designed with every nook and cranny taken into consideration. The feeling that, although you’re in a dangerous, unfamiliar place, Samus has the power to get through it all.
Whether 2D or 3D, exploration is what makes Metroid, Metroid.
One feature that I really appreciate about AM2R is that it strives to bring back the open-endedness of the original Metroid.
Although SR388 is intrinsically split up into distinct areas, much more than Zebes in the original Metroid, you aren’t given any visual indicators of where to go next, like in Fusion or Zero Mission. Instead, once you have eradicated all the Metroids in a given area, you will hear an audio cue that signifies that there has been a shift in the environment somewhere, opening up new paths.
However, it’s completely up to you to find these new paths.
Speaking of the environments, I’m just in awe over how varied and vibrant the art is in this game. Every area naturally transitions into another, creating a real sense of cohesiveness throughout the planet that really enhances the adventure as you travel deeper into the depths of SR388.
A great companion to A2MR’s bright art style is the amazing, high-quality soundtrack. Compared to some of the tracks in the original, AM2R’s OST takes on a more adventurous sci-fi vibe that perfectly matches the game’s aesthetic.
A lot of the music is very reminiscent of Metroid Prime, with choral undertones, funky bass lines and space-like synths. A couple of personal favourites of mine are ‘Initial Descent’ that plays on the surface of SR388 and ‘The Metroid Hatchling’ which plays after the game’s final boss.
I have seen some criticism that the game lacks some of the horror elements of the original, in both the graphical presentation and the soundtrack. However, I think the game strikes a great balance between adventurous isolation and that uneasiness that can be felt.
A few tracks have a great dissonance to them. This, combined with areas that have very minimal light can make for some great horror-like atmosphere. The scariest thing in Metroid is an empty room and AM2R gets it right, for me.
The final sequence in the lead up to the last boss in particular is incredibly tense with the dissonant soundtrack and the sense of danger provided by the metroids.
The freedom that this game grants you is Metroid through and through, despite being slightly more linear than the original. Aside from clearing out the Metroids in an area, gathering any required power-ups and heading to the next area, there really isn’t a set order to do things in.
Infinite bomb jumping, along with shine sparking, is a possibility which opens up the potential for sequence breaking and solving new and interesting puzzles which will grant you hidden items.
I experienced one such deviation during my first playthrough. In the industrial complex area I could have taken a number of different paths, but decided to enter the room furthest away from me. I was greeted by my first Zeta Metroid in a low-ceiling room, covered with hazardous spikes, which made evasive movement incredible difficult.
I died a metric fuck-tonne of times, but it felt so satisfying when I finally succeeded.
In a way, I was punished for taking this route and having to fight the more difficult Zeta Metroid first, but I was rewarded with experience that made the other Zeta Metroid fights trivial in comparison.
Whilst we’re on the subject of bosses, a number of mini bosses have been added in AM2R. Some are from previous Metroid games, including Serris, the Chozo Guardian and Arachnus. Not only are there new bosses, but the metroids themselves have also been given new mechanics to make the fights more varied.
One thing that disappointed me in Zero Mission was the inclusion of Mecha-Ridley as the final boss, it was just far too easy and anticlimactic compared to Mother Brain.
AM2R doesn’t deviate from the original’s ending, sticking with the tense, claustrophobic fight against the Metroid Queen that draws a few comparisons with the end of the film Aliens. This is one situation where I’m glad that AM2R decided to not stray from the original’s ending.
Upon finishing the game I was just so happy to be experiencing some new 2D Metroid again.
Anyone could easily be tricked into believing that AM2R is an official release from Nintendo, but I don’t want to call it one because I think it’s something better.
This game was lovingly crafted by an incredibly talented group of people, out of passion and dedication for the series. Of course Nintendo can DMCA the game, they can try and wipe it from existence, but at this point it’s already too late.
AM2R is the game that Nintendo, for some reason, cannot bring themselves to make.
The game’s existence is proof that Metroid will never disappear, whether Nintendo know what to do with the series or not.
AM2R, albeit being something completely new for me, is exactly what the series needed. Without it, Metroid 2 probably would have been the last game in the series I checked out. The AM2R team have breathed new life, not only into Metroid 2, but into the series as a whole.