AM2R BannerIf you’re a Metroid fan and you’ve been on the internet the last few days, you might know that the franchise’s 30th anniversary just passed. You also may be aware of a little gem called AM2R, otherwise known as “Another Metroid 2 Remake.” (Links at the bottom)

Metroid 2: The Return of Samus is kind of an outlier in a series mostly comprised of really good games. It’s well made, especially for a Game Boy game, and adds items that would later be staples in the series: different beams weapons, the space jump, the spring ball, the spider ball, etc. The downside to the game is that it’s, well…kind of boring. There was a lot of tunnel navigation without much to do, without many enemies to fight, and even the music felt like it was bored at times. Although the original wasn’t huge on bosses (three! only three!) this game had two, as I’m not counting the numerous metroid variants you fought along the way.

Although early in the series, Metroid 2 also marked the beginning of a transition that would be fully evident in the next game, Super Metroid, and obnoxiously evident in Other M. While every Metroid game has been maze-like and has encouraged exploration, Metroid 2, by way of its kill-count cordoned off areas, added a linearity that was absent almost completely from Metroid. While individual areas still required exploration, the game as a whole only progressed once goals were met.

Super Metroid, while being less linear on paper, took the idea of using weapons as exploratory tools that the two prior games used and ran with it. While still allowing fairly free exploration, there is a definite, specific path through the game, both in regards to progressing properly, and in regards to efficiency. (My best time 100%-ing the game is 3 hours 5 minutes, just 5 minutes too long to get the best ending. And I know where I’m messing up!) The Prime series and Fusion would also use this method, as well as expound on the progression-altering tricks known as sequence breaking that Super Metroid introduced, whether by accident or by design.

Needless to say, I was fairly hyped when Metroid: Zero Mission was announced for Game Boy Advance, a follow-up to Metroid Fusion that would apply the same Super Metroid-style updates to the original Metroid game.

It was an abject mess.

Don’t get me wrong, it did a lot of neat stuff. Adding in items from later games in the series was great, expanding Samus’ moveset as well was brilliant. But two main problems plagued this game.

First of all, Nintendo tried to take the map of the original game and overlay a specific progression on top of it, which led to confusing one-way passages and bizarre tunnels that didn’t connect as memory suggested they should.

Secondly, they added the stealth section Chozodia, which, while helping to flesh out the planet and make it more in line with what was depicted in Super Metroid, was a pain to play and had a map that made almost no sense to try and decipher effectively. Oh, and the addition of the power bombs was almost a moot point, as they existed almost entirely just to get more power bombs.

Which, (finally!) brings me to AM2R.

Despite the missteps of Zero Mission, I’ve been clambering for a remake of Metroid 2 forever. I was aware of AM2R a while back but never thought much of it. I snagged it as soon as it was released, of course, and I’m glad I did.

The simplest word for it: amazing. Without a doubt, this game equals or surpasses any treatment that Nintendo could have given it. Right away, the graphics, audio, and environmental effects are perfect and fully immerse the player into the world it’s trying to create. The addition of cut scenes and data logs brings the game fully into the present (or, the Game Boy Advance era, at least.)

The overall layout is similar, but there are lots of new graphics, room layouts, and puzzles. Some items from later games, such as the charge beam and speed booster, have been added, and to great effect. There are a lot of intricate speed booster puzzles but luckily none are as maddening as the worst from Fusion or Zero Mission.

And the bosses! New bosses are here, and some are fantastic. I’d love to go into specifics but I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone. There are new areas as well, and they fit into the theme of the game and even give the player some optional items to get.

Compared to Zero Mission, the progression is perfect, too, combining Metroid 2‘s linearity with enough maze-like areas and puzzles to keep the player interested without frustration. There are some items that require back-tracking, which the player can do early, or, at about seventy percent through, find a method which allows for easy and quick retrieval of these passed-by areas. In good Metroid fashion, there are obstacles that the player knows are obstacles that have to be surpassed, but won’t figure out how for quite some time, thanks to the time-honored fashion of show, don’t tell.

Are there some issues? Certainly. Metroids, for instance, can be overly difficult, and it’s often hard to really find a pattern or even a reaction method that works well. And, even with a Wii U pro controller on my PC, analog control is touchy and jumpy, and the game would really benefit from d-pad support.

But honestly, to fans of Metroid, and metroidvania games in general, I literally can’t recommend this game enough.

Of course, anything this good is likely to have a downside, that being that Nintendo has served the site with a DMCA and the game is no longer technically available.

Of course, they have every right to do this. But it’s sad, really. When companies like Valve have outright hired teams that did good work with their games, it’s not unprecedented for fan works to be given professional status. And AM2R is nothing if not professionally made.

The best thing we can do, then, is contact Nintendo with support for both this project AND their intellectual property, and urge them to license this game and put it on the eShop. The best link I could find was this one (set to American English, so change that if need be.) Go to “Corporate Questions,” and drop down to “Use of trademarked images or music.” Write politely and explain why you want to see this game legitimized!

If you’re looking for the AM2R website, here is your link. There’s also a healthy subreddit going for it.

Great job, guys. Best of luck getting the recognition you deserve.

–Chim

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