Metroid: Samus Returns comes out this week, a full overhaul of the very dated Metroid 2. Released for the Gameboy, the original is a challenge to play due to tricky controls and flat black-and-white graphics. Yet despite the limitations of its platform, Metroid 2 introduced many elements that were — and still are — unique to the Metroid series.
There was a time, so many years ago now, when it felt like we had too much Metroid. The simultaneous launch of Prime and Fusion in 2002, followed up with another one-two volley of Metroids two years later. "Slow down!" we cried. "We can't keep up with all this Metroid!"
I would hazard to guess that Metroid 2 is one of the least-played Metroid games, yet it added so much to the series, some of which was completely unique to this game. Here are some of the best things Metroid 2 introduced.
The Classic Varia Suit
It's not hard to conjure up an image of Samus's signature Varia Suit — bright orange, green visor, huge round shoulders. Only the original Varia Suit never had those round shoulders. The now iconic round shoulder armour was in fact added in Metroid 2. Because the original on the Gameboy was entirely monochrome, the designers had to add the round shoulder shape to visually indicate the suit upgrade, unable to use a simple colour swap.
When I first found the spiderball in Metroid 2, it blew my mind. The upgrade turns your morph ball sticky, lending Samus the ability to trundle up walls, across ceilings and generally across almost any surface you want.
It's just behind the space jump in terms of opening up huge areas of the map to explore — and speaking of, Metroid 2 was the first game to introduce that ability, too.
The spiderball changed everything — but then it disappeared from Metroid games for more than ten years. It finally returned, albeit in 3D form, for Metroid Prime and its two sequels.
Now with Samus Returns we're finally getting the chance to spiderball again, in its full, unadulterated 2D form. This means you won't have to look for any special tracks to cling to — just roll straight up any wall you want.
The Queen Metroid
Many players may have (unfortunately) been introduced to the Queen Metroid, the penultimate stage of the metroid life cycle, in Metroid: Other M. If this was you, I'm sorry.
Despite the general terribleness of that game, the queen metroid battle was still one of the highlights, an interesting, fast-paced boss battle. Yet many who picked up Metroid: Other M may not have known that this battle had its roots all the way back in the final battle of Metroid 2.
Being a 2D game, fighting the queen metroid was far different in Metroid 2, but it still introduced some interesting ideas — to do damage to the queen, for one, you had to jump into its mouth in morph ball form and leave a bunch of ticking bombs in its stomach. Gross.
The Metroid Hatchling
You know, the baby. Almost all the 2D Metroid games have used the hatchling as a plot point — from Ridley stealing it in Super Metroid to the hatchling's DNA being used to save Samus's life in Metroid fusion.
Samus's bond with the hatchling didn't happen offscreen, however — it was an integral, if simply animated, cutscene in the end of Metroid 2. Despite the grainy graphics, lack of dialogue and simple soundtrack, I'd still probably count it as one of the most heartwarming scenes in any Metroid game.
A Different Ending
You know how Metroid games end, right? Samus achieves her goal, beats the boss, and then the planet starts exploding while she makes a mad run to her ship. Metroid 2, surprisingly, doesn't follow this formula at all.
Samus still has to return to her ship from the site of the final battle, but this time it's to a cheery upbeat soundtrack with a just-hatched metroid circling her and making chirpy little noises of contentment. Cute.