“The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace…” (Super Metroid, 1994).
I got a little teary eyed when I heard that line again. Super Metroid was my all time favorite title of the series, and given how sparse new entries seem to be, it hasn’t had much to challenge it. The release of Other M gave me hope that the galaxy’s toughest bounty hunter, Samus Aran, had returned with more epic adventures. Alas, while I enjoyed the game itself, it was ultimately a letdown as the Metroid series faded back into stasis.As game consoles evolved into the next generation, I knew I wasn’t going to play another entry in the series. As the recent release of Federation Force has shown, it’s not because the series was dead. It’s because Nintendo has made their console too unwieldy for anyone other than the average, able bodied consumer.
Still, I craved another adventure in the power suit of Samus. I took to the internet in search of fan games to satisfy me, only to find a small collection of abandoned titles. I surrendered that part of my childhood with the assumption that there would no longer be a Metroid game for me. Then, on August 6th, 2016, one of those titles was released as a complete game. I had nearly forgotten all about it but AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake) had rejuvenated the last spark of persistent hope inside me.
In the past, I had made multiple attempts to play through all the previous games in the series. While I felt lost in the series’ first game, my love for Super Metroid pushed me to attempt the second title. It became a source of great frustration that I simply couldn’t manage the controls of Metroid II: The Return of Samus. I even attempted playing a ROM of the game with the theory that the customizable controls and my comfort with a keyboard would see me through to the end. Less than an hour in, I couldn’t do it any more.
No matter how had I tried, I wasn’t adept enough with the controls and my reaction times were way too slow. I couldn’t keep focused on everything all at once. The number of times I forgot to swap to missiles was shameful to me. Even now, I can’t remember all the troubles I had; most were likely blocked from memory to keep me sane. I would like to clarify that this isn’t because of an obsession with some game but a determination to have full mastery of myself. I find it very disappointing when I can’t manage all the controls. I grew up on video games, and it infuriates me when something like this holds me back from a game with a good story or limits me when playing with friends. Put simply, no one likes to lose. So why would I even bother with a fan game remake of a title that made me so frustrated?
AM2R was first advertised not as just a simple remake, but one that incorporated the advancements of Zero Mission, Super Metroid, and Fusion. All three were games I had played and successfully beaten. Since Zero Mission was essentially a remake of the first Metroid with some additional content tacked on, I counted its completion as beating the first game. That only left Metroid II unbeaten for me. Thus, I was determined to try it. Not only because it modernized the game, but it filled in that blank space between the first game and, my favorite, the third. Within moments of the game’s release, I downloaded it and dove right in. I watched Samus’ iconic ship touch down on SR388 and my rekindled hope roared. While I knew it to be my last Metroid game, nothing could sour the experience.
As I had assumed, the controls were customizable. While they weren’t the most comfortable compared to my best experience with the series, I was willing to make do and adapt. It took a few attempts and a couple revisions to find a setting I was willing to cope with, but once I was settled, I started to take in all the vibrant colors and the stunning redesign of SR388 and it’s inhabitants.
Still a bit clumsy with the aim controls, I spent a lot of time jumping to hit my target. It was already a tried and true method for me; I never bothered with aiming up or down in any of the other games. Nonetheless, as I gathered more upgrades for Samus’ power armor, I grew more comfortable with the game. That is, until I discovered I had just brute forced my way through half the game, missing the ice and wave beams. After thirty minutes of backtracking and testing for bombable walls, I had obtained all the gear I was supposed to have and continued to advance through the rest of the game. With much frustration, I encountered another obstacle the hindered my progress: the first encounter with an Omega Metroid had me stumped. Instead of jumping over it, I frequently made a subconscious attempt to force feed Samus to the towering beast. It became time to step away for a while and return with a clear head. This became a trend as I’d play through the three minutes leading up to the big fight, die, and play the same three minutes over again. Lather, rinse, repeat, as I took days between attempts where I’d fight the Omega Metroid four or five times, then take a break.
By the end, I was sad for it to be over and equally elated to complete a game that I previously assumed I’d never finish. AM2R served as a welcome voyage back into a world littered with space pirates, bounty hunters, strange creatures, and wondrous alien artifacts. Furthermore, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to relive my childhood.
It should come as no surprise that Nintendo shut down AM2R. All downloads were taken down on August 9th, 2016 and an official cease and desist order was issued on September 2nd, 2016. Though it was short lived, it was a fantastic achievement by the game’s creator, Milton “DoctorM64” Guasti, and those who volunteered to help him. As unfortunate as it may be, it’s understandable why Nintendo took down AM2R; it’s necessary to protect their IP. Yet, Guasti gave me something that Nintendo couldn’t. He gave me one more trip into the universe of Metroid, facilitating my ability to actually finish the game, filling in one more gap to the series’ timeline. As Nintendo continues to advance with more consoles that aren’t inclusive, the likelihood I’ll save the galaxy with Samus Aran again becomes more unlikely: with many of the newer titles in the series, they have failed to harness the adventurous wonder Metroid created and Super Metroid expanded upon. My service with the Galactic Federation may end here, but as far as I’m concerned, the galaxy is at peace.