Developed by: Nintendo R&D 1
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: Game Boy
Feeling Like: Post-pubescent
I didn’t know what I was getting into as a child.
All I knew is that the cover was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Samus Aran, in all her glory, posed menacingly on an alien planet and stared right at me. Her arm cannon was smoking, her armor was sharp and shiny. It was a call to action. Play me.
It’s a handheld game from 1991, so it can be completed in a few hours, isn’t particularly difficult but, like I said, I had no awareness of how to play this type of game.
I didn’t get it. There weren’t…levels, it was just one big world. I didn’t have a map, aside from the hastily drawn scribbles I’d manage to scrawl on dad’s tea-stained notepad. None of my friends were playing it, which is appropriate. The hero of the Metroid series was all alone, why shouldn’t I be?
I have to go back to the Box Art. I loved it so much I made sure to tape the poster on my bedroom wall on Oliver St. It was still there when I moved out in late 2007!
Having a handheld system meant I could play video games in my room, which meant I was the happiest person alive. The only tricky part was the battery supply. Apparently the entire house ran on them, because they were nigh impossible to pry away from my parents. Eventually they bought me rechargeable batteries and a station to charge them; naturally, it lived in my room so I was once again the happiest person alive.
Now, I could fail at Metroid 2: Return of Samus anytime I wanted!
I’m being cruel to my past self, but my past self also didn’t care. It was exciting to explore planet SR388. I began to memorize which Metroids lay in wait around corners, where to find upgrades, how to get the lava to disappear and when the next save point was. I never did finish it, but the music and atmosphere always stayed with me. That’s prime Metroid; if it’s good at anything it’s conveying a lonely, claustrophobic, alien tone. The game excels at giving you just enough firepower to make it through, but never too much.
Still, I couldn’t progress past Metroid 20 or so. Some areas were just too labyrinthine, they looked too similar and I didn’t have the discipline (or stupidity) to keep playing something I wasn’t enjoying.
While on a drunken escapade to Vancouver to visit Eric and Kasim, I whipped out the ol’ Gameboy and gave it another whirl. A different experience awaited me entirely.
It was like the fog of confusion had been burned off by decades of gaming. I had a rough idea where to go from the start and never got lost. No, see, that noise and shaking camera means something significant has happened elsewhere on the map, it’s not a poorly done explosion of an enemy. Yeah, save point here, and here’s a whole new area. Only 16 Metroids to go. Easy.
It’s like when you can’t crack a difficult part in a game, take a break, go to sleep, go for a walk, whatever. You come back and beat it 1st try. Except this time, my 1st try back was nearly two decades later. Well, I guess I had a fresh mindset.
The songs are suitably weird and creepy. Less is more when you’re dealing with limited hardware space, so I guess mission accomplished. The best song of the bunch, thankfully, is the first one you’ll hear and really gets you in the mood. For whatever reason, visuals are always distorted from my childhood and with adult eyes they appear distorted, or wrong. Never for music, once I’m hooked on a melody, it lives on through humming or tapping of fingers.
I’m really impressed, and sort of surprised how much of the game is coming back to me. The frantic search for land when I accidentally encompassed myself in an acid pool. The constant search for secret crevices when I was rolled up into the morph ball. Bombing every square inch of ground to see what else I was missing. The sudden and alarming warning when a Metroid appears.
That’s why I’m pleased with my own criteria of the 500. I don’t have to say Metroid 2: Return of Samus is a better game than The Legend of Zelda, or F-Zero, or LittleBigPlanet. Only that it left a bigger impact on me. The feeling of facing the Metroid Queen and finishing what I started as a six year old kid isn’t imitable any longer. Oh sure, that’s an unfair advantage, but who gives a shit? It’s my list.
I was on the floor of a dorm room we were staying the night in at the University of British Columbia. All of us were drunk, most of us were asleep. To my own surprise, I wasn’t one of the early retirees. It was an ongoing joke for a LONG time that I was the first to fall asleep at any gatherings with friends. What can I say? I’m bipolar when it comes to energy extremes.
This time was different. Pockets of free time somehow kept presenting themselves and I only had one distraction -my poorly lit Game Boy and a waning battery supply. The counter that showed me how many Metroids was decreasing consistently. There was no doubt what I was facing when I landed in the Metroid Queen’s lair. She took up a third of the screen, had a unique song and the counter read 1. I couldn’t believe I’d made it. Was this what I was afraid of all those years ago?
I won, easily. I jumped and jumped my way back to my spaceship and that was The End. I wanted to rouse my buddies to bask in their inevitable praise, but somehow I don’t think it would have gone over well. This was my first Metroid, and the only Metroid that will take me 140,000 hours to see the ending.