Gaming Nexus' Picks For Remaking One Game


posted 9/27/2006 by The GN Staff
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Sean Colleli: Metroid II Return of Samus

Well, it was a tough decision at first for my remake of choice, and at first I went down my line of favorites: GoldenEye 007, Jedi Knight, Deus Ex.  However, I feel a remake should be something more than a graphical facelift or added technological gimmicks.  A remake should be an honest-to-god improvement.  So, I decided on Metroid II: Return of Samus, one of the most under-appreciated sequels of all time, and a game in desperate need of an overhaul.

Metroid II

For a black and white Game Boy title, Metroid II was impressive for its time, but quickly became outdated in both graphics and play mechanics.  Today it is universally the least popular of Nintendo’s flagship sci-fi franchise.  Its immediate successor, Super Metroid, claims title as the fan favorite of the Metroid games, and the Prime series of prequels have gained immense popularity in their own right as instant classics.

So, what’s so bad about Metroid II?  Well, for a sequel to such a successful NES game, it added a lot of features, but ended up as a functional stepping-stone on the way to Super Metroid.  Save stations were infinitely preferable to the cumbersome old password system, but they were more numerous and conveniently placed in Super Metroid.  Samus’s gunship acted as a home base for the bounty hunter, and has appeared in all subsequent games and spin-offs.  Basically, every Metroid game since Metroid II has made exponential improvements, making Metroid II look more like a low-tech experiment than a sequel.

How do I propose Nintendo goes about updating Return of Samus?  Well, let’s take a look at another remake in the Metroid series.  Back in early 2004, Nintendo released a GBA remake of the original NES game, entitled Metroid: Zero Mission.  Although short in length, this game did a wonderful job of updating the seminal NES adventure.  It added a plethora of features from previous games, included several new bosses and a whole new “epilogue” chapter at the end that had Samus evading the Space Pirates without the protection of her power armor.

Zero Mission retconned several story ambiguities, gave a look into Samus’s mysterious past and brought a classic game to a new audience.  Younger gamers who had discovered the enigmatic huntress in the Prime games or Smash Bros. could go back and experience her first quest in a much more accessible way—the first Metroid was hard to find and play on the discontinued NES hardware, and it was also a brutally difficult game, even back in 1986.  Zero Mission gave new players an easier, more robust adventure, and for comparison (and nostalgia’s) sake included the original NES game in all its 8-bit glory.

However, Metroid II is possibly harder to find than the first game, and almost as frustrating for modern gamers to play.  It’s an important chapter in the Metroid chronology, so it’s only natural that gamers discovering the Metroid series will want to play through it.  What’s more, the Prime series ends where Metroid II begins; Prime 1, 2, 3 and Hunters take place between Metroid and Return of Samus.  So, how can new gamers continue the story?  Simple: a remake, for the Nintendo DS.

I admit, at first I thought Super Metroid would be most appropriate for a refit, but with its inevitable appearance on Wii’s Virtual Console, Metroid II is the only game in the series in dire need of attention.  With the same tune-up that Zero Mission received, it could become a hit.

First, the basics need to be addressed—graphics and gameplayZero Mission had visuals surpassing Super Metroid, with highly colorful animated sprites, morphing textures and 2D transforms, all rendered in a very cool graphic novel style.  Return of Samus could be made even prettier on the DS hardware, with more colors and even some 3D effects.  I think the Sonic Rush approach would work well, with a 3D modeled and animated Samus, 2D backgrounds and maybe a few polygonal features.

As with Zero Mission, the world could also be drastically expanded.  Zebes underwent a huge overhaul and still remained faithful to its NES roots, and I think SR388 can stand even more improvement.  Metroid II’s world was rather bland, thanks in part to the monochrome color scheme, but even the scenery lacked proper definition.  It was very easy to get lost in the repetitive caverns of SR388.  A remake could give each area of the planet its own distinct “personality,” differing climates, backgrounds, obstacles, threats and the like.

In turn, each area should also have its own boss, in keeping with Metroid tradition.  Return of Samus focused on exterminating the Metroids, and while that should remain the primary goal, other enemies need to be included for variety.  SR388 was home to some daunting and increasingly grotesque Metroid specimens, but using the same technique against the same monsters over and over became tedious.  A planet with predators as dangerous as the Metroids should have a pretty ferocious collection of flora and fauna.  We got to see some of this indigenous life in Metroid Fusion, albeit mutated by the X parasite, so a remake should show these beasties in their natural habitat.

Aside from new creatures, Zero Mission also gave Samus her full arsenal, which opened up some great gameplay possibilities.  Even more of her tools and weapon could appear in a Metroid II remake, from the power grip to the speed booster, the gravity suit to the grapple beam.  The ability to use these gadgets on newly updated enemies made Zero Mission all the more memorable, and was a serious nostalgia trip for veterans of the series, so cleverly incorporating them into the remake is a no-brainer.

So, why not just slam all of this onto a GBA cartridge and be done with it?  Well, the special features of the DS could turn this remake into an evolution of the 2D Metroid formula.  I suggest that the action take place on the bottom screen, with the ever-important map on the top screen.  A top-screen logbook would also be a better alternative to Fusion’s chatty “Adam” computer.  This will eliminate the irritating process of pausing to check the map and logbook, but also open up the touch screen for a slew of innovative new uses.  Powers and items could be used like never before.  For example, the grapple beam could be activated by tracing a line on the touch screen to an enemy or a hook point.  Speed boosting could be accomplished by stroking the screen rapidly, making the thumb-numbing shinespark puzzles just a little easier.

Some of the Prime series’ cooler features could also be incorporated through touch control.  Tapping enemies or bosses could activate the scan visor and retrieve readouts on weaknesses or strategies.  Tracing circles around multiple baddies could acquire missile locks, like the multi-missile from Metroid Prime 2 Echoes.  The tiring process of cycling through weapons by hammering the select button, about the only flaw in Super Metroid, could be remedied with an on-screen menu for quick touch access.  The morphball could be activated in a similar fashion to Metroid Prime Hunters.

The slim story of Return of Samus could also see some fleshing out, much like Samus’s origin story in Zero Mission.  Because Metroid II has some direct correlations to Metroid Fusion, I’d like to see some flashbacks about Samus’s old CO, Adam Malkovich.  These would be a nice parallel to the flashbacks in Zero Mission.

With the imminent launch of the Wii and all of the new IP’s coming out, it’s easy to lose track of the classics.  Nintendo will have the big three, Zelda, Metroid and Mario, at launch or shortly thereafter, so they stand to gain a lot from the Metroid franchise’s continued success.  A remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus could ride the popularity of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and act as a portable counterpart, much like Prime 1 and Fusion’s mutual release.  Corruption is poised to revolutionize first person perspective games, and a remake of Metroid II could do the same for 2D adventures and the side-scrolling Metroid games in general.

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