This could arguably be an “Updated Thoughts” post, given I looked at AM2R already around the time of its release. Though as a technicality, this is version 1.5; back then was version 1.0. It’s different… technically.
Nevertheless, as a quick catch-up, AM2R—Another Metroid 2 Remake—is a fan-made remake of Nintendo’s Metroid II: Return of Samus. It was in development for a billion years and finally released in 2016, then was given a cease and desist notice by Nintendo shortly afterwards. However, as evidenced by its subreddit, development is steadily continuing. Updates to the current package will feature even more content than before and, apparently, will feature a complete graphical overhaul.
It’s been five years since I played this for the first time, and while my impressions were good, I had some reservations. In time, I would come to prefer Nintendo’s official remake in Metroid: Samus Returns. Now, I’m five years older, five years wiser, and five years removed from a fan game that has apparently received some added polish. My Metroid marathon this year wouldn’t be complete without going back to one of the best Metroid fan games ever produced.
Another Metroid 2 Remake takes place directly after the events of the first Metroid title. Its synopsis is also basically the exact same as Samus Returns‘s. Federal troops were sent to planet SR388 to investigate some spooky stuff, only to never return. The Galactic Federation then contracts Samus to fly to the planet herself and investigate. It isn’t long until she realizes that a metroid infestation is present, and she’ll need to eradicate all of them before they become a threat to the universe as a whole.
I read a little bit of my prior review (then stopped upon seeing those enormous paragraphs) before starting to write this, so my earlier impressions are a bit fresh in my mind. That said, I’ll begin the same way I did last time: visually.
AM2R is everything a modern 2D Metroid title should be… when adhering to a pixel art base. As absolutely gross as I found Samus Returns, this is the absolute opposite—it doesn’t even matter that a lot of the material was borrowed. Homages to Metroid: Zero Mission and Super Metroid aesthetically are present to various degrees, both in the environment and the creature/character design. Not to mention, given this is a remake, a lot of the structure of the overall map is similar to the source material.
Weapon fire, enemy variety, boss design, intricate animations, environmental architecture, battle techniques; so much to see and absorb as one goes through the adventure. Big and bold UI system, well placed for the current generation. A large variety of enemies inhabit the planet, each with their own unique brand of creepy terror. None more formidable than the evolving metroids, with forms more grotesque as they evolve. It’s beautifully succinct and, perhaps ironically, natural.
For a very small team of fan developers, this is remarkably stylish. A type of atmosphere and design only those intimately familiar with the Metroid series would be able to replicate. As a pixel-art stan of the highest degree, not only is this way more visually appealing than its official counterpart, it’s among the best-looking Metroid titles ever. Nothing but the utmost praise for its immense detail and execution of atmospheric… dread.
There’s even a hidden area that I did not encounter previously (unsure if it existed in v. 1.0). A landing site where Galactic Federation troops made base, abandoned and wrecked due to the events that transpired. Upon a setting sun, a blazing red in the distance, and a ship to explore with danger lurking. There’s even what I believe to be a reference to Metroid Fusion on the left-most side of the map. My amusement was at astronomical heights.
If not visually, it’s otherwise audibly proficient. AM2R‘s soundtrack is so, so immersive, and almost soothing. Like a mix of both the handheld titles and the Prime trilogy, it manages to evoke a good variety of both atmosphere and bopping tunes. Calming hymns and quiet ambiance, followed by futuristic rhythms that allow the body to dance (or at least the head to bob). So much went into the orchestration, both appropriate to the original game and of callbacks to other titles.
Sound effects bloom as the adventure continues; with new upgrades and items, new and meatier ways to listen to the demolishment of baddies and structures come to fruition. Metroids will screech and squeal to signal that they’re using a tactical dodge maneuver, signaling to the player to aim carefully (or blast to kingdom come). Specific cybernetic adversaries will perish in spectacular, booming fashion. Each area brings a refurbished essence of auditory excitement.
I’m unsure whether any Metroid game before (or after) has come close to the sort of destructive immersion that is present in AM2R. When things are destroyed, they’re obliterated—torn from reality with nary a scrap behind. Samus, at some point, feels like an acrobatic weapon of complete annihilation. Even the most advanced metroid lifeform, upon the final shot, stands limp and explodes after a few moments. It almost begs the question if perhaps Samus has ever considered ruling the universe herself.
Questions of morality aside, shooting things in video games is fun. This has been the case for a number of decades, fully ingrained in the culture of the gaming industry and its products. However you may feel on the matter, Metroid is known for its free-flowing, run n’ gun action, whether in the 2D or 3D space. As this is in the 2D space, it faces competition directly through Metroid, Metroid II, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, and Zero Mission. To its credit, I think it’s up there in terms of professionalism and fun.
Unlike with Samus Returns, I was pretty enamored with the control and feel of AM2R immediately. Like going back to an old system that fits you just right; a system tailor-made to your preferences. I’m back to playing the GBA Metroid titles yet again, only on PC and with an Xbox controller. Her jumps, movement, and diagonal aiming directions are tight and responsive. The platforming aspect is phenomenal—precisely the kind of control I crave and cherish with these games.
Unfortunately, the button inputs can take some adjustment. Aiming diagonally, like with the GBA titles, requires pressing down the shoulder buttons, which takes some practice. Switching between things like missiles, super missiles, and power bombs are all toggled through a single button, somewhat similar to Super Metroid—can’t tell you how often I accidentally did one thing when I wanted something else. Not quite the most intuitive control scheme, though the developers did provide the option to map buttons to the player’s preference.
Still, a majority of the game will involves three major components:
And when it comes to these aspects, there are few who combine them all cohesively to keep the entirety satisfying like Metroid. Y’know how Sonic Mania is typically seen as a fan-made celebration of what made classic Sonic so great? I’m willing to place this in the same category. AM2R is a pinnacle of design that takes advantage of experienced fan knowledge of the series to create something unofficially official.
What this does even more, however, is incorporate new boss fights (and boss fights that reference other games!) to further the experience. Some of the things Samus has to take down in this game feel so ingrained in the world that’s created that it’s almost like it was meant to be. Others just feel like fan service, which I’ll allow because I’m firmly up the ass of the franchise anyway.
The frequency of boss encounters is just right, too. Perhaps one per new area, keeping the player engaged for something once the walls change colors or the enemies get more bizarre. This is not counting metroids, by the way; some 40 of those little buggers will constantly be popping up at you, whether at the end of tunnels or hidden in plain sight. A couple jumpscared me, which I did not appreciate. With how often these buddies appear in conjunction with more unique bosses, there’s always something.
Many puzzles present themselves as one navigates the planet. Most are done for the sake of extra ammunition upgrades, though a few are necessary for progression. These generally aren’t too complex, ensuring that most will be able to get through without much hassle. However, I will note that items can be acquired in a sort of non-linear order, and progression can occasionally be blocked off if one isn’t too explorative.
I remember my first time playing this, I had missed a specific beam upgrade along the way, and was completely puzzled as to why I couldn’t progress. I searched high and low in every area for what I may have been missing, only to find out there was a specific little spot in the middle of one map that I had neglected to explore. Key advice: explore all parts of the map. This did not occur again this time (my pride would not allow it).
To make another comparison to my recent time with its official counterpart, this also has a tendency to just splash missile expansions and energy tanks at the player. This may very well be because missiles are highly effective (borderline required) for the final boss, though it does come across as a bit too easy. Accessibility matters, I’m aware. Though I can be pretty old-school in my preferences, and I found the early portions of the game a tad too eager to expand the cannon.
This is not to say there is a lack of excellent puzzles or well-hidden secrets. Even capturing screenshots for this review, I came across some things I had missed without realizing, and going through some fun shinespark antics to get to one super missile tank. There are spots of the area that are hidden behind advanced maneuverability that tests one’s skill with the game mechanics, which I adore. There’s a few in each game, with this being no different. Love the implementation here.
Another aspect here that’s intriguing is the scanning system, which, unfortunately, cannot be done manually. It will automatically activate upon entering a new area or encountering a new boss. When done, one can access a log database via the pause menu and read about these specific insights whenever one desires. A very neat touch, likely inspired by the Prime series, that adds a modern flavor to the 2D formula.
I suppose I could cover whatever “story” is presented through the environment, though I think this is better left for people to experience themselves. What makes the game great is its unnerving isolation, discovering obscene possibilities and observing the aftermath of traumatic events. It happens here in sporadic, minimal moments, though its lack of events make it all the more captivating when they do occur.
More than anything—whatever may have come across throughout this giant, wordy waterfall—AM2R is a beautiful homage to the franchise and a huge upgrade to its parent topic. How it looks, sounds, plays, and the myriad of different modern updates to an already wonderful formula only makes it one of the most robust and gratifying games—Metroid or otherwise—that one can play. It’s splendid, and I like it more than I did playing it for the first time five years ago.
Ranking it among official titles, it’s up there with Fusion and Prime for me. Not completely perfect, nor is the structure of the game completely free from some mighty repetition. Nevertheless, all the soul put into making this as perfect as it can be resonates so vividly that I cannot help but adore it.
By the way, it’s free. Give it a shot. You’re welcome.
Final Score: 8/10
For more reviews on this topic, be sure to check out the associated archive.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.