Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Pokémon Essentials, God’s gift to people who dream of making video games, such as myself. Continue reading “I’m Making Pokémon (Fan) Games”
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Pokémon Essentials, God’s gift to people who dream of making video games, such as myself. Continue reading “I’m Making Pokémon (Fan) Games”
Almost half a year after the rise and fall of AM2R, another Metroid fangame has made its way into the living world. Metroid: Rogue Dawn is a game that was in development, from what I can find, since 2014. It was released late last month, but I hadn’t found out about it until just a week ago. This delay allowed me to play an updated “1.10” version with fixed bugs and mishaps, which probably benefited my overall experience. The lead designer, Grimlock, is already whipping up plans for a “1.20” version with a little bit more content involved, so this is a currently evolving product that I happen to be reviewing this version of. The updates come with the enthusiasm of replaying to spot the differences and make the game all the more invigorating, though the product now needs little work in terms of pure gameplay.
The most impressive thing about this hack is that it pays homage to the original Metroid down to the ‘d.’ Everything you could possibly love (or loathe) about the original Metroid is on full display in Rogue Dawn, from the pixelated graphics to the controls. While glossier in its finish than most games within that timeframe, to the inexperienced eye, the game could genuinely be mistaken for an NES game made back in the ’80s. In recent years, the demand for retro and retro-styled games has risen exponentially, almost to the point where it’s become trendy. Rogue Dawn has enough of a backing to justify its design choice while also satisfying the desires of those who wish to be transported back to simpler days.
It’s set as a prequel to the original Metroid, with the player starring someone other than Samus Aran. It takes place on the traditional setting of planet Zebes with an unknown human worker under the command of Ridley. Her mission is to steal a Metroid from within the Federation’s base and bring it back to Space Pirate headquarters. The lone woman’s name is Dawn Aran. Herein lies one chief problem with the manner of the game’s execution combined with its plot: why make her name that? Throughout Rogue Dawn, very little is given in terms of who this woman is and how she may be related to Samus. In fact, she’s never given any dialogue or personality to speak of, reclaiming the role of Samus in games of old, silent protagonist to the stars. It isn’t until the end of the game that she makes any direct thought at all, which may come across as random to some. I feel the extra intrigue with making her directly tied to Samus leaves too much to be desired with as little story is told about her, specifically. The creator could’ve named her literally anything else and it wouldn’t matter to the story whatsoever.
This isn’t to say there is no story in Rogue Dawn, as there is quite a bit, both told through dialogue and environment. I liked the simple aesthetic foretelling that Rogue Dawn incorporates to drive the feeling of isolation that Metroid is known for. Skeletons being littered throughout the planet, old Chozo statues being placed everywhere with empty item shells, etc. These little changes don’t seem like much, but it subconsciously paints a mood for the player as they travel throughout the lands of Zebes. Dialogue is painted on the screen in individual rooms, which seems silly at first glance, but is a nice throwback to the way video games used to be before advanced textboxes were created. It gets the job done and is able to convey enough emotional feedback from characters to set the mood further, but only that.
While Rogue Dawn does do a great justice in those looking for a true Metroid “sequel,” there’s a great injustice that I feel needs to be addressed with these homages. Gameplay-wise, the controls are solid and very rarely fidgety, and the sprite animation is fluid and nice to look at. However, perhaps because it is a direct hack of the original Metroid, it still contains many of the problems that plague the source material. Horrid knockback. Enemies phasing through doors as the screen loads the next room, hurting the player. Bosses being defeated by spamming one button. Lag with a large number of moving sprites onscreen. Limited enemy variation. These included are some objective faults of the game, but don’t assume more subjective complaints won’t follow suit.
For as much as I love the Metroid franchise, I was never a huge fan of the original game. While excluding Metroid II, as I’ve never played it, my experiences with its games gives the impression that they perfected the formula with Super Metroid. Some of the issues I have with Metroid is that it’s too vague, too unfairly difficult, and too simplistic in its design to really leave a lasting impact. Rogue Dawn, as the point of an homage, incorporates all of these things, to varying degrees.
It is too vague. It took me a total of ten hours to fully complete this game. I’m not blaming the game for my lack of directional skills or intuition, but there are times when the environment holds too many different passageways to too many different areas, leaving the player to occasionally forget completely about one of what seems like ten different secret routes. There are subtle differences to tell these secret routes, usually, but there are also times when the player must experiment with newly-acquired items. Backtracking, while also trying to guide oneself in the right direction, can drag the experience out for far too long. Not to mention, there are no incoming updates, hint systems, or Chozo statues telling where one needs to go. One must explore, trial and error, over and over in various areas until they can conceivably find a lead. God help whoever happened to miss a key item along the way.
On a narrative scale, the vagueness can also dull the impact of the story, as it becomes rather heavy later on. One is likely not to care about Dawn, as the only intriguing feature about her is her name and position. It almost seems, despite its best efforts, that the story is a rather safe route into the “Metroid lore.” By game’s end, nothing really changes, nothing really is set up for future updates. It feels like one of those one-off bonus specials for fans of a main source. Like an OVA to an anime series, or a mini-series to a hit film. While the presentation of a new character with an intriguing backstory is presented within Rogue Dawn, the hack does nothing with it. It could’ve attempted to give her an occasional interaction or two with others within the base or otherwise, but the decision to keep everything quiet backfires in this case.
It is too unfairly difficult. This one can be different for anyone, though I feel one can sense it within Rogue Dawn, especially within the last area. Certain enemies bounce around with absurd precision. Bosses have a ridiculous amount of health to them, or unbreakable patterns. Trap rooms give way to hurting the progression of the player. Not to mention, that glitch where enemies can phase through doors. To be fair, the difficulty with bosses only concerns one in the forest area (as I traveled there too early in the game) and the final boss. Speaking of the final boss, the entire final area is so frustratingly annoying and targeted to infuriate the player that one would likely throw their computer at the wall if not for save states. It certainly had its intended effect on me (My laptop is okay). But is that fun? Does that “sense of accomplishment” really come through upon beating it and overcoming a tough trial? It can, but in cases where the game isn’t throwing eight different projectiles at me and expecting me to fail the first twenty times. A more strategic approach is enough to quell my frustrations with a feeling of elation, somewhat like the final bosses in the Donkey Kong Country series. Having a hundred enemies onscreen at the same time trying to kill you isn’t strategic. It’s padding.
It is too simplistic. Purists will likely harp on me for criticizing the game for being too similar to Metroid in simplicity, but the point doesn’t matter. The fact is that it’s still too simplistic. I can understand not wanting to be handheld and experiencing the thrill of adventure on your own. There are two extremes to one subject, and I feel the coddling of recent games is only balanced by the relative abandoning of games of old. Much like Rogue Dawn. Much like Metroid. It is without a lot of narrative intrigue. It is without a number of items to make the experience much different. It is without a lot of different enemies to combat. It is without a lot of everything that made future Metroid titles much better in comparison to the debut member. One could conceivably see the game as simply going from one place to another, collecting things and blowing up baddies, and that’s all. I’d argue there’s more to it, however the amount present on the surface is bare. The most interesting thing about Rogue Dawn is that it’s a fan project and the environments look spectacular.
Even with the flood of negative attributes, there’s a lot to adore with a fan project such as this. As I previously stated, the environments and design look spectacular, amazing even. One would likely play the game based on aesthetic embellishment alone. It sets the tone magnificently and the intrigue of what’s to come keeps the player going. The final area is a particular favorite of mine that embodies everything about the creepy atmosphere the Metroid series adores indulging in. Artistically, Rogue Dawn is the pinnacle of a true-to-form Metroid fan project. It also features a decent amount of changes to the environment to make it more visually exciting, as well as more foreboding than the occasionally silly sprites of Metroid. This is one area where the fan project exceeds the original. Then again, this was made thirty years after Metroid.
If one really, really loves Metroid, then they’ll feel right at home with Rogue Dawn. The amount of effort put forth (and still ongoing) is shown in the work, which alone could make the game worth playing. Unfortunately, one would also have to fight with all the outdated design flaws that come with the original game; not to mention a disappointing lack of entrepreneurship with a supposedly new and fresh storyline.
Final Score: 5/10
Ambition can be a wonderful thing. It has led man to explore the reaches of the universe, to create inventions to make living life easier, and defined the very foundation of everything that is little more than common knowledge today. One has to realize, in this day and age, that everything within the world around them has a name and some purpose, all because someone had the ambition to—
Wait, I already said all of this in another post.
Pokémon Uranium is yet another example of a small team’s ambition to create an original game connected to a beloved Nintendo franchise. In this instance, the game is not a recreation of an already established game, but rather an original work within an already established franchise. Think of it like a video game fanfiction. What’s ironic about this project is that it was released on the same day as AM2R, and took relatively the same amount of time to develop. However, there is a very distinct difference between these two projects.
AM2R was a remake of a game within the Metroid franchise. Pokémon Uranium is its own game within the Pokémon narrative… sort of. While it incorporates its own storyline, region, and pokémon (mostly), the game also makes many references to past Pokémon titles, whether in the form of dialogue, plot developments, or things to do within each town. This, in a sense, makes it less of its own identity and more of a shinier combination of many past Pokémon games, which leads into an ambitious culmination of everything that made the series unique. While AM2R had a little flexibility to its credit for being a remake, Uranium has the responsibility of establishing its own story and experiences for the player to take part in.
I’m sure many people found out about this game through various video game news sites, like I did just the other day. However, I’ve actually stumbled upon this game prior to its release, many months ago on a Wiki dedicated to the game. At first, I thought it was simply a database for fan-made pokémon, but to my surprise, it’s been released as a fully-fledged game, one that’s been worked on for nearly ten years! The timing can’t be anything other than fate, I suppose. A lot of these video game sites are building it to be this massive, impressive feat of design and dedication… for a fan game, anyway. Right after completing AM2R, I was spoiled into believing that this game would be just as innovative and immersive as the former.
Upon booting up the game, I was greeted with a fascinating title screen, complete with a number of different options and neat-looking menus. Starting the game, I was introduced into this brand new world of Pokémon, much like starting out with the series for the first time, and the feeling was something I can’t quite describe with words. An innate desire and curiosity, forged with a feeling of excitement and slight trepidation. I was immediately intrigued, though not entirely hooked. Things were looking swell. Alas, my curiosity was cut short by a sudden flashback. A backstory before even starting the game. Ten years ago, the player’s mother was working as a scientist in a Pokémon research facility of sorts. In a fatal accident, a nuclear reactor exploded, leaving the player’s mother AWOL. This event causes the player’s father to grow cold and distant, spending more time working as a Pokémon Ranger than caring for his child. Because of this, the player is forced to live with their elderly aunt, but she’s become too weak to care for a child, and now the player must come into their own to fend for themselves in the “Tandor region.” They do this by, how else, becoming the local Pokémon professor’s assistant and traveling the world to catch ’em all. This intro, frankly speaking, is a little edgier than most Pokémon narratives.
Putting the rather grim intro aside, once the game truly begins, the player can now control the hero, who starts up in their room, as is tradition. What becomes immediately noticeable is that the controls are really stiff. Talking to your aunt for the first time will reward the player with running shoes, as is tradition. And when the player runs, the game lags consistently. Not to the point of being unplayable, but enough to sort of unnerve those wishing for a consistent framerate. Not only that, but sounds aren’t really in sync with actions, and various actions, like teaching moves or giving items to your pokémon, won’t even play sounds at all. The sound quality of this game, along with the constant slowdown of the game without having much of anything happening, is enough to deter a large number of intolerant gamers from continuing past the first five minutes.
It’s still Pokémon, though, right? To an extent. Uranium is a lot like the term I alluded to above: video game fanfiction. It essentially plays by most of the rules that Pokémon sets in stone with their series and only adds flashy material on the outer coatings of the formula. Such as the new “Nuclear” type, and a few pre-existing pokémon obtaining new evolutions to their chains. Uranium, although never intending to sell itself as a “new” Pokémon experience, is a fan’s attempt at putting their own spin on the game without really turning the wheel all the way. The battles are the same, the techniques are the same, the basic function of battling, interacting with people, catching pokémon, fishing, use of HM’s/TM’s, healing items, the statistics, EV training, breeding, hatching eggs; all of this is relatively the same as its parent franchise. Pokémon Uranium is like taking all the fun bits of creating a new Pokémon game, such as designing new pokémon, telling an original story, and assigning pokémon and character locations, and then leaving the rest in the hands of capable professionals to finish it for them.
I meant that last statement quite literally, and it falls back upon the in-game references Uranium makes to other Pokémon titles. Through the first eight hours of playing (and first three gym leaders), I’ve counted numerous different winks and nods to the player that are used to advance the plot or enrich the experience. Characters spouting lines to create continuity. A game corner with slot machines, with pokémon as prizes. A cave area that has the player team up with another character that heals their pokémon after every battle. The third city being the one with the biggest shop, complete with five floors and a collection of different merchandise unlike anywhere else. A cruise ship where the player can battle trainers while waiting for the ship to arrive at the intended destination. Helping to locate a thief who stole pokémon from a research facility. Almost every track is a remix of an already existing Pokémon track. All of these things I was able to point out that ringed familiar to me, and this was just through the first three gyms. For those who have read my review on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, recall when I complained that the movie borrowed too much from previous entries to provide any sort of lingering enticement within me to continue further. Same scenario here. How can Uranium hope to achieve a level of identity for itself by copying so much from more established titles? It rings dull to me, and gives me reason to doubt the creator’s ability to think of anything more fresh in contrast.
As I’m sure many can agree on, the biggest selling point for this fan game was the introduction of a vast array of new pokémon. Over 150, if I do recall. The new creatures that inhabit this game vary in overall quality, though I find the list more lackluster than anything. The starters, almost as if following the trend inside my head, are among my least favorite aesthetically, looking like Deviantart scrap designs. Aside from them, there are many, many more new pokémon to choose from, with a lot of unique design choices for sure. Out of these new pokémon, some of them have to be good, right? And some are, though I feel the bad outweighs the good. And when the designs are bad, they are really bad. Another thing about this game I don’t care for (though is admittedly nitpicking) is the emphasis on bizarre pokémon type combinations. The creator must’ve been feeling inspired, because it seems like every pokémon has at least two types that don’t normally go together. Grass/Steel, Fire/Ground, Bug/Fire, Dark/Normal, Electric/Ground, Dark/Fighting, Grass/Fire; it seems they wanted to balance out obvious type advantages just to be annoying. I didn’t appreciate it.
Something of a growing complaint with newer Pokémon games is that the game isn’t challenging enough. Pokémon Uranium decides this is a valid complaint, as the difficulty curve seems to shift randomly as the game progresses. Right out of the first town, the player can face two trainers with pokémon of similar level to theirs, assuming they hadn’t had the chance to train. I almost died on the first trainer because I was unprepared for pokémon that strong from one of the first trainers you battle. Not only do trainers’ pokémon seem to grow in level rapidly as the player moves on from the area, but the rate at which the player’s pokémon collects experience is deceptively slow. Not to mention, if not for a device that lets the player re-battle trainers, the experience rate for most pokémon within grassy areas is pathetically low. Grinding is almost a requirement within this game to play it at a comfortable pace. It’s hard to find the game’s pacing at all smooth when grinding becomes too abundant for the player.
Only playing eight hours of the game, I can’t say much in terms of what Uranium does with its own storyline. I managed to get to a certain point, but quit right after things started to go haywire. From what I was exposed to, the story doesn’t grip me very well, as it seems to crawl down the same path as genuine Pokémon game narratives follow. Except characters say “Damn.” The whole “Save the world, hero! You’re our only hope!” plot line that has drooped into my subconscious as one of the laziest attempts at a hook in entertainment history. While the darker undertones and tragic backstory are a little fresh in terms of Pokémon narrative, it doesn’t really help when the player is a silent protagonist unable to express emotions. I don’t empathize with them because they aren’t expressing anything. Characters mention things about the difficulty of facing the death of the hero’s mother or the awkward reunion with the hero’s father after so long, but it comes across as rudimentary when the character sits pixel-faced and unmoved by the whole situation. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this darker shift in story is inappropriate for a Pokémon game, but it doesn’t feel quite as impactful when the hero does nothing to react to any of it.
Probably the best aspect of Uranium (understandably so) is the design of the region. While the framerate and glitchiness of the characters and their dialogue can provide for unintentional humor, the area you travel is nothing short of visually captivating. From what I’ve played, it already incorporated an autumn-like forest, multiple dark caves, a beach, large(-ish) cities, and an abandoned nuclear plant. One has to question how all of these areas aren’t affected in the same way by the weather despite being less than a few miles apart, but the designs are enough to make people forget they even care. The Tandor region (through three gyms) is a good-looking addition to the Pokémon regional library—not that it’ll ever be canon, though. Battle scenes don’t have that same luster, unfortunately, as health runs down at the speed of a flash game, and certain moves (like Water Gun and Harden) look pathetically unfinished for a supposedly “finished” game. Most other moves look fairly detailed, however, and its execution can either impress the player with how flashy they look or how unrelated they seem to the attack being used.
Without adding much more to the sound quality as I’ve already written about, some pokémon’s cries can be very grating to the ear, while others are, almost as if intentional, unintentionally hilarious. There are a few new pokémon that sport cries from pre-existing pokémon, too. The soundtrack can either appeal or alienate players, as most are remixes of classic Pokémon tracks using a variety of different instruments. I enjoyed some, but the track used for the Pokémon Rangers was so irritatingly loud and obnoxious that I wanted to mute my computer. It’s a love-hate thing.
I’d wager I was about a third of the way into the game before I decided to stop, and while that isn’t nearly enough to warrant a review of it, I feel it’s enough to put out my opinion of the game in its current form, at least to some degree. While some may label this entry as slander due to my inability to finish the game, I see it more as a forewarning to those hesitant about trying the game. I feel Uranium does enough to serve those craving a “new” 2D Pokémon game a nice appetizer, but I feel its laggy optimization and uninspired storytelling may turn off more than a few pokéfans. I would only recommend this to diehard Pokémon fans, as I feel they’re more of the demographic for this sort of project. People who don’t know Pokémon won’t get many of the references placed in this game, and may feel let down by how limited it all feels in general. I guess you could consider this fan project a snack for enthusiastic Pokémon fans, but likely won’t do much to convert those looking for a more immersive RPG. If I were to rate the game based on what I played, it’d likely be anywhere from 4-5, but I don’t feel right on my part to rate only a third of a game. The only indication people should take from this post is that I couldn’t take playing the game anymore. That accounts for something, right?
Ambition can be a wonderful thing. It has led man to explore the reaches of the universe, to create inventions to make living life easier, and defined the very foundation of everything that is little more than common knowledge today. One has to realize, in this day and age, that everything within the world around them has a name and some purpose, all because someone had the ambition to give them a name, and to create, or simply identify, their purpose. This leads into the revival of a game not many have played. In fact, I’m not sure many Metroid fans have even beaten this game, let alone know its place in the Metroid lore. It was the ambition of a small team of developers that brought this project to light, and what a bright light it shines.
I, as I’m sure along with many others, wasn’t alive when the original Metroid II was released. I have yet to even play the game for myself. My only knowledge comes from a video demonstration done by Cinemassacre, along with knowing its place in the Metroid timeline. That being said, it’s hard to review this game without having that proper knowledge of knowing the original, in an effort to judge it as a remake instead of only seeing it for the game itself. Unfortunately, my hands are tied, so all I can do is critique the game based on how it measures up to other Metroid games, along with analyzing the finer details of the game’s structure.
AM2R features Samus Aran, intergalactic bounty hunter extraordinaire, being sent on a mission to the surface of SR388 to eradicate the Metroid scourge inhabiting the planet. That was the only purpose of the mission in the original game, and the remake doesn’t add much more to it. The opening cutscene doesn’t take more than a couple minutes or so, and the player already finds themselves controlling Samus on the surface of SR388.
What becomes immediately apparent with the game upon playing is the level of attention to detail, as well as some familiar imagery. AM2R looks lovely and vivid, with its own unique touch of bold, large numbers and interface options. It produces a glare of intensity with its atmosphere, most notably in Samus’s gunshots and Morph Ball feature. This game is very bright, and I use that term literally. Everything has that sort of glowing aroma of a blockbuster film or enthusiastic light show. It only accentuates the level of efficiency produced by Samus’s suit of armor and her overwhelming strength. Apart from that, a lot of the art style is piggybacked off of Metroid: Zero Mission. Samus’s suit, run and jump animation, idle poses (to an extent), and the sounds she produces all ring familiar to that of the game noted. Many of the enemy types and styles were also borrowed from various Metroid games, almost as if attempting to steer the player’s attention back to those games rather than this one. Then again, it’s entirely possible that the original Metroid II had all of these creature types and I’m simply unaware of it. Even so, it’s amusing to see creatures I’m used to seeing in certain color schemes pop up in various other forms.
On the topic of enemies, I mentioned briefly in my Metroid: Zero Mission Review that enemies too often relied on simply hammering down one button in order to be taken down efficiently. Such is the case here, only the first half of the game relies more on the beam weapon, whereas the second half relies too solely on the Screw Attack upgrade. It makes the gameplay repetitive quickly, and bypassing the area by simply ignoring the flying obstacles becomes a much more pressing argument. That isn’t to say every enemy within the game can be easily defeated with beam ammo, but many of them fall under that category. Another noteworthy aspect of the game is the enemy placement, one which I both enjoy and don’t enjoy. Within the region of SR388, there are a number of different tunnels and underground habitats for a number of different creatures. I really enjoyed seeing the enemies coated in material or balanced in a fashion that suited their environment. I also really enjoyed that as the environment became harsher, the enemies became sturdier (for the most part). It gives this wildlife fascination that creates the planet of SR388 into a genuine location. However, there are also times when enemy types are recycled for convenience, whether from previous locations or from other Metroid titles. The purpose of these enemies don’t really seem to be geared towards survival, either. Many enemies simply serve as obstacles, literally swaying from left and right to obstruct the player’s path. I can understand security drones wanting to do that, but living creatures? It feels too poorly implemented.
What’s exclusive to this game is the countdown of Metroids among the planet’s system. The game’s objective is to destroy all the Metroids on the planet, and this game has a total of 55 Metroids the player has to kill throughout the course of the game. The battles against the Metroids range from annoying, but easy, to obnoxiously one-sided. The bizarre part is that the harder versions of the Metroids come not from the final form, but the middle forms. A Metroid’s lifespan cycles as so: Infant, Mature, Alpha, Gamma, Zeta, then Omega; along with the Queen Metroid, which is an outlier within the Metroid cycle. Within the game, the player will be tasked with facing each form of these Metroids, the majority being Alpha and Gamma forms. These forms are within the “Annoying, but easy” levels of difficulty. Once it hits the Zeta form, however, this game suddenly becomes nearly insufferable. The Zeta form is by far the hardest form to conquer, whether it be because of its size, which takes up a lot of Samus’s jumping space, or its speed, which is barely slower than Samus’s full run speed. I died three times to the same Zeta Metroid during my playthrough before being able to adjust to its moveset. But it’s not just about the moveset as much as it is pure precision. The player’s jumps and missile fire need to be almost pixel perfect to take down a Zeta effectively. And when it comes time to face the Omega Metroids, the player has a distinct advantage because their moveset and strategy are nearly identical to the Zeta, giving the player the assumption that Omegas are simply powered up versions of Zetas. That by no means makes them a cakewalk, however. They’re noticeably easier, but still a pain to take down. I had more fun taking down these guys, though. Combating nearly forty Alpha and Gamma Metroids in a row grows tiring very quickly.
But what of SR388 as a whole? The area that Samus runs around in is somewhat of an achievement compared to most 2D Metroid games. AM2R, and the game it was inspired by, features one large map of the planet’s surface and underground, whereas most other games have one central area that splits off into various “zones” or regions. This was notably frustrating for fans of the original game, as it didn’t even offer a map. Thankfully, AM2R was smart enough to add a map, so players wouldn’t be running around hundreds of rooms trying to remember where they have and haven’t been. Maybe not hundreds, but somewhere close. This is a pretty big game. For its size and even the lighting, most notably, this game serves as an impressive 2D feat. It’d be considered groundbreaking if it wasn’t 2016. Unfortunately, that’s where the praise concludes, as the areas are notably lackluster in almost every regard, though only after visiting the first few areas. According to AM2R, the infrastructure of SR388 comprises of mechanical facilities, ruins, and temples. The general area around these places are all relatively similar: a large, cavern-like space with a lot of jumping space above the structures and some secret tunnel(s) either to the left, right, or below the structure. There’s the sacred temple area with some Chozo machinery. The tower area with more robots inside. An underwater fortress with even more robots inside. Then there are areas that have little importance aside from advancing progress, such as the Search Team and Research Team camps among the tunnels below the surface. They’re joined by various breeding grounds for Metroids, which only serve as a mini-boss rush of many Metroids to kill before progressing. Finally, the area after The Hive, where the strongest and most concentrated area of Metroids reside. This area is probably the most blatant use of the “I’m almost done with the game, may as well make looping tunnels for no reason,” fix I’ve ever seen. It’s visually impressive, what with the glowing caverns and the waterfalls running down flawlessly, but it serves no point. No enemies, no obstacles. It’s simply there.
That is the major problem in regards to the environment of this game. It seems to recycle itself more as the game goes on. The first dark breeding ground was pretty cool. The second one was annoying. The first abandoned temple with robots was pretty cool. The next three were annoying. There isn’t a whole lot of variety to this game in terms of integral differences. There’s a “water” section and something one could argue as the “lava” section, but there isn’t much more to it than that, and it tends to come across as less creative than even the more cliché choices Nintendo makes with its areas.
What kind of remake would this game be without a little author input? I’d hazard a guess and say the original Metroid II didn’t allow players to take control of jumping robots carrying super missiles or carry energy spheres into strange circuits in order to power various locked doors. These little nuances make the game a little more interactive, but these activities end up becoming very situational. There are a few instances of backtracking to uncover hidden secrets, but most are only dependent on progressing and are never incorporated again. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot of backtracking to this game in general. The game gives you the opportunity to, but only to collect some 20% of items you may have missed without thorough exploration of areas the player’s already discovered. For a Metroid game, this rendition of Metroid II doesn’t require the player to backtrack all too often. This, in turn, can lead to cries of “Linear!” among hardcore fans, but that’s just how it goes. I don’t know how much of this game is taken directly from Metroid II, but I’m fairly certain Metroid II didn’t have a scan system. AM2R features a scanning system that inputs data for Samus to read before going into a certain area or fighting a certain mini-boss/boss. However, these scanning situations aren’t player-inputted. They happen at certain points in the game and only serve as world-building and giving subtle hints as to what to expect from an area or how to combat a boss. It’s a nice touch, but I can’t help but wish they fleshed it out a little more. It ends up becoming rather pointless the way it is and does little to make the player feel immersed. I would’ve preferred if it was something a player could control themselves, similar to the Prime series.
A small nitpick on my part, but I find it a wee easy to get lost within the goal of this game. Twice I found myself exploring and backtracking trying to find out what to do next, only to find out I missed a subtle cue within a room of the most recent area of focus. This accumulated into roughly an hour of my total playtime, and I can’t describe how frustrating it was to check every non-highlighted room for some sort of answer. This is an instance when the area of the map seemed far too big, but I realize it works better with that size. This also ties into the lack of backtracking in this game. Earthquakes will occur every so often that will indicate a progression of story. Once those earthquakes occur, the area the player was just exploring becomes pointless aside from a few item expansions. Progression comes from continuing a path underground that will lead into loooooong tunnels that stretch out to the far left portion of the map. Knowing that, the player will understand that if they can’t progress, it’s because they didn’t discover everything in the last area they had to go through. I only wish I knew that before playing this, because it had me waste quite a bit of time in prior areas.
Something I feel isn’t brought up much in determining the quality of Metroid games is the soundtrack. AM2R has a good combination of both catchy and ambiatic tracks that serve the game well throughout. Overall, the quality of music is above average. I notice that tracks for various areas tend to blend in with one another after a while, while tracks of ambiance tend to be quiet and foreboding. Despite this, it’s a good remix of other Metroid tracks, while serving as its own sort of rhythmic beeps and boops that remind me of Sanctuary Fortress from Prime 2. The foreboding tracks work very well with the dark breeding grounds, as I felt genuinely concerned about what was to come next. The abandoned campsites, however, not so much. I really enjoy the tune that plays during the title screen, along with the music that plays whenever battling a Metroid.
Over the course of the game, efficiency was never an issue. It worked smoothly from beginning to end. No complaints there. For a fan game, that is a very imperative step, and I applaud the team for the amount of work they had to have went through to make that happen. The only glitch that occurred to me was when I was facing a Mature Metroid near the end of the game. I had frozen it and wasn’t able to destroy it in time with five missiles. So, the Metroid vanished into the wall and never came back out. The doors remained locked and I was trapped inside. I had to restart the game from the last save point.
This game altogether is a beautiful tribute to the Metroid franchise and perhaps a reliable remake of an often forgotten game. This is probably the closest to a new Metroid game we’ll get in the near future, seeing as Nintendo seems hellbent on treating the franchise like a booty call. I only wish that AM2R would’ve added more to it to make it as vibrant as actual Metroid games. To be able to design the environment and improve upon what was already put in place to make it an altogether great game. The way it is now is a great first step, as I enjoyed playing a good majority of the game, but it could be better. Fortunately, this is titled as “v. 1.0,” so there seems to be more to come from this team. I’ll be waiting patiently to see what they’re capable of doing with more time and energy to pursue their overwhelming ambition.
Final Score: 7/10