The atomic bomb had been dropped. The Axis of Evil had been defeated. The war-weary soldiers of the world were finally able to go home and have the rest they so rightly deserved. With the soldiers back at home having little to do, we saw an increase in the number of children being born.
Post-war America saw a vast expansion in its roadways. Massive highways connected cities across the nation, easing cross-country travel and making coast-to-coast trips a possibility for the average man on the street.
That was when another atomic bomb was dropped. Not a real atomic bomb; no, this was a metaphorical atomic bomb, dropped on the children of the nation. The soldiers, apparently still bored after having produced four or five offspring, decided to collectively torture an entire generation.
Locked in a cramped cage, forced to listen to the hideous shrieks of the others locked in with them, and hardly even allowed outside for natural human functions. This was the road trip: the scourge of a nation of youth, and an experience far more terrible than the war of the generation before. Stuffed in a hot car with your despised siblings listening to awful singing and bad music, all on the way to someplace you didn’t even want to be. For years, children were forced to endure this torture with no means of escape. That is, until…
…the Game Boy.
The savior of children everywhere. From the doctor’s office to the airport and even on the dreaded road trip, the Game Boy has saved the sanity of millions of children the world over. It was a revolution against oppression, tyranny, and boredom. It became the shining star of reclusive teenagers everywhere. Nothing has been the same since.
In my personal story, there was one game that ruled my youth in the early days of the Game Boy. That game was Metroid II: Return of Samus. A somewhat forgotten sequel of the Metroid series—like many games before the era of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation—it was my game of choice for long trips.
The length of the game was perfect for me. I could play it through once on long trips, or I could beat half on the way out and half on the way back during shorter trips. I don’t know if I could handle doing it anymore, but at the time, I didn’t mind playing all the way through twice within a few days on those longer trips. The only problem I had in this respect was that, if I had to stop in the middle of the game, I either had to hunt around for a save point or just turn the game off and lose all that progress.
The gameplay itself was built upon the original Metroid, which I had always loved. I think that Metroid II was actually more refined and easier to control than the original, which certainly made it easier to play as a young gamer.
It was probably the more linear story that made it beatable, though. While the original Metroid offered the freedom of an open world, this mostly translated to my young self getting lost and giving up. More similar to modern “Metroidvania” games, I was at least able to finish Metroid II.
Grading the graphics of a Game Boy game is always difficult. While this game doesn’t have the clarity and detail of The Final Fantasy Legend, it’s not quite as bad as oh, say, Fall of the Foot Clan. You can tell what’s going on most of the time, and since you can hardly ever understand what the monsters are supposed to be in any Metroid title, I can’t fault it for that. It’s about what you’d expect to see on a green-and-black screen half the size of a credit card.
The music is a similar story. With the limitations of the system, no Game Boy game has a great music score. However, for the few songs that exist in this game, the regular listening is pretty good, and the rest contribute to the overall atmosphere. Because of this game, I will forever connect random blips and “space noises” with the Metroid series, even if they were never such a large portion of the soundtracks before or since. I do have to mention, though, that the ending song is one of my favorite videogame songs ever. Managing to do that on a Game Boy game is quite a feat, so I have to give it some credit.
Along with Final Fantasy II, Zelda II, and a myriad of other early sequels to series that have become popular, Metroid II quite often gets overlooked. Despite having been pretty good at the time, as a short game made for a system that people now find difficult to stomach, it is regularly overshadowed by later games, like Super Metroid.
However, I think that Metroid II deserves some recognition! Metroid wasn’t always an anything-goes cash farm, filling pools of money for Shigeru Miyamoto that would make Scrooge McDuck jealous. Zelda and Super Mario Bros.—it’s all the same at Nintendo. Throw a popular name on anything, and people will think it’s great. It’s like, if a game they’re developing looks like it’s going to fail, they’ll just change the main character into Mario or Link or someone and sell it anyway. If that doesn’t work, they’ll just take an old game, change nothing, and release it as a “Special Edition”. Meanwhile, old Miyamoto is swimming around in a giant safe full of gold and laughing at everyone.
But, I think the point was that Metroid II is a game that shouldn’t be so easily forgotten, even if it was very green and kind of short. For now, though, I think I’ll go play some River City Ransom or something. Now that was a game! Catch you later, nerds!