Sunday, September 10, 2017

AM2R Review

AM2R, Another Metroid 2 Remake, is a fan game created by a small group of people, lead by Milton Guasti, over the course of around 10 years. It was released on August 6, 2016, the 30th anniversary of Metroid, for free on PC. The game was only out for a few days before Nintendo sent the developer a Cease and Desist letter. Little did we know that Nintendo was working on its own Metroid II remake with Mercury Steam, which they would reveal at E3 2017. Further development on AM2R has stopped, but the game is still available for download somewhere out there.

Like the name hints at, AM2R is a remake of Metroid II on the Game Boy. It retells the story of Samus being sent on a mission to exterminate the Metroids on SR388 by the Galactic Federation. It also expands on the involvement of the Galactic Federation by adding new areas and story sequences showing them doing things on SR388. This stuff takes a hard turn into fan fiction territory, but it’s done pretty well and it doesn't feel too out of place. The game also has a Metroid Prime inspired logs from Samus’ scans. You don’t actually do any scanning in the game; though, you just get a little text notification telling you that you have a new log entry. It’s a nice touch that expands on what you see in the game and it’s not overdone, like in Metroid Prime.

AM2R’s version of SR388 is loosely based on Metroid II’s version. Similarly to Zero Mission, it uses the original game as a guideline and then changes things around and puts new stuff in. There are definitely areas that will remind you of the Game Boy game, but most of the enemy layouts and obstacles are different. Some areas got more enemies thrown in, some got new obstacles inspired by other Metroid games, and some areas even got new puzzles. The original game left a lot of room for improvement, so anything you do is probably going to be better, but some of the new things aren’t really that fun either. Sometimes it feels like they went out of their way to use the hardest and most annoying enemies in Metroid II, over and over again, for example. I feel like the level designs are at their best when they just try to improve upon the original instead of doing something different.

The bosses are kind of a mixed bag. The Alpha Metroids still don’t do anything but lunge towards you and now have shells on their backs, so they’re even more annoying to kill. New bosses inspired by mini bosses from Metroid II and other Metroid games were added, but none of them are very good either. The new Omega Metroid and the final boss, the Queen Metroid are both pretty awesome, though. The Omega metroid is now a big T-Rex looking Metroid, about as big as the one at the end of Metroid Fusion, and now has actual mechanics to it. The Queen Metroid is now a multi-phase fight that actually requires more than just spamming missiles.

AM2R uses a mix of Metroid Fusion, Zero Mission, and original sprites. The original sprites look really good, for the most part. They blend in very well with the GBA sprites. The new sprites for the evolved Metroid forms look especially good. The game adds a few lighting, motion blur, and physics effects, but they’re hit or miss. The effects added to Samus’ movements and attacks don’t blend in very well, but the lighting effects on the environments look nice. The physics effects look cool when you blow enemies up or freeze them in mid-air and watch them fall, but having enemies fall in inconvenient places can make it harder to kill them.

The soundtrack is made up of remixes of the old songs, recorded by Milton Guasti himself, and are a big improvement over the originals. Metroid II on GB had a few good tunes, but some of them just sounded like random noises. The soundtrack in AM2R has better composition, and of course, much better audio quality.

The gameplay in AM2R feels a lot Zero Mission. Samus moves at about the same speed, you can shoot diagonally, duck, ledge grab, wall jump, and aim just like in Fusion and Zero Mission. AM2R gets rid of the timing requirements for the wall jump and Space Jump. You no longer need to somersault jump to do either one and you don’t have to perfectly time your button presses to continue space jumping. Part of me feels kind of weird about messing with the controls like that, but it’s actually kind of nice to be able to do these moves more easily.

Pretty much every item from every 2D Metroid is in this game. Everything from Metroid II is in, plus the power missiles, power bombs, Speed Booster, Gravity Suit, and Charge and Plasma Beams. I think the only items not in this game are the Grappling Beam, Scanner, and Charge Missiles from Fusion. And unlike in Metroid I and II, all the beams stack for more powerful beams, instead of overwriting or replacing each other.

This game has every UI and quality of life improvement from Fusion and Zero Mission, plus options for however you prefer to play your Metroid games. Unlike in the original, we get a map. They also get rid of the health and missile refill items that were hidden around the world and just refill everything at save stations, which there are plenty of in AM2R, unlike in Metroid II. There’s options for things like Fusion or Super Metroid style aiming, missile selection, and Morph Ball activation. The controls are fully customizable and the game supports XInput controllers. I don’t think it supports DInput controllers, though. I tried using a PS3 controller with no luck. I played the game with a Wii U Pro Controller and a Mayflash adapter in the XInput setting with no issues. Even the rumble worked.

I think this game is much better than the GB game. I don’t think the level designs ever reach the quality of Fusion, Zero Mission, and Super Metroid, but it’s still pretty impressive. The game has an enormous amount of polish and the people who made it obviously have a lot of love for Metroid II and the Metroid series as a whole.