Metroid 2: a retrospective
The first thing I want you to experience is the music. I couldn't get behind any of the original Metroid's music, and with the Prime series, the only thing I tend to actually like is the boss music. This one is an excellent exception. It captures both the essence of exploration and yet has a nice bit of action pace to it. Listening to music like this is definitely motivation to keep going through the game, though it doesn't compensate for inevitably getting lost.
For those unfamiliar with the game, this takes place between Metroid Prime 3 and Super Metroid. The Galactic Federation has decided that metroids are more trouble than they're worth, so they worked on exterminating the species. Obviously they fail hard, so you get the mission. It's a very simple premise: kill all metroids. This is a little different from other games in the series, but you get used to it. If there is any backtracking here, it's not really noticeable with how the game advances. You kill enough metroids, an earthquake happens that drains out the acid from the next area you're supposed to explore. The metroids you do encounter are also quite different from "typical" metroids; they've shed their shells to enter their later stages of development. As you play through the game, you see them evolve into even deadlier threats that just scared the hell out of me each time. It's like the rules suddenly changed on me and I had to quickly learn to adapt.
I have a question for those of you who played Game Boy games back in the day (I never got one until GBC, which was exclusively used for Pokemon). How did you guys put up with any action games? There's so little room on the screen, and the character would likely become unrecognizable if it got smaller. In fact, I read Samus's design had to be changed for this game, going into a design we've kept ever since. Combat ends up becoming so restrictive with this game, a burden you definitely start to feel when you first encounter a metroid. There's so little room to maneuver. Fortunately, I eventually got used to it once I played it enough.
I'm sure this game was just fine for its time. I really wish a map was available like all Metroid games have now. I gave up my first time through because I just couldn't find my next target. I only managed to make it through later by making boring use of the spider ball (lovely addition, by the way). It just has so little noticeable flavor to it. This was definitely gamers putting up with the limits of technology's capability to tell a story in an interactive medium. Still, there were some things that struck me, such as obviously revisiting the space pirate base and the bubbly environment of Norfair. The experience was definitely shaped by how they could throw a wrench into conventional wisdom, and in that regard it did succeed.
That said, I can only recommend this game to people who really want to experience everything the series has to offer. It does have the famous metroid hatchling, but for having such a crucial role in Metroid Fusion, its introduction was quite lacking. I'm sure I would've felt better about it had I experienced it when it was new. There isn't anything here that's really engaging, certainly when you compare it to the other portable Metroid games we have. I also have the same opinion of this now as I did back then: it's an all-too-simple concept of search-and-destroy, though they did keep enough genuinely Metroid elements to really make it qualify in the series. The metroid evolutions have yet to play any significant part in later games, but I'll admit the Queen metroid is about as metroid-esque as Metroid Prime (the creature, not the game).