Metroid II: Return of Samus (is Unfinished)

Metroid II is a great game… but it’s a mess. The more you play it, the more it feels like it was released a good 6 months before it should have been. Every step through the corridors reveal obnoxious and obvious errors and design flaws. You should avoid playing Metroid II: Return of Samus unless you want to experience a wonderful game of solid mediocrity.

Inactive Off-screen Enemies

Maybe he had an invisible shield?

Enemies are invincible when “inactive”.

One of the first annoyances you will notice is that enemies can only be hurt when they are on the screen. This means that the instant an enemy leaves the visible boundary, it becomes “inactive” and stops functioning in every way. This means that it stops moving, cannot be hurt, and cannot supply any fun. You are unable to shoot and run  because if you scroll the enemy off the screen, your shots will not hurt it. This occurs rather frequently and, considering how much of the screen Samus takes up, is incredibly frustrating. As a result, you have to be very close to enemies to even hurt them. Shown to the right, is one of the most blatant offenders. The Gamma Metroid is a very large creature who takes up about 1/4 of the screen width. Once it becomes “inactive” it does not become active again until it is entirely on the screen. You can argue that this is a result of memory limitations but I chalk it up to lazy programming and poor design.

Getting Hit Resets Jump State

It's actually faster to do it this way than to use spider ball.

Thanks for the boost, wall-face!

This is one of the most mind-boggling programming oversights I have ever seen in such a high-profile title. For whatever reason, any time you are hurt, for a brief moment you are able to jump. Using this, you can jump into an enemy and jump again reaching heights you are not yet supposed to reach. In the example shown here, Samus is supposed to find the spider ball power to scale this wall. Instead of bothering to use spider ball, you can simply jump, get hit, and jump again to reach the ledge. This “technique” can be exploited in many, many places throughout the game. Being able to do this makes no logical sense, is incredibly easy to do, and potentially ruins the intended item progression of the game by allowing players to skip certain items such as the high-jump boots. Clearly, this is another example of inept programmers at work.

Morph-ball Resets Jump State

Whoooaaaa!

I cannot logically explain this pre-Super Metroid phenomenon.

In what I can only guess is a related programming oversight, any time you exit morph-ball state, you are able to jump. For the same reasons listed above, this is a silly, easily exploitable “technique” that can be used to reach areas you aren’t normally supposed to. In combination with the spring ball item, you can effectively jump twice, jumping while in ball form, exiting ball form in mid-air, and jumping again. Interestingly enough, the same exact bug was present in it’s predecessor, Metroid for the NES. Perhaps the programmers intentionally added this bug (or neglected to fix it) as a kind of throwback to the original game? Or maybe it just happens to be the exact same programming oversight as they did in the first game? I’d like to believe it’s just a an example bad programming at it’s best… twice.

Missle-Only Tiles

I like the spinning action!

This is the only time these cool blocks are every used.

This isn’t a programming error but rather an example of poor game / level design. On exactly one occasion about 3/4 of the way through the game, Samus will encounter a block that can only be destroyed by firing a missile into it. It’s actually a cool block that has a interesting spin-then-explode effect. I like this block. In fact, I like this block a lot. I think it’s really awesome and I am the president of the “You Must Shoot a Missile At the Block to Destroy it in Metroid II” fan club. No, but seriously, this block is disappointingly underused. This sort of block would have had tons of applications, especially earlier on in the game. By utilizing this block more creatively, it would have considerably spiced up level design. It could even have been used to create more of a missile management scenario. It would have been interesting to require the player to use more missiles on these blocks which would leave less for the metroids. Instead, it appears as if the developers almost forgot about this block entirely. At one point, one level designer remembered it, placed two of them down and then forgot about them once again. It’s a shame because the blocks are just so freakin’ cool.

And that’s Not All

In addition to these, Metroid II is filled with even more programming errors and strange, illogical design choices that I don’t have the time to cover. It feels as though they had the base game down but never took the time to refine it. The entire game is a mesh of good and bad experiences which leave me feeling a bit perplexed. It’s an addictive, genuinely fun experience but lacks a certain polish that should be expected from a first-party game.  Metroid II: Return of Samus is a interesting game and if you can bear with all of its issues, it might even be an enjoyable game.

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