1991 saw the return of one of Nintendo's most reclusive heroines, Samus Aran, in the Game Boy release Metroid II: The Return of Samus. After her successful mission on the planet Zebes, Samus has been sent to the planet SR388, the home of the Metroids, to destroy each and every last one of the little energy suckers. However, much to Samus's surprise, the Metroids she faced on Zebes were a cakewalk compared to what lurked on SR388. Samus will face off against a planet full of enemies as well as different species of Metroids, including Alpha Metroids, Omega Metroids, and the deadly Metroid Queen.

While one would think that a Game Boy implementation of Metroid would be an exercise in frustration, the game actually plays pretty well. Samus is a large sprite onscreen and moves fluidly with no slowdown. The caverns of SR388 are somewhat confined, but as the game progresses a series of earthquakes open up new passages. The sound is a scaled-down yet impressive version of the original Metroid soundtrack and sounds quite good on the little Game Boy speaker. Plus, this is the first game in the Metroid series to employ a battery-backed save system instead of passwords.

Just like every other Metroid game, Samus has to locate and utilize special weapons and equipment. This time around the gear that she has to find includes...

Nintendo managed to include all of Samus's on-screen counters without cluttering up the display. The bottom of the screen contains a thin narrow bar that lists Samus's energy count, missile meter, and the number of Metroids she has left to destroy (this counter starts at 40). Pausing the game changes the bar to list what level of SR388 Samus is currently on. Like Metroid the game does not have an auto-map function, so it's very easy to become lost in the caverns of the planet.

Metroid II: The Return of Samus was a minor success in its day and the popularity behind the title and its prequel led to the release of Super Metroid in 1993. The ending of this game introduces a key plot point that would factor heavily in both Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. It should also be noted that this game takes place immediately after Metroid Prime in the series timeline. Try your luck at finding this game at the usual used game shops and online auctions, but failing that the ROM is on the Internet if you know where to look and is fully emulatable (and, in fact, playing it onscreen is easier than playing on the Game Boy's small screen). This game is also the unofficial "poster game" for the Super Game Boy, as Nintendo used screenshots of the game in promotional materials for the device to tout Metroid II in "full" color to demonstrate that a game without Super Game Boy enhancements could still look good. See you next mission!

Playing the game
Super Game Boy Player's Guide

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