Metroid II: Return of Samus (3DS Virtual Console)
Gunpei Yokoi was the first boss of Nintendo's portable gaming efforts and he also oversaw Nintendo's software department Research & Development 1. Series like Metroid and Kid Icarus were created there, so it was no surprise that these would appear on Nintendo's Game Boy. Unlike IPs like Super Mario, Metroid wasn't getting spinoff titles, but rather an official sequel. Given that Metroid was a highly immersive game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, it was a brave undertaking to make Metroid II: Return of Samus exclusively for the limited and portable Game Boy hardware.
Metroids are a threat. That's why Samus Aran is sent to their home planet, SR388, with the goal of exterminating them all. Starting on the surface, she has to make her way deeper and deeper into the planet's caves. This is a great setting in and of itself, but the most fascinating part is that evolutions of metroids are explored. The player isn't only going to see the sort-of-jellyfish form like in the first game and many of the sequels, but quite scary mutations that do not have to hide behind Metroid's original inspiration: The movie series Alien. The Game Boy's limited sound capabilities do not even hurt here, but only make the encounters scarier.
The progress structure is broken up into smaller chunks. It won't take long until you encounter a pool of acid that blocks the way down deeper, and said pool won't vanish until you've triggered an earthquake by eliminating a certain amount of metroids (can be viewed in the pause screen). So you basically explore a limited amount of rooms and corridors before you are allowed to move on to the next section of SR388. This makes it feasible that you won't need a map to learn your way around; yes, there's no in-game map, so you would have to draw one yourself with pen and paper.
There are virtually no mandatory upgrades. You can miss out on a lot of stuff, so how difficult the game is can vary greatly. You can go back to previous sections, so you always have that to fall back on. Still, things shouldn't be taken easy, because replenishing your health and ammo can be a tiresome process if you don't find the scarcely placed regenerators. Save points are few in number too.
Metroid II: Return of Samus is a good game, but since it is an old one, I have to note that you need an open mind and make due with the absence of some features that became standard in more modern games. This is not a "nostalgia required" warning, but rather a heads up that progress won't be handed out on a silver platter. You need to be prepared to work for it. Metroid II is nowhere near as punishing as the original game, but it's also not as convenient as Super Metroid.
|Controls||10||Samus moves slower than in any other game in the series,
because the Game Boy wasn't good at fast scrolling.
|Gameplay||While a fully connected world, it's broken up into smaller chunks.
Doesn't make things easy, because there's no in-game map.
|Story||There's actually no text. The story was exclusive to the manual.
Exterminate the metroids on their home planet SR388.
|Single-player||A clear mission objective and a threatening world make this
game worthwhile despite all hardware limitations.
|Graphics||A clean look, good animation for Samus and almost no slowdowns.
Reminder: This category takes hardware capabilities into account.
|Sound||Starts right off with a very memorable theme. Music and sound
effects manage to create a worthy Metroid atmosphere.
|Value||Good length (~5-8 hours) for this price level. Even important
upgrades like the Varia Suit are completely optional.
|Replay Value||The game loses quite a bit of its appeal once you've beaten it.
Completion in under three hours results in bikini time.
|Score||7||Making a good game on the Game Boy was a challenge. Making
a good Metroid even moreso. Mission accomplished.