When I was a kid, my Game Boy went everywhere with me. And one of my favorite games at the time was Metroid II. It was a pretty amazing thing to be a Nintendo fan at that time. Think about it: we got a full on proper numbered sequel to one of the biggest NES games on the Game Boy. Not a spin-off. Not some butchered port. A proper sequel.
Of course I had no experience with the first Metroid at this time. I had seen a friend's dad play it one time and it looked like a dad game to my young mind. Too complicated, I guess. But by the time 1991 had rolled around, my body was ready. And I dug into that game for months. So it was news to me years later to find out that Metroid II wasn't as universally loved as it was in my mind. Of course I was just a kid. I also played way too much of that LNJ Spider-Man game on Game Boy. So what the hell did I know?
Fast forward to 2016 when some fans actually created a full on remake of Metroid II under the title AM2R. At the time I was pretty heavy into gaming on my PC so I went ahead and downloaded it and had a blast. It played just like I remembered Metroid II. And it looked more like Super Metroid. So all good. I don't think that the game itself held up quite as well as I had remembered, but I still had a good time.
And then something interesting happened: Nintendo announced that their own real deal remake of Metroid II was on its way. What a time to be alive!
I think it's kind of lame that they dropped the "II" from the title, but Samus Returns dropped on the 3DS and offered up a full 2.5D reimagining of Metroid II and I was more than happy to plunk down my dollars to give this one a try. I figured if some fans could get it pretty right, then certainly Nintendo could make this game stellar. Keep in mind how they remade the original Metroid as Zero Mission on GBA. That remake was absolutely amazing - and now my preferred way to experience the original game.
I waited a little while to actually play Samus Returns, though. Two years to be exact. And all the while I was looking forward to finally finding the time. Reviews seemed to be very positive. And people I knew that played it seemed to really enjoy it. But it makes me wonder how many of those people truly had loved the original game. Maybe some of them hated it so this felt new and different? Maybe some of them had never played Metroid II at all, so this was completely new to them?
What I'm getting at is that - to my own surprise - I kind of don't like Samus Returns. Like, at all really. I so totally want to love this remake. But... a lot feels off about it.
First of all, those graphics. Look, I know that 3DS can do 2.5D quite well. That doesn't mean every game needs it. I had the same feeling when I played Castlevania: Mirror Of Fate. Like the game would have played just as well - if not better - had it been fully 2D sprites instead of these polygons. It sure would have looked better.
But here's my biggest gripe - the one that takes away all of the little quality of life improvements that Nintendo made with this remake. I hate this whole new parry system. Why on earth would you completely revamp the combat in this game? It sucks. At least in my mind. But opinions aside, it doesn't make sense to me to change the way that the game actually plays. I can't really approach this remake the way I did the original game. Everything feels slower and more about parrying so that you can't approach it like EVERY OTHER 2D Metroid game. Ugh. I don't get it and I don't like it.
I started playing Donkey Kong Country over the weekend via the Wii U Virtual Console. I did play this game quite a bit back when it originally came out, but haven't touched it since. Unless you count the Donkey Kong Land version on Game Boy, which I played in the late 2000's. I remember back then thinking that this game (and Killer Instinct) looked so incredible on the SNES back in the day. Now I find that the pseudo-3D looks so much more dated than a sprite based game from the same era. That said, it's still an impressive trick to pull off on SNES hardware. I just don't find it particularly pleasing to look at.
The one thing that has always stayed in my head about Donkey Kong Country is the music. And it still sounds excellent. The music in the first swimming level is phenomenal and I'd put it on par with the "Moon Theme" from Ducktales as the sort of pretty and atmospheric thing that I'd actually listen to outside of a game.
The controls still feel solid, which of course is what's going to make or break a platformer out of the gate. The early levels feel super easy, but by the time I got to the mine cars level I found myself getting annoyed. I pushed through, though. I'm not a big fan of needing to memorize levels to get through, and that's what that level feels like to me. But it wasn't excessive so I'm cool. So far, I'm enjoying replaying this one. When I was a kid I loved DKC. Right now I just like it. But we'll see.
Continuing on with Donkey Kong Country and can now confidently say that I would not put it in the same tier as Super Mario World or other favorite platformers of the era. I still think that the music is great. I think that even if the look can feel somewhat dated, the expressiveness of the characters and enemies is excellent. The controls are tight. But for me... I'm not a fan of some of the level design choices. I feel like there's some really uneven swings in difficulty. The boss battles generally feel like a joke, but the you can get to some part in a level that feels infuriating.
I'm currently in one of the snow levels. The blizzard that comes in looks fantastic by the way. They really nailed the look of the snow coming down with hard wind. That said, the spot I'm stuck at right now involves a lot of those rotating barrels that you have to fire yourself out of and I'm struggling to get the timing down and keep over- or undershooting it and it's pissing me off. To me this part of the level looses the charm of how good the platforming controls are because you're not even platforming here. I don't know. I don't like it. I ended up rage-quitting out of frustration last night.
Hopefully I can push through this level quickly enough and get back to the enjoyable parts of the game. So yeah, it's still a good - but not top tier for me.
Played s'more Donkey Kong Country and it's starting to overstay its welcome with me. The pure platforming (IE: running/jumping) is fine with me, but all the obstacle type stuff like the spinning barrels or the ropes that slide you up and down are just annoying to me. I suppose that's what makes this a Donkey Kong game rather than a Super Mario Bros game. But I certainly can see which I prefer. It's interesting to be replaying so much stuff from my youth lately and seeing what really holds up for me (Super Mario World) and what doesn't (this).
For years I've been going around and telling people that Mega Man 3 is my favorite game in the series. Just random people on the street who didn't ask. People who don't even know what a Mega Man is. I was that sure about it. At least when we're talking the classic non-X series of Mega Man games, the third was it for me. I mean it had the best title screen music. And it had a boss called Snake Man. How can you argue with these facts?
That first fact is an undeniable truth. The title screen music for Mega Man 3 remains one of my absolute favorite video game songs of all time. It is quite possibly my absolute favorite. My wife will attest to the fact that she's sat through me spending a solid hour at a time clicking through Youtube clips of various bands and artists performing this piece of music live. I've listened to post-rock interpretations, jazz versions and solo piano renditions and it never gets old to me. It is a beautiful piece that opens with a slow and moody jazz section and then abruptly involves into this crazy prog rock thing. I adore it.
The second fact there is, well... subjective. I mean we all have our favorite robot masters, and for whatever reason I always thought Snake Man was cool. I think this probably taps into my early adoration of GI Joe - and specifically that scene in the 80's animated movie when Cobra Commander actually turns into a serpent. I mean that was some seriously awesome shit for a six or seven year old. And combining a snake with a robot is hyper 80's awesome. You might as well have made him a robot while you're at it.
Having just recently played through Mega Man 2 again, I feel like I can much better evaluate how I feel about these two games in contrast. The jump from the first Mega Man game to the second was monumental. But really 3 feels like sort of a continuation of 2. It's certainly a great game, but I'm now realizing that I much prefer the second.
I would say that as far is it concerns the bosses and their respective levels, 3 is pretty on par with 2. But once I got to the boss rush and Wily's castle I sort of lost my momentum. Whereas I had a lot of fun running through the latter half of Mega Man 2 (think of that big flying robo-dragon for instance) in 3 I just started feeling a bit like I was all set. Like the main stages had been enough for me. I had fun with them, but I had had enough of playing this game.