|Release||August 6, 2016|
AM2R, short for Another Metroid 2 Remake, is a Metroidvania-style action-adventure video game developed by Milton Guasti under the pseudonym DoctorM64, and released in August 2016 for Microsoft Windows, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Metroid series. It is an unofficial, enhanced remake of Nintendo's Game Boy game Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991), borrowing the art style and overall feeling of the Game Boy Advance game Metroid: Zero Mission (2004). Shortly after the game's release, Nintendo sent DMCA notices to websites hosting AM2R; download links to the game were removed from its official website, but Guasti said that he still planned to continue working on the game privately. In September 2016, he ended the development of AM2R after receiving a DMCA takedown request from Nintendo. An official Metroid II remake, Metroid: Samus Returns, was released in 2017.
The game follows Samus Aran, who aims to eradicate the parasitic Metroids from their home planet SR388. It includes several new features, including redone graphics and music, a map system, and new areas and minibosses. The controls were changed to be less "floaty", in line with the gameplay of later titles in the series. Video game journalists appreciated the game, frequently calling it impressive and commenting on the improved visuals compared to those of the original Metroid II, although one thought the conditions required to win battles against Metroids were too specific considering how often they occur. The game was nominated for The Game Awards 2016, but was later removed from the nominations page without notice.
AM2R is an enhanced remake of the Game Boy game Metroid II: Return of Samus, which follows Samus Aran on her quest to eradicate the parasitic Metroid species from SR388, their home world. The remake is done in the style of Metroid: Zero Mission, adding a map system, new areas, minibosses, redone graphics and music, an updated artificial intelligence for enemies, and a log system. Logs give the player more information on Metroids, enemies and the game world after the player has defeated certain enemies or arrived in new areas. The game's controls are less "floaty" than those of the original, and feature new abilities such as grabbing onto ledges, being more in line with the gameplay the series has employed since the Super NES game Super Metroid (1994).
The Metroids the player fights have four main evolutionary stages – Alpha, Gamma, Zeta, and Omega – which have been altered compared to their Metroid II counterparts, including new techniques used in battle; Alpha is the least altered, having only been given a new dodge move, while Omega has been altered the most, having been changed to earth-bound enemies that trap the player. The player confronts these Metroid bosses often, and has to defeat 55 of them. Among the newly added bosses are non-Metroid enemies such as a moving statue.
Development and release
The game was developed by Milton Guasti under the pseudonym DoctorM64 over the course of about ten years, although with several periods of no work done on the game. Guasti created the game with the intention of recreating the fast pace of Metroid: Zero Mission's gameplay, and the "atmosphere and solitude" of Super Metroid. After having finished Metroid II for the first time, he imagined it to be "cool" to play the game with modern gameplay, an in-game minimap rather than with a physical map on one's lap, and the Omega Metroids being as tall as the screen. As Guasti was not yet a programmer at the time, he used a trial-and-error method to modify a platforming game engine by Martin Piecyk within the game creation system GameMaker, with learning being his main motivation for working on the game. At first the remake followed the original Metroid II's map layout and already existing sprites from Metroid: Zero Mission and Super Metroid. As Guasti kept working on the game engine and polished each ability, he felt that AM2R started to seem more and more authentic. After the game had been made public, several artists contacted Guasti and volunteered to create original art for the game: the Metroid evolutions were redesigned, and new enemies and areas unrelated to other Metroid games were added. He remade the music himself while waiting for customers in his recording studio. The added log system was designed to deliver narrative in a non-intrusive way.
Because so much was changed in AM2R compared to the original Metroid II, with color, a larger screen, "less claustrophobic" caves and new gameplay controls, Guasti was faced with the challenge of recreating the original's feeling of danger within a more modern style: the original Metroid II featured "tight-quarters combat", while AM2R's greater amount of screen space and mobility meant that the Metroids' behavior had to be changed. They were made more agile and aggressive, with the intent that players would have to use all tools available to them to defeat them. The scale of the rooms throughout the game world also had to be changed, with some landmarks being redesigned to make better use of the larger screen; some, however, were kept similar in size to their Metroid II counterparts. While the game's first areas were made colorful and accurate to their counterparts in Metroid II, later areas were expanded and introduced new elements, featuring progressively darker caves, tighter passages, and Metroids found in more dangerous locations. This, along with increasingly darker and menacing music, was to recreate the feeling of Metroid II, which Guasti described as "being lost in a dark, mysterious cave without knowing what's ahead".
In the latter parts of the game's development, the largest challenge was to coordinate Guasti's and his collaborators' work; when Guasti started working as a programmer, he learned about project management, and applied it to AM2R, but still found it challenging to have deadlines and keep people motivated, as everyone was working on the game for free in their spare time. In late 2014, the project was ported to the newer version GameMaker: Studio, which enabled improved loading times and performance, but required the complete rewriting of some features and changes to the designs of some levels. This move also made bugs faster to fix and new builds easier to make, leaving the development progress in a more expedient and productive state. Later in the same year, the developers worked on improving the visuals, giving the fourth area a new graphics tile set intended to give it more personality.
Guasti released a first demo in late 2011, and another in early 2013. The full game was released for free following a countdown through its website on August 6, 2016, coinciding with the Metroid series' 30th anniversary. Updated versions with further improvements and added features were planned, but shortly after the first release, Nintendo sent DMCA notices to websites hosting it. The download links on the game's official website were removed on August 7, but Guasti said that he still planned to improve on the game privately, and that he understood Nintendo's need to protect its intellectual properties, encouraging AM2R players to buy the official Nintendo eShop release of Metroid II. On September 2, Guasti received a DMCA takedown request from Nintendo, and announced that the game's development had ended. He did however release the soundtrack later that month, including several tracks intended for the unfinished version 1.2 update. Development of the game was continued by people from the Metroid fan community, including bug fixes and additional game modes such as New Game+ and a "Randomizer", which shuffles the locations of power-ups. An official remake of Metroid II, Metroid: Samus Returns, was released in 2017. A year after the release of AM2R, Guasti announced that he was hired by Moon Studios to work on Ori and the Will of the Wisps as level designer. He also announced a spare-time project made in Unity 3D.
Mike Fahey, writing for Kotaku, called the game brilliant, and compared the gameplay, graphics and music favorably to their Metroid II counterparts. Siliconera's Ishaan found the game impressive, and said that it stands out from other fan-made remakes. Sam Machkovech at Ars Technica said that the game would be a delight to people who liked Zero Mission, and that its quality and amount of polish put it on par with Nintendo's games. Zack Furniss of Destructoid liked the game to the point that he thought Nintendo should use some ideas from it in future Metroid titles. Jonathan Holmes, also at Destructoid, said that AM2R does a good job at filling the "void" left by Nintendo's lack of new 2D Metroid games, calling it "even more of an extensive re-imagining than Metroid: Zero Mission was to Metroid 1". Gonçalo Lopes at Nintendo Life said that the game was a great way to celebrate the series' 30th anniversary and a dream come true for Metroid fans, and that he imagined people would be willing to pay money for it if sold on Nintendo's eShop. Matthew Castle at Nintendo Gamer called it an example of how to do a remake right. Tom Sykes at PC Gamer praised AM2R as a "great game in its own right" regardless of whether one had played Metroid II prior or not. NF Magazine's Tony Ponce initially worried that the game would lose the "eerie charm" of Metroid II, but found it to be able to keep a high-tension feeling, as well as including new things for longtime fans of the original.
Furniss found that the gameplay changes compared to the original Metroid II, such as the ability to grab onto ledges, all felt natural, and called the user interface "sleek". He liked the log system, calling it one of the biggest additions, and enjoyed how the opening added more story content while not being "overdone", instead feeling like the opening to Super Metroid. Holmes commended the boss battles, calling them "arguably" the best across all 2D Metroid games. Ponce found the precise win conditions for Metroid battles annoying considering how often they are fought, but similarly thought that the new non-Metroid bosses were among the most exciting and challenging in all 2D games in the series. His favorite new gameplay elements were the "gimmicks" such as the player-operated tunneling drill machine and the walker robot minigame.
Machkovech said that the game looks "phenomenal", and that its "beautiful, easily discernible sprites" and 60-frames-per-second animations made it look modern despite the 320×240 resolution. He particularly enjoyed the game's color palette, saying that it made AM2R feel like a completely new game. Furniss called the game "gorgeous", praising the colors and the increased graphical detail. Alec Meer at Rock, Paper, Shotgun said that the game looked lovely, and that it was a large improvement over the Game Boy version's green screen. Jeffrey Matulef, writing for Eurogamer, found it impressive how closely the game resembled Super Metroid visually. Fahey noted the soundtrack in particular as being of high quality, and Lopes called the music "fantastic".
The game was nominated for The Game Awards 2016 in the "Best Fan Creation" category, but was removed from the nomination page without notice alongside fellow fan game Pokémon Uranium; Alissa McAloon of Gamasutra speculated that it was due to Nintendo's stance on unauthorized use of their intellectual properties.
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