The significant twist for the sequel is the introduction of dark and light sides to the world (Aether) and corresponding dark and light beams used for opposite effects in each. The light world is more closely related to traditional Metroid Prime, whilst the dark world adds a more devilish pace to the action. It still doesn’t resemble a normal FPS, but the increased number of alien foes certainly heats up the mix. And that same dark/light separation can be vaguely applied to this review. Parts of Metroid 2 make us feel dark, angry and moody; whilst other parts fill us with a warm satisfying glow, turning the world around us into a place of contented peacefulness.
The control system, for example, is always an issue of contention when discussing the merits of the set-up. If you’re trying to play it as an FPS, it can easily rub you up the wrong way, just by being too different in its simplicity. If Retro had included customisable control options, this could so easily have been circumvented, appeasing those with strict FPS habits in the process. However, on the light side, fans argue that this lock-on style is the most suitable control mechanism that could possibly have been opted for, and that you really ought to play it like this. Indeed, once you’ve got used to it, it does work more efficiently than it might appear to on paper.
There’s a similar debate over the emphasis on exploration. In a dark mood, this will bore you witless and potentially usher you into a state of slumber. Alternatively, from a light side perspective, this exploration focus is wonderfully calming and truly reminiscent of Metroid’s earliest outings. The back-tracking phenomenon was born through technological restrictions and the actual need to re-use environments, so Prime 2 arguably shouldn’t make the player wander back and forth as much as it does. However, it does mean that you get the chance to really get to know your environment, which is vital in making the exploring bits more gratifying. When a new area opens up to you, it can seem a little daunting; but it does
feel like you’ve just landed on an alien planet and you’ll be keen to work out how the various tools that you find along the way aid your progress. What’s more, this new world has been designed with all the talent and passion you would expect from a key Nintendo franchise: and so you do genuinely want to explore it.
The third and final niggle is that bloody scanning malarkey. For a game often reliant on ‘find the key, then find the lock’ type gameplay, this can prove rather tiresome. Let’s say you enter a new chamber, and you can see a corpse you want to investigate. With most other games, you’d position your avatar near the body and press a button. That would be it. But with MP2E, it’s a whole lot more complicated. First you’ll need to position your line of sight with said object, then switch from battle to scanner mode, then focus on the object, then press and hold L1 until all the details are reeled off. But, of course, they’re not reeled off directly onto the screen. Instead, you then have to switch to the pause menu, and then select the logbook, and then churn through an overly ornate three-dimensional menu and submenu system in order to find the new data you just found. And then, quite probably, you’ll realise that the data was irrelevant storyline-filler anyway. Sheesh!