The Metroid 2 score really gets a bad rap. Actually, Metroid 2 seems to be the whipping child of the series in general.
I think it’s worth pointing out that when the music is good, it’s really good in this game. The main tunnel theme, the Metroid battle theme, the revamped Samus and Item themes.
Where it begins to get a little controversial is in the various ruins. Once the player wanders out of the central tunnel and into any of the larger playfields, the music switches to an atmospheric pattern of bleeps. Not a lot of melody. Not a lot of rhythm in particular.
If you’re looking for Hip Tanaka’s tuneful power-ballads, I can see how it should be easy to feel let down. But the music serves a different purpose here.
Metroid 2 is by far the creepiest, most clautrophobic game in the series. It’s lonely, unnerving, frustrating, almost trance-inducing. It has a tangible atmosphere which I think is wholly fitting to the game’s setting and general purpose. (This atmosphere is most obvious when the game is played in full black-and-white, as originally intended, rather than with the upgraded Gameboy Color palette.)
The music is an important element of that formula. It exists to create and sustain a particular mood. I feel it was composed very deliberately; Ryohji Yoshitomi could have written anything, after all. But he chose to go the avant garde route.
There is a method to the music, as you can tell if you listen closely enough. It’s not random, and it’s not careless. It’s an attempt at an unsettling ambient soundscape.
The problem that Yoshitomi faces in this instance is the limited sound capacity of the original Gameboy. Melodic fare is easy. More experimental music is a bit tricker to pull off convincingly with only a few triangle and square waves at a person’s disposal.
Whether Yoshitomi succeeds in his goal or not is up to the listener. But for what it is, I think his score works very well.
Combined with the excellent quality of the more melodic portions of the soundtrack, I’d easily rank the Metroid 2 score up there amongst my favourite original Gameboy soundtracks — somewhere in the neighborhood of Gargoyle’s Quest.
On the other hand, it’s worth noting that Yoshitomi was never asked back for the future games.
The music in Prime does something odd to my head.
It all began with the theme which plays behind the game-select screen. For whatever reason it might be, that theme moves me pretty strongly.
The last time I felt this way about a videogame theme was in 1986, when I first slotted my copy of Legend of Zelda into my NES. At the time, I was struck with a profound awe and wonder. I knew that I was seeing and hearing something important. And my whole body reacted.
The Metroid Prime theme (from it’s use later in the game, I’m assuming that this is intended as the main theme to the game) has a similar, if somewhat more muted, effect on me. And the deeper I crawl into the game proper, the more impressed I am with the music in general.
In the case of the main theme, I think a large part of it is the uncommonly synchopated rhythmic pattern. Short-long, short-long, long, long, long. Another part of it is the weird, theramin-like lead instrument. But it’s just the overall weight of decisions made in the tune’s composition, arrangement, and production that make it so strange and so captivating to me.
The rest of the score seems a bit more tame — although there are more touches of experimentation, the deeper I crawl.
In my view, Kenji Yamamoto makes some very tasteful and wise decisions in terms of references to earlier themes. I particularly like his restructured Metroid and Brinstar themes.
Some of the earlier, more traditional soundtrack fare (particularly during the pre-Tallon introduction sequence) isn’t altogether interesting. And the planet-side music does take a while to build up to anything. But I’m beginning to sense a sort of a method behind the score’s evolution.
If it keeps going where it looks to me like it’s headed, this is going to be a pretty darned sensitive and impressive work. I don’t really know that it has much comparison in terms of what else is out there at the moment.
The Prime soundtrack is, so far, perhaps the most original and generally satisfying one for my tastes.
However: as for the soundtrack which I find the most memorable, well-written for its time, and which I personally enjoy the most — I’d have to go with Hip Tanaka’s original Metroid soundtrack.
There’s not a dud in the bunch. It consists of some of the best themes ever written for any videogame. And it made the game far more interesting to play than it really should have been.
I do quite like the Metroid 2 score, for what it is. Super Metroid’s music was… functional, to my mind. It was very Metroidy. To my mind Yamamoto has improved greatly since 1994, however. I don’t have much comment on the Fusion score. It, too, was Metroidy — though in a way which fit Fusion.
Return of Samus is really what comes to mind when I think of Metroid.
The first game was a bit of a fluke; the elements which make up the game don’t really cohere as well as they might. There doesn’t seem to be much of an overall vision. It was done on a pretty low budget. It seems rather random to me that it turned out to be as memorable as it was.
Metroid II was the first game where all of the elements really came together. Samus was retooled to look more or less as she does now. Her ship was introduced. The game upped the creepiness level several notches, along with a deep sense of disorientation and paranoia.
It’s perhaps the loneliest game in the series. The grainiest. And also the most wonderful.
More so than in any of the recent games, there is a sense of nigh-unlimited possibility in Return of Samus. You just don’t know what’s out there. Anything could be important. Anything could be a threat or a relief. You just don’t know where a new item will turn up. Or where the end is. Or where you’ll unexpectedly blunder into another Metroid.
I think the most important factor in so establishing RoS in my mind has to be the spider ball. The way it’s been retooled in Prime is interesting, but the item was far more flexible in RoS. (It was also probably a nightmare for the level designers, so I can see why it’s mostly been left out since then.) The way it was implemented in that game opened up a wealth of possibilities for exploration.
Super Metroid was certainly enjoyable. But it was a bit over-polished and conservative for my tastes. It was engineered to please as wide an audience as possible, while feeding fans exactly what they wanted (rather than what they didn’t *know* they wanted). Sort of like Phantasy Star: End of the Millennium. It didn’t really do very much new; all it did was take the best of the first two games and make it all a lot more palatable.
Basically — the first game establishes the concept of Metroid. The second game begins with that template, and then goes on an introspective search for identity. The third game takes most of the new ground blazed in the second game, combines it with the charm and trappings of the first game, and puts as much shine on it as the SNES can muster.
Fusion tries to be a very different kind of a game, and I respect it for that. What’s more, I think it succeeds quite well in its attempts to reinvent Metroid as a tense action-oriented game. I feel the level design is severely lacking, though; I’m not all that fond of some of its lazy logistical constructs. The game comes off almost feeling like Super Mario World in terms of how special moves and blocks are used.
Prime, I really like a lot so far. I didn’t honestly expect it to be as good as it is. I can’t comment very well on it until I’ve finished the game, though — as it seems there’s still a lot of odd stuff coming up that could effect my evaluation.
I think it could be interesting if the next game were set somewhere after Fusion. That game sets up a ton of change for the Metroid universe, and it would be intersting to see how Retro might follow through on it.
On the other hand, I tend to see the main linear series as Intelligent Systems’ duty. If there’s to be an out-and-out Metroid 5, it would make more sense to me if it came from the original Metroid team.
What seems to be Retro’s duty is to fill in the cracks and to attempt to explain all of the peculiarities introduced in the main series. To dig deeper into the groundwork set by Intelligent Systems.
And on that note, I think a Metroid Zero of sorts (as someone mentioned above) would make a lot of sense.
In early interviews, it was suggested that Prime was going to be set before the original Metroid. I think they chose wisely, in their decision to instead make it a direct follow-up to the first game — but that still leaves the backstory concept to fulfill.
In terms of bonuses, I agree that it would be keen to include Super Metroid — and for exactly this reason:
That way, every single Metroid game would be playable on the Gamecube.
Metroid 1 is included with Prime.
Metroid 2, you can play with the Gamecube Gameboy Player.
Metroid 3 would be included with this sequel to Prime.
Metroid 4 would again work with the Gameboy Player.
Kind of keen to have everything in one place, y’know?
I would also like to see the ability to turn power-ups on and off, as in Super Metroid.
Honestly, I’d just like to be able to take the Varia suit off every now and then. Those oversized shoulderpads just keey getting more ridiculous with every game; I much prefer how her raw Power Suit looks.
Also, it would be nice to be able to combine the various beam weapons (as in the third and fourth games).
I’d like to see young Samus, somehow. As a child, in a flashback, perhaps.
I want those Chozo statues back again, for holding power-ups.
And I want Retro to feel free to try out some more radical, experimental ideas that I would probably never think of on my own. I want to be surprised, above all else.
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Regarding the spiky, butch hairdo from the concept art: Yes. That impressed the hell out of me. And it seems to match my interpretation of Samus’ personality, really well.
And honestly, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to have short hair if you’re going to be wearing a suit like that? Imagine it getting caught in the helmet. Yowtch.