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Super Metroid: Subversion by TestRunner and AmoebaOfDoom [SM Exploration], rated by Boomerang on Sep 15, 2022 (Star Star Star Star Star )
100% in 8:58
Subversion is one of those rare hacks that breathes new life into the Super Metroid hacking scene. It perfectly blends the old with the new, the tried and true with the bold and innovative, and delivers an experience unlike any other hack before it.

The amount of custom ASM in this hack is astounding, all of it in service of constructing perhaps the most polished, and, dare I say, cohesively soulful hack to date.

What this hack demonstrates to me is the importance of treading new ground. Most full-length Super Metroid hacks follow the same formula: you fight the majority of the bosses in the same way in slightly different arenas; you collect the same bevy of items with some minor variations here and there; and most puzzles have solutions immediately apparent to veterans of the game. This isn't to say that other hacks are bad; some of them I love just as much as Subversion - some even more so - but the undeniable truth is that in most full-length hacks, the limitations of the game itself present solutions that can only be immediately apparent.

Not so with Subversion. For the first time in a very, very long time, I was presented with obstacles that piqued my curiosity in ways I hadn't felt since I played the game for the first time as a kid. For that alone, for capturing that childlike sense of wonderment and curiosity, I cannot help but give Subversion full marks - doing any less would be insulting - but it's more than that. TestRunner and Amoeba have packed the game to the brim with extra goodies and challenges that are sure to give you more bang for you buck, proverbially speaking. I am dread to meet the Scrooge that would consider this tour de force simply "okay."

As the hack that SMART was built for, if my understanding is correct, this is a stellar first outing. I look forward, with unabated excitement, to what else is in store for us. Suffice to say, Metroid fans will be eating well tonight.
V I T A L I T Y by Digital_Mantra [SM Exploration], rated by Boomerang on Oct 17, 2020 (Star Star Star Star Star )
100% in 6:46
A masterclass in Super Metroid hacking.

I'll make biases apparent right up front, for the sake of transparency: Eris is perhaps my favourite Super Metroid hack out there, and I was able to play VITALITY weeks before most others were able to, thanks to FuncoLand shipping my copy early. That being said, I will, to the best of my ability, not let these biases affect my critique. That being said, there may be some discrepancies between what is mentioned in my review and the contents of the final game, as it was edited slightly before release.

Like with Eris and Cliffhanger before it, VITALITY stands tall among all other Super Metroid hacks as a sterling example of creative level design blended beautifully with expressive tilework. While the majority of VITALITY uses vanilla tiles to construct its world, they have been so creatively edited that the world of Auriga feels so completely and utterly alien that I was transfixed from the very moment I started the game. The lighting simulation via tiles - as shown in the cover image here on this site - is something I have never seen before in a Super Metroid hack. The atmosphere presented here is, quite simply, totally unmatched by any other hack out there, except for Digital Mantra's other hacks, particularly Eris. If you're a fan of his other hacks, you will not be at all disappointed with what is on display here.

That being said, it would be one thing if VITALITY was able to capture the meticulous room design of Eris, but VITALITY manages to go one step beyond and craft a world that feels completely coherent in its environmental design. Details that are presented in one room will provide the environmental context to another room, like a stray sandfall on the surface eventually leading to a large sand pit several rooms below. It doesn't quite reach the sheer density of Eris, but that attention to detail is emblematic to Digital Mantra's hacks, and it is firing on all cylinders in VITALITY.

But it goes even further than that. While I personally liked the exploration that comes with finding a new powerup in Eris, some players found it difficult to find the path forward at times, myself included on my first playthrough. I think it is safe to say, however, that VITALITY manages to avoid this particular pitfall, due in some part to the generally improved level structure and the slightly more freeform item progression. No effort has been spared in providing environmental cues that hint towards the presence of an upgrade or the existence of a hidden passage, but they're integrated so well and they blend in so naturally with the environments that it never feels too obvious. The hack respects the player's attention to detail and exploration feels utterly satisfying.

In an effort to convey a sense of lore and history to the worlds they create, hackers often come up against the harsh limitations of the medium: Super Metroid isn't a game that is natively capable of modern-day conveniences like scan logs or text dumps. Great efforts have been made to circumvent these limitations, often through the use of map screen text or environmental storytelling. The results can often be clumsy, but it's a reality of Super Metroid hacking at this point. That is why I am happy to say that VITALITY executes on these concepts exceptionally well. The lore and environmental storytelling are at their best here, and the secrets that lie in wait on Auriga are amazing to experience firsthand.

What else that remains to be said will remain unsaid. VITALITY is best experienced without spoilers. All I can say at this point is that I give this hack my highest recommendations.

Hack of the Year.

Project Base 0.8.1 by begrimed [SM Improvement], rated by Boomerang on Jun 01, 2015 (Star Star Star Star Star )
104% in 2:10
Not much to say here: it's Super Metroid, but with a bunch of stuff added to make the experience a little more seamless and fun. The physics are re-worked to make things a little less clunky, and there are plenty of new connecting passages that expedite moving around greatly. Other areas have been expanded and the cookie-cutter save rooms have been remodeled into rooms that actually fit the environment they are located in. Many of the more nebulous power ups are located in much more simple locations, which can either be a positive or a detriment. Moving Missile Packs that are randomly located in the walls (in particular, the turtle room in Maridia and the left-most shaft after the power bomb floor in Norfair) is great, since those power ups were originally in silly, nonsensical locations. However, some may find it a little too easy. That being said, the new locations lend themselves to a great speedrun and I had a blast... blasting my way through this game!

The most major thing of note, of course, is the game-wide palette changes. Grime has mentioned that he went overboard on the warm colours, a sentiment I have to agree with. Brinstar and Norfair are both dominated by warm, washed-out palettes that give the hack a really homogeneous look. Adding a bit of variety will go a long way in making a more pleasurable experience.

That all being said, there's not much to complain about. It is, at its core, Super Metroid as we know and love it, but better--and we adore that game!
Hyper Metroid by RealRed [SM Exploration], rated by Boomerang on May 08, 2015 (Star Star Star Star Star )
100% in 7:50
Overall, this is one of the greatest Super Metroid hacks out there. The map is well designed, if a bit tedious to get from one end to the other (particularly in Norfair). The graphics are quite pleasing to look at and the room designs take full advantage of the different colours project base offers. The item progression doesn't leave you searching for most items for TOO long (with the exceptions being the Super Missiles and the Power Bombs), and the Plasma+Spazer is definitely neat. You can tell a lot of love went into making this hack.

Perhaps my favourite part about the hack, however, is that it's well-balanced in terms of difficulty. A lot of hacks like Redesign and the original Eris (which I consider to be more difficult than Eris 2012) punish the player for exploration with enemies that shave off massive chunks of damage. There are enemies like that in Hyper Metroid, particularly in Maridia if you mockball across the bridge you're intended to use the Spring Ball's speed ball mechanic. However, they're not too extreme and are meant to be light pushes in the right direction without hampering exploration. In Eris 2009 and Redesign, most enemies hit hard anyways and tough enemies were placed in easy-to-access locations that most players would naturally come across.

The atmosphere is mostly similar to Super Metroid, though the new tiles in "Lower Norfair" or rather Ridley's Lair, lend themselves to a Phazon Mines sort of feel, which is great. I love when hacks strike out on their own in terms of atmosphere and separate themselves from Super Metroid--Eris is a standout example of this--though Hyper Metroid is supposed to be evocative of the original, and it's no big deal either way, so it's no harm done.

As for my criticisms, well, they're nothing too major. My biggest criticisms lie in how unintuitive the Project Base Speed Booster mechanics are, particularly in how you can essentially reverse and slow down your boost with the spin jump. It still doesn't make much sense to me and I had to look up a solution for a particular room because I still didn't understand the new mechanics fully at that point, though I knew something was up when I could sometimes slow down my charge. I don't recommend taking this out because I imagine it's integral to many skips and sequence breaks (especially if you're brave enough to take down Ridley early), but I'd put some effort into making the mechanics more well-known, as they're easy enough to understand once the player is told. I don't know how I'd solve this issue myself, personally, though I'd definitely change up the room in which you get the Speed Booster to more properly teach the player how to use it.

The Spring Ball is handled a bit better, though it does have some of the same issues. I personally had no problem learning them, but other players have. I'd personally change the name of the item itself, as "Spring Ball" essentially makes Super Metroid veterans (the only people playing the hack) think "oh, this will let me jump as a ball!" and nothing else. Giving it a different name will make players think "Oh, there must be some new functions to this thing!" Maybe "Hyper Ball" would work? In fact, I'd do the same with the Speed Booster--maybe something like the "Speed Unit" or the "Kinetic Engine" or something weird. Something that will inform players that the mechanics are different in some respect. Maybe even button prompts like the backflip, despite their heavy-handed nature, would be good.

Other than those, my complaints are minor; Draygon sucks as a boss and the bullet hell projectiles plus Draygon's mechanics don't really combine very well... plus all the graphical glitches. Getting 100% items was a bit tedious, but such is the completionist life. Certain doors should also be notated on the map; it's fine once you actually enter them, but there is an abundance of doors you simply cannot enter until you either collect the right power up or access them from the other side and they're not notated at all on the map. For example, the power bomb door in upper Brinstar that leads to a gate switch can only be opened with Power Bombs, but on the map there's no indication of a door in that room. This is a minor complaint, but addressing this would just cut down on the tedium. Finally, I'd say that there is an overabundance of locked doors for me, personally. I realize this is not easily fixed and is meant to section off certain parts of the map for later exploration, but it's still a bit disappointing to explore a bit, only to be stopped by a gray door.

Overall, I'd give this hack a 5/5. It's fantastic, but has a few issues that can be ironed out in a later release. Great work!
Metroid: Desolation by jasinchen [MZM Exploration], rated by Boomerang on Apr 18, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
100% in 5:22
Reviewed on Version 1.1.2. Runaway, Lifelong Enemy, and Superior Firepower Endings Achieved. This is not a spoiler-free review; you have been warned.

Metroid: Desolation is a work of extremes.

There is absolutely no doubt that this was a labour of love, as passion and artistry permeates almost every corner of this hack. Among Zero Mission and Fusion hacks, Desolation has, despite the name, by far the lushest and most detailed environments on display. The work done to blend tilesets from the GBA games and AM2R is nothing short of extraordinary, and the custom tilework done to animate small flora and fauna outstrips that of most Super Metroid hacks. I am certain that this is one of those hacks that will inspire others to reach even greater heights. When MAGE was first released on Metroid Construction almost seven years ago, this was the hack I was waiting for, visually-speaking.

In terms of the audio, I am also similarly impressed. While others might view the use of borrowed music to be kitsch, I do not feel the same. Subversion released last year to near universal acclaim--myself included--and it featured music from Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong; Desolation restricts its music choices to those of previous Metroid games and AM2R, meaning that the tone stays relatively consistent throughout. The wizardry done to adapt songs from the other games is nothing short of astounding--Lower Norfair from Super Metroid has been adapted onto the GBA, somehow, with little to no reduction in quality. Needless to say, I was consistently surprised and delighted by the audio quality.

Desolation also throws a few surprises in: there are three new upgrades, though one is adapted from Super Metroid GBA Edition: the Spazer Beam, the Tractor Beam, and the Rapid Missile. The Spazer Beam replaces the Long Beam from Zero Mission, as Samus starts with it in this hack, and can thus be switched on and off in the pause menu. The Tractor Beam is self-explanatory, and retains its function from the Prime games. The Rapid Missile allows you to hold down the button to release a rapid salvo of missiles so long as you keep it held down. While these new upgrades are decent additions to Samus' arsenal, I was disappointed to see that they don't feature in the pause menu like the Spazer Beam does; the Rapid Missile in particular is something I would like to switch on and off at points, as reworking my muscle memory to not hold the button down for so long never really occurred, and there were times during tense boss fights where I wasted an extra missile.

Speaking of bosses, they are definitely Desolation's absolute lowest point, and the major point of contention in this review. I am fairly confident when I say that people tend to view Zero Mission's boss roster as the weaker of the two GBA games, which is something I agree with. Even on Hard Mode, Missiles are overpowered and the bosses, with some exceptions, tend to devolve into missile spam, Ridley especially. Fusion's bosses are more dynamic and most cannot be steamrolled into an easy victory.

So, of course, efforts have been made to translate Fusion's bosses into Zero Mission as a means of rounding out the roster and providing more challenge in various Zero Mission hacks. The results have been a resounding success in implementation, but a failure in balance; more often than not, the bosses and their arenas are placed into Zero Mission with little thought or consideration as to how Zero Mission Samus can interact with them. See, many bosses like Serris, BOX, and Nightmare ask players to utilize movement mechanics unique to Fusion, particularly ladder climbing and rail hanging, to fight them. Without those mechanics, the fights do not work as they should, and players are forced to contend with these new threats in ways they were obviously not balanced for.

Take Serris, for example. You can either stay on the platforms or hang from the ceiling to anticipate its movements. The ceiling was safer, but afforded fewer opportunities to attack. The platforms were more dangerous, but Serris could be more easily attacked while standing on them. The ceiling wasn't completely safe either, as Serris would occasionally slither up along the ceiling, meaning you had to keep an eye on its patterns and listen for audio cues to get out of the way before you're hit. The fight was dynamic (though Fusion's unique charge shot mechanics could trivialize it) and avoiding damage never felt random. Implementing Serris into Zero Mission changes the entire fight, as you're forced to stand on the platforms. If that wasn't enough, Zero Mission also has harsher gravity than Fusion, so Samus' air time while jumping is shortened. If Serris decides to fly along the tops of the platforms, you're all but forced to jump into its tail and take nigh-unavoidable damage.

BOX was also imported into Zero Mission, with even worse results. The sweet spot to actually damage it was small even in Fusion, but you could carefully space your shots using the ceiling rail with some accuracy. There's no ceiling rail this time, only destructible blocks that make landing shots on its core needlessly annoying. The fight took so long to overcome legitimately that I got bored and decided to ram Samus into BOX so that she would clip inside and I could land a bunch of missiles at once. What was once a decent boss in Fusion has fallen victim to the very same issues that plagued most bosses in Zero Mission: missile spam.

These issues permeate almost every single Fusion boss, with exception to Arachnus and Yakuza, though the latter has issues aside from the game's mechanics. Unfortunately, the issues are not restricted to the newly implemented Fusion bosses; changes have been made to the original bosses which also make them a slog to fight. On the face of it, they've all been given an absolutely titanic amount of hit points, meant to resolve the steamrolling issue, but apparently that was not enough. Each fight has numerous changes meant to make them more challenging, but instead they turn out to be more frustrating, random and annoying than anything.

Kraid, for instance, has been placed into an underwater section without the Gravity Suit. That change alone would be rather drastic, but in addition to that, he also creeps away from the right side of the screen, meaning your only way of attacking Kraid becomes riding the belly spikes before they go off-screen and disappear. You only have precious few moments to actually land a few shots on the mouth, and like the original game, the hitbox on the mouth isn't that generous. You'll land a super missile on Kraid's palate, only for it to uselessly bounce away, wasting both your ammo and your time. Jumping across those belly spikes is tougher than it seems; you need to be at the apex of your jump to not get Samus' feet clipped by the spikes and take damage. This fight, too, got incredibly boring and tedious. Kraid was among Zero Mission's better bosses, and steps were taken to throw it out the window.

Ridley in particular received a host of changes meant to make him more challenging: what was once solid ground has been perforated with slow crumble blocks meant to keep Samus moving; the arena has been expanded so Ridley has more opportunities to fly off-screen; lava has been replaced with higher-damaging acid like the stuff found in destroyed Tourian; Ridley himself has been made much more aggressive; and finally, he's received by far the largest hit point increase out of any boss. You can still missile spam him, but even an entire salvo of all the game's super missiles up to that point can't put this seemingly immortal dragon into the ground. Unfortunately, like with most of the game's other bosses, these changes don't really make the fight more challenging in ways that are fun or fair. The worse footing exacerbates any issues one might have avoiding his tail, giving players a one-way trip into the acid. If the player falls into the acid while Ridley attacks the right side of the arena, moving to the left side will often have Ridley instant transmission himself to the left side of the screen into a difficult to avoid grab attack that I could not dodge consistently, or at all.

The issue isn't that these bosses are hard, per se; none of them took me more than a couple of tries to beat. But I can recognize tedium and unfair challenge when I see it, and all too often I found it on full display in Desolation.

Regardless, eventually you will overcome these bosses and get back to the more enjoyable portion of the hack: the exploration. Like the very best hacks out there, there are many layers to the exploration that I have not yet plumbed. There are multiple endings (and a decent storyline with a unique flavour to Metroid games that I enjoyed), some of which involve exploring the planet in different ways. You can find all the major powerups without fighting even a single one of these annoying bosses, which is nice, though I don't hold that in the game's favour when it comes to the boss roster. There is one rather large caveat, however: you're not going to resolve the game's central conflict on Normal Mode. See, in order to get the true ending, you're forced to replay the game on "True Ending" mode.

Now, I am all for replayability, but this just left a sour taste in my mouth. On your first playthrough, you'll come across a gate in Bionicle that says "it's time to leave", which is your cue to backtrack to the ship and leave the planet. You can still find the five Metroid rooms You'll unlock "True Ending" mode, and only then will that gate unlock in Bionicle and allow you to complete the true ending. Additionally, a random wall in Acead will be removed only in "True Ending" mode that lets you fight Nightmare. I could find no in-universe justification as to why the gate is locked in Normal Mode. It all felt incredibly unsatisfying, the hack just ending on such an empty note.

This wasn't my first rodeo with this concept, of course. There are a few games out there that encourage multiple playthroughs, some of which are required to reach the true ending, but they offer incentives beyond playing the same game slightly differently: some let you play as entirely different characters, for instance. That being said, it wasn't a big deal, until you reach the bosses again, and things take a turn for the worse. Ridley, for instance, receives an even larger buff on True Ending Mode, at which point he receives a truly ridiculous amount of hit points. The bosses were already the worst part of the game, but making them even worse on the second playthrough just for an ending that should have been available on normal mode? No thanks.

As I said before, Metroid: Desolation is a work of extremes. You have some of the best tilework, music implementation and exploration of any hack, but some of the worst bosses and ending implementation on the other. While I would love to recommend this hack to my friends, I cannot in good conscience do so without warning them about the awful boss design. It is a shame, because otherwise this would be THE hack to recommend. It is so close, but these issues hold it back severely. I do recommend any veteran hack player to give this a whirl, even if you don't care for Zero Mission, but anyone who's looking to play their first hack? I don't know.

Some odds and ends:

* The text could use some cleanup. I realize English is not the native language of the author, but the script robs the game of some gravitas. I, and many others, would be happy to review the script and give constructive feedback.
* Power Bombs retain a bug from vanilla Zero Mission that forces Samus to release ledges she is hanging from while they explode.
* An endgame area, Bionicle, shares it name with a rather famous brand of toys, so the immersion is somewhat broken at that point.
* Apparently there have been some crashing issues. I never encountered any crashing, but it's worth keeping in mind and saving often.
* Plasma + Wave + Spazer has no visual distinction from Plasma + Wave. I don't know if this is a callback to Super Metroid, where Spazer and Plasma were mutually exclusive outside of glitches, but it does seem like a strange exclusion in such a robust, meticulously-crafted hack.
* Endgame navigation is a bit more roundabout than I would have prefered: Nurk-Bionicle, and Desert-Bionicle (aside from the secret ending) have no direct connections despite their proximity on the map. Acead-Rocava weirdly has a connection at the top of the map, but not the bottom.
* Acead and Bionicle could use more distinctive tilesets; they reuse tilesets and could stand to stand out from each other more.
Temple of the Winds by Moehr and Albert V. [SM Exploration], rated by Boomerang on Aug 10, 2020 (Star Star Star Star Star )
91% in 2:47
To mirror what others have said, Temple of the Winds is an incredibly ambitious hack that pulls out all the stops to craft a very unique and stylish experience, pushing Super Metroid to its limits. It's an audiovisual treat from beginning to end, with Albert V. and Moehr's lush tilework and the completely new custom music bringing the world to life. A lot of love clearly went into giving this hack its own setting and lore that borrows almost nothing from the series' mythology. Much was also done to give the powerups their own identity - most SM hacks don't deviate all that much aside from the vanilla upgrades and one or two new upgrades - with an almost wholly unique arsenal for Samus to play with.

That all being said, it's unfortunate that the hack has quite a few shortcomings.

As I had feared from the outset, the gorgeous environments are nice to look at, but a bit finicky to navigate. There were frequent instances in which I bonked against some level geometry that wasn't entirely clear whether I could pass through or not, particularly in the ruins below the starting area. There were pillars that were dimly lit and made me think they were part of the background, only to find out it was a wall. Painstaking effort was made to make the environments look as natural as possible, at the cost of creating awkward little tunnels or crevices that didn't gel well with the relatively unchanged movement mechanics. It made traveling through the world more of a pain as the game went on, and deterred me from really scouring the hack to get that nice 100% collection rate. There's a fine line artists working with SNES graphics have to tread: visually striking imagery like the ones found in this hack obfuscate the level geometry and tends to leave players confused as to how they can actually navigate it. There's a sort of immediate, recognizable "readability" that's sacrificed if you go too far in the "artistic" direction. On the other hand, make things too rudimentary to serve the gameplay and you have a bland world to explore. Temple of the Winds certainly skews far into the "artistic" direction, and for the most part it works, but there are some areas that could use some work as far as playability goes.

On a similar note, I appreciate the genuine effort that went into putting actual puzzles into the level design. Unfortunately, Super Metroid is so painfully limited in this regard that pretty much every attempt to innovate in this area ends with what also happens in this romhack: things just feel random and arbitrary, and I stumbled on the solution without even realizing there was a puzzle in the first place. Errant pots that can be broken to reveal Thunder upgrades that don't look visually any different from another pot you can't interact with; random switches that break otherwise non-interactive blocks a few screens away; weird roomstate changes that require you to exit and re-enter a room to acquire the item within; and other examples fall into this category. That isn't to say there aren't good puzzles in Temple of the Winds, because there are.

Lastly, the new mechanics, while fresh and innovative, are also unpolished and are more frustrating than what was probably intended. The nature of the whirlwinds made me second-guess myself multiple times, as even after collecting the intended upgrade necessary to bypass them, there was still enough resistance in bypassing those obstacles that made me feel as though I had missed an upgrade, only to later realize that the finicky, weird thing I was trying to do before was the intended solution. When creating obstacles like these in a game, there has to be a clear indication that you're doing the right thing - Super Metroid does this by having audiovisual language that doesn't leave much room for misinterpretation or second-guesses. There's no misinterpreting the function and correct execution of the grapple beam, or the bombs, or the speed booster. But the Cloud Boots still make the whirlwinds offer a hefty amount of resistance to your jumps and, along with the sometimes finicky level geometry, might leave you getting sent right back to your ship. This situation is emblematic of a couple of situations in the game and could be solved by making this a bit more clear for the player, such as making different graphics for different kinds of cyclones (since they don't all work the same way) and having the Cloud Boots completely nullify the effects of just one type of whirlwind. Just spitballing ideas here - I don't know how feasible that would be.

If I appear critical, it's because I see great potential here. As mentioned before - this hack is a stunning piece of work that should be experienced at least once. There's a lot to love here - it's just buried under a bit of rough edges. I look forward to Albert V.'s and Moehr's contributions in the future!
Another ZM by XY riny [MZM Exploration], rated by Boomerang on May 10, 2021 (Star Star Star Star Star )
100% in 6:05
Another ZM is a mixed bag that desperately needs a few more layers of polish, because underneath the recycled content, countless tiling errors, off-kilter difficulty curve and lack of direction lies a pretty solid hack that should be experienced by anyone who wants more Zero Mission.

Most noticeable right off the bat, however, are the changes to the physics; Samus retains her momentum after landing from a jump, and her air speed seems to have been tweaked to accommodate this change. Thus, she can retain her speedbooster after jumping and landing, even when in Morph Ball form.

Mastery over these new mechanics is a must for 100% completion, as some pickups are hidden behind obstacles that can only be overcome through clever use of these abilities. This is, however, undone in many respects due to the last change: Samus will retain any speed boost she has built up if you jump and turn around in the air. You only need a few tiles and some space to jump to build up a shinespark in a place you would be unable to otherwise. As others have mentioned, this exploit might rob some players of the enjoyment of "properly" solving a shinespark puzzle, but it should also be noted that this might also be something of a saving grace for others. Indeed, some of the shinespark maneuvers the game asks of the player without taking advantage of this exploit are needlessly finicky, so an option to bypass them is welcome in some circumstances.

The added mechanics also introduce a few problems of their own. Landing from a jump does indeed feel like you're running on ice, as people who are used to the original's physics will find themselves careening off the side of some blocks. Samus' air speed is slightly slower than her landing speed, so a sudden boost after hitting the ground took me by surprise more often than it should have. Additionally, during certain points in a Morph Ball, Samus would sometimes retain some momentum even while I was not touching the D-Pad, causing her to slide with no input from me whatsoever.

More welcome changes are the ability to wall jump even after obtaining the Space Jump, the ability to space jump while suitless underwater, and the ability to retain momentum while jumping into a Morph Ball like how it functions in Super Metroid (though unfortunately I did not find quite as much use for this change as I would have hoped). It is clear that, on some level, the creator took strides to add in quality of life changes where they could, but fumbled in the execution and introduced a number of different problems.

Difficulty-wise, this hack is almost assuredly more challenging than Zero Mission. The bosses in particular, with some exceptions, have received massive buffs; Ridley can no longer be bum-rushed with missiles as he is now immune to them, Diorem, Kiru Giru and the Acid Worm have some pretty awful arenas in which to fight them, and Mecha Ridley takes an ungodly amount of punishment when you have 100% items. Exploration is much more open-ended, without much direction to lead the player to major powerups, particularly in the beginning where it felt as though I was just stumbling into upgrades. The shinespark puzzles - the ones you cannot trivialize with the aforementioned exploit - are much more difficult, and some of the solutions are downright stupid. Special mention goes to the ball spark that has to be performed on a crumble block, the Super Missiles that require you to know that Samus can somehow ball spark through gates, the power bomb tank that requires kiting around a Space Pirate to obtain, and the other miscellaneous items that require you to navigate some really tight spaces with crumble blocks that eat your jump inputs.

The world itself is quite big, and is, as far as I know, the biggest "complete" Zero Mission hack out there. The world is nicely interconnected, with plenty of passageways that lead into new areas, which makes the actual process of exploring this new Zebes more rewarding in itself. Unfortunately, some of that size is due to the author recycling rooms from the original game, as some rooms are lifted wholesale. Most of it, however, is totally new, perhaps more evidently so because many of the new rooms have amateur tiling errors. The GBA Metroid games have a mahogany outline that makes tiling errors pretty obvious even at a glance, as even a casual player can notice a mismatched or entirely absent outline. Some Layer 0 effects are messed up or are badly applied; the most egregious instance occurs early on when the player can fall through some fake lava, only for the layer 0 effect to fade out slowly enough to reveal a sharp, floating box of lava that looks horrendous in-game.

Another ZM also has some issues signaling its secrets to players. Some breakable tiles are hidden behind layer 0, which might lead some players to sidle along the walls to see if their bombs broke something that wasn't shown to the player. There was an instance in Kraid where an entire wall can be bombed away, but is hidden until you pass through it. Another instance happened in Chozodia, where the path forward was hidden behind a random missile block in a random corner of the room. This happened more often than it should have, and I begrudge no one for being tempted to open up the hack in MAGE to see what they are supposed to do.

None of what I have described is unworkable, however. Some well-needed polish could transform a frustrating experience into a really damn good romhack, because the potential is there. I enjoyed my time with it, despite the missteps.

I'd rate this hack a 3.5 if I could, but the metconst overlords decree that 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are the only valid scores. It is time we cast off this yoke and step bravely into a world of increased granularity. Join me in the ten-point scale if you wish to ascend. Consign yourselves into obscurity if you do not.
SM Redesign: Axeil Edition by Drewseph [SM Exploration], rated by Boomerang on May 30, 2015 (Star Star Star Star Star )
75% in 12:51
Okay, so... Super Metroid Redesign: Axeil Edition. I will preface this by saying that I have played the original Redesign and that I got to Tourian, but stopped due to school work piling up and other life things getting in the way. I should probably finish it to complete the Redesign legacy. I played version 1.4. I will also say that I'm not the greatest Super Metroid player; my any% PB for Super Metroid is 1:00 (in-game time), though that's just playing as fast as I can with my preferred though sub-optimal route without any actual practice. I've also completed Eris 2009 and 2012 Editions (my run through 2009 edition was on a keyboard!), Hyper Metroid and Stardust. I've also gotten a fair bit through Impossible and I Wanna Be the Guy. My PB for Guacamelee! 100% is 3:56:41 playing casually after having left it on for 30 minutes to eat dinner. At the time I completed it, it was ranked 43rd on the leaderboards.

It sounds like I'm (undeservedly, I admit) tooting my own horn at this point, but this is all to say that while I'm not the greatest Metroidvania-type player, I'm not bad. I'd venture to say I'm pretty good, actually, so no one can say "oh, you just suck at Metroid, then" if I bring up any criticisms of the challenge of the game (of which there are many, but more on that later).

Also, for the sake of simplicity, I'm going to refer to this version of Redesign Axeil as simply "Redesign." So, without further ado, on to the review!

I will begin by saying that I honestly overall enjoyed this hack. There are a lot of things to love about Redesign that I feel people aren't giving enough credit for because of all the other stuff weighing down the hack.

* The world is absolutely gigantic and methodically crafted; it's abundantly clear that years worth of time and effort went into creating a sprawling, gigantic world that is both intimidating to look at on the map screens and beautiful to experience when playing. This is to say that clearly no effort was spared when creating this gigantic piece of work.
The subtle changes to the tilesets also assist in creating an immersive world, to the point that Redesign looks leaps and bounds better than the original game. Everything looks like it makes sense, every tunnel looks natural and every structure looks like it was built onto the world in ways that just make sense.

* There are a lot of neat ideas, such as the new auto-morph mechanic which is a blessing for players troubled with the new physics, though there are definitely some tunnels that the auto-morph doesn't work in.

* The gravity is also less punishing, with horizontal jumps being made easier and Samus not falling like a rock the moment she reaches the apex of her jump.

* Shinesparking is made a little easier, as horizontal shinesparking in the original Redesign and vanilla Super Metroid was finicky and tough to accomplish.

* Auto-walljumping is also great as it does prevent hand cramps.

* The auto-map system has been ridiculously improved! This is probably the best map system of any Super Metroid hack out there. I'd be happy if every hack from hereon out incorporated some version of this map system; it prevents clutter, makes doors easy to spot, and is overall an incredible addition.

* The hint system is wonderful. It prevents a LOT of aimless searching and streamlines the game. I've heard of previous versions not incorporating hints for some of the Chozo Guardians, which is baffling to me. However, 1.4 did fix those issues.

* The endgame statistics screen is very neat and a nice way to cap off the adventure.

* Manual scrolling was a nice feature. The are unfortunately many places within the original Redesign that have you jumping blindly into enemies because they're too far below screen, but Axeil makes it somewhat more tolerable with this system. That being said, this feels more like a safety net for bad room design rather than a good mechanic in and of itself. Players shouldn't need to stop and look down for a couple of seconds when you could just structure the room in a way that players can see all they need to see at all times.

* The nameplates for the areas is a NICE touch. I suggest adding more in there in future editions! So far, I count: Crateria, Crateria Depths, Brinstar, Norfair, Lower Norfair, Maridia, Tourian Access and Tourian. There could definitely be more added in, especially in Brinstar and Maridia. One of my favourite parts of Metroid Prime is that every room has a NAME, which lends an identity to each area.

* Quicksand doesn't suck ass anymore. Thank god!

* Exiting water without the Gravity Suit is actually possible in this version! HUZZAH!

* The optional Hell's Run is very much appreciated. While the Hell's Run was something of an iconic moment of the original Redesign, it was the source of incredible frustration due to death pits and there being absolutely no room for error on the player's part.
The early Power Bomb challenge is very neat. I won't say much more about it due to not having attempted the challenge, but it's still a very cool feature.

* Speedbooster and Power Bomb blocks staying destroyed even when exiting a room is great!

* The idea to weaken Ridley's health in Ceres to aid in your fight against him in Norfair was a very cool idea... HOWEVER... I will go into why it's super bullshit later on.

* The express elevators are a nice addition, which helps cut down on the backtracking somewhat. However, I didn't make much use of them myself because I honestly forgot where they would go and would rarely take me to where I needed to go if I did remember where they went. Maybe notating them on the map somehow would help?


* CRATERIA: The early Power Bomb challenge is very well presented. There are subtle environmental cues to show which trip wires won't set off the alarm, which is a neat addition.
* BRINSTAR: Honestly, Brinstar was my absolute favourite part of the hack, especially Red Brinstar. Sidehoppers always will suck, and the Mega Sidehoppers taking off more than an Energy Tank is bullshit, but I still enjoyed it immensely.
* NORFAIR: Not much to say, as it didn't feel too different (though I admit I played Redesign a couple of years ago), though the added save points is a plus. Also, and I don't know exactly how to quantify this, but the Grapple section in Norfair wasn't as much of a nightmare, thank god.
* MARIDIA: Quicksand isn't stupid shit anymore.
* TOURIAN: Despite my outburst in my previous post, Tourian does have some neat ideas. The idea to destroy Zebetites to deactivate lasers is definitely pretty cool, though I'd totally scale it back a bit with how extreme it is. It's a well-crafted location... even if tedious.

The hack definitely feels more accessible this time around, with enemy damage being taken down and health drops being buffed (small energy now heals 10, and large energy heals 25). The additions really help new players ease into the game and I will definitely say that I had more fun at the beginning of the hack than I did in the original Redesign.

Now, all that having been said...

I have quite a few criticisms with the hack. As many people have vented their frustrations to you in this thread, which will always be a tough pill to swallow, I won't go full rage mode or anything.

* The physics, while made better, are still annoying to deal with. The most important question you should ask yourself when creating a game or making a hack is "what does this bring to the table?" For example, what do the heavier physics bring to the table? You mentioned in your readme for the original hack that they add a sense of unfamiliarity, which might be true to an extent, but I still felt like I was playing Super Metroid, anyway. After that, they just lend a sense of frustration to players trying to navigate the often tight, methodically constructed rooms and maps of the game. Another member mentioned that they'd have more fun if the original physics were present, which is a statement I'm going to support. Also, as an aside, you mentioned in the original hack's readme that your decision to add in the heavier physics was supported by a Pirate Data Entry in the Logbook which states that Tallon IV and Zebes have similar masses... but, you don't jump as high in Metroid Prime, and if you adjust for that I think you'd find that Tallon IV and the original Super Metroid Zebes do have similar gravity. Just something to keep in mind.

* Similar to the different physics, why was the crumble jump removed? I know crumble jumping allowed players to circumvent your puzzles, but wasn't that part of the reason why people liked Super Metroid in the first place? The important thing to note is player agency here, in that in Super Metroid you're given all these different options as to how you can approach the game. It lends a sense of replay value that isn't found in other games that Metroidvanias excel at. I know it sucks to work super hard on a puzzle just for people to ignore it in favour of a different solution, but sometimes the developer must make concessions for the players: Miyazaki of Dark Souls fame speaks of this in an interview in which he says that despite there being sequence-breaking bugs in his games (I think the skip in questions is the skip to the Adjudicator in Demon's Souls' Shrine of Storms 1), the fact that they add something to the game and become a part of its identity is something that must be considered or even kept in when designing games in this era in which we can patch out bugs and the like. Totally restricting player agency like that is BOUND to frustrate players, and strips Super Metroid of something that helped make it so loved in the first place.

* Similarly, why the heck did you make arm-pumping slower, dude?!

* The Morph Ball rolling speed is way, way too slow. I realize you wanted to give an added benefit to getting the Hi-Jump Boots, but why? What purpose did it serve? The fact that you can jump higher and while in a ball is reward enough. The default rolling speed should be the speed you have with the Hi-Jump Boots equipped, because as it stands it's just tedious.
Those Morph Ball maze tunnels also suck the big one. You know, the ones where you need to make these incredibly tight jumps or else you risk falling onto a crumble block (which, need I remind everyone, you can no longer jump out of and save yourself losing a shit-ton of progress). I'll admit I save-stated the HELL out of those sections to save myself the immense frustration. And, to add insult to injury, you're given measly rewards like 2-Missile Packs once you've completed them.

* That brings me to my next point, which is also true of the original Redesign. The different sizes of Missile packs, while a neat idea, don't add much but frustration to the game. Early on, you're forced to deal with criminally low Missile levels which makes the player farm for ammo, which is never a good thing. This combined with those fucking Purple Doors, makes resource management all the more tedious.

* Purple Doors. Why, Drew? What do they add to the experience? People were never really big fans of the 5 Missile Doors in Super Metroid and the addition of 1 Missile Doors in Zero Mission was universally praised, so why make it even more extreme and tedious? Again, you have to ask yourself what Purple Doors bring to the table. Missile Doors are basically locks to prevent the player from exploring until they have the appropriate power up, this case being the Missiles. While maybe having one Purple Door might be good to force players to explore and find the appropriate amount of missiles, there's like a fucking million of them in the hack. Super Missiles also fire more slowly, so you're forced to sit and wait for longer than what is reasonable to open these damn doors. I say take them out and replace them with 5 Missile Doors or Power Bomb doors or whatever. Or, even better, 1 Missile Doors!

* Early Energy tanks have been moved around, creating a shortage of them pre-Hell's Run.

* Which reminds me, why do Supers fire slower? Supers were already made somewhat pointless by Charge+Ice+Wave+Plasma totally out-damaging them, so lowering their firing speed is just a totally ridiculous nerf. Maybe if they were godlike like they are in Zero Mission would this be an okay decision, but here it's just silly. They're totally useless, after a certain point.
The shot block that looks like a bomb block is stupid and only serves to confuse players. There's no reason for its inclusion.

* Crateria Depths was increased? Why? WHY? It's easily the worst part of pre-Tourian. Underwater suitless isn't challenging or fun, it's just annoying and tedious. And why the heck did you keep it as part of the escape sequence?! Again, you must ask yourself what it brings to the table. Fighting the Elite Pirates was the only interesting part of it all.

* The abundance of Morph Ball Tunnel Puzzles. I like them as much as the next guy, but there's just too much. Add in the fact that many of them need double bomb jumping, and you have yourself many needlessly tedious sections of the game that could have easily been much more enjoyable had they been designed with reducing tedium in mind.

* The Speed Booster escape killed me like 4 times because of the incredibly tight window you're given to escape. You need to have a perfect run or else you're toast. After the vertical shinesparking section, if the lava gets too high you simply cannot escape. Make it so that you can escape even if you're stuck in the lava at that point.

* The Screw Attack puzzle is a bit too nebulous for my tastes. I had to look up the solution because I honestly never noticed that the switches ran on timers with differing lengths. This puzzle, along with the Lost Caverns, is easily the most "esoteric" for lack of a better phrase of the puzzles in Redesign. It's certainly a neat idea, but it will be the source of endless frustration for the vast majority of players unless this problem is addressed. The thing is with Metroid puzzles is that the player is taught to look for environmental cues and hidden passages and the like to discover items, and this is also true for the rest of the hack. However, the Screw Attack puzzle throws all preconceptions and intuitively-thought mechanics out the window in favour of a puzzle that will frustrate people. Players can easily miss out on the cues already given by not noticing a mere ONE SECOND of different between two separate switches. I realize you don't have problems with this puzzle, Drew, but that's because you created it.

* Fucking sandfalls in Maridia. They're just there to frustrate you and prevent you from reaching Botwoon early, the latter of which is absolutely fine, but did it have to affect the rest of the hack?

* Other than that, Maridia was honestly just kind of boring. Power ups were super scarce in comparison to other areas, especially Brinstar, and the enemies were damage sponges which would have been totally alleviated had we been given the Beam Combo earlier, but alas.
Why was the Plasma Beam kept until after Ridley? At that point, all you need to do is hunt down the Guardians and enter Tourian. There's just not much use for it outside of those instances. There's just not much to use it on aside from the Space Pirates in Tourian. Make it so that you can use it against Ridley, at least!

* Ridley's boss battle in Norfair. Attacking Ridley on Ceres was a SUPER cool idea, but your little readme neglected to mention that he'd deal more damage as a result. He shouldn't be taking off 3 energy tanks worth of health, god dammit. Either take out the damage buff or at least mention it in the readme before unsuspected players get gored on a totally bullshit and grimy trick.

* Acid. Now, this is a bit of weird point because I played 1.4 which cut back on the ridiculous damage given by Acid in favour of a suit integrity damage system, but it brings to mind a sort of cognitive dissonance that always pops in my mind whenever I think about Axeil: for a hack designed to be more accessible, why are there so many mechanics that are harder for the player?

* And now... for the big one. Tourian. Oh my gosh, Tourian. This was easily one of the least enjoyable experiences I've had playing a Metroid hack. I was not fucking ready for Tourian. No amount of trials and tribulations could have prepared me for the sleeping beast that lied dormant until I awakened those twelve fateful Chozo Guardians. Now, I realize I played version 1.4 which apparently cut back on the Metroids outside of the Ffff-ffEEEEDIng PIT aREAs... sorry, my rage peeped out for an instant. I'm sorry about that! Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, Tourian. As stated before, disarming the lasers was a cool idea, but it was pretty darn extreme. It's just super tedious, which you say is intentional but again you must ask yourself what the point of the tedium is. If you're designing a hack made to be more accessible, why would you deliberately design something more tedious? It's another sense of the cognitive dissonance I was talking about, and others have touched on this as well.

* The mega uber death lasers are a bit much. Tone down the damage because falling into one or jumping into one is instant death. Just make them a solid block that takes of a chunk of damage instead of sapping your health 300 HEALTH A FRAME.

* THE METROIDS. Ooooooooh man, the Metroids. I will admit I was pretty jazzed getting into Tourian as I honestly enjoyed myself despite all the criticisms I had for pre-Tourian sections of the game. I honestly, truly enjoyed myself, despite all the railroading and the blatant hate for sequence breaking and letting the player find their own route through the game, but then the Metroids attacked. The earth cracked and the sky shook with the ferocity of their attacks. I was emotionally spent after having completed the hack, and by golly god damn holy crap did those Metroids ever take a toll on me. There are just too much, they are too plentiful, they aggro from too far away, they hunt in these fucking packs, they take too much to get off, they're too fast, Supers are way too slow, they're too relentless, holy shit oh my gosh why

* THE FEEDING PIT. Wait! Let me... let me collect myself. I'm sorry, bad memories. Anyway, yes, the feeding pit. That feeding pit is the worst part of the hack, easily. I yelled, I was frustrated, it took forever, I had to make multiple trips out of Tourian and to my ship in Crateria to efficiently farm all that health back, and why did you put it in? Why did you put the feeding pit in a hack designed to be more accessible for players? WHY?! DREEEEEWWWWWwww... Anyway, yeah, they're a pain. Why do they dodge? Why do they take less time to freeze? Why don't Power Bombs work at all? Why do you need to kill them in an insanely fast amount of time? I got lucky and the Metroids decided to stay stunned for longer in the final feeding pit area, which was the sweet song of seraphim heard in my lover's bosom to me at that point, but AGAIN I must ask why it's included in a hack that's designed to be more accessible. If this was a challenge hack, great! Mission accomplished! However, neither this nor the original Redesign (though it's to my understanding that the Metroids weren't this insane in the original hack) were designed to be challenge hacks. In fact, as I've brought up doubtlessly countless times at this point, Axeil Edition was designed to be more accessible! So why, man? Why?

So, after having given an all-too-large bullet point list of my likes and dislikes of the hack (though I'll admit that I probably forgot a lot of stuff, though I feel others have stated their criticisms enough to cover the ones I forgot), I'll finish with my closing thoughts. I will restate that despite my criticisms, I still had fun with this game. There's