MarioFanGamer's Ratings and Reviews
Sort Oldest First or Sort Best First or View Tier List
Super Metroid: Ascent by Benox50 [SM Exploration], rated by MarioFanGamer on Apr 27, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
I haven't played that many Super Metroid hacks but this is definitively my favourite one, having only few real flaws.

The level design itself is open, much more than any Metroid game, really. This is achieved not just the obvious way with wall jumps where you'd otherwise need High or Space Jump but also alternative paths like some kind of gimmick room (and there are many cool rooms thereof) and obviously separate abilities (they also aren't as blatant as the secret paths in Zero Mission, for example). But the separation into zones also limits the choices the player can make which prevents one from getting overwhelmed playing this, not to mention the hack also nudges you to go into a certain direction sometimes if you need an important item (it also makes second playthroughs more interesting such as what I did or the 100% run).
A side effect is that this hack limits the Metroidvania aspect, though, given the limitation of backtracking here (outside of one technical instance which is where the hack got the most Metroidvania here). Most notably, the ammo weapons are associated with a each Zone so no green gates in Lush Green, for example.
In addition, this whole hack puts a twist to the Metroid series since normally, you go from top to bottom, not bottom to top as implied by the name (Metroid Dread doesn't because it's younger than this hack). Fittingly, you start from one of the lowest (albeit, as a room noted, not THE lowest) points in the game.

Being a Project Base hack, you can see that it plays a bit different to the vanilla game, though the physics are still fairly close the original, not to mention there are various QoL features like respin and keeping momentum when landing. Similarily, some abilities were changed from vanilla Super Metroid. The beams, for example, are fairly different in many aspects while also staying largely the same (the only exception is Charge, that one is unchanged). The biggest difference, however, is Speed Booster or rather, its Shinespark which is slower but also controllable (note that you can't move directly downwards with it, though) which results in unique Shinespark puzzles.
In addition, there are separate collectibles for weapon damage and Shinespark drain which further expands the Super Metroid experience with new stuff as well as new features like heal and hurt blocks and even a new ability (even if that one has been in use in many other hacks but alas, a lot of this hack use 3rd party resources, really).

As typical for many Super Metroid hacks, the planet is kind of like Zebes but also not really. The results finding the same enemies on both planets (though there are unique wall crawler sprites) including most the bosses (though it's interesting how some Super Metroid bosses are implemented here), being visited by the Chozo as evident with their statues you can find (and likewise you can find all powerups there as well) as well as the obligatory animals.
This is true of the individual zones as well like how Zone 1 incoorperates aspects of Crateria, Norfair, Green Brinstar and Ceres, though it also includes crystal caves which isn't a native Zebes biome and not all aspects (e.g. Norfair exists in both Zone 1 and Zone 2) and the tilesets themselves also aren't used like in Zebes. In addition, there also are unique tilesets like how Zone 2 features Ogrundel, an area which has no Zebes equivalent whatsoever. Likewise, certain Super Metroid biomes don't really exist in this hack either or are very downplayed in their characteristics.

Even aesthetically, this is a fairly awesome looking hacks. It makes heavy use of HDMA gradients which were used a couple times in the vanilla game (e.g. Ceres, Bomb Torizo) but not to an extend as with this hack (there also are fairly unique ideas like the alarm in the final escape sequence). In addition, there also is a lot of tileset mixing, even tilesets of separate regions (e.g. Red Brinstar with Norfair foreground) unlike, say, Redesign which mostly uses tilesets mixing in the sense of using two subtilesets (e.g. Green Brinstar and Pink Brinstar) in the same room but keeping the rest separate, not to mention the well chosen palette choice. There also are custom (i.e. not found in the vanilla game) tilesets like the aforementioned Ogrundel region as well Hyper Metroid's Tourian tileset, the latter of which is quite a fitting choice.
Special mention goes to the backgrounds in this hack, being part of the layer 2 data and not just a simple static (i.e. repeating) background which results in many details but most notably, some separate rooms are interlaced like how the shaft between the two Toxic Lab halves is seen in the background of Big Purp (at least I think it is Big Purp).
Musically, this is using Metaquirius's music pack, more specifically the remixes with different samples/instrumentation as known from Y-Faster as well as kottpower ports (which are well used here, actually) and they're quite a good choice here as well (in particular, the Zone 3 music fits much better here than what kottpower has intended them to be). There is only one music choice which is a bit questionable, though said one is from neither group.
As an aside, I feel like the Varia Suit (replacing the Power Suit here) should have been given its famous shoulders from the get go instead of this hacks Varia Suit.

You can also see aspects of Fusion with the parasites whom you're fighting against, the way the rooms change pretty dramatically and quickly (both by parasites but also external factors) and the gates (both the locked doors and key gates).
Many infected enemies are just palette swaps of existing enemies but with different stats, though other enemies turn into stronger versions like Rippers become Jet Rippers when infected. Some enemies only exist infected, though, but they're mostly found in Zone 3 (incidentally, it's the most infected region in the game). The gimmick here is that they change colours, turning black with a shade of either red, green, yellow, blue, silver or none which incidentally matches up with the colourisation of weapons and their weakness (e.g. red enemies are weak to Missiles) which is an interesting choice and also encourages the player to swap between each weapon (though admittingly, some Grapple AIs could have been changed to render certain enemies invulnerable to it).
I personally feel like they have the biggest impact in Zones 1 and 3 since they're introduced very sudden in Zone 1 (and also prepares you for them) whereas Zone 3 has got the You Know What I Mean. Zone 2 has neither, though it makes it by having a fairly unique region (both in this hack as well as altogether) showing of the effects of something else.

One thing what's pretty interesting is how many secrets are openly marked on the map. Basically, this hack makes secret rooms pretty obvious in the sense that the map shows there is more to a room than one might think only few ones requires trial and error like in the official games, mostly located in Zone 3 where you have access to the Power Bombs with block revealing capabilities like in the GBA games onwards (a side effect is that X-Ray doesn't exist in this hack). It makes sense, as mentioned above, you can't backtrack in this hack once you clear a zone.

My favourite aspect of this hack are the various optional puzzles for item pickups. After Super Metroid, many item pickups are locked behind some puzzle, though while they tend to be Shinespark puzzles in the mainline, Ascent's puzzles feel more like they're part of the Metroid Prime series (which have the best puzzles in the series, for that matter, hence my love of these puzzles).

Lastly, I feel like the finale is a bit of a letdown if only because of fast everything there and how unserious it is when compared to the rest of the hack (with exception of the VVVVVV-esque room names) is fairly serious and wouldn't be out of place of an official Metroid game and likewise also feels very anti-climatic with exception of the escape which is one of the major criticisms I have with this hack.
Harvest by Oi27 [SM Exploration], rated by MarioFanGamer on May 08, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
It's definitively a semi-serious since the hack's promise is summed up as "A trickster scarecrow stole almost all of Samus's items and Samus tries to get them back." which is so un-Metroid for the silliness but at the same time, the hack does take itself quite seriously as evident in the Factory. It works given the Scarecrow's (aka the Big Bad's) personality.

I mostly know this hacks from Oats's stream so I knew the one or another secret as well as the rough sequence, though the hack has received some changes since them (most notably the final boss which originally was quite unfinsihed), not to mention I've also forgotten some secrets and he also broke some sequences (e.g. getting up a Ripper shaft without Ice) while I want to experience it more less normally.

What makes this hack stand out so much is that it'll take a while until you get certain power ups but you're quick to find that you're given alternatives. The biggest one is Morph which usually is the first or second item in any Metroid game (if you don't start with it already, that is) but here, it takes a while to find it and you're spared from getting Springball, which functions as pure Morph (i.e. no jump nor bombs) but with crouching hitbox, stolen (it's mostly a workaround of the issue that Samus is normally three tiles but two tile gaps put here in crouching mode whose only option would be to Morphe, though it fits the hack — and Samus personality and player's expectation — quite well).
This results in quite a bit of out of box thinking like you're introduced to enemies which can destroy bomb blocks pretty early on and must use them for some puzzles.
I do feel like it could have been improved if Missiles were able to reveal blocks much like in Dread which too has Morph as a fairly late item.

I do feel like the pathfinding can be a bit of a weakness (in part because you have no way of revealing blocks until later in the game). The hack doesn't require you to know wall jumps nor IBJs at all (you can, however, break the sequence that way, though, as I happen to do it at times), though sometimes, I feel like it could be communicated better like I only managed to get up a shaft with wall jumps when the hack makes it clear you have to go up there.
In particular, it's very easy to get to the final boss when you're still missing some major items. There is a safe station, at least, so you can just reset the game but unlike the official Metroid games, you have to be actively trying to beat the game with a few major items missing (e.g. Grapple Beam in Super Metroid, Wave Beam in Zero Mission) but here, it looks like it's part of the NORMAL sequence. Admittingly, this could intentional given that an item which helps this section is nearby but it still feels very sudden.

Aesthetically, this is mostly vanilla, both in tilesets and musically. Custom graphics exists sometimes but they're by far the minority and music also is limited in a few places (the intro, if a bit annoying, the final boss, good, but most notably, the Factory). However, there is a huge utilisation of having two foreground layers which results overlapping tiles, giving some variety in the otherwise vanilla tilesets (a downside is that it looks ugly when X-Ray is active and there often are no backgrounds visible; Phazon has a similar issue in one of its regions but hides this by deactivating X-Ray).

As an aside, you can softlock yourself in the escape sequence if you're lacking Space Jump, though you aren't forced to reset the console, at least, and it's also a bit out of the way.

All in all, this is a very recommend hack to be played even as a Super Metroid beginner but I also recommend you to play the original first to familiarise with a couple mechanics (Shinespark comes up quite often, for example).
Oxide by Cyclamen32 [SM Exploration], rated by MarioFanGamer on May 04, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
There are some interesting ideas here and there but I really feel like it it lacks the punch in many ways.

In particular, it has a pretty strong beginning like the basically endless missiles you get, early Grapple (though it also gets into disuse early on as well) and deviations from the vanilla game (Rinkas in Maridia which you explore pretty early on) but as you play it, you see more and more weaknesses in the design.
The biggest one is the linearity (read: lack of interconnecting paths): There are three branching paths (one of which has two major bosses) after you get Bombs but aren't connected with each other. Now, I didn't mind the linear structure of Metroid II, Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime 3 too much but they each have different solutions: M2 has a clear start and a clear end which you means you never have to backtrack through the whole game (at most within an area), Fusion works on a hub system with smaller but more numerous branches, not to mention you gain access to various interconnections later in the game while Prime 3 has the ship for fast travel, but this hack adds more and more path without any alternatives (this also may explain why the hack feels rather short despite that Super Metroid's world is of a similar size).
Heck, in all three games, there are interconnections within the areas themselves so you could walk in a ring which isn't possible in this hack (save for one exception).
I also have some issues with the large rooms as they give me a feeling of emptiness. This is especially so that you have combined them with "kill all enemies" doors which... don't feel good design to me as you'd need to search for them quite a bit (notice that Super Metroid only uses them in 1D rooms and makes it pretty easy for you that you have to kill the enemies).

The easily weakest region is Easy Norfair which incidently contains some of the hack's symptoms: Its only notable characteristics is its three subareas (Green Norfair, Lower Norfair and Water Norfair) compared to the usual two but two of them are located on opposite ends. Lower Norfair also has quite a few of these large rooms including some kill rooms. To make it worse, only one subarea features progress while the other doesn't and finding progress doesn't feel very rewarding. To explain what I mean: At the beginning of Lower Norfair, you're blocked off by item X and you find it in a different subregion. This makes you think to go back, thinking you can finally go and defeat the boss only to be blocked off by an item Y which is located in the SAME subregion you just went which is blocked by item X. It also requires item Z at some point which IIRC is found in an entirely different branch which is a huge potential backtrack unless I missed some kind of shortcut.
Ironically, Easy Norfair does feature some interconnections but one is a small one (requiring two different items to progress, though you need one later on) while another is fairly equal aside from one entrance permitting a sequence break (albeit a useless one since said item locks some important progress) (this is another difference to MF — or really, most Metroid games — btw.: The rings are typically one-way unless you get an item later in the game which possibly allows you to use them as a shortcut) and isn't that big of an interconnection either.

There are some highlights, at least. The first half Toxic Tank (a very unique region, for that matter) has two notable highlights, especially since the first one foreshadows the second one. The escape (one of the best I played, actually) also is a pretty cool one as it leads to a different but still familiar area when normally, you go through another region of Tourian and then back to Crateria (or w/e the hack's equivalent is), though it does have a kill door at some point which is particularly a problem since you're under a time limit and it isn't obvious at first you have to kill all the enemies.

Ultimately, I can't give this hack any more than three orbs. It's not that bad of hack and you may enjoy it more but it lacks any replayability for me and doesn't stand out long term either.
Reverse by Sin [SM Unknown], rated by MarioFanGamer on Apr 29, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
This... is a weird hack for sure. It makes sense given the age and as a result, we get a very experimental SM edit with some interesting and not so interesting ideas. The result is that each room contains the same amount of enemies and PLMs as the original game, most rooms are barely edited if at all (e.g. some room has some FX added, some doors use a different door cap) and the difficulty often ends up being artificial since there is some trial and error involved, some very tricky jumps and dangers of softlocks (e.g. respawning PB blocks).
But another side effect is that we see ideas which we typically wouldn't see in a modern hack, most famously the Shinespark sequences which really is the main identity of this hack which makes this hack alone worth playing (this also merits the hack at least 2 orbs). There are some other good ideas like a water race (trying to beat a tide) or an "illogical" (i.e. impossible but still solvable) maze which good(!) hacks like Ascent and Redesign make use.

Another thing what's interesting about this hack is how almost everything of Super Metroid has been recycled i.e. exist in some way or another (fitting for a hack which doesn't change the enemy/PLM count). Plenty of rooms have been cut like the entirity of Lower Norfair, though the hack still gives them some spotlight if you can count that at least (note that Shinespark rooms also are merely passed through and aren't given much attention if any, something which affects half of Wrecked Ship).

Altogether, Reverse can be best described as a tech demo on what you can do with Super Metroid, both design wise (e.g. turning almost all save rooms into Statue Room caves, taking advantage of room states, experimenting with enemy parameters) and gameplay wise (e.g. the aforementioned Shinespark sequences, enemy shenanigans).
Not all tech demos are bad but the aforementioned design flaws does make it a bad hack objectively speaking, though it still has a place in Super Metroid hacking history for experimentation (and the Shinespark sequences ^^).