VirtueAvatar's Ratings and Reviews
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UpTroidDown by BuggMann [SM Vanilla+], rated by VirtueAvatar on Jan 05, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
67% in 0:00
I really enjoyed it. Maybe not quite as much as the sideways rotation one, but it's still good if you've played that and you're itching for more. Something about not knowing which way was which kept bothering me, which didn't happen when the world was turned 90 degrees instead of 180.

Bubble Mountain gave me a lot of grief. Some clever solutions with rooms and situations that really need to be right-side-up.

Great for what it is.
Super Metroid: Subversion by TestRunner and AmoebaOfDoom [SM Exploration], rated by VirtueAvatar on Nov 08, 2022 (Star Star Star Star Star )
63% in 9:15
Alright this hack is incredible, up there and beyond with the likes of Hyper Metroid and VITALITY, and beyond your other typical 5-star hack. Like we need to rethink the rating system now as we've reached a new level here, and it is not enough to say this is a 6.

This hack has everything you love about Super Metroid and changes it and/or makes it better.

I don't love reading lore in games, but the newly introduced log, available at the beginning of the game, is absolutely invaluable in every aspect.

I did get stuck at the beginning because everything you look at is quite different to what you're used to, but also find a lot of familiarity. You don't have to shoot every nook and cranny to find something nice or the way forward, but if you do so, you'll probably be rewarded, albeit less so than you might in Super Metroid. The game asks you to trust it.

I had a few nitpicks with the romhack, but none that will dare drop this review below 5 stars. The main one is that the world is Big. Really, really big. You will think that the world is big and then a new area will open up to you. Then probably another new area. And when you finally think you've seen everything, another new area. The description says this is twice the size of Super Metroid, and I wasn't counting the number of rooms I went into, but this hack feels like it's 5x bigger, not 2x. It was so big that by the end of the hack I kind of wanted it to be over, even though I was not having less fun with it. I did get lost a fair amount and have to backtrack to very far-away areas, so this probably contributed. The log helps greatly here, but does not give you all the answers you need. Exploration is vital, and the world is very, very vast.
Rotation by SMILEuser96 [SM Spoof], rated by VirtueAvatar on Sep 17, 2022 (Star Star Star Star Star )
91% in 3:00
I played this to completion when it first came out in 2017 and I've just finished a replay now in 2022. This is an incredibly enjoyable hack. Really full of surprises in every room.

Wallhacking is a must, and it helped a lot being able to infinite bomb jump and crystal flash. Interestingly, there is a tricky bombable wall early on in Crateria that sets the tone for the rest of the hack. If you can get past that wall, you can likely deal with anything the hack throws at you.

A lot of the issues I had the first time I played just didn't come up here, and I'm still playing the same version as before ("Beta 11").
Ancient Chozo by Albert V. [SM Vanilla+], rated by VirtueAvatar on Jan 12, 2023 (Star Star Star Star Star )
64% in 0:00
Ancient Chozo makes Project Base into a very pretty world, though I get the nagging feeling that Project Base just did a better job in not making the world loop around *too* much - it's so easy to miss lots of areas entirely.

As far as prettiness goes, I didn't think much of the evergreen Brinstar, but Maridia is an absolute standout from an extended Red Tower becoming part of Maridia's edge to making sure that you know at every turn that you're in a deep ocean world now and not just rooms of water.

The ending tried to do something new but I feel like it really fell flat. The item you find there adds nothing, would have had much more value to the whole hack if it could be found earlier on, and the new platform section feels extremely tacked on.

The new boss fights are good, though Draygon in particular felt very unbalanced for the added difficulty.
Super Metroid - Vengeance SE by Noxus [SM Vanilla+], rated by VirtueAvatar on Sep 05, 2022 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
Very solid 3.5, having reached nearly-the-end.

This is overall a very solid and enjoyable hack only held back by a few things.

The palettes are mostly pretty great, at least until you get to Maridia. One room in Maridia (Mama Turtle) is currently a buggy hardlock as soon as you enter. The replacement music in Norfair was bad enough that it made me turn the volume down while I was there - I would have appreciated new good area music, but it was really bad. It has a few "gotcha" items that hurt you instead of give you that item.

I really liked the changes to the boss fights and the stranger-than-you'd-think placement of items. It felt fresh and much more non-linear.

The hack was more approachable than I thought it'd be, and I only know some fairly basic tricks (mockball, short charge but not stutter charge, bomb jumping) and it seems you can use that to get through the whole hack. Other reviewers have said the mockballing was tricky, but I'm not great at mockballing and never felt like it was much of an issue. I believe there is a lot of sequence breaking potential in this hack, so maybe that's what they are talking about.

The only reason I was unable to finish the hack was because the entry to Tourian G4 suddenly wants you to do an extremely difficult trick that I found myself unable to do, and it felt out of character for the rest of the hack.

There's one new upgrade that's also worth mentioning here because I almost couldn't figure out how to use it. I won't name it for the sake of surprise, but when you get it, to use it you need to hold dash and a direction, then trigger it by releasing dash.
V I T A L I T Y by Digital_Mantra [SM Exploration], rated by VirtueAvatar on Nov 08, 2020 (Star Star Star Star Star )
69% in 4:29
This is a really great hack, but not without its flaws. The atmosphere is exceptional and the gameplay is comparable to SM however much more non-linear. I really would recommend anyone who enjoyed Super Metroid to play this one.

Having said that, finding items is quite difficult and don't be surprised if you end up dying to the bosses a lot. I mean a lot.

It can't be understated how often you will not know what is a platform and what isn't, especially in the second half of the game. There were SO MANY times where I was just guessing what I could land on or not and experimented with trial and error. There's some fun in this, but it's frustrating and could really have been avoided.

The map is enormous and because large parts loop around itself (this is the best way I can describe it), the map screen is often not very helpful as you'd like.

A couple of items have enhanced functionality, all of which is really cool. Shinesparks don't cost health to use, which is fantastic.
Super Metroid: Ascent by Benox50 [SM Exploration], rated by VirtueAvatar on Jun 15, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
76% in 7:12
3.5 orbs. I'm kind of surprised this hack gets as much praise as it does given its notable flaws. While it wasn't bad, towards the end of the hack I kept having this feeling like I just wanted it to be over.

I think part of that was due to one very big flaw - I never found Space Jump until after I finished the game and watched a video of someone else playing it, only to find it was in a spot that I thought I'd find a missile pack or something, so I didn't bother going over to collect it. But it's a major item. Yes I finished the game without it, but the final escape was not trivial, and the final boss was so gruelling (despite quite an epic opening for it) that I really did not want to have to kill it again.

There was a lot of non-linearity throughout the hack, but as I never needed to go back to a previous zone, it felt like it made the zone I was traversing through - after never having been through it before - just more convoluted to get through. Weirdly I preferred going back through to older familiar zones to find new areas rather than just room after room I didn't recognise. It felt less like metroidvania and more like a generic platformer.

A very pretty platformer with cool room names, but even when I found a major item, it was a bit of a stress fest to think of the one spot I saw forever ago where I could use it. The new items were okay but also kind of invisible.

I did like the use of the new shinespark, but there was at least one puzzle (in zone 3, which requires a morphed shinespark into a new room's ceiling) where it was made very tricky to use at a moment's notice. Lots of areas where I was scratching my head and wasn't super satisfied when I solved it - it just felt like it was frustrating. Many many many speed boosts I had to perform were done with a quick charge (the easy speedrunning trick), and I felt like there often wasn't enough room for a standard speed boost.

Getting out of the wave beam room was kind of interesting, but I was stuck in there for a while and its solution was a bit blink-and-you'll-miss-it. This kind of feeling kept up for many puzzles in the hack.

In the water areas were difficult to tell between foreground walls and background, and this never got any easier. There's patches of areas with floating lava/heal gas or something just all around the place which I never liked at all.

This kind of level design felt like amateur hour, which is surprising because most of the rest of the world really was built pretty well. There were flaws with the romhack but it was still very playable, and I think a later version could have fixed every single one of its problems - many of which would just have to be a reduction in difficulty.

And making major items not quite such a distantly optional pickup.
V E R T I C A L I T Y by Tundain [SM Exploration], rated by VirtueAvatar on Apr 29, 2024 (Star Star Star Star Star )
82% in 6:51
This hack does a lot of things really right and a few things really wrong. When I started up on this hack, I saw a lot of people consider it among the best hacks they'd ever played, and this just wasn't the case for me. It's a 3.5; I'd mark it as a 4 instead of a 3 if it wasn't sold so highly to me. I'm still glad I played it from start to finish, but probably won't replay it.

What I liked:
- The bosses are all reworked and are all excellent, with the exception of the difficulty of the very first boss. I'll come back to that. Draygon was a standout for me, as I've always considered her the most difficult boss, and she was reworked in such a way that made her fun to fight. All of the bosses either feel fun, have some hilarity to them, or both.
- The new items. There's not many, but I did make a lot of use of what was there and enjoyed their addition to the game. A couple of them I didn't use at all, I'll come back to this.
- The concept. Having the world piled on top of each other with a central theme of verticality holds up. This is a very vertical world. The idea of starting in Norfair, eventually finding your way to the main elevator that takes you to every other region of the world, locking you out until you're ready, with alternative entrances to those regions - is outstanding. I can overlook the problem with the screen being wider than it is tall and Samus jumping pretty damn high in SM - these are pretty necessary evils and to be expected.
- The new enemies and their AI. Not much to say here, every time I saw a new enemy or new AI on an old enemy, I loved it.
- Downward shinesparking was cool, although it took me a little bit to work out what the inputs were to trigger it - it's not intuitive, especially given the different types of circumstances you need to activate one, like in mid-air, over teleport spikes, etc. (press up, then press down).
- The escape sequence was great. There are animals to save, but they felt very far away given how little time you're given. When I saved them, I died, but I was mostly trying to figure out where to go.

What I didn't like:
- Teleport spikes. Oh god the teleport spikes. The first time I saw them, I thought oh this is a challenge room, if it's too hard I'll just skip this item. I couldn't make it, left, then got a new item which I clearly needed to have a hope in handling that room, came back and completed that challenge room, got my reward and moved on. But after that point, these teleport spikes are all over the romhack. There are one tile gaps you need to shinespark through, or else the room resets. There are rooms filled with teleport spikes that you need to space jump around, or the room resets. Even the smaller rooms that expect you to float around to complete some puzzle just get extremely tiresome with the immense quantity of these types of rooms. They are everywhere. If there was many more, they were at risk of breaking the hack completely.
- Which reminds me, the hack is rated as difficulty vanilla, but it is not. It is difficulty veteran. I'm able to do some well known tricks like mockballs and IBJs and green gate glitches and moonfalls. I struggled with a lot of the shinespark tricks and teleport spike areas.
- There is a mechanic with multi-direction shinesparking that is interesting, but not well used. Almost every time, the trick was done for me - I'd just spinespark in the first direction and get rotated in the way the hack wanted me to go anyway. It looked flashy, but felt cheap. This could have been improved if I had to work out a puzzle where I'd have to rotate the direction-changers myself, but this was very rare, and never complex.
- There is a gigantic room in Crateria with a grey door where you have to kill all the enemies to open it, a little similar to Super Metroid's plasma beam room, except much bigger. The enemies are difficult to find and track down, and it's not clear that killing them is what opens the grey door. Crateria in general almost feels like an afterthought, like the dev was running out of ideas on what to do with an overpowered Samus. The answer to that, apparently, is a lot of spikes, a lot of teleport spikes, a lot of open areas, and the new type of breakable blocks that (I think) only appear in this area. For a metroidvania, there isn't really a lot of backtracking to the older regions once you get new items - maybe that was intended here, I don't know.
- Falling down pits and getting teleported back was dumb. In some rooms, it teleported me forward, skipping the room entirely like I was meant to enter from the opposite side.
- The Tourian outdoor areas are ridiculous - both the damage effect (a whole column?) and the mobility effect, both should be heavily nerfed. Nothing about that was fun and it didn't feel atmospheric either. I think there might have been a tie-in to the final boss here? But it wasn't worth it. The rest of Tourian is great.
- The first boss fight is really unusual, and it seems to act more of a difficulty gate for the rest of the hack (not for the rest of the bosses - the game itself). This was a boss fight of precision that I don't think I could have beaten if I hadn't seen speedrunners fight this boss in speedruns with their level of precision. At first I thought I was supposed to die to this boss for story reasons, but nope, I'm meant to kill them. I'm glad I did, and so long as the player can kill them, it's a good show of what's to come, boss difficulty aside.
- I'm going to name the new items I didn't like next. Overcharge was ridiculous - you can't slowly kill the player while holding charge. Maybe, BIG maybe, if the kill rate was slower, but it feels like you're setting yourself on fire for what feels like little payoff. I turned it off forever shortly after completing the somewhat tricky puzzle to obtain it. Reserve Missiles; I don't know what the point of these was. 15 extra missiles that refills when you run out, who cares. I never ran out of missiles by the time I got my first reserve missile pack. It's a weird gimmick that wasn't well executed. I guess it might act as a warning that you're running out of missiles for some players, but has anyone ever really panicked when they hit zero?
- I got lost near the beginning of the hack with the new mechanic in Maridia that has you floating upwards, because I didn't see that it was there. You're not put into it very deliberately, so it's easy to miss, and I backtracked all over Norfair to figure out where I was meant to go. Even once I saw it, trying to get high enough using these things was tricky in a couple of places. I found out being morphed while using it gives you more control and height, but it was clumsy with the no-gravity water physics.
Temple of the Winds by Moehr and Albert V. [SM Exploration], rated by VirtueAvatar on Mar 20, 2021 (Star Star Star Star Star )
No completion stats.
Echoing a lot of the positive sentiments here, but make no mistake, this is a technical hack. There are a lot of fidgety jumps that you need to be able to make to progress, even in the very beginning. Just knowing how to wall jump consistently in Super Metroid is not enough.