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Offline zangetsu468

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Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« on: April 22, 2020, 03:05:05 AM »
0
After playing the hell out of Metroid: Samus Returns, I thought it would be best to post this review as to put digital pen to digital paper and perhaps gain feedback from other fans of the franchise.

Let me firstly say that this is not a comparison to AM2R or a heavy rehash of the original Metroid 2. I'm hoping it's a somewhat critical breakdown of Samus Returns' elements to clarify whether the Metroid formula here has either been distilled or diluted. The last couple of Metroid games being Other M and Samus Returns, seem to have left Metroid fans divided, with the former much more heavily so. I'd like to focus on what SR does well, what it does half-ass'd and how cohesive these elements operate as one collective.

The thing about Metroid II was it almost feels like the forgotten sibling to the series, given it's been so many years since it first released, during an era where video games were still in their infancy and designed in a way that one's imagination had to be pushed to the limit, not simply the gamer's ability. Return of Samus did this even more so than its predecessor, by boasting a larger character sprite(in proportion) than its NES counterpart, despite it playing on a tiny screen in black, green and 50 shades of unknown challenges which laid ahead. Metroid 1 had a small sprite, surrounded by a large expansiveness of darkness, where the cross-sections of the levels and scattered platforms were recognisable mainly by colour. Metroid II, on the other hand, although looking similar throughout, evokes the feeling of claustrophobia, which wasn't previously evident in the series.(Whether this was a happy accident, due to low quality sound and hardware limitations at the time, the world may never know). Unfortunately this is one of the main elements which Samus Returns doesn't embrace or capture the way the original did. Yes you're still Samus and you're isolated, on a foreign planet, the game itself looks, feels and play like Metroid. However, this specific sense of being isolated or burrowed into a deep, dark cavervous environment and especially being claustrophobic, in my opinion, have not translated into SR and I'm not sure if this was intended or whether the developer didn't make this their primary focus. SR388 doesn't feel in ruin, it feels like it was an active planet which was left abandoned. This isn't a deal breaker, but I feel as if as nice as the graphics are, it would've benefited from making some of the backgrounds, particularly in the initial 2 levels, darker. By the time the player had reached the more active and organic levels, this would've had a more lasting effect on the player, even if it meant the initial phase of the game being 'uncomfortable'.

Lighting could have also been used to be extreme if say there were cracks in cave walls, beyond the playable trajectory of the player and while I realise that this was implemented in certain areas and the environments are quite striking for the 3DS, perhaps it wasn't executed intensely enough to be extreme and highly noticed by the player. An analogy that comes to mind is the muddiness of the colour palette in the original Zelda: Twilight Princess, which attributed in the twilight particle effects and bloom lighting giving the game a sense of 'eeriness' to the world which was being engulfed in twilight. This overall effect was almost removed from TPHD, due to the clean graphics and didn't leave the same lasting effect on the player that the original did. I feel that placing certain elements in the foreground could have helped also, adding things like moss growing on rocks, or even breaking the cross-section of platforms down into blocks like the original may have been a pleasing visual aesthetic which threw back to Metroid II. Graphically there is nothing bad about the game, Samus looks great, the environments pop on the 3D of the 3DS and the suits you collect continue to impress, even into collecting the
(click to show/hide)
.The character models are well proportioned, but not as large as the original, which could be considered good or bad.

Having played Mercurysteam games previously, the atmosphere itself was an issue. In comparison, what they did with Metroid SR compared to something similar from another franchise like Castlevania: Mirror of Fate, was exceedingly superior on all fronts. It feels like a Metroid game, not a dissimilar title which flies the Metroid Franchise Flag... How the old Metroid OST tracks, sound effects (exception of the one Metroid Prime puzzle-solving sound effect which appears to have been left in by accident, or as an easter egg) were integrated into SR is not the best the series has seen, but is still solid nonetheless. (I still have a soft spot for hearing both Lower Norfair and Tourian) I believe the tracks which came from having reductive sound effects have been handled/ remixed well enough. The sound effects in general are quite good and the impact felt from missiles hitting metroids, particularly durig the QTE scenes, or the power bombs exploding really assist in immersing the player in battle.

From this, I'll jump straight into the gameplay. This where the game really shines, and so it should, as is Nintendo's mantra to create story around gameplay and not the other way around. The gameplay feels grounded, yet Samus feels light and agile despite lugging those iconic shoulderpads. The shots feel clean and the free-aim mode is great and still has a trade off that you have to be locked into one spot to use it. Whether one likes or dislikes the gameplay really comes down to one element: Parrying. This really comes down to personal choice I for one happen to like parry-based mechanisms and have done since initially playing Street Fighter III and later in games like Castlevania Lamment of Innocence and later again in Lords of Shadow. This has, however, divided fans of Metroid games and while SR has had mostly positive reviews over all, a minority of fans have criticised this mechanic for making the game too combat-focused, instead of platforming-focused. Granted the criticisms may have their validity in metroid games not previously having such mechanics, this one is in no way broken. (Especially when compared with Other M's spammable dodge mechanic, which was very loose on timing, offering the player overuse again and again, a full charge beam to boot and invincibility frames on top of all of this.) What feels more broken to me, rather than the parry itself is the general progression through corridors and between metroid/ boss-fights: Although the camera is panned out, because you're constantly moving Samus down, the faster you move, the more ledges you drop off, the more it feels like you get blindsighted by blind-spot enemies which weren't previously viewable on your screen. There should at least be a camera mechanism by where when Samus ducks or holds up - like Sonic the Hedgehog - the screen pans over. This becomes increasingly frustrating, the further you proceed, in particular when doing long journeys between bosses (given that the game does have auto-check points, but these only send you back to before or after a boss is beaten.) Effectively there's no way to 'run through' this game unless Aeion ability L is equipped and this is at the cost of your Aeion bar - which in fairness, does fill substantially when parrying enemies. This is the part of the progression I valued the least about the game, and feels a bit 50/50 with the free-aim function, particularly after the wave beam, as Samus can never project that far ahead. There are rarely large, expansive areas where the player can run through and blast enemies once one is OP enough to do so. (This is an element that Super Metroid handled really well, going from small, constricted spaces into large, expansive ones in one cohesive world.) This, coupled with another gripe, which again I believe is due to this being a Mercurysteam game is that there are instances where the platforming (use of grapple, for instance) takes over and the areas seem to be bereft of enemies, while in other areas, they cram enemies into all the seams. This reminds me a bit of both Castlevania Lords of Shadow and Mirror of Fate, while there are obviously more traditional areas where Metroid games do both, it almost feels like this is a Mercurysteam thing and it loses a bit of cohesiveness to the environments. Sometimes even having one moderate-powerful enemy in a large screen, which requires little effort to kill can be more effective than having nothing... (Just saying..) While I also appreciate that there are some harder puzzles to solve which lead to upgrades (spikes, I'm looking at you), nowhere does the game illustrate how Samus is supposed to perform a powerbomb-boost, and some of the spiked areas are actually accessible without doing it! This exists on youtube, and there are plenty of frustrated veterans who feel shortchanged for getting to 95% collections only to think they missed an upgrade, bottom line being to can only perform the boost when using spiderball, which doesn't really make sense in the slightest if we're going by in-game/ universe mechanics. Overall this was a minor frustration, but still enough for one to be annoyed at, given no other Metroid game previously has.

Regarding the parry itself, it's not a bad or an unbalanced technique and here's why: if two enemies attack you and you decide to gamble and parry both, you'd better hope your timing is on point or be master of your craft or you will be punished. Similarly, for the auto-charge beam shot that comes directly after the parry, this will one shot the enemy that was parried, but it's limited to one enemy; i.e. if an airborne enemy and a ground enemy or 2 of the same get parried simultaneously, the game will revert to auto-aiming and shooting only one of those enemies, while the other gets dizzied (the same thing happening if you parry in the air), which is a far trade off. This mechanic is especially rewarding during boss fights, which there are plenty of, with the ability to make much quicker work of them. Some of the metroids' 'flash attacks'/tells which can be parried also vary a bit with timing, so if you're lax or tired you may find yourself being punished if your timing off (generally later is better). The gameplay in general is somewhat hampered, however, by the lack of regular enemy variety. Enemies are also re-used, re-coloured and sometimes sped up or given slight variations in abilities, but this is certainly noticeable and probably the biggest drawback when it comes to the fun/ immersion/ replayability factor. The bosses (metroids and others) in this regard are handled much better than the regular enemies and are the real star of this game. Having said this, in my opinion, there are far too many Gamma metroids, I say this because they're the most boring fights until you land a parry. Gamma fights which occur over multiple screens, while more immersive, feel like the game is being artificially extended and like you should be able with the correct skill set, to just beat them straight up on the first screen. Given the amount of metroids, the gammas should've been reduced and the Zetas should have been increased in numbers, seeing as the grapple mechanic(more below) was introduced with them and they make much more interesting fights.

In terms of abilities, it's nice to see the grapple making a return, and imo this has been well-integrated into both Zeta Metroid and Metroid Queen battles (I'm not sure why they didn't do the same for the Omega Metroids?) 3/4 Aeion abilities are fantastic, and although only they are only really required in select areas for progression, playing on harder difficulties see the player having to manage resources with a level of forethought. (In particular, if like myself, you decide to play through with 0% pickups.) The Aeion ability which finds secrets does not have to be used, however, this kills the mystery of finding one's way around with a sense of discovery and is really not required unless you're a newcomer to the series. Using less of the Aeion abilities can also alter the way the game is played, making a harder difficulty even harder. On my current playthrough of Fusion Mode 0%, I've only used Phaze Drift against the Metroid Queen, in order to be able to disrupt her, prior to the green multi-projectile attack inflicting a one-hit kill on me. Using Phaze drift, in this instance, allows 3 super missiles to be fired before she hits Samus with the following attack, by which the entire screen is basically filled with projectiles and beams. It's great that the beams are stackable, however, some of these should be optional i.e. Why have a base freeze beam the entire game and all the rest of the beams be stackable? This in particular feels counterintuitive, and a tap of the touch screen should allow for different beam-stacking options on the fly. If you want to be able to have wave+ice, even if you want to have plasma+ice, this should be possible, it's not as if ice kills other enemies aside from metroids anyway.

I have to end with the insert 'new material' that's been added to this version of Metroid II's narrative.
While I, as a Metroid fan appreciate
(click to show/hide)
being in the game, I feel it would've been stronger to let the credits roll, then have the player freak out when they see Samus standing and the game continuing... Playing the prologue to Super Metroid at the end of this game, would have been a non-offensive method of adding a final boss-fight which wasn't necessary to occur on SR388. This would mean that new information inserted would not be introduced specifically into the canon of an existing classic game and the player could still roam freely with
(click to show/hide)
to collect power ups throughout the maps. I would've even preferred having to backtrack to a previous area to fight
(click to show/hide)
which could only be acquired by first culling the metroid population, with the epilogue (Super Metroid's Prologue battle) occuring after the credits had rolled. Doing this would've added another level of atmosphere: The addition of Tourian's music, with the ability to walk directly back to Samus' gunship adding a sense of doom rather than adding another boss in as this sequence is about to occur. But it is cool that your newly acquired friend assists you in the final battle in either case. It doesn't make sense that Samus let
(click to show/hide)
live or that he at least didn't try to damage her gunship prior to leaving SR388.
For the inclusion of our friend to reinforce that Metroid Primes 1-3 are canon, they always have been and this really was not required.. The fact Metroid Zero mission features a metallic Ridley, who follows Samus to Tallon IV and to the end of Prime 3, is telling enough about Prime's status being solidified within the Metroid Chronology.. Sometimes I feel like Nintendo say they don't care about narrative and continuity (*cough* Zelda) when it seems they tend to do things that illustrate the opposite. Suffice to say actions speak louder than words.
While I don't have an issue with this battle in principle, it feels removed from the others (not as cohesive with the style of play) which for me personally the Diggernaut still had(more similar to the Metroid Queen; slower paced, patience required) and should have not imposed itself on the original events of Metroid II. However, it was a satisfying end of battle, with hits of nostalgia thrown in and
(click to show/hide)

Finally, the new material I really enjoy is the couple of cutscenes which characterise Samus (as much as she doesn't need it, it's a nice touch regardless:
- Shooting the Diggernaut without looking, at the end of the battle shows that she's a badass without trying
- The way Samus and The Baby Metroid initially interact, with her Arm Cannon fizzling out and her hesitating to shoot, was a much needed inclusion which replaces the more stale Black and White counterpart in Super Metroid's intro. the throwback visor view to Metroid Prime was also a nice touch that was very short-lived and a respectful nod of the fact that Prime is solidified as canon.

Final thoughts: 7.5/10

What are your thoughts on this game is it a classic reborn or did its centennial resurrection fail miserably?
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Offline Super Waffle

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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2020, 04:11:52 AM »
-1
Parry system ruined this game.

Hey. You know that franchise that's absolutely nothing like Dark Souls where you run around as a lady in a powersuit with a laser gun shooting at sci-fi aliens? Let's make it more like Dark Souls. Let's completely cripple the player's options with a telegraphed gameplay mechanic that they're forced to use so everything becomes a slow-paced melee battle.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2020, 04:16:16 AM by Super Waffle »

Offline zangetsu468

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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2020, 04:23:50 AM »
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Now I know why they call you waffle....
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Offline Super Waffle

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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2020, 06:38:54 AM »
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Offline X

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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2020, 10:00:49 AM »
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That was an interesting read for a review  :)

I agree with most of it but I'm still sticking to my guns with not liking the segment of getting to the Diggernaut. The boss fight was fine and yes, the badass Samus finishing it off while walking away was priceless (take that other M!)

I did feel that the parry mechanic seemed tacked on rather then something that felt naturally integrated into the series. To me it just doesn't really belong in the game.

I was not a fan of some of the things in the game required the use of the stylus. It was not a smooth play for me in that regard. And I should also point out that I was also not a fan for using the analogue stick to move about in a side-scrolling environment when that should have been a D-pad thing. The lack of button config is also a strike against the game.

And you're correct about the planet not feeling like the original SR388. Though I never felt claustrophobic playing the original I did feel alone and that was something that Super Metroid later did in spades (I was very afraid to step into Norfair for the very first time). In Samus Returns? Didn't feel that way at all.

The ruinous atmosphere of Metroid II did not survive/exist in Samus Returns. The architecture was way to advanced and still operating. There was nothing like that in the original game and that tiny element helped to establish the world of SR388 as we have come to know it.

And yes, the powerboost using the spiderball. How the hell was someone to know how to do that right off the bat? I never knew I had the ability to do that till I looked it up. Was not impressed with that lack of info dump. The missing stacking of all beams like in super Metroid was another gripe I had. Unless the player had another elemental weapon (say a fire beam) then the Ice beam should have happily intermingle with the rest.

I'm on the fence when it comes to the Metroid engagements. I think it would have been fine implementing some newer move sets for the mutations, but having to use the parry move felt forced. I wasn't even aware till I looked it up that the key to defeating the later Metroids was using the grapple beam. So yeah, not a fan of this one.

Ridley did not need to be in the game. He was a tough fight but it was not the game to be doing that. The original game was not about fighting space pirates but exterminating the Metroids.

The one thing I'll give outstanding credit to MercurySteam's art department for doing is correcting Samus' character profile in the manual. Samus is a fearless amazon woman and in no way a skinny asian girl with daddy issues. Another strike against other M. She's 6'3 and 198 Lbs. outside of her suit (officially) and her art shows it. About effing time!
« Last Edit: April 22, 2020, 10:08:14 AM by X »
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Offline zangetsu468

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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2020, 08:16:10 PM »
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Thank you X

I can understand the frustration of the diggernaut segments.

With the grapple when fighting Zeta Metroids, I think it was intuitive enough to be fair, given all of the grapple blocks which Samus can move in the game resonate in the same red hue. Also, Samus automatically switches to the grapple when that instance occurs with the Metroid Queen. The player is then given the choice of how to attack.

The powerboost still irks me a bit, given it was added for a few secrets. If it wasn’t explained, but you were stuck in the diggernaut’s room in a way that made the player perform it, this would’ve been way more forgiveable. It’s like seeing a skeleton in Castlevania throwing a barrel off an edge, showing the player there’s live edges to die from.

One thing I forgot to mention was the framerate. While SR runs well and there’s some leniency with parrying, I still saw minor MoF syndrome there when a static camera can’t always sit perfectly still and it shows through mainly in the parry’s camera stagger. I still think it’s a beautiful game and I believe any visual complaints would’ve been dispelled by an increased frame rate, it would’ve run smoother like Prime (or dare I say, Other M).

I was really hoping that spacejumping too high near the gunship would’ve also drained my health like in Metroid II. Little quirks like this along with what I’ve written above and I would’ve given it a near perfect score.

I can keep resuscitating the Chozo aspects of the game being overused (given this is an abandoned planet), however the teleportation stations were convenient. Though I didn’t find myself using them very much, if at all on the last play through I’ve used them less than 3 times in total. I feel here a series of tunnels with some kind of interconnected tunnel - say one that Samus could powerboost through - could have been more interesting than a simple statue>loading screen, it would’ve helped the planet feel more interconnected. Like Alundra’s stone henge-looking arches which act as portals.

Anyways final thoughts for me are that SR doesn’t dilute Metroid’s formula, but it plays it safe while introducing a new and somewhat divisive combat element, which I personally dig in this instance, but I doubt this will ever be used again.
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Offline X

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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2020, 08:35:59 PM »
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Quote
I can keep resuscitating the Chozo aspects of the game being overused (given this is an abandoned planet), however the teleportation stations were convenient. Though I didn’t find myself using them very much, if at all on the last play through I’ve used them less than 3 times in total. I feel here a series of tunnels with some kind of interconnected tunnel - say one that Samus could powerboost through - could have been more interesting than a simple statue>loading screen, it would’ve helped the planet feel more interconnected. Like Alundra’s stone henge-looking arches which act as portals.

I can agree. Since the game was huge having teleporters was a necessity. Gotta have some way of quickly traversing the map whilst cutting down on time. However (as per your suggestion) they could have used the turboshaft like they did in Super Metroid's Marida stage.
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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2020, 08:23:25 AM »
-1
Samus Returns is a "cool" Metroid game, but not really a good Metroid. Good game, yes. But severely lacking in the core ideals of Metroid to feel like a true title. Feels more like an indie project that happens to feature Samus as the playable character imo.
AM2R did a much better job of adding fresh and new things while still keeping to the series principles.
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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2020, 09:47:17 PM »
0
Samus Returns is a "cool" Metroid game, but not really a good Metroid. Good game, yes. But severely lacking in the core ideals of Metroid to feel like a true title. Feels more like an indie project that happens to feature Samus as the playable character imo.
AM2R did a much better job of adding fresh and new things while still keeping to the series principles.

I don't understand when you state the "core ideals" are lacking. Can you please elaborate what your definition of those ideals are?

The core ideals of Metroid to me consists of the following:
- Gameplay
- World design and exploration, sense of discovery
- Difficulty level (Metroid games aren't notorious for being easy)
- Atmosphere: isolation, environments (feeling foreign or not of this world)
- Optional lore (not forced, narrative-driven gaming such as Other M or Fusion, to some extent)
- Minimal narrative elements, which in later games includes subtleties in Samus' character (Other M not included)
- Musical Score

I've left out graphics, due to the first two Metroid games having limited capabilities at the time. With the og Metroid II, there's also a consensus that a lot of limitations, particularly the lack of map and variance in backgrounds is what gave the game its feeling of isolation as opposed to if those elements were corrected. Take the Faxanadu HD remake for example, they corrected having so many screens into a handful of huge expansive areas and the game actually felt more barren than the original.

Imo, there are two elements they didn't nail:
- Isolation, as opposed to the og Metroid II
- Exploration, mainly due to the first Aeion ability acquired

While I haven't played AM2R I have seen many videos of it. While I can appreciate it staying truer to the og game, there are still areas which appear to be brimming with artificial enemies which are highly mechanised. I'm not saying it's bad by any stretch and it perhaps [Varia] suits purists more so, however, for the purest of the pure, itt still doesn't seem completely and utterly faithful to the original.

We have to remember in context, people were asking for the Metroid Dread title for years. I still believe this was the Metroid game that the fans required, as it was non-offensive, wasn't so far from how it had previously strayed with Other M, actually acknowledged Primes 1-3 (and Hunters by default) as canon to the series - even though we all knew this was the case, it's nice to see the canonisation - and it is still a decent game today. I'm not trying to keep bagging Other M, but itself and even Fusion to some extent(as mentioned above) feel more like alternate games with the Metroid franchise tacked on to sell copies, with Fusion much less so than Other M. I mean, the environments in OM were poorly done, some of the creatures didn't look like they were from Metroid lore, they didn't cast shadows in a lot of areas, the developers still used billboarding for some of the projectile blasts and there was basically no music throughout the game. (I'm going barebones with the bad things here, not delving into some of the larger issues like character 'development', manic pacing  and puzzle-finder fps and the fact you can recharge life anywhere..)


On another note, Last night I finished the Fusion Mode 0% run and I'll say a couple of reasons why I actually appreciate the
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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2020, 11:50:00 AM »
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Quote
While I haven't played AM2R I have seen many videos of it. While I can appreciate it staying truer to the og game, there are still areas which appear to be brimming with artificial enemies which are highly mechanised. I'm not saying it's bad by any stretch and it perhaps [Varia] suits purists more so, however, for the purest of the pure, itt still doesn't seem completely and utterly faithful to the original.

I noticed this as well. However the original game did have many artificial enemies. At least half the enemy roster were biological while the other half were mechanised (not including the Metroid mutations).

AM2R was definitely much closer to what I would have envisioned a proper remake to be. Unfortunately the maker of the game got a little too carried away with utilising the speedbooster upgrade for collection and progression (more the former then the latter). Speedbooster was alright in Super Metroid as it wasn't overly used to the extent we saw in Zero mission and Fusion (it got ridiculous in those two titles), but I felt it was a bit of a turnoff in AM2R because speedbooster doesn't jive well in execution with the keyboard, and the D-pads on Xbox controllers are not really classic gaming friendly. Someone else helping with AM2R should have told the developer to 'tone it down' a bit.
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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2020, 10:01:01 PM »
0
I noticed this as well. However the original game did have many artificial enemies. At least half the enemy roster were biological while the other half were mechanised (not including the Metroid mutations).

AM2R was definitely much closer to what I would have envisioned a proper remake to be. Unfortunately the maker of the game got a little too carried away with utilising the speedbooster upgrade for collection and progression (more the former then the latter). Speedbooster was alright in Super Metroid as it wasn't overly used to the extent we saw in Zero mission and Fusion (it got ridiculous in those two titles), but I felt it was a bit of a turnoff in AM2R because speedbooster doesn't jive well in execution with the keyboard, and the D-pads on Xbox controllers are not really classic gaming friendly. Someone else helping with AM2R should have told the developer to 'tone it down' a bit.

I am actually curious to finish the og Metroid II now. Maybe I’ll dabble in AM2R, but honestly even though I was a fan of Zero Mission, it never jumped out at me that it was going to be some kickass game. (Not saying that is coming from what you’ve written, just my own perception) This is perhaps due to ‘not believing the hype’ - with Public Enemy’s advice - as well as with a lot of fan games never seeming to cease in production and updates in general. Even with Castlevania fan games (bar one aesthetically beautiful Simon’s Quest reimagining which was previously posted on this forum, where the bosses actually appeared challenging, the name which escapes me now) I’ve never really been hyped to the same degree as when a new games been released. 
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Re: Metroid Samus Returns - Retrospective Review (*Spoilers*)
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2020, 09:01:17 AM »
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Definitely finish Metroid II and then give AM2R a shot. I've not finished AM2R because of said reasons (speedbooster roller-coaster nonsense) but it is nonetheless impressive for a fan game. And it is finished.
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