CaRmAgE's Ratings and Reviews
SM Redesign: Axeil Edition by Drewseph [SM Exploration], rated by CaRmAgE on Dec 01, 2015 (Star Star Star Star Star )
100% in 9:15
Note that, for this review, I will not be mainly comparing this hack to previous versions of Axeil. Rather, I am rating the hack based on its merits as a standalone game, and how it stacks up to the original Redesign.

Version: 1.5

Story – 5/5 -> 100%

Being your standard hack, the story is pretty much identical to the original SM. I will give props for how Ridley was handled, though. Unlike the original Redesign, Ridley will keep whatever damage you gave him at Ceres when you finally fight him again at Lower Norfair. Definitely makes the game more believable.

Graphics – 4.5/5 -> 90%

Standard graphics as with most early SM hacks. There are questionable moments where the wrong graphics are used to represent certain obstacles, but that rant will be saved for the learnability section. The real problem here is telling the difference between objects with which you have to interact one moment and the same objects used as aesthetics the next, making it difficult to tell what is real and what isn't. You may not notice this until Tourian, though.

Sound – 5/5 -> 100%

The only major change made here is the shortening of the expansion sound effect to save time (although major upgrades still use the standard jingle). If you're really dedicated and make it through the new EPB route (explained later), you get to hear a neat little tune as you enter Tourian.

Exploration – 7/10 -> 70%

While Drew has made an effort to add alternate routes and sequence breaks, the game as a whole still follows the same linear design as the original Redesign. This does not necessarily mean that the game is a boring trek, though. The different values of expansions depending on where they are found mean that there are plenty of expansions to seek out and find. While the game is huge compared to vanilla SM, the inclusion of a new express elevator hub system helps to cut down on backtracking a lot.

In addition, this version of Redesign comes with a built-in hint system. If you are ever stuck, you can activate hints from the map screen which allows you to see where you need to go next as well as visual reminders of certain obstacles you've seen, such as power bomb blocks and speed booster blocks. Regardless, the few times you are expected to progress using secret passages can potentially create a frustrating experience for new players.

Resources – 5/5 -> 100%

Being a linear quest, you would expect balancing the game to not be a problem. However, Drew went the extra mile by adding more pipe enemies in more places. In addition, while Metroids have been buffed compared to the original Redesign, they also drop a lot more goods to make up for the extra difficulty.

Player Growth – 5/5 -> 100%

While players of the original Redesign still complain that the Beam Combo comes too late in the game, this version of the hack does a good job of rebalancing enemy beam vulnerabilities. If a particular enemy seems to take too long to kill, change weapons.

Learnability – 1/5 -> 20%

While Drew has proven that he can implement feedback, whether he understands Game Theory or not is highly questionable, as he constantly violates game rules left and right. While this is an understandable tactic for hiding secrets, this was done on way more than just secrets. Some examples include: 1) a shot block that looks like a bomb block (outside Bomb Torizo, at least), 2) different sets of spikes in the same room that look the same but deal different amounts of damage, 3) blue switches that are either triggered by shots or bombs without visual differences, and 4) blocks that are destructible in one game mode, but become indestructible in another without any visual differences. Aside from secrets, when players encounter an object with a particular appearance, they expect the object to act the same way every time they encounter one. Otherwise, massive frustration will ensue.

Another controversial decision that is well known is the Screw Attack and how certain enemies violate invincibility frames when you use it. Instead of fixing this issue, Drew avoided the problem by making the Screw Attack not work while flashing from invincibility. This is noticeable by the fact that the issue still exists with pseudo-Screw Attacks, but it also makes combat while simply getting from point A to point B more cumbersome in the process.

The biggest problems are the design decisions aimed at hindering players. While it is understandable that one would want to not allow players to get extra speed from arm pumping, making it actively slow the player down is downright mean. Finally, for those who read the message at the download screen, one of the phrases says “Expert skill made automated,” which will raise a red flag for just about anyone. Not only is this an insult (“You suck so bad that I have to do everything for you.”), but it is also guaranteed to cause more problems than it will fix, because freedom is removed from the equation (the automated move may not be the move the player wanted to do). While there are several offenses here, the biggest offender is definitely the grapple auto-release mechanic, which can easily wreck multi-grappling moments. Automation only creates more mistakes and frustration.

This category's only saving grace is the apparent removal of the blue-suit-removal invisible blocks from earlier versions of Axeil. Had those stayed in the game, it would have sunk the game to lower depths.

Difficulty - 15/15 -> 100%

Unlike the original Redesign which was brutally difficult at points, Axeil Edition is much more balanced in terms of its difficulty. It is by no means a beginner hack, but it should be at least playable by anyone who can beat vanilla SM. Do not fret if you are an expert, though. There are still several things you can do to satisfy your lust for challenging gameplay.

First, the Hell's run for the Ice Beam is no longer required and was even modified to force enemies to drop large energy all the time. However, the intermediary save station was removed, so not only do you have to watch your missile count, but you also have to do the whole thing in one sitting.

If the new Hell's run is not enough for you, a new route was added to the game called the Early Power Bomb (or EPB) Challenge. If you can succeed in navigating Crateria without triggering a working tripwire, you will get a Power Bomb, and, as a result, Bombs, Wall Jump Boots, and the Gravity Suit will become inaccessible. This challenge involves finding clever ways to navigate Zebes, including the new damage boosting mechanic and ice climbing.

Entertainment – 35/40 -> 87.5%

The biggest hinderance to entertainment is the aforementioned learnability. Beyond that, this hack should at least prove to be more enjoyable for the average player than the original Redesign. What really helps the entertainment here and counters some of the negativity of the learnability section is the new Tourian. Tourian has been completely updated into a base that you must slowly “dismantle” by destroying the various Zebetites strewn throughout. It does a good jump of creating the experience of a stealth mission to some degree.

Replay value – 3/5 -> 60%

While the vast number of expansions to find and the addition of the EPB route give the game some longevity, the linearity of the hack really hurts the replay value.

Total – 85.5/100 -> 85.5% -> 4.275/5

If you could never finish the original Redesign due to the difficulty, or you never played the original, I recommend at least giving this game a try. If you have finished it before, you should try the Axeil Edition at least once in order to experience all the new content.
Hyper Metroid by RealRed [SM Exploration], rated by CaRmAgE on Aug 17, 2015 (Star Star Star Star Star )
89% in 6:10
Story – 5/5 -> 100%

Hyper Metroid gives the standard SM storyline a new & dark twist. To summarize, Space Pirates attack and devastate Samus's home colony of K2L, and she vows to exact revenge on their entire race for her fallen loved ones; as expected, the present time is her third mission. I have never been more motivated to kick Space Pirate butt.

Graphics – 4/5 -> 80%

If the name 'Hyper Metroid' gives you the idea that things will be sped up, you'd be half right. Right off the bat, you will notice that enemy animations have been sped up, making the game fit in better with more modern games. Nothing in the game felt like an eye-sore, and there are plenty of custom graphics to keep the game from getting bland.

Unfortunately, Hyper Metroid loses an entire point here for having M-rated content without any advanced warnings. The consolation prize? Don't die, and you'll never see it.

Sound – 4.5/5 -> 90%

The sound effects are just as you would expect for an SM hack for the most part. The item collection jingle was replaced with the weapon switch sound, most likely because most players are getting sick of it (I am not one of them); this is understandable, especially since it supports the sped up nature of the game. The one problem is the obnoxiously loud morphing sound effect. You might want to not use headphones the first few times you use Morph Ball, until you adjust to it.

Exploration – 9.5/10 -> 95%

While having a predetermined route is nice (and this game still has a standard order for collecting the upgrades), this game excels at allowing players to go wherever they want. Aside from the usual morph ball and bombs, every major upgrade can be obtained in at least two different ways, which is a definite plus for a Metroid game. Aside from a few powerbomb doors that don't actually block access to areas and are just an annoyance, there is nothing to complain about here.

In addition to the major upgrades, there are gates switches that need to be found in each region in order to open the path to Tourian. They are conveniently numbered based on location, so if you are missing a gate switch, you can get a good idea on where to start looking, meaning you never have to feel lost.

Resources – 5/5 -> 100%

Due to the above point, it can be very difficult to ensure players will always be able to refill their resources no matter where they go. Fortunately, RealRed did a good job balancing this aspect of the game. Not only are there sufficient recharge stations, but even projectiles can be shot for refills, which provide players more ways to farm resources, if necessary.

The biggest plus is that the separate missile/bomb types have been ditched for a universal ammo system. No more do you need to wait for that dang powerbomb drop when you can just gather some missiles to make up the difference. However, the drop rates of the supers and powerbombs were still increased (for good measure).

Player Growth – 5/5 -> 100%

Even with the ability to freely explore, you never ever feel like you are significantly underpowered or overpowered whenever facing off against the many adversaries in the game (except Golden Torizo, but RealRed provides advanced warning in the readme, so I'll let it slide).

Learnability – 3/5 -> 60%

This is where Hyper Metroid fails the most. While backflipping is taught in-game to make up for the lack of instructions in the readme, there is no corresponding 'training' for the new spring ball and speedbooster features. Both are required to beat the game, so from what I heard, you may want to try Project Base before playing this hack.

Difficulty - 14/15 -> 93.3%

Even though the enemy animations were sped up, the enemies still remain relatively balanced. I rarely came close to death outside of a boss fight. I would put the difficulty on par with vanilla SM, if not harder.

Entertainment – 38/40 -> 95%

Besides a few frustrations with finding my way on my first playthrough, I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing this game. The free-form nature of the world really helps its case here.

Replay value – 5/5 -> 100%

Due to the multitude of ways of getting each major upgrade, you could have a lot of fun playing through it again to find different ways of making your way through Zebes, which really helps the replay value.

Total - 93/100 -> 93% -> 4.65/5

If the name 'Hyper Metroid' was meant to indicate it is a step-up from Super Metroid, I would say it has achieved its goal.