Pleasantly surprised at parts with Metroid! Dark Souls bonfire runs have nothing towards the run through Tourian, or making your way through ridiculously precise rooms of Kraid or Ridley's Lair before having to win at equally ridiculous fights.
The silence of Metroid's world works great - the art feels creepier and more organic as you go deeper into the planet, only to at times be replaced by the metallic architecture of Ridley or Kraid. It really conveys the sense of being in an alien planet, one that we'll never see all of, and one that wants Samus dead.
I found the moveset to be really well designed - not being able to shoot down and Samus being two tiles high means you have to really be aware of what's at your feet as well as how that distance affects where you shoot and jump. The screw attack adds an interesting (if chaotic) extra layer of strategy to later levels - although it feels powerful at first, it has an element of the unreliable against the flying beetles, and can feel slightly stiff to pull off in certain situations.
Enemy patterns can be very difficult but I feel like every room had some kind of 'solution', even if it was very hard to pull off. I found some of the timing windows too intense - the very long, narrow corridor in Ridley's lair with endless flying beetle pipes come to mind. Likewise, it can be hard to get your bearings as your health meter quickly depletes, with the game severely lagging when multiple enemies are on screen, and Samus's slightly limited movement conflicting with enemies that are somewhat too quick.
Health is hard to come by: this feels balanced throughout brinstar and Norfair, but takes a turn for the worse in Ridley and Kraid's areas. Part of this was that I never found the Varia suit (50% damage reduction!), but I do think that some of the long runs from the elevator to the bosses were just Too long, especially when you have to grind your health back after dying.
I thought the long beam, bombs, ice beam, missiles were all great additions to the arsenal, having their place within combat. Having the ice beam the whole game led to a really weird dynamic of having to be more precise with shots so as to not unfreeze enemies.
Room designs were generally pretty varied, and I liked that! It really felt like I was just stumbling across loot that the pirates left around - not as much like it was just a big world full of upgrades to find, designed just for me. That worked thematically with the setting. I liked that some rooms had an element of humor - the hidden hole near an energy tank, the secret morph ball passage beneath an otherwise very hard gauntlet, etc.
The copy pasted rooms felt a bit cheap, but it did add to the sense of being in a maze. I had a lot of fun drawing out my own maps for this game.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised! There's a lot to this game that could be improved, but I don't think improvement looks like Super Metroid. Key to this game are the arcade-y, yet nonlinear, stretches of making it to the next elevator or boss, and the way the game demands you to intimately know how to handle enemies and be on your guard. Things can go south really fast relative to other metroid games.

Reviewed on Aug 24, 2022