I like how Samus controls. The game looks fine – roughly on par with Smash Bros. for 3DS – and there are a lot of tiny background details that show that a lot of care was put into it. On its own, the music is fine. The new ‘magic’ abilities are good. The melee counter system doesn’t bother me. Moment-to-moment, the game kept me engaged. This game is okay, etc., etc., but it’s less than the sum of its parts.
The main issue with the game is that it lacked the strong creative direction needed to make a textured and cohesive experience.
Take the music, for instance. Sakamoto literally said that he didn’t give Yamamoto any meaningful creative direction when making the soundtrack. Combine this with the fact that the game was made by a 3rd party studio, and you end up with some really inexplicable decisions. For instance, every super-heated room in the game (regardless of its location) plays the theme from Magmoor Caverns, almost as if Yamamoto was shown some concept art of a ‘lava room’ from the guys in Spain without any context. No other decision w/r/t the game’s sound design is quite as baffling, though some come close.
Graphically, while things look fine to me at a glance, there is a lack of architectural cohesion. Like, in a lot of areas, cave-type visual elements are mixed with artificial stuff in such a way that’s it’s unclear whether you’re in a natural cave or inside a ruin. The addition of doors (almost) everywhere does not help with this problem.
The level design has a sort of monotonous density, as if nearly every room had to meet an enemies-per-square quota (combine that with the euro-shmup durability of the enemies, and you can get some really slow pacing at points). This is most egregious in the final area. In the original game, there was a long, empty winding path leading up to the queen’s lair. In this game, thanks to the ‘quota’ that entire path is filled with enemies, and the vast open cavern past the save point has been filled with some of the game’s most nakedly artificial ‘level design’.
These individual examples aren’t dealbreaking on their own, but I share them because they help demonstrate the ways this game fails at establishing a good sense of place or dramatic tension. While I would like to avoid comparing the game to the original (since that’s the critical lens the rest of you have been using), it’s impossible to shake the feeling while playing this that I could be playing a far, far more elegant game instead.
[Insert some positive comments about the game that I’m too tired to write.]
Overall, I’d say that this is roughly as good as Zero Mission on a first playthrough, but probably much less conducive to repeated playthroughs/speedrunning (less sequence-breaking options from the looks of it, too much fat).
I rate my experience somewhere around B or B-. Might play to 100% completion.