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COMPLETE: AM2R (RG+/Hard run)

May 22nd, 2017 (06:11 pm)

I thought I was done with this game, but much like Mega Man Unlimited, I sort of fell into the bonus content and one thing led to another and somehow> I ended up doing a 100% RG+ run on hard mode.

My first completion of this game was on the original version 1.0 of it. Since 1.0 came out and was immediately C&D'd/DMCA'd by Nintendo and the original author backed down without releasing the source code, other fans have reconstructed it and updated it with new modes and features. I grabbed version 1.2.6 out of curiosity over how far it had come. Since 1.2.6 is therefore an unauthorized fan reproduction of an unauthorized fan reproduction, that officially makes it the most bootleg ass thing I've ever seen, and [NSFW!] I've commissioned porn of that Action Replay Charizard from this icon. [NSFW!]

Anyway, version 1.2.6 has a few new modes compared to 1.0. In addition to every mode having Easy/Normal/Difficult settings through a separate unrelated menu, there's now a somewhat poorly-named New Game Plus feature that actually has nothing to do with starting over again and doesn't require a clear file, and is basically just "fuck your earthquakes, bruh" mode. It lowers the lava level down to just before the sequence with the first Omega Metroid, meaning you have to go around killing all 30-something other Metroids in the game to unlock the actual last level and it proceeds normally from there, but until then it's much more open and limited only by your ability to navigate around and not die horribly in areas you shouldn't be in yet.

Part of me wanted to append "you know, like Metroid should be" to that, but on second thought, there is a such thing as too open if you're a brand new player. You shouldn't have heavy-handed forcing where the plot itself issues stringent demands where to go next, but neither should you leave a wide-open crossroads with zero indication where the "next area" is and punish the player for being somewhere they didn't know they weren't supposed to be yet. I don't like Metroid Fusion, but I don't like Final Fantasy 2, either. Still, if you've been through the game before and have a rough idea of the sequence and can be trusted to more or less get there on your own, New Game Plus is a fantastic addition and I love that it lets you do it.

Also, there's Random Game Plus, which is New Game Plus with an item semi-randomizer. (It makes sure certain categories of items are kept to themselves so you won't get a missile tank instead of the Spider Ball, it makes sure you at least have either Bombs or Power Bombs before you get to the point where you need to blow walls up to proceed further, etc.) Supposedly the randomization logic was redone from the ground up for 1.2.6 and beyond, and people were leaving comments praising it, so I thought I'd just poke my head in for five minutes just to have a simple curious peek.

Then the very first item I got was the Screw Attack.

Then the second was the Plasma Beam, followed by the Ice Beam (which is redesigned in AM2R to be less freeze-things-for-platforms utility since you already have the Space Jump anyway and more just an endgame SUPER DAMAGE INCREASE deal.)

Well okay, I guess I'm doing this run after all, then.

Then I noticed a very interesting shift in gameplay style. I was also playing this run on Hard, and the combination of that plus getting the best weapons in the game first felt a lot like Dante Must Die mode from Devil May Cry. I could slice through just about anything in the game without even slowing down, but if I hit anything that fought back (like the first boss or anything immune to the Screw Attack, or just about anything in the endgame areas,) they could cut through my Power Suit/No-Energy-Tanks ass in one hit as well.

The beginning of the game was a mixture of feeling omnipotent and helpless at the same time because of that, and also because of how my draw went as far as utilities. I had the Screw Attack, Plasma Beam, and Ice Beam, and later even Super Missiles, but I didn't have the High or Space Jump, Spider or even Spring Ball, or even Bombs. I did get one Power Bomb (expansions give you 1 each instead of 2 on Hard,) which basically let me into the front door of a lot of places, but it's actually very easy to softlock yourself in a run like that if you use your one single Power Bomb to get into a screen, there aren't enemy drops or anything, and the bomb block respawns when you try to go back out. This tormented me, especially because--fun fact--early Screw Attack means you can access the teleport hub in the Distribution Center as soon as you get to the Golden Temple. Even more fun fact: the Gravity Suit is still unchanged location-wise, because it's a machine you step into and get that cutscene and isn't just a thing on a Chozo statue. Funnest fact: you can get to it with the Screw Attack and a single Power Bomb. Least fun fact: you can't get back out until you have either a second Power Bomb or, you know, Bombs. :(

So, with no lava and even early access to the teleport room, but none of the basic utilities you'd need to get around anywhere once you got there, (and of course since the loot is semi-randomized anyway,) the early game involved a lot of trial and error. I'd save before using my one Power Bomb to go down a certain passage, see if I could possibly make progress and get anything from there, and if the answer is no and I got stuck or died, reload. Eventually I broke through, though. One of the areas I tried had the Space Jump, and from there... well, there was a lot of gradual rebuilding my arsenal from there. You know, like a Metroid game, only the sequence is random, which I guess is literally what a randomized Metroid run. Wow, I'm smart.

Anyway, the random element sort of fades to the background the closer you get to the endgame, because once you have basically everything anyway, does the path you took to get there really matter? Still, even the endgame had a surprise or two because holy crap they weren't kidding about having rebalanced (and dramatically improved) the Omega Metroid battles since 1.0. You know how one of my complaints in the last COMPLETE entry was that they were too much of a damage sponge with "you can figure out all the patterns and everything but they still take like 20 Super Missiles to kill" fake difficulty? Never mind.

I did notice a bug, though: When you get 100% completion, you should have 118 Missiles, 10 Super Missiles, and 10 Power Bombs (because 2 Missiles/1 Super Missile/1 Power Bomb per expansion on Hard, rather than 5/2/2) plus 10 Energy tanks. I got every item in the game, I did in fact get 100%... but I still only had 9 Energy Tanks. I did, however, have 120 Missiles. Clearly one of the Energy Tanks became an extra Missile expansion instead. Oops. Still, that's minor, and my 100% still counted.

I'm glad I did this run, because I got to experience what was definitely a new play style and new feel to this game, and also because getting to write another COMPLETE entry gives me a chance to point out some things I missed last time. Specifically, did you know how awesome the music is in this remake? Seriously, whoever turned this into this is a miracle worker.

Also, one criticism I've noticed of the AM2R remake specifically is that it makes the caverns feel less oppressive. Yes, the original Game Boy music is terrible, but people in comments report that it gives you a sort of sense of gloom, being lost and utterly alone in this environment (which is technically true in any Metroid game but this one makes you feel like it,) and they regret that that feeling is missing in the new version with the improved music. To which I say... not really? Actually, if anything, this game does a better job making you feel lonely just by repeatedly teasing the possibility that you might not be, except oops never mind you totally are. You can stumble across not one but two instances of wrecked and deserted research outposts where maybe there were people here about a month ago but there are very obviously no survivors now. The one time you do find actual living people, they're mid-battle with the first Omega Metroid, who promptly slaughters them all. Like, I knew you weren't going to find a living NPC and have a conversation or any sort of text with anyone because it's Metroid, so obviously none of those leads were going to pan out, but I would argue that getting your hopes up like that does a lot more to make you feel isolated than having to listen to this.

I know AM2R is kind of all the rage these days in my friend circle--[personal profile] xyzzysqrl just did her own complete entry on it, and [personal profile] xaq_the_aereon has been all over it for some time now--but Sqrl's entry is right: this is a fully professional grade release, even surpassing the actually-official and professional Zero Mission, and you really owe it to yourself to check it out. Of course, you legally can't after Nintendo shut the project down, but... well, my morals are more or less in line with the Extra Credits stance on game piracy, where availability is the one true above-all-else threshold for determining whether it's okay. If Nintendo somehow changed their minds, reached out to and worked with the developers, and either partnered for an official release or even just let them make an official release, you'd better believe I'd be the first in line to give them money for this because holy hell do they deserve it. But obviously that's never going to happen, so, you know, fine, go play this really outstanding game by the one means you actually can.

This is a cross-posted entry that originated from http://kjorteo.dreamwidth.org/391209.html.