Axiom Verge (Played on Hard mode, 100% Map and Items): Finally got around to this. As far as Metroid-Pretenders go (and I have played a bunch of them in the last couple months), this one was pretty solid and understood more of the core aspects of what makes a Metroid game better than most (including several games in the actual franchise). It nails the story-telling through environmental cues and logs, the abundant-and-sometimes-tricky platforming, the grotesque NPC design, the intriguing item and skill progression, the music. I would even go as far as saying that this and AM2R are probably the best Metroid-itch-scratchers of the last decade-plus.
Still, there are some irritating aspects that keep me from putting it quite on par with the best of the real thing: There is way too much dialogue. The map needs a couple more connections/shortcuts between some of the rooms to cut down on the giant cul-de-sac traversal. There is a cavalcade of weapons that the main character picks up, most of which are unfortunately fairly useless (and there are way too many to make teasing out which ones are useful for which situations anything but cumbersome). Trace's sideburns look more like helmet straps than hair. Although they have cool visual designs, the bosses are mostly disappointing and get kind of sloppy toward the end. I wish the dash were tied to a specific button rather than a double-tap. The Passcode tool and its associated puzzles are kind of lame. The levels themselves mostly blend together and outside of a couple of super-stellar rooms lack much identity.
The last one is probably the biggest issue, since at their core Metroid games live or die on the worlds they create. Zero and Super-era Zebes, Tallon IV, Aether, SR388 (yeah even the OG Gameboy version to an extent) are not just all unique planets, but even each region within them has their own easily-conjured character as it were. Sudra's stages unfortunately do not stand out all that much from one another. It is a real shame because when Tom Happ clearly has a decent set of artistic chops when he lets loose. Several individual rooms (like the Rusalka lairs, the body mounds, the repair drone repository, the hallucinatory world, the bit with the wheelchair, the Breach elevator) are quite impressive, but unfortunately the rest of the game falls well below that standard and it is kind of a bummer.
(Also, I dunno if it is just me but the area names just kind of blend together: Kur, Absu, Zi. Despite filling out the entire map, even now I could not tell you exactly which region was which.)
bring on Rogue Dawn