A little background for me: I only started playing Metroid games this year: I started Super in the winter/spring on NSO, after that bought a cartridge of Fusion to play in my DS on a whim a month before Dread was revealed, and finished Fusion this Friday that Dread was released.
What I liked and didn't like about 3 and 4 (sorry if it's sacrilege to call Super and Fusion that):
I had a love/dislike relationship with Super Metroid. I have a love for pixel art, and Super scratched that itch. The general atmosphere, music, and color palette was great. (I'm a music major so music is really important to me). I also love me a hard boss battle, and Super definitely gave me somewhat of a challenge. However, part of the challenge was my first con: the controls. I didn't fully dislike the controls, but I definitely had to change all the ABXY buttons around and switch the weapon switching from — , and especially when I got the higher jumps and such everything felt pretty floaty. Also, screw quicksand.
My other main issue was exploration. As I've found while playing Dread and my long love for games like Minecraft, I don't dislike a more open game. However, my short-term memory is pretty bad due to ADHD, and so I had a really hard time remembering where was were, things to backtrack to, etc., especially when I took breaks between sessions and my memory was almost completely wiped fresh. So, I definitely had no motivation to explore when all I thought I would find from an hour of backtracking was an upgrade or two and more things that I couldn't unlock yet. It was especially bad when I didn't know how to progress the main game. However, I liked the ending, and overall enjoyed the experience, even though it felt like I was forcing myself to finish it based on its reputation sometimes.
Then, I played Fusion, and enjoyed it probably just as much if not more than Super. Yes, unpopular opinion, I know. However, the pixel art was just as gorgeous, there was much more of a story, and the exploration problem I had with Super was somewhat alleviated by its linearity although it did feel a little like I was a kid in an amusement park ride sometimes. The controls are definitely better and more streamlined than Super in some ways, although my hands are way bigger than they were when playing Lego Star Wars on my DS when I was 9 and my hands were cramping af at the final boss. The music was still good, although not quite as good as Super's. Finally, I loved how difficult the bosses were, it felt like it really balanced out the easier navigation/exploration side somewhat. But something still wasn't clicking, I wasn't actively waking up and saying "Man, I really badly want to play Fusion right now!", it felt like I was just mildly interested in the series.
Now, coming to Dread, I'm probably 5 hours in (although probably 1-2 hours in metroid-veteran hours, people have said it takes 8-10 hours to finish Dread but I'm definitely not taking less than 15-25 hours, it takes me a long time to play these games lol). It's just clicked. Early/midgame spoilers on where I'm at and what tipped the scale: I'm fighting Kraid right now, and everything leading up to it; the furnace-making-everything-hot leading to the Varia Suit, the doubling back to Artaria to avoid the lava-powered gates, etc. First of all, this game has almost everything I loved about 3+4. It has the interesting areas and non-linearity of Super, and the stronger emphasis on story and characterization and the hard bosses of Fusion (Maybe not quite as hard, I'll see once I finish the game). The controls are probably the best, smoothest, most intuitive controls I've played with besides my favorite game series Splatoon (2000 hours and counting into 2). The cutscenes are amazing and I love the characterization of Samus, especially in the boss battles. The fine detail of the cutscenes directly turning into the gameplay seamlessly is something I love.
But I think the tipping point was, surprisingly, the map. At first, the map was just as intimidating as the previous games', if not more. But, I realized recently that the increased detail of the shape of the rooms, the highlights on passed-through areas, and best of all the markers for found things like blocks you can't break, missile/energy expansions, rooms you haven't found a secret in yet, flipped a switch. Exploration wasn't intimidating anymore! I didn't have to memorize or comb through fields of squares on a map to try to find an extra energy tank or how to progress through the game! This may make the exploration part of this game too easy for some. But it has helped me massively to appreciate this game and actively want to play it every second.
TL:DR. I liked some parts of both Super and Fusion, but never found enough motivation to continue because exploration was overwhelming in Super and linear in Fusion. But, among all the other things Dread does so right with the amazing amount of love they've poured into the game, the more non-linear style is alleviated by the more helpful map and makes me excited to find secrets and progress through the game to fight more bosses, find more secrets, and learn more about the world Samus is in. I think I'm transforming into a Metroid fan, help!
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