Review by UltimaterializerX
"Brilliant. Absolutely out-of-this-world brilliant. A must-have for Metroid newbies and veterans alike."
From the start, the Metroid series has always been one of gaming's finest. With vivid environments, good difficulty, abstract puzzles, solid open-ended gameplay, and some of the most epic, difficult bosses to ever grace video games, the Metroid series took its role as one of the best out there, if not the best outright. Most would argue the climax of the series is Super Metroid. Super Metroid delivered one of those rare gaming experiences that leaves you in such shock after completion, and you have no choice but to play the game constantly for nostalgia's sake. It was a once-in-a-lifetime time of gaming experience, where you have no clue what you're getting into and come out the other end shocked at what you've witnessed. Metroid games had always delivered a product in which you had to maneuver Samus through a gigantic abstract puzzle. There were no rules and no hints; only business. Either figure out what to do next in the giant world that you are stuck in, or wander around the depths of hell aimlessly until you pass out from dead gaming thumbs.
But Super Metroid took this element to an entirely different level. It started off like any other Metroid title, but after going deeper and deeper into Planet Zebes, you start to realize that you are in for those rare types of gaming experiences that nothing can compare to. It was a game that started as the most boring of expositions, but turned into the most pleasant of climaxes. It began as child's play, but soon drew you into a world so enigmatic that few could have expected the sheer stupefaction Super Metroid would end up personifying.
Yet despite having a game and a series that could have very well retired from gaming forever as among the single most nostalgic and awe-inspiring series of titles to pass through the homo sapien nervous system, despite having a company in Intelligent Systems that did retire from the Metroid series, despite a company in Retro Studios that was thought of as insane beyond the realm of all comprehension for even uttering the thought of bringing Metroid into the three dimensional realm, and despite that same company ignoring all disastrous outcry and having the intrepidity to bring the beloved side-scrolling madness into the first person perspective realm, Metroid Prime manages to deliver with such force --- better yet, such commandeering dominance --- that this game can and will deliver a gaming experience unto you like none other. This paragraph needs some more italics to demonstrate the point: Metroid Prime is that damn good.
Metroid Prime is such a masterpiece that if you manage to get over the wave of ecstasy you can and should experience while guiding Samus through the colossal world of Tallon, you will find yourself immersed in one of the single best gaming ventures of this or any generation. The true beauty of the game is that it delivers such an experience despite no Metroid game having been released for eight years prior, as well as a fanbase very critical of the switch to the first person perspective. It seemed like Prime was set up for disaster from the beginning, but Metroid made the move to 3D so naturally that one can almost forget how good the other games of this series were while playing Prime. As for those who had yet to touch a Metroid title before this one, such people will have no trouble being equally exuberant during the affair.
The game begins with Samus's lightship descending upon a ruined space vessel. Samus is sent to investigate the source behind the vessel's destruction, and after the lightship lands Samus emerges from the ship in a flash. The screen then takes the perspective of Samus, and right from the start, this game's amazing graphics are put on display. Unlike most other games in the first person perspective, you literally see the world through Samus's eyes, or more literally, through her helmet. The outer perimeter of the screen shows Samus's helmet, and the inner perimeter of the helmet shows the various innate abilities granted to Samus through her visor, including a radar for detecting the position of enemies, a danger gauge that shows Samus how close an environmental hazard is, Samus's Energy Gauge, a map of the area Samus is currently in, her Missile inventory, and two separate shortcut menus for the various Visors and Beams Samus procures through the course of the game. Samus also has the ability to enlarge the area map whenever necessary, and when she does so, she is granted with a three dimensional blueprint that not only allows her to see an intricate closeup of the map, but where all of the doors, Save Stations, Elevators, Missile Recharge Stations, and even Hints are. Better yet is the fact that when Samus zooms in on a map, the doors are all color-coded. Certain doors can only be opened by certain abilities, but when in trouble, the map is always there to aid Samus when she is in a tight spot. If Samus is still stuck despite using the map to the best of her abilities, Incoming Scan Data will give Samus Hints on where to go next, and mark them on the map. For the players who wish to go through the game without Hints, much like the Metroid games of old, the option to turn them off is there.
And all of this is available before Samus even moves. After taking in the massive detail given to the game's initial mechanics, the intense graphics are the next area that give this game such an amazing feel to it. Detail is given to everything. Retro could have easily made the game bland, but they spice up everything in the game by taking the extra mile on everything. The environments of the game will draw you in and make you feel like you are on Tallon IV itself. The initial wrecked ship truly has the feel of a wrecked ship, complete with torn walls, shattered tubes, cracked floors, and rotting corpses all over the place. Later in the game when you're able to access other areas, the environments are nothing short of breathtaking. You can almost feel the sting of Tallon's constant downfalls, the burn of the Magmoor Caverns, and the icy chill of the Phenandra Drifts.
The stunning graphics are not solely limited to the environment, either. The enemies in the game are so vivid and lively that you can almost feel them next to you, and you can almost feel Samus's pain when she gets blasted by something; consequently, getting hit by some of the enemies and environments in the game cause loads of various graphical effects. When Samus gets hit by some of the electrical enemies for example, her visor can become either encased in static electricity or covered in lightning itself. Should Samus walk under a waterfall or pass through a column of steam, her visor will feel these effects as well. No graphical stone is left unturned in Metroid Prime. You'll even see heat signatures after firing a Charge Beam, and should you stand still for long enough, you'll see Samus adjusting her gun. Relative to other graphics of the time (remember, this was only a Gamecube title), Metroid Prime is among the best graphical marvels ever designed.
But where Metroid Prime truly shines, however, is its brilliant gameplay. It is simply a fun game to play no matter who you are, though veterans may have the added effect of nostalgia while traversing the world of Tallon IV. The premise is simple. After clearing the Wrecked Ship level (which is a tutorial that allows you to get accustomed with the game's mechanics more than anything), Samus will lose all of her initial powerups and be thrust right into the center of the Tallon IV overworld. From there, Samus must travel deeper and deeper into Tallon IV, collect multiple powerups, and release the planet from the scourge that is infecting it from the inside, with most of the adventure taking place from the perspective of Samus herself.
The best part of both the game and its gameplay is how unbelievably deep it is. In the beginning, Samus is limited to a simple jump and a Power Beam that cannot even fire Charge Beams; thus, the real adventure begins. Metroid Prime is a unique mixture of nostalgic traits and new-age additives alike. Veterans of the Metroid series will recognize many of the powerups right off the bat, including the Charge Beam, Ice Beam, Grappling Beam, Morph Ball, Speed Booster, Space Jump, and even the Super Missiles. Many enemies will be familiar as well, including Space Pirates and the Metroids themselves. The most important hangover from previous Metroid games in the series, however, is Samus being stuck in the middle of a gigantic maze with little rhyme or reason of what to do next or where to go. Prime does an amazing job of making Samus (aka, you) feel isolated, and even when she is able to find an extra ability or item, she is oftentimes stuck going all the way across Tallon IV in an effort to find a certain area or a tiny opening in which the item she just procured must be put to use. This is one of the amazing qualities of any Metroid game, and it makes the game a lot more fun and deep than it would have been otherwise.
But with a new company making the game comes new additions. Metroid Prime could have easily been little more than a random Metroid of the past in a three dimensional world, and it would have still been amazing; however, Retro threw in a lot of things never seen before. The first such nuance that everyone will notice is the Scan Visor. From the very beginning of the game, Samus is able to scan the environment around her. Scanning serves many purposes, including giving her possible hints on what to do next, information on enemies, and to download information about the story of the game. There are also a slew of new weapons and powerups in the game that have to be seen to be believed, as well as an environment that causes Samus to have to use every inch of her new abilities to be successful. Challenging jumps, enemies, and third person perspective puzzles await Samus in the world of Tallon IV, and the graphical and mechanical effort put into these challenges is an elite one.
Of course, every game needs a good soundtrack to augment everything else, and Metroid Prime does this flawlessly as well. Every track in the game fits perfectly with the environment with which Samus currently resides. There is a beautiful track that fits the pristine nature of the icy Phenandra Drifts, as well as a wonderful remake of Super Metroid's Lower Norfair theme when you are traveling in the Magmoor Caverns. The music within the game is yet another example of how every facet of the game compliments everything else.
Metroid Prime is such a wonderful game that it could almost be called art. It is that damned good, and there is absolutely no reason to leave this title out of your collection.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 12/20/04, Updated 02/02/10
Game Release: Metroid Prime (US, 11/17/02)
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