Review by gbarules2999
"There Ain't No Scan Visor Where You're Going!"
Nintendo's greatest franchise is lost! Oh, how could an American developer in Texas an inexperienced one at that create the next Metroid game and succeed, while bringing it into the realm of the third dimension? Absolute blasphemy, cried the gamers, to destroy such a wonderful legacy from Super Metroid and beyond!
Oh, how wrong those silly gamers were, as it was quite possibly the biggest mass underestimation in the video game economy.
Metroid Prime is one of the best games available for the Gamecube, or any system for that matter, having the most outstanding work being done on it for nearly a decade. It beaks the mold again and again, while setting graphical standards that the Gamecube has yet to fully match. It makes a brand new gameplay style, while still returning to the series' roots. It is a very fine game, and chances are you don't need to be told that.
Any gamer of the Super Metroid era will give you an earful of stories and praise for the game, basically because the game rocked: it was fun, and it boasted one of the great modern soundtracks. Metroid games have the distinction of being exploratory at nature, releasing you into a large world, giving you some fancy tools and game mechanics, and letting you find the next item or power-up on your list. Metroid Prime evolves that to a tee, handing you the next area but only holding your hand so far.
The game is set up in a simple fashion, but it works so well it's a wonder more copycats aren't released. Each power-up gives you access to a new section of the map, and sometimes you backtrack to get to the next area. But it never feels like a simple line of items; oh, no, Retro Games is too good for that. It feels like an action game and an exploration game, which is the core of the Metroid series. The map can be best described as a spider walking across a web, each leg touching a strand but moving forward. Samus moves from room to room, with very little loading involved. You will face bosses and enemies around the huge world of Tallon IV, and each of them feel different in every way, thanks in part to the unique targeting system.
The controls are fairly different thank the typical shooter you may be used to, but the game is not penalized at all, mainly because the controls work so well with the Gamecube controller in the first place. It's a bit like GoldenEye on the N64: you use one control stick to look and to move. It's actually more intuitive than one might think, because it is coupled with a targeting system, not unlike the Z and L targeting on the Legend of Zelda games. There is a small learning curve involved, but the game eases you into it; by the end of the first explosive fifteen minutes, you'll be jumping and shooting about like a pro.
Well, the controls won't get everybody pleasure right away. Halo fans will probably struggle with it for a good hour or so, and PC FPS gamers will faint with angst. While Retro made something that does work really well for the GCN controller, it's still a pretty far-fetched control scheme that doesn't always pull off the feel that it was intending (which is basically Super Metroid in 3D). It does get easier and soon ingrained into your soul, but for some it will be harder than others.
The game also features some extra parts to complicate things as you go. There's the morph ball, where the player turns into a small metal orb to fit into small sockets and holes. There's also the strategic beam switching as well, because eventually you will have amassed an arsenal of weapons, and each has its own use. The visors, such as night vision and the ability to scan things for more info, also add a bit to Samus' line of work, and it just adds even more freedom on the player's part.
With the visors come what else is on the screen, and my, oh, my, does it look good. The game is a first person game (inside the character's head), and nearly every detail was painstakingly drawn out and lighted perfectly. The screen actually accumulates rain in the worlds that have such, while steam will fog it up briefly. These little touches add a whole lot to the look of the game, and few out there can match such quality.
The game's looks without the fancy touches aren't shabby, either. In fact, aside from a few recent games, Metroid Prime is still on of the best looking games on the system, and considering it came out in 2002, that's an amazing achievement. Samus herself is so well animated and has so much detail; you'd swear she was on a next-generation console. The environments look smooth, and light additions (such as your beam making light in a darker area) show that the game is still undeniably pretty.
The only issue with the graphics is the age. Most Gamecube games supported Shadows and advanced lighting; most of the lighting effect in Prime is painted onto the landscape. Samus herself does not have a shadow, nor do many of her foes, which is kind of an odd sore thumb in a game that has such an excellent look elsewhere. When a few of the monsters show their cookie-cutter faces, you can't help buy wince.
The sound follows this mindset as well. The effects are amazing, and until you have experienced it in full surround sound, there's quite no way to explain it. Every blast and boom will throw you for a loop, thinking that maybe someone is bombing your house. The monsters' cries and the roars of the engines are also stunning, and it is safe to say every sound in this game is just simply incredible. Only a few times did I really pause for a moment, and with a five year old game that's simply fantastic.
The soundtrack pretty much follows suit, although it's not an amazing epic that someone would really enjoy as a soundtrack. The music is more of an atmosphere intensifier, something there to set how you are supposed to feel. A lot of the music almost surrounds you in a world that Prime reflects, like the simple opening menu music. A very low, quiet song suggests that you're going to get the crap scared out of you (an often occurrence), while a more lighthearted song, like Phendora Drifts, suggests that you can have your peace for the time being. Although there's no song that really stands out, but as a whole it's a very good mood setter and is a direct part of what makes the game so polished.
The story in the game isn't quite as amazing as the rest of the game is, though it is a good effort. Players of the sequel, Echoes, will remember a smattering of really well done cut-scenes, but unfortunately, the first game has nothing like that: there are some excellently directed movies that illustrate a moment's action, but in terms of the game's plot, nothing really gives the game it's character. Sometimes these cutscenes even break up the action a little too much, giving light to something very obvious that could ahve been just as effective in a scripted event. I'm sure that's there because of the control scheme, but still, I want to see the enemies parachute down myself, not see it in some odd movie clip.
What we did get are data logs, which you obtain by scanning objects in the world; unfortunately this is usually a mere block of text written in perspective from the extinct aliens', and it gives a small insight into the world of the Chozo, the Space Pirates, and Samus Aran. Fans of Marathon will recognize this effort, but Retro didn't really make it as successful as Bungie did back in the day. Some longtime fans of the Metroid series will be pleased and sometimes surprised, but those hoping for a Metroid epic will be disappointed momentarily (until they realize what game they are playing).
The game is long enough to warrant a good value title, though as far as extras go there is little. The main run-through can run anyone from five to twenty hours, though the speed runs are usually done by people who have memorized every pore of the game design. There are a few hidden power-ups in the form of maximum health and weapons, but the way the game is set up there aren't that many places they could hide such things. Extras range from concept art to the original Metroid, though a Game Boy Advance and Metroid Fusion are both required for the latter. The game is plenty long, however, and it's fun enough to warrant several replays.
The game is great, need I say any more? Any Gamecube owner owes it to themselves to buy this game without delay; with only a few nitpicks to go along with the age, the game is still as strong as a Chozo statue, waiting for it's orb.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/10/07
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