Review by Tenshi No Shi
"C'mon! Metroid will NEVER work in 3D!"
I still remember back when the very idea of a 3D Metroid game gave me shivers. Initially rumored to be in development for the Nintendo 64, the new Metroid elicited both excitement and fear in the millions of fans anticipating its arrival. Of course, history shows that a Metroid 64 (I'm assuming the name based on Nintendo's history of naming games after the console) never materialized and fans were left waiting six years before concrete news of a 3D Metroid finally emerged...
Metroid Prime takes place between the original 8-bit Nintendo adventure (or Metroid: Zero Mission if you missed out the first time around) and Metroid II: Return of Samus on the Gameboy. Samus, the infamous Intergalactic Bounty Hunter, is sent to investigate unconfirmed reports of Space Pirate activity on a space station. Upon her arrival, she instead finds the space station in a decaying orbit, all life forms aboard (including the Space Pirates) apparently dead and the equipment in ruins. Further investigation leads to a climatic encounter with Ridley, who sets in motion the destruction of the station and makes an escape, leaving Samus scant moments to make her own retreat. Giving chase, she discovers the Space Pirates have made base on the planet Tallon IV, a colony of the Chozo- The race that developed the very suit and weapons she has used all her life...
When Nintendo initially choose Retro Studios (a completely unknown company at the time) to develop the first 3D Metroid game, I was just a little more than leery. But all my fears were dashed when I saw the game in motion. Finally! Here was a company that understood that just because a game enters the third dimension it doesn't mean the fundamental concept of the game itself should change. And nothing shows this philosophy more than Metroid Prime's stunning graphics. From the incredibly detailed animation to the moody, atmospheric environments, this game is a work of art. I truly could not have imagined a better-looking Metroid game than what Retro Studios pulled off.
And, as if to further prove my point that just because a franchise heads in a new direction doesn't mean everything about it must undergo a makeover, along comes Metroid Prime with its haunting musical overtures. This is one of those rare games that manages to set the atmosphere with just the soundtrack, transporting you to that distant, cold, alien world and suspending reality just long enough to make you believe that you really are there and, worse yet, all alone. The audio effects only (and surprisingly) add to this, with distant echoes, skittering movement and the hum of alien machinery contributing to the ambience. It's also worth mentioning that the sound effects for the items and weapons somehow retain a certain familiarity from the roots of which they sprang.
Though it looks like a first person shooter (and many people still argue that it is), Metroid Prime is, in the words of Shigeru Miyamoto himself, a First Person Adventure. Though you may find some similarities between this game and, say, Quake, Metroid Prime has a little more in common with Legend of Zelda, at least as far as the controls go. For example, you can lock on to an enemy and run all of the room while still maintaining a focus on it, blasting away with whatever weapons you have on hand. Ironically enough, the game doesn't have that many enemies to fight. Instead you'll spend more time exploring the various zones, trying to unlock their secrets to proceed even further in to the depths of each area. And, much like the old Metroid games (and Zelda games as well), you'll find yourself revisiting areas over and over again as you gain new abilities that will let you solve yet another puzzle that had you scratching your head the first time through.
Though I'm fairly certain I inadvertently covered nearly every design aspect I could really touch on already, I could add further praise to Metroid Prime by discussing the actual layout of the world it occupies. Though I can't say with the utmost certainty, I'm fairly sure my jaw was on the floor nearly every time I entered a new area, each one as different as the last yet somehow seamlessly fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle of a Picasso painting. What is more amazing is how you can revisit areas you've previously been through with a different technique or weapon and suddenly find yourself exploring some part of it you didn't know what there before. To me this is what absolutely defines a true Metroid game- Exploring new areas, discovering secrets and just generally being surprised at nearly every turn by what you discover.
Retro Studios added a surprising number of bonuses to Metroid Prime, each with unique ways to unlock them. The easiest to discover is art galleries you open up by scanning everything you can find in the game. No easy feat to accomplish, but the galleries are filled with a ton of cool artwork, so it's well worth your time. If you happen to have a Gameboy Advance, a Gameboy Advance connection cable and a copy of Metroid Fusion, you can unlock the new bio-suit from Fusion for Samus to wear in Metroid Prime. And did you miss out on the original Metroid? Guess what, now you can play it on your GameCube via Metroid Prime. I must say that being able to play the original Metroid without hooking up my Nintendo Entertainment System is worth the price alone.
It's really a no-brainer: If you have a GameCube, you need to have Metroid Prime in your collection. It's unique blend of exploration with first person action elements will please old fans while ensnaring new ones. This new Metroid franchise has already done well enough to spawn a sequel, a multi-player based side-game on the Nintendo DS and a third installment on the Nintendo Wii. What's more, you can also get this game as part of a collection on the Nintendo Wii if you missed it the first time around, so there's really no excuse not to play it.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/12/09
Game Release: Metroid Prime (US, 11/17/02)
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