Review by Archetypo
It has been a painful and long wait since Super Metroid made its splash on the Snes 8 years ago. In that time much has happened, notably Nintendo successfully translated their star franchises Mario and Zelda to 3d. This is no small feat either. I can hardly think of any other 16 bit character, or series which is an action/adventure that successfully made the leap in the stellar way Mario and Zelda did. Fast forward to 2002. Metroid Prime is the product of NCL's protean genious. They get some First Person Shooter aces from Texas, the sorts who have experience with games like DOOM and HALF LIFE. Then they train them in the mysterious ways of action adventure gameplay. The result, of course, is a 'First Person Adventure'. And thankfully for all of us Metroid is a perfect game concept. So, with such a stellar project on their hands it's good to know Retro not only met, but they far exceeded even the most jaded of pundits expectations. For months leading up to this games release the decision to send Metroid into the first person-- and having a small texas based developer do this game-- was savagely criticised by the gaming press. However, upon Metroid Primes release these people have eaten crow and even the most brutal of critics are now hailing this as one of the greatest games of all time(G.O.A.T).
The Chozo were a birldike race of creatures who were technologically advanced and lept with ease from planet to planet establishing colonies. Kind and just, they shared their knowledge with weaker species. However, the universe was ripe with violence and injustice. The Chozo feeling their spirituality on the wane retreated from such advanced technologies in favor of the simple life. One of the places they retreated to is Tallon IV. Their indellible mark was left here in the form of great architecture, and exploring the environments of the game(especially using the scan visor) allows you to divine much information about the birlike Chozo race.
Tallon IV was struck by a giant meteorite which laced the planet with a poisonous subtance. Soon this planet teeming with life started dying, and whats left of it started to mutate. The Chozo did what they could with what remained of their technology, but eventually they abandoned Tallon IV for an unknown destination. Phazon is the horrible substance which ravaged Tallon IV. All the Chozo could manage is to build a Temple on the sight of impact before leaving. Perhaps one day a savior would come.
Enter Samus Aran: a warrior of the future who is infused with Chozo blood and wears a suit made of Chozo technology. She has encountered the Space Pirates before. She thought she destroyed the vile Mother Brain, and her henchmen(Ridley, Kraid et al.), but they survived and regrouped. One group of them headed to Zebes to rebuild, while another found Tallon IV. The pirates used the Phazon on Tallon IV for its mutagenic properties creating hideous beasts to do their evil bidding.These beasts populate the corridoors of Tallon IV and will blow your mind and when playing Metroid Prime, you will be taken aback witnessing the splendor which is the Chozo Architecture. The game environments are brimming with interesting puzzles, and the level structure is superb. Unlike a first person shooter you are not going from mission to mission. Metroid Prime is one giant world. Often you will pass a door which cannot be opened until you get some item, a beam of some sort from another section of the game. Often you will be amazed at just how incredible the many small touches found in this game has made it. Every room and corridoor is amazing and requires your exporation. The particle effects are great, and over all this games graphic environments are flirting with perfection. Tallon IV, in its mutated state(thanks to Phazon), is brimming with all kinds of creepy crawling and flying enemies. The morph ball, and the feeling of Metroid are perfectly represented here as well.
Samus has many upgrades to discover: Power beam, Ice Beam, Wave Beam, Plasma Beam, Power Suit, Gravity Suit, Varia Suit etc. Each of these items changes the gameplay experience slightly and is strategically signifigant.As well there are different Visors: Combat Visor, Scan Visor, Thermal Visor, and X Ray Visor. These as well play a huge strategic role when playing this game. For example, using the scan visor you can read the ancient Chozo inscriptions, or analyze enemies for their weaknesses. Many of the games puzles must also be scanned to activate switches.
The morph ball is back in classic form along with a few interesting variations: Bombs, Boost ball, Power Bombs, and the Spider Ball. The Spider Ball is most intruiging as it allows her to magnetically attach her self to tracks which run vertically and horizontally through Tallon IV's environments. And finally, there are the basic power ups familiar to metroid vets: Energy Tanks, Missiles, Space Jump Boots, and a Grapple Beam. The grapple beam is interesting as it allows Samus to latch onto nodes and swing around like she was Bionic Commando.
The graphics, gameplay, music and general concept of Metroid Prime set it apart. This music, composed by Kenji Yamamoto, is wonderful. Yamamoto is the same person who scored the previous two Metroid games, and from the beginning of the games intro tune you will hear some of the greatest electronic sounds to be found in a video game. The sound effects are quite good as well. The gameplay building on all of the items and elements previously referred to is superb. Staged in a first person perpective, you lock onto enemies with the L button and can circle around them shooting at them. The R button allows you to look around and shoot freely if you so choose. Of course, you also have the platforming, the morph ball, and many, any power ups.
Metroid Prime defies an easy explanation. The greatness of this game is inexplicable. After all this is Metroid. A strong contender for not only game of the year, but also 'game of the millenium'; each moment which passes without this game being in your possesion is a lost opportunity to find gaming goodness-- at it's root--. This game is not only worth owning, but it is also worth buying a gamecube to own.
It flirts with perfection in all the right ways, and I can't think of anything bad to say about it.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/23/02, Updated 11/23/02
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