Review by Version 2
Metroid Prime is the long awaited sequel to Nintendo’s classic Metroid series, starring Samus Aran, the female protagonist. This is one of those rare occasions when the game is actually on par with the prerelease-hype, and in Metroid Prime’s case, manages to be even better.
An intergalactic bounty hunter, Samus is exploring a space pirate frigate after the events of the Super Nintendo’s Metroid Fusion. However, an energy blast stops her power suit from functioning by disbanding its functions onto the planet Tallon IV…Which is where the biggest problem lies. For a significant chunk of the beginning of the actual game, you’re basically on a scavenger hunt for the rest of your power-ups, which is unsurprisingly boring. It astonished me that so few people complained about this aspect, when other games were given 3’s and 4’s for what Prime does. Fortunately, an hour or so into the game things start to pick when new gameplay elements come into play.
When you begin your quest, you’re armed with just a Power Beam and your underpowered Power Suit. As you advance, you’ll receive Jump Boots that allow you to double jump, a Grappling Beam, missiles, new suits, and all sorts of goodies. As aforementioned, it’s pretty monotonous collecting the power-ups in the beginning, but it really picks up pace later with the feeling of satisfaction when you finally get that extra Energy Tank previously inaccessible.
The controls for Metroid Prime are very awkward at first. Instead of controlling like an average First Person Shooter, which usually uses two analog sticks, Prime takes a different approach. Admittedly, Metroid Prime isn’t your traditional First Person Shooter (It’s commonly referred to as a “First Person Adventure”), but the option to customize your controls to some degree would have been appreciated. The controls, after the initial ineptness, are very well equipped for a First Person Adventure title, but my previously stated gripe revolves around the lack of a strafing ability. Sure, you can strafe by holding the left trigger, but you need to use the left trigger to lock onto targets. Additionally, to aim up or down you need to hold the right trigger to accomplish such.
I will say this straight out, and whoever disagrees has that right, but Halo’s (Xbox) graphics don’t got nothin’ on Metroid Prime. Of course, Halo has the sprawling environments and such, but Metroid…Metroid! You’ll have to see it in action. I especially love how Samus’ HUD (Heads Up Display, or ‘helmet’ in layman’s terms) resembles something you’d expect from such a sophisticated piece of technology, unlike Halo’s Master Chief. You have an estimated danger gauge, a radar, and all sorts of superfluous stuff; unessential or not, it looks damn cool.
Walk near falling water and your screen will fog up, stand too near to an electrical current and static will become present, droplets of moisture will drip onto your HUD when in the rain…The list is quite impressive. The space around a Charged Beam fluxgates around it, and the reflection of Samus is sometimes mirrored onto the helmet. Overall, Metroid Prime has a very polished, very finished feel. Definitely some of the best graphics ever.
The audio segment of Metroid Prime is equally notable, and likewise practiced. When you first land on Tallon IV, the music represents newfound freedom, and when deep in the recesses of dangerous environments it’s anxious enough as to let you know that hesitation will get you killed. As where Halo had some splendid musical tracks peppered about, grand compositions is one of Metroid Prime’s main ingredients.
None of the Metroids have had much of a story, and Prime doesn’t innovate on that aspect. However, if you were looking for a complex plot you should probably be playing an RPG right now. Fortunately, what little plot Metroid has isn’t horrible, so at least we were spared in that facet. Unfortunately, on the other hand, until the story actually comes into play a few players might quit playing due to lack of proper motivation to continue.
You must be dissuaded from believing Metroid Prime could even be compared to another First Person Shooter immediately, however. You won’t be strafing back and forth, grabbing new weapons when the one you picked up is dry, and you won’t be mowing down hordes of attackers. You’ll be using your wits to advance to the next area, with the enemies being more inhabitants and just part of the world than ruthless killers. For the whole game you’re armed only with Samus’ Power Beam, and you must strategically use what little your one-man army has. Now, that isn’t to say you only have one weapon; you’ll be able to use a charged shot, launch missiles (albeit a limited supply), and change weapon elements to deal the greatest damage, and that alone gives Metroid Prime a distinct ambience reminiscent of it’s predecessors.
There’s also a large amount of platform hopping involved in Metroid Prime, and, forlornly, the limited view restricted by your helmet does not aid matters in the least. Several times you’ll end up dead, or severely weakened, because you didn’t jump from the edge of the platform; a formidable task considering the inability to see your feet. Acquiring the Jump Boots later in the game remedies that problem, but until then you’ll be frustrated mercilessly.
Alas, the ending is extremely gimmicky. To achieve the best of the three endings, you must scan every single enemy’s data (Including bosses you only fight once), collect every single missile expansion (Around thirty or forty of them), every single everything. In short, you must master the game. To rub salt in your wounds, the endings are “Worst”, “Bad”, and “Best”. No “good”. I, personally, have not beaten the game, but it would probably be safe to assume that the endings, with an exception made for “Best”, aren’t going to be that great.
I had a few minor qualms with Metroid Prime, but that still does not spoil the excellent sense of atmosphere the creators at Retro Studios have created. Anyone who would hesitate in deciding to buy Samus’ first 3D adventure should have his or her fears allayed; Metroid Prime makes the jump from 2D side-scroller to 3D First Person flawlessly.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/27/02, Updated 12/27/02
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