Review by Soliduous
"Fun, but not perfect. Jumping doesn't work in 1st person."
I originally gave this game a 5, an average score. I could sense its potential, but its nagging problems kept it from being more. But playing it for 30 hours makes me question if I would really put so much time and effort into what was really an ''average'' game. No. Prime does not live up to the hype, but is still good, in the same way Metal Gear Solid 2: SoL didn't live up to its hype while still being good. Enjoy it for what it is.
Metroid Prime is a good experience, an average GAME. The problem with it is, you should be PLAYING it, not constantly scanning the walls. Furthermore, Prime is NOT an FPS, which was a good decision on the part of the makers. However, why is it in first-person view!? Between the lock-on weapons system (a la' Zone of Enders), the wonderfully-done 3d morphball (Super Monkey Ball, anyone?), and the platform elements, there is nothing in this game which requires a first-person viewpoint. Except scanning...which is the WORST PART of the game.
PRESENTATION - 9
GRAPHICS - 10
Absolutely stunning. Gorgeous. The poly count is inCREDIBLY high. Spherical objects look spherical. Textures are spot-on, and the world is fully believable. Nothing was rushed, nothing was skimped-on. I haven't seen a Gamecube game look this good since Rogue Leader. Textures vary between bright and murky, appropriately selected in each case.
Samus herself looks great. She gets upgrades that modify her look. Her morphball is essentially two hemispheres linked by energy at the center, which seeps out when she rolls quickly. I love the way she'll roll on any old axis, gradually shifting to the main axis of rotation as you pick up speed, leaving a trail of light emerging from that axis. It's implemented in a way that calculates its physics on-the-fly, which is always better than any preprogrammed animation.
All the enemies look great, from the insect-inspired to the plant-inspired to the energy-inspired. That's the thing about this game, graphically: there is SO MUCH diversity. Part of what made me keep playing even through the boring bits was the thrill of seeing the next new area. Many times, though, areas are murky and difficult to see. The Thermal visor, unfortunately, doesn't make this problem any easier, though it seems like it should.
Plus, all the effects look wonderful. From the way the blast impacts glow, then slowly fade to reveal the charred surface to the way the charge blasts leave a very subtle distortion effect as they zoom by to the way hissing steam vents fog up your visor to the way the morphball's exposed center spins around the random axis you've set it spinning on...it's all jaw-dropping gorgeous.
Some complaints involve the choices the developers made: those icons that mark what you can scan (although the scan visor looks cool) obscure the objects themselves. Also, there is too much carp on the visor. I feel like I'm only seeing half the screen because the other half is covered with a million meters and temperature gauges I don't need. Finally, the game froze on me. Twice. And when you have to repeat a 30 min. section between save spots, that's not an issue to take casually.
AUDIO - 9
Quite good. Haunting melodies, redone classics, etc. With most games, the music is superfluous, just there to drown out my annoying roommates who can't see that I'm trying to play. Here, it's enjoyable. Also, all the creature sounds are cool.
STORY - 3
The story isn't bad, just overused. I'm glad that Samus had no voice. What bothers me is HOW the story was told: the cutscenes are VERY short. Instead, the game lets you scan virtually every wall, every holographic readout in mechanical areas, every enemy, etc. Combine these, and you've got a ton of story.
I like the way the Chozo Ruin prophecies and Space Pirate Research Data all combine to make the world feel real and continuous. Except, if I WANTED to read a story, I'd PICK UP A BOOK!!!! For those who do scan everything, you will be scanning more than playing. No exaggeration. Worse, if you want to scan an enemy (for weakspots, or just curiosity), you have to do it AS the enemy attacks you. Annoying, and stupid.
And since you often HAVE to scan things just to move along, you won't be able to avoid the annoyance of scanning even if you don't care about the story. Of course, to unlock all the image galleries, you have to scan EVERYTHING, including one-time-only objects. THIS BITES. This is why Presentation got below a 10.
CONTROLS - 2
So, yes, the graphics look gorgeous, but you guys here in the reviews (and in the professional reviews) are WAY overevaluating this game. Remember, it's a GAME, which requires good controls and good gameplay, else you're just watching a movie.
CHARACTER INTERACTION - 3
All Gamecube games suffer from the stupid design of the nintendo controller. Come on, how can you NOT put both analog sticks on the same level!?!? Xbox is even worse. I'm not expecting the PS2 Dualshock bliss, but since everything else gets ripped-off-of, why not the device for interacting with the characters? Nintendo's controller seems like it was explicitly designed for Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron 2. For that game, it's PERFECT. But for all others...
Poor conrol for Prime, too. Miyamoto deserves the blame, since he personally stepped in at the end to make sure nothing was truly bad.
Left Analog moves forward, back, and turns right & left.
D-pad switches your visor
Y fires missiles
C activates morphball (during which, A lays bombs, B boosts, left Analog controls, right shoulder button uses Spider ball upgrade)
Right analog switches weapons
Left Shoulder button locks-on (you'll be holding that down alot)
What!?! ''How do you look up?'' you ask? Hold the right shoulder button, then use the left analog stick, although Samus moves like she's swimming in concrete during this.
''But how do I strafe?'' you ask. All you can do is circle-strafe around a creature you've locked-on to. You can strafe by holding the Left shoulder button, but you can't turn while doing this. Samus Aran often runs into walls because I can't get her to walk smoothly. There is NO EXCUSE for this. If you're going to have FPS elements, you need the dual analog control. Ok? There's A REASON why every shooter within the past 3 years has had dual analog.
Also, this game DESPERATELY needs some sort of quick-turn manuever. Without the ability to strafe, it takes eons for you to position Samus the way you want her in a firefight. And, NO, you can't assign keys or alter the control scheme.
On the other hand, control while in morph ball is wonderfully smooth. 3 buttons and precision analog make things easy. These segments are the best in the game, and simple-switching between standing and morphball raise the gameplay alot.
CAMERA - 2
Here's the other problem with the game, besides its dependence on constantly scanning: the FPS view.
The gameplay is built on exploration and platform jumping/rolling. In 3d, Samus's morphballs moves great, but switch back to standing form, and the camera moves into FPV. This can be a real problem during the many platform-jumping segments, because you have to guess when your feet are nearing the end of the platform. Looking down requires is a control-scheme nightmare, and causes its own problems. Many are the times I've attempted a jump repeatedly, only to finally realize that it's physically impossible; just, the camera didn't let me realize that.
Given the lock-on (combat is like in Zone of Enders without the ability to fly), and the impossibility of precise aiming ANYWAY, there is no reason this game wouldn't have played a million times better in 3d. It's not like I get a good view of my surroudings ANYWAY given the hassle it takes just to look up. It's a real shame.
I'll admit, the graphics look gorgeous and it's nice to see them up close. But Gameplay is king, right? Right?
GAMEPLAY - 8
LEVEL DESIGN - 8
Good and varied. Going through a level, you'll see all these places you can't get to. You start (after a prologue that lets you try out all the basic weapons) with JUST a gun and the ability to jump (not even a morphball).
This is a Metroid game, true to the originals despite being in 3D. That means that the game is all about getting an upgrade that will allow you to explore a previously unreachable area you may have gone through. This can be great fun, but often (without a faq, anyway, but that's why you're at Gamefaqs.com), this leaves you wandering around aimlessly.
There are swarms of enemies, but between lock-ons and infinite regular ammo, only Bosses are a tactical threat. Just like in the 2D variants.
Of course, with limited save points, there are several sections I've had to redo because I died. But otherwise, where would the challenge be? That said, there was one section in particular where I had to slog through multiple enemies and 2 puzzles for an hour and a half to get to a save opportunity. But only once.
Levels are great. There are 6 worlds (magma/fire, ice/water, forrest, ruins, mines, and one I haven't gotten to yet). Each is BIG. Very big. You'll usually have to revisit the major rooms around 3 times, re-exploring the place because an upgrade you just got lets you reach a higher ledge. This exploring can drag the game down, but that's why we have Faqs on gameFAQS, remember? I normally don't like exploring, but here, it's done well.
It's this upgrade system that saves the game and MAKES me keep replaying it. Newer weapons let you slaughter previously untouchable enemies or at least add variety, without ever overshadowing your previous weapons. I love the Ice beam; it's slower, but can be combined with a missile attack once the enemy is frozen for an instant kill. Plus, as I've said, everything and every upgrade is something new and cool to look at.
Once you start finding Energy Tank upgrades and Missile Expansions, previously tough areas become cakewalk, which is similarly nice and rewarding.
Much of this game is platforming, and, were it handled by a a 3D camera, would have been great. As it is, it's ok. The reason it's workable is because ALL of the jumps are VERY forgiving. They have to be, given the horrid FPV. Spiralling platforms for vertical ascension, lava lakes you must avoid, it's all there. The Grapple beam isn't handled very well; the Swingshot from Ratchet and Clank was much better, and even that was simplistic.
But the best sequences are those of the morphball. All the past Metroid weapons/abilities are returning, including spider ball and bomb ball, and these mix up the morphball segments very well. Some of these sequences are manuevering past obstacles in 3D, others are old-school 2D bits, others are spider-morphball accross magnetic tracks while using bombs and gravity to jump between tracks, etc. Plus, you're constantly switching between morphball and standing, which is nice.
The best part about the level design is that it IS Metroid in 3D. All the enemy variety, revisiting levels, morphball, hidden powerups everywhere...take out the scan visor and give the shooting sections a 3D camera and you'd have a 10 game.
ENEMY DESIGN - 8
As in previous Metroid games, AI is simplistic. They either have patrol routines as they ignore you or they just dive-bomb attack you. That said, there's plenty of enemy variety. Plenty. Harder enemies can only be hit from behind, and often only with a specific weapon. I loved, though, going back through the ice world with the plasma (heat) gun, and slaughtering previously difficult baddies.
The bosses are the best. Better than in any other FPS or most games, for that matter. Although you don't have full FPS control of Samus (sigh), the boss battles are each unique and require you to do something different, usually with the new upgrades (visors, weapons) you've just acquired. For example, in one boss battle, you must stun the enemy while circling to avoid being hit. When it's stunned, you must hit the mirror(s) to open up the morphball slot. Then, you must quickly morphball roll down the tube and plant a bomb in time. Repeat with more mirrors. The bosses get tough, but they're always interesting.
VALUE - 6
This is a LONG game. Especially with all the backtracking. If you buy it, it will take you a month to beat. Of course, you could always skip the scanning segments and beat it in 2-3 rentals (took me, like 30+ hours). With no multiplayer and nothing worth doing a second time, this is a single shot game at best.
The Gamecube is, sadly, a dying system. Unlike the Dreamcast, which had tons of great games, the Cube only has 3 unique must-own games: Rogue Leader, Mario Sunshine, and this. Other than that, Timesplitters 2 (which plays better on the PS2) and Eternal Darkness (which rox, but not hard enough) are its only other good games. Sorry, Miyamoto.
That said, I HAD to beat this game. It IS that good of an experience..
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/08/03, Updated 01/17/03
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