Review by Console Ghost

"A brilliant game..... killed at the finish line.. sigh"

I know, I know. You looked at the score and asked,''how in God's name can anyone score a game in the Metroid Franchise, let alone a well built one, with such a poor rating?'' To be fair, if this game had a different title (space bunnies must die, or kill all bugs) I may have thought differently, but this is Metroid we are talking about and there is a legacy to be honored. Also, if you were to cut the game into two sections (the first 10 hours and the last 7 minutes), I would give the first section a 9 or 10. The last seven minutes (I will not spoil it for you if you have not played it), however, negates all you hard work and investment into the intricate maze you have run. We are left with an uncreative, unsatisfying cop-out. I will explain but first.....

Part 1 of the review. The first 10 hours.

Graphics 10: I had my doubts when the announcement came out that this game was going to be converted from it's 2-D platform view to a first person perspective. My doubts were quashed in the first hour of play as my attention was totaled focused on the gorgeous display system. It certainly does not feel like a FPS, instead the programmers fully utilize the advantages of a first person perspective using lighting, reflection, spatial distortion (when you fire your main weapon on charge, there is a very cool ripple effect) that you would not fully appreciate from a third person view. The levels are well thought out and mapped as a giant labyrinth that you gain better access to, just as in the previous Metroid games. When you morph into ball mode, the view becomes third person so that you can smoothly navigate the environment. Graphically stunning.

Sound 6: The music is a constant drone in the background with some remixing from previous games' music. Nothing to write home about, but decently done. It maintains the mood and doesn't get distracting. Sound effects and positioning of sound as you are attacked from different directions are also decently done, nothing mind-blowing but solidly done.

Gameplay 9: There is ample work done here to solve the problem all FPS have, namely: feeling like you're sliding around on ice skates. Most FPS's movements are not even close to actual walking/running/jumping, and so the subsequent ''sliding'' effect really gets distracting and even a little silly. And no, simply adding an algorithm to ''bob'' the camera up and down does not fix the problem (now I'm skating around on a pogo stick, great!). Metroid Prime does what it can to keep from distracting you with alien movements. There is some attention given to camera angle changes depending on what you are doing, and enough variability is given in up/down/side to side reactions to somewhat negate the inevitable FPS ice skates we all put on to play Castle Wolfenstein (the old one) all the way up to the Unreal series. The jumping could do with some work as it feels a bit like bouncing on springs (actually spinning during the double jump would have been nice, but I guess that would really have been disorienting when trying to land on a ledge and not fall a 1000 feet). The weapons are similar to what you are used to in Metroid with much better graphics, but it's the visor interface which really makes the game shine. Learning to use the different viewing and scanning modes is key to unlocking the game's secrets and also to defeating the bosses. Figuring out which weapon/visor combination and pattern you need to take out the boss is probably the best part of the game.

Storyline 10: There is an excellent set of revelations, slowly released through your finding and examining artifacts and records left behind by both the enigmatic Chozo as well as your adversaries. To satisfy both the adventure game enthusiast as well as the action game nut, this storyline is mostly optional. You can disregard it, or try to find all the scannable items to fully flesh out the background. This is a first in the Metroid line, as the only info we really had before was that Metroids suck energy, Mother Brain just plain sucks, and Samus had to kill both (except for that one we liked in Super Metroid).

Given all this, the main portion of the game scores a 9 or 10 but....

Now onto Part II: the last 7 minutes

I will not tell you what happens story or event-wise to avoid spoiling the ending, but the events are not what we care about anyway. The important part is ''how'' the end portion of the game is delivered.

Take into account that for the last few days of gameplay, we have been treated to dazzling visuals, a smooth fighting system, and most importantly, a well built map which releases areas in a non-linear fashion. Because the map is so fun to navigate, and new areas are released by puzzles or quests to locate items, the pacing of the game is maintained masterfully. But here at the end, it seems the creators run out of juice, got tired, and fell back on old #2.

What is #2 you ask?

The old schoolers will know what I am talking about when I say that when you boil it down, there are only two ways to increase the difficulty in a game.

The first way is to be creative, and challenge the player to think or react in an interesting manner (example: the bosses in Metroid can theoretically be defeated without you ever getting hit, the key is finding out what their weakness is and exploiting it). This method utilizes development of clever AI (like the soldiers searching for you in Metal Gear Solid), or as in Metroid's case, careful planning of characters and layout.

The second way, which should be made illegal, is just to ''crank it up'' which I am referring to as #2. This is where: the enemy is made 4 times faster than you, is given a trillion hit points, always blocks perfectly, is invincible (stupid), etc. Basically, when a designer decides to take a #2 (pun intended), they just make the game tedious, not fun. They decide cranking up the statistic on something is easier to do, than making it interesting (oh, I'll just crank up the speed/hitpoints/etc)

Ex. It's fun when you have to figure out a pattern to defeat a boss. It's not fun when you have to repeat the pattern 300 times in order to hit the boss enough times to kill him, it's boring.

The last area of the game is designed totally differently from the rest of the game. First of all, it's just a really high room...... great. And wow, this is original, it’s a bunch of floating platforms. Hmmm that's new. Oh okay, and now I have just jump from platform to platform and not mess up (not really a measure of skill, just measuring how many mistakes you can make when you have to do the same crap action 100 times in a row). How else can we make the game interesting?.... I know, let's have for the last area of the game only, invincible, constantly replicating enemies harassing you while you try to make it up the 100 platforms. Stupid. What happened? Did the creative team who designed the rest of the game get assassinated, and their less talented, less intelligent evil twin finish the last part???

I mean, it wasn’t hard or anything, just lame. I found myself blinking and staring at the screen wondering where Metroid Prime went and who popped in this craptastic game into my Gamecube. Was it a joke? Perhaps I was hallucinating. Maybe it was the day old sushi I just ate. Sadly, I was not dying of food poisoning. There in all its splendor was the crucial last portion of the game. All the indicators of pulling a #2 were in place: invincible/infinite enemies (they are not really invincible, but you'll see what I mean when you play it), a long tedious hop-scotch level, and although the final boss is very well designed, the trillion hitpoint thing gets old really fast. I felt like I was a worker in Ford's factory, doing the some lame action a thousand times in a row (turn the handle, press the door, turn the handle, press the door, turn the handle..... zzzzzzzzzz) praying that Metroid would run out of hit points before I fell asleep or I would have to start again from the beginning of the crap platforms.

So mathematicians out there will wonder how I am scoring this a 3. Even if the last section was given a 0, it's only a small part of the game, it shouldn't figure in that much. Au contraire.

Playing the final moments was like enjoying a fine wine, and discovering a dead rat at the bottom of the bottle right as you are taking your last sip. Like reading a murder mystery and being gripped by it all the way through until you discover in the last chapter...... a recipe for quiche. Bad quiche.

A plethora or more inappropriate analogies come to mind, but you get the idea.

At heart, we are happiest when we work. That's why easy things aren't satisfying. We feel best when we've accomplished something, achieved a goal, overcome an obstacle. But that work has to be challenging, not tedious and repetitive. No one says when they are young ''I want to stamp car parts when I grow up.'' This being so, why on God's green earth would I want to do something inane and repetitive when I am playing a game. This is supposed to be recreation!!! Even the Japanese ''job'' based games, pick somewhat interesting jobs (managing a sports team, driving, breeding and racing horses), they do NOT pick car part stamping or toilet cleaning.

So why after a masterpiece of a game are we suddenly tortured with repetitive, frustrating tasks? If the majority of the game hadn't been so great, this last part wouldn't be so frustrating. However, your expectations of a finish are fairly well established by the end, so there is a long way to fall, both literally and otherwise.

Conclusion:

This was truly an innovative and well-built game. It's sad that we have to finish it with a sour taste as the opening and middle portions entertain and thrill. I don't think it was laziness or uncreative writers that caused this to happen. We all have paradigms of what the end of a game is supposed to be like, and back when technology and AI development was weaker, many game writers had to fall back on old #2. Unfortunately, I think most of the old school gamers and new generation gamers, still carry that paradigm around, and they robotically ''add'' the cranked up final parts, because they think we, the gaming public expect, or even want it. We don't. Don't get me wrong, I love the Metroid series, including this game. I applaud the teams throughout the NES, SNES, Gameboy and Gamecube eras who have stepped up to the challenge of living up to a legacy. This game should have ended as it began, with innovation, creativity, and intelligent planning. It is a shame that the creators felt too frightened to just leave out the concept of cranking up stats, just because its always been done.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 01/18/04


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