Review by ShadowGuardian9

"A gaming legend with an extra dimension for good measure."

Before I begin this review, I would like to say that I have never played a single Metroid title before Metroid Prime. The only reason I know about Metroid is through the Smash Bros. Series. Therefore, I cannot compare this to past Metroid games. However, that will not stop me from reviewing Metroid Prime. All I can say to begin is that Metroid Prime is easily one of the best games created for the Gamecube.

Samus Aran, one of gaming's first great heroines, reenters the gaming world after a long hiatus. The history behind Metroid Prime stretches all the way back to the N64 days, when barely-known rookie development company, Retro Studios, had the challenge of moving Metroid into the third dimension. While we have seen this transition met before (Super Mario 64), Metroid Prime was still a tremendous assignment. But Retro Studios got to work and in 2002, the highly-anticipated Metroid installment hit the Gamecube. It was a bold move coming from a new studio with anticipation and worries running rampant. But above all odds, crashing through the expectations, Retro Studios made themselves a name by releasing a game so polished and so well-made that gamers had to pay attention.

Taking place after the events of the first Metroid game, Metroid Prime picks up when Samus Aran is called to investigate space pirate activity on a frigate floating around the mysterious Tallon IV. Never one to disappoint as a bounty hunter, Samus crashes the space pirate party, only to discover a deep and dangerous new plan by the pirates. Samus has no choice but to explore the vast landscape of Tallon IV to find the answer to the pirates' sinister plan.

Metroid Prime wastes no time in showing off. From the get-go, you are introduced to beautiful space scenery, from the landing bay of a space frigate. Samus's suit shines brilliantly through space and the animation is amazingly smooth. However, it's after the frigate falls that the player realizes how beautiful the graphics in Metroid Prime are. The Overworld is filled with lush and natural-looking foliage which reacts to movement. As the game progresses, the areas diversify even more. Each area is amazing to look at, adding depth and variety to gameplay. Metroid Prime's graphics also don't have to load. The few loading times that exist are during full world transport. Going from room to room is seamless. Not a second is wasted in loading and the game world is united into one tremendous exploration.

Metroid Prime also starts the tutorial at the beginning. While exploring the space frigate, the player is introduced to Metroid Prime solid control setup. Use the Control Stick to move and look around, A to shoot, B to jump, hold L to lock on. Press R and move the control stick for looking manually, X for Morph Ball, Z for map. The game proves that it's not a first-person shooter. The game does have action-packed combat, but the controls are focused towards exploration over attacking, which works to Metroid Prime's advantage.

One of Samus's trademark skills, the Morph Ball, makes a healthy return in Metroid Prime. Controlling the Morph Ball is fluid, using the Control Stick to move. Different upgrades, some brand new, arrive to make the Morph Ball sequences some of the best moments in the game. In fact, many areas play out in Morph Ball mode, where Samus must navigate labyrinths of stone and steps to enter new areas. The world seems to change when in Morph Ball mode. Seeing the game from a different perspective doesn't just reveal new hints; it reveals a whole other part of the game. The puzzles of the Morph Ball are easily some of the best combinations of reflexes and puzzle-solving. Even the simple activation of a switch explodes into a serious challenge. The Morph Ball isn't just essential to making the game better; it's a good time on its own.

A major part of the game is the Scan Visor, one of the visors that Samus gets through the game. By switching to it using the D-Pad, Samus can scan certain items in the environment to gain crucial information. Many items can be scanned throughout, whether they're important information on the pirates' plans or an enemy to find its weakness. Scanned topics are stored in the Logbook, Samus's own log of information. The Scan Visor shines in combat, when scanning an enemy gives cryptic hints to how to defeat it. This balance of strategy works extremely well with the high-tension combat that the game uses. Finding enemy weaknesses isn't always easy, and some enemies require multiple scans to find all the information. Lore of the Chozo people, research specs on critical equipment, and hints to proceeding through the game round out the Scan Visor's capabilities.

When it comes to combat, Metroid Prime is very straightforward. L is used to lock on onto an enemy, and shooting is used with the A button. By pressing the B button and tapping the Control Stick in a specific direction, strafing can be performed. But what really separates Metroid Prime's combat from the rest is the emphasis on puzzle solving during combat. Finding an enemy's weakness is much easier said than done. Using the Scan Visor and the environment, you realize how complex defeating a certain enemy can be. Multiple weapons and skills may be required in a single phase, but the way each enemy is designed is nothing short of incredible. Early on in the game, minor enemies like Beetles and War Wasps arrive, but the combat shines in the simply epic boss battles. Nearly every boss will tower over Samus and will require skillful reflexes and some thinking to defeat. The satisfaction of defeating a boss is nothing short of amazing, making Metroid Prime not only challenging but practically larger than life.

Samus starts out with her trademark Power Beam, but along the way, armaments find themselves getting many upgrades. Weapon types can be changed with the C-Stick, and certain offensive abilities have special requirements, liking holding down certain attack buttons to produce a stronger attack. Barely halfway through the game, the weapon system finds its way cooperating with the Scan Visor. Certain enemies require certain weapons, or in some cases, multiple combinations. But the game never reaches a sense of overload; the weapon systems have unlimited beam ammo, and certain weapons have ingenious ways of balancing themselves out. Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses, so the combat is balanced out incredibly well. When enemies appear, combat can take a frantic turn, where switching weapons and using the environment strategically is practically essential. There's a ton of strategy in Metroid Prime, and when it enters combat, it's when every piece comes together to make a strong and fun game.

Metroid Prime encourages exploration at every turn. The Scan Visor remains essential to getting the most out of the exploration factors. Scanning items can reveal secret areas. Scanning items can reveal hidden items, like an Energy Tank upgrade. When the calm arises through the game, scanning can be one of the best ways to solve a problem. By the time the riddle is solved, you see how well-designed the puzzles are. Metroid Prime's puzzles aren't particularly inventive, but each challenge is demanding in accomplishing it, making the gameplay solid and enjoyable. Quick reflexes and careful observation is what Metroid Prime's all about, making the puzzles some of the best around.

Metroid Prime finds a way to take all of the best things of a genre and mix it into a single experience, one of those genres is platforming. Even as a first-person game, the platforming is some of the best around. The jumping is easy, but from a first-person perspective, you get to see it all. You see Samus's face reflect on the visor. You see water on the foliage. You see practically every minute detail in the world, and all from the visor view. Despite being first-person, Metroid Prime's platforming elements compliment the immersion factor it creates.

I must admit, the backtracking in the game scared me at first, but the game finds a clever way around this. Many enemies that you see later on appear in past areas. This doesn't seem like much, but adding in all the items, weapons, and skills, dispatching these creatures that at one point challenge you greatly, becomes easy. There is a sense of accomplishment and remembering how difficult these enemies were at first gives the game a lasting sense of longevity. Revisiting old areas with new skill does the exact same thing: brings accomplishment.

Speaking of longevity, Metroid Prime is a massive game. Getting through the game is one thing, but finding all the secrets and scans is a trial in itself. Even playing through the same area multiple times can be a challenge. But Metroid Prime never seems to be a chore. Everything it does is extremely fine-tuned to compensate for its own weaknesses, which were few to begin with. Metroid Prime stands as a trip to the outer reaches of the universe, bringing an amazing adventure full of immersion. With stellar combat and some of the best designed factors ever witnessed, Metroid Prime stands tall as a journey worthy of its name.

+ Beautiful graphics that set the bar for gaming
+ Amazing musical scores and sound
+ Tight and simple controls
+ A vast amount of enemies, bosses, and challenges
+ Sense of immersion is incredible
+ Weapons and abilities are finely tuned and fun to use

- No multiplayer
- It eventually ends

Metroid Prime is a landmark game in every possible way. Despite having the odds stacked against them, Retro Studios have made their mark in the gaming industry by revitalizing a classic franchise in the third-dimension without missing any crucial ingredients. The graphics, sound, and immersion are second to none, making Metroid Prime one of the most atmospheric games ever to be released. The controls compensate for both first-person combat and third-person exploration perfectly. Every single thing about Metroid Prime is spot on amazing, making it a must-have for any gamer. You don't have to have heard of Metroid to enjoy Metroid Prime. This is a game that redefines adventure titles, adding a new sense of atmosphere and graphical beauty. Metroid Prime is a game that's worth buying a Gamecube for. It's games like Metroid Prime that make you happy to play video games. If you play video games, play this game. It's as close to total immersion that a game has ever reached and is worth any gamer's full attention.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/25/06

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