Review by sneggid
Peerless design, perfectly executed
Replaying Metroid Prime the other day, now 8 years old, it's startling to me how the game has aged so little. The game that brought the term first person adventure is now a fantastic demonstration of how artistic beauty is so much more important than polygon count and graphical detail. While some close-ups are blurred, and the details are not as beautiful as they once were, the environments, the creatures and most importantly Samus herself are proof of the level of love that went into the creation of this game.
Metroid Prime is the 1st 3D transition of the Metroid series, a series that had its birth in 1986 on the NES. It is essentially based solely off Super Metroid, the 3rd (and arguably perfect) game in the series, and introduces most of the elements from that game into the 3D environment. The game bases its structure around the solo warrior Samus Aran adventuring around the foreign planet, investigating the Space Pirate presence. As you explore, you collect power ups that allow you to access more of the planet, allowing you to delve deeper.
The controls are unique for a first person shooter, opting out of a traditional dual analog control for a lock-on system with a heavier, cumbersome movement. While unusual, once you get used to the feel of the controls they become second nature, and you begin to get a sense of weight to your weapon that is unseen in other shooters. The cannon you shoot blasts off with surprising feeling, giving satisfaction to your shots. As you progress, you gain new weapons, such as the ability to roll into a ball, fire off missiles and a grapple beam that can hook onto ceiling handles.
The sound is perfectly fitting, with each weapon firing a realistic sound, and music that fits each area perfectly, from perfectly haunting tunes to deep bass. Special mentions have to go to the phenandra drifts theme, hauntingly beautiful and sombre; and the Magmoor caverns theme (ripped straight from Super Metroid) which is so upbeat and epic it fits the fiery depths of the zone to perfection. The boss encounters have their own themes as well, each one pumping adrenaline into the fight.
Although I've mentioned the artistic beauty of the game earlier, the visual design must be recalled again, offering unique, varying terrains filled with uniquely designed creatures. From the lush forests of the Tallon Overworld, to the almost sad remains of the crumbling Chozo Ruins. Each area offers its own style that details the world of the Chozo in different ways. And while the encounter's with the Chozo ghosts are frustrating at points, they are a haunting reminder of the destruction befallen on a species filled with such history and growth. Samus herself is animated perfectly, with terrain affecting Samus' visor (essentially the games HUD, but is so much more than that) in inventive ways. A plume of heat will steam her view, rain patters against her and the flash from her gun lights up her face. While now a feature that has been used multiple times to better affects now, it is important to remember the freshness and originality that the game has for its time.
But forgetting the sound and the visuals, the game is made by its perfect design. Structured to be a labyrinth of catacombs and caverns, the world is interlinked through doors, and areas are connected by elevators. Each room is new, different and shows a level of diversity that is still near unmatched. Even similar rooms that serve as connections between bigger rooms have subtle differences that make them stand out. One room may have small animals that crawl around in hordes, while another will have pillars that the Chozo race have left behind them. Truly even every wall is unique. The game is a joy to roam around, and its possible to just spend time staring around. While for a 3D game it is arguably still unmatched for design in adventure games, it fails to match Super Metroid for design, boasting minor flaws that are niggles at most, but still small issues. A notable example of this is during an underwater section in the mid game, you traverse the slow moving underwater area to near its end, only to find out you need a power up to complete the journey. While back tracking is a Metroid staple that I would never discourage as it adds to the game, the slow movement in the water environment, coupled with such a long journey, makes it the faultiest part of an otherwise peerless design model.
You may notice that I haven't mentioned the story. The story of Metroid Prime is neither expansive nor clearly shown, and is really only an optional reward for people willing to explore and investigate. The majority of the story is told through scans of the Chozo and Space Pirate data logs, and as such I believe that that is how the player should discover the story. The method is still wholly unique and this method of interaction is underused today, with too much focus on cinematics that feed the story to you. The exploration element of Metroid Prime is ingrained into all aspects, and is without a doubt its greatest strength.
Metroid Prime is too rare a game: with focus on every detail and the canny ability of creating a world which is completely immersive. While it is not perfect (the aforementioned underwater design floor, and respawning creatures such as the Chozo Ghosts annoying to no end), the game is collectively combined into quite simply an experience worthy of your attention.
If there was a 9.something, this would get a 9.8. However that isn't available, so a 10/10 is acceptable, and certainly a valid score.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Metroid Prime (EU, 03/21/03)
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