Review by Nemo4ever

Reviewed: 12/05/02 | Updated: 12/05/02

One of the greatest game ever made, surpassing even Super Metroid

Metroid Prime

Gamecube owners admittedly had a lot to worry about when details about “Metroid Prime” began to leak out. After all, not only was the game to be played from the first-person ala “Doom”, it wasn’t even being developed internally at Nintendo and Retro Studios, a new, American developer, was handling the game. But they worried for nothing, as not only is “Metroid Prime” fantastic, it’s one of the greatest games ever made.

Taking place between the original “Metroid” and “Metroid II”, “Prime” sends bounty hunter Samus Aran out to a space station to respond to distress signals that have been coming from the outpost. Inside she discovers that the space pirates she fought before have regrouped with a new scheme to torment the galaxy. Her subsequent adventure on Tallon IV, the planet below the station, will unravel the secrets of an ancient civilization while trying to thwart the pirates’ plans.

“Metroid Prime’s” story, while not particularly deep, is nevertheless intriguing. Interestingly, most information is revealed by analyzing various objects in the environment using Samus’ handy scan visor. The visor will then print information to the screen about the object, whether it’s the surprisingly intelligent pirates’ computer logs or the recordings of an extinct race of pacifists. There are no voices in the game and cinematic scenes are scarce, but scan visor handles the job pretty well, dropping snippets of information constantly throughout the game. Most of the scanning is purely optional, so players itching to blast some aliens won’t be hurting.

“Prime” ditches the dual-analog controls of most console first-person shooters, utilizing a unique system of its own. Strangely enough, you can only turn or move forward or backward using the left analog stick normally. When an enemy appears, you can lock on the camera onto his position and circle around him while firing. The right analog switches weapons while the directional pad changes Samus’ visor, and having quick access to the options keeps the pace up. Overall, the system works pretty well, but there are a few occasions in which you’ll absorb a few hits while turning to see an enemy.

One striking aspect of “Metroid’s” gameplay is the abundance of jumping, a problem area for most first-person shooters. Amazingly, Retro makes the platforming elements of “Prime” seem natural and effortless by simply tilting the camera slightly down when you jump. It’s so simple and effective one can only wonder why no one had thought of it before.

Like its predecessors, “Metroid Prime” encourages the player to explore his surroundings in order to advance. Every nook and cranny of each room should be examined for destructible passages and hidden doorways. However, “Prime” doesn’t leave you out in the cold when it comes to your next objective. A handy hint system will point you in the right direction if you ever become stuck, even showing you the exact room to go to on the game’s cool, 3-D map. You’ll want to make good use of the map, too, as you can easily be lost of hours in Tallon IV’s vast regions.

Combat only gets better as you get farther in the game. At first, you’ll run into little insects and plants that pose a small threat, but after a few hours the game sends out the pirates’ foot soldiers, who’ll charge at you with guns blazing and slash you with their sharp claws. All aliens employ different tactics and have assorted weaknesses, so you’ll never get bored taking on hordes of monsters. “Prime” boasts some impressive boss battles that also call for quick reflexes and strategy to win. The game never lets up either, throwing new enemies and different scenarios at you to keep the challenge up to par.

Samus’ visor and weapons can be upgraded as you get farther in the game. Her thermal and X-ray visor allow her to see heat signatures and invisible platforms, respectively. She’ll also find several new beams for her arm cannon, like the ice and wave beams, each of which has its own special abilities to utilize.

Samus will also use her morph ball ability, a staple of the Metroid games. Although it seems kind of weird to see a six-foot tall bounty hunter roll into a ball about one foot in diameter, it works really well in the game. The camera will transfer to a third-person viewpoint when you morph and smoothly switch back when you change back. Reportedly the developers spent two months alone on this aspect of the game, and the time was well spent. None of these upgrades ever become useless and you’ll find yourself using them all right up to and during the final battle.

“Metroid Prime” has the some of the best graphics you’ll ever see in a video game. While the resolution of the textures isn’t particularly stunning, the attention to detail and fantastic architectural design more than make up for it. Every inch of the game oozes with polish and meticulous design. For instance, you’ll observe a number of impressive effects on Samus’ visor such as water dripping off it when she comes out a pond, condensation when she passes by a steam pipe, and alien blood when she splatters an enemy. You’ll watch her arm cannon morph and change shape when switch weapon modes and then see energy gather around the weapon as you charge it up.

A much more subtle yet far more important achievement is “Metroid’s” fantastic level design. You will find not one corridor or alcove looks generic or thrown together. It boggles my mind to even imagine how the artists managed to keep every room unique and special in its own way.

Miraculously, “Metroid Prime” pulls off all this graphical wizardry with no pauses for loading whatsoever. Instead, the game cleverly masks its loading with small hallways that take you larger areas. Elevators rides to different regions of the planet sometimes substitute for load times, but every “Metroid” has elevators like this, so it makes sense. It makes you feel as though you’re really exploring an unique, continuous world.

Fans of previous “Metroids” will appreciate a lot of the remixed tunes in the game, and even newcomers will find the music catchy and enjoyable. Rich, ambient sounds enhance the experience, lending an atmosphere to the game perfectly in sync with the crisp visuals. The creatures and weapons shriek and crackle menacingly, making you fear turning every corner. The visuals and audio really come together to give the player the kind of tense atmosphere that will keep him on his toes. Like every Nintendo Gamecube game to date, “Metroid Prime” supports progressive scan and Dolby Pro Logic II sound, so high-rolling gamers will have an even richer experience.

“Metroid Prime” clocks in at about 20-25 hours, but gives you plenty of reasons to play the game again and again. A “hard mode” is unlocked once you beat the game for an even greater challenge, and some nice art galleries can be opened up. Best of all, if you purchase “Metroid Fusion” for the Gameboy Advance and link it up to the Gamecube, the original “Metroid” for the NES becomes available as well as a special “Fusion” suit for Samus.

“Metroid Prime” is a game everyone should give a try. Its visuals, audio, level design, combat, and boss battles are so polished it’s hard to ever imagine a game surpassing its accomplishments, even Nintendo’s own upcoming “Zelda” game.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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