Review by McGray
"A worthy addition to the Metroid series? Yes, and without a doubt in my mind."
Metroid Prime is Metroid to the core. Some people believe that Metroid Prime isn’t as “Metroid” as any of the past games, but they’re mistaken. They say playing a Metroid game in 1st person takes away the feel, but they’re wrong. Everything in Metroid feels so right, and most importantly, it flows, like any Metroid game would.
Gameplay: Metroid is a distinct series. Even in 1st-person, it can’t be confused with a 1st-person shooter, even by the most hardened critic. You’ll immediately notice several differences that keep it from being a FPS. The first reason is the lack of strafing and turning at the same time. Another is a lack of enemies with projectile capabilities. Another reason is the fact that Metroid relies heavily on exploration.
In Metroid, you’ll start with the bear essentials: your weapon and the ability to jump. Any decent bounty hunter needs these. You’ll find the game to be very closed at first, with areas and things you can’t access as you’re currently equipped, but soon enough you’ll find power-ups that open the game right up, allowing you to explore every nook and cranny of the planet.
As with almost any Metroid fan, I was a little nervous about the transition into 1st-person, but fear not, because the transition was handled flawlessly. Everything was done very well. For one, the Visor is perfect. You not only play as Samus, but this time around, you ARE Samus. Inside the Visor, you look through her eyes. The feel of seclusion is stronger in this game than it was in the previous games, which is a big plus.
Combat was created to be as simplistic as possible in Metroid Prime, which is great. In previous Metroid games, the combat was simply point and shoot, just that simple. Same with Metroid Prime. Even in 1st-person, this aspect hasn’t changed. It uses a lock-on system that you activate by holding the L button. After you’ve acquired a lock-on, Samus will track the enemies anywhere, even if they go out of sight. There are limits: if an enemy gets out of range, or goes too high or too low below the Visor’s vertical capacity (which isn’t done often), the Visor’s lock will release. Of course, if you were able to have enemies sail directly over you and maintain lock, there might be all sorts of confusion with the twirling and moving that’d be going on.
After you achieve lock, firing your weapon is as simple as tapping A. There are a total of 4 different weapons (as with the past Metroid games), which include the Power Beam, the Wave Beam, the Ice Beam, and the Plasma Beam. This shouldn’t surprise any old Metroid fan. Sadly, they have removed the Spazer, which is somewhat disappointing. But taking into consideration that, until now, I haven’t even thought about it…it’s not a big loss.
The weapons have different properties. For example, the Power Beam, while weak, can fire extremely fast if your trigger finger is capable, and is excellent for taking out small enemies quickly. The Wave Beam is a step up, as it is more powerful but fires its bolts more slowly. Also, it has a slight homing capability, and when charged, it will follow its target rather accurately, and even stun them with electricity when it connects! All weapons have these little distinctions aside from the Power Beam, since it’s non-elemental. Perhaps that’s also why they took out the Spazer?
The Missiles also make a return, thankfully, and they’ve been upgraded to accommodate the change. Press Y and your arm cannon will fire a missile out at decent speed. Not as fast as your Power Beam or Wave Beam, but the Missile also has a very accurate aspect-seeking function, so they usually don’t miss. After you fire your first Missile, the arm cannon stays open in the split fashion of the old Metroids, with 4 panels spread in diagonal directions. Subsequent presses of the Y button fire another Missile, and following the Missile is a recharge animation, in which the panels spin and rotate before readying the next Missile to fire. Pressing A closes the cannon and morphs it back to its energy state.
Aside from those facts, there are also Beam power-up weapons which allow your Beams and your Missiles to be used in tandem. Once you acquire these power-ups, you’re able to charge your beam and fire a Missile to perform a better attack, and each weapon has its own power-up. The Power Beam has the Super Missile, which uses a 5-Missile fee to fire, but packs extraordinary power and a very accurate lock-on, and is fired at high speed. These can tear almost any enemy to shreds with one shot. The Wave Beam has the Wavebuster, which consumes 5 Missiles in the original shot, and can be held for sustained attack for 5 Missiles a second after the initial burst. This weapon auto-locks onto any target nearby and stuns them with a perpetual bolt of electricity of decent power; however, it’s costly Missile sacrifice means you have to make a wise choice on when to use it or when not to. The Ice Beam has the Ice Spreader, and the Plasma Beam has the Flame-thrower. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions for those.
The world of Tallon IV is enormous; some of the areas cover about half of the size of the entire previous games, which is saying quite a bit. Some areas may seem decidedly small at first, until you get power-ups to traverse the paths concealed from you. Rooms stretch over the gargantuan map, connected by doors capable of being opened by different weapons: blue is any weapon, white is Ice Beam, and so forth. Some doors have blast shields on them which means that only a missile can destroy it. Some doors you won’t be able to access because you don’t have the weapon needed for entry.
Another great thing about Metroid Prime is that, as said before, the game just flows. There’s not a kink in the system. Each and every room is flawlessly connected to the next, and the architecture was done splendidly. I’m not sure if I can explain it, but it’s very important, and the previous Metroid games had this as well.
Jumping, as with any Metroid game, is an important part in Metroid Prime. Metroid Prime isn’t as vertical as the past games, but it does have quite a good deal of jumping. Jumping is done with the B button. The jumping is done flawlessly. Samus can cover decent distance with her jump, and she seems to somewhat float, making jumping extremely simplistic, even for a 1st-person game. This puts the Turok series to shame. For one, no bottomless pits in Metroid; never have been, never will be. Any possible jump has been made easy. Easy enough no to interrupt game play (which is another factor to how the game flows so well), and yet not so repetitive as to get annoying. It’s easy and fun, and goes perfectly into the game, like a jigsaw puzzle piece, flawlessly fitting into its surroundings.
The Space Jump in Metroid Prime has, however, been changed quite a bit. Instead of continuous, timed jumps, the Space Jump is now a simple double-jump feature. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though; it works very well and makes jumping 200% easier and more fun. The game really opens up once you acquire this item, and you won’t find yourself doing a single jump too often after you find it.
Also, jumping has been fitted into combat, making it more free and easy. With a lock-on, you won’t lose your target. You can strafe in any direction as well. But if you need to, you can jump by holding left or right and quickly tapping B. With the Space Jump, you can double-tap B to perform a double quick-jump, which is very helpful for dodging some of the enemies’ attacks.
The Morph Ball returns, as well. It’s a lot of fun to roll around in the Ball this time around, since physics have been worked in, including gravity, inertia and the likes. This means it takes time to accelerate, time to slow down, and going down hills speeds you up quite a bit. Climbing up hills from a standing start can also be a long journey. All of these little things just make the Ball a blast to roll around in. Half of the time, I just make my way around areas in the Morph Ball, because not only is it fun, but once you acquire the Boost Ball upgrade, you can go perhaps twice as fast in Morph Ball as you can while you’re running.
Speaking of Boost Ball, it’s a power-up new to the Metroid series, and a very cool power-up as well. Hold B in Ball form, and the Morph Ball will start to glow. A second or two later and the Boost Ball will be at its maximum capacity. Release the B button and the Ball will rocket forward. By continuously timing your holding and releasing B, you can move along at a very decent rate.
Aside from moving faster, the Boost Ball’s primary function is to get through half pipes. You’ll find half pipes spread throughout the world, naturally woven into the game’s terrain. It doesn’t look unnatural, either. By using the Boost Ball, you can get through half pipes easily. Just Boost, and then your Ball will automatically right itself vertically, so you don’t have to worry about going crazy with horizontal angles and messing up. Time your Boosts and you can gain momentum to achieve serious air and get up large cliffs or reach a high platform.
One of the most notable features to Metroid Prime besides the new view-point, is the scanning feature. Weapons are accessed with the C-stick: press the Stick in the coordinated direction and you’ll access different Beams (Up for Power, right for Wave, etc.). Visors are accessed the same way, only using the D-Pad. By pressing left on the D-Pad, all the aspects of your combat visor (Radar and the likes) fade away, except for energy reserves. It’s all replaced by a rectangular box in the middle of the screen, which zooms in slightly. In this window, anything that can be scanned will be high-lighted with an orange or red square. Orange are little tidbits of information or enemy scans, and red are mission critical scans, that provide especially useful or fun information. Once you see a square, hold L to begin the download. A small bar under the window will indicate it’s rate of download. Most things download quickly, under a second in time. Once completed, the information will pop up and you can read it. Some is short, a simple sentence or two, while others can be more than a paragraph long. All red information scans and enemy scans are also saved into your log book, which can be viewed at later time, which is extremely useful. Scanning enemies also provides you with different viewpoints of the enemy through a kind of blueprint layout. It’s no necessary, but it gives it a technical feeling which enhances the high-tech nature of the game. If scanning doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t worry about it: scanning isn’t necessary, for the most part. There are doors and force fields that deactivate only if a key item is scanned, but for those kinds of things show up in red in the scan window and aren’t hard to identify.
As in past with Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, Prime also has a map system. It’s in 3D, but it’s surprisingly simple to use. Move it around with the C-Stick, rotate with the Control Stick, and zoom in and out with L and R. The room you’re in has an arrow representing where you’re facing. Doors are indicated with their corresponding colors, like purple for Wave and blue for any beam. Rooms you have visited are shown in orange, rooms you haven’t in blue. The only time it gets slightly confusing is when you involve elevators, and even then it’s not bad.
As in previous Metroids, enemies re-spawn whenever you venture too far from a room. If you leave a room and travel two rooms away from it, upon your return to that room it will have enemies again. You don’t always have to fight, so you can run through and jump and dodge, hoping you don’t get hit by projectiles. Of course, if they’re easy enemies, you might just want to take them out for entertainment value.
The game is very twisted the first time through. Traversing the world of Tallon IV, you’ll acquire a power-up and be looking for the first place you can to use it. Sometimes it’s right in front of you, other times it’s on the opposite side of Tallon IV. For those who don’t have the time or patience to seek out where to use these, you can turn on the Hint System to point you in the right direction. Of course, this only gives slight hints, and makes them coded. When the Hint System activates, a box in the top of your Visor appears and tells you something interesting (like, “Large energy spike detected in the Ruins), and a Z button icon will flash at the top of the box. Pressing Z opens up the map and sends it over to a room, which will usually be secluded from the rest of the map. So the game tells you where to go, but doesn’t tell you how to get there. It’s great to have in a bind, since it reveals enough to point out your direction, but not enough to reveal the path to it.
Graphics: Graphics are amazing. I love nearly every aspect about these graphics. You first start out on the derelict Space Station orbiting Tallon IV, which serves as an intro to the game. It’s a sci-fi, high-tech environment, as one might expect, but something terribly wrong has happened here, and caused surviving Space Pirates to launch their escape pods and head somewhere else. Once inside, you’ll see flames jumping and dead Pirate bodies spread out. You can actually scan these bodies to see what happened to them (an example:
“Species: Space Pirate >> Status: Death caused by severing of the spinal column.”).
After you find out what’s been going on in the Space Station, you travel to Tallon IV, the planet below you and the area where you’ll be playing the entire rest of the game.
On the surface of Tallon IV (area designation, “Tallon Overworld”), you’ll be in a large “room”, in which there are cliffs surrounding the terrain, with gray skies above you. There are a few tree-like plants stretching their branches into the sky, and the ground is covered in green grass. A waterfall flows in front of you, streaming down into a pond. There are a few doors around in which to explore. That’s just a description of one area. There several different areas, each having their own distinct look. The Tallon Overworld, which I just covered, is littered with small caves, grass, and is the weather is always overcast with a drizzling rain pouring down, while the Magmoor caverns seemingly endless, fiery tunnels filled with lava.
The Visor has been worked to perfection. It’s full of information, ranging from radar, an environmental-hazard meter, energy reserves, and more. It’s enough information to look futuristic, but not enough to clutter the Visor and make looking through it impossible. Another note is that, out of all of the information meters and things on the HUD, none of them are useless, which is great.
Things in the environment affect the Visor, as well. Things such as running through steam cause the Visor to fog up, while running through lava causes drops of magma to pop and splatter your Visor in the liquid (which quickly drips off, don’t worry). There are several of these effects, and I love all of them. They lend more realism and immerse you further into the experience.
Outside of the Visor, the world of Tallon IV lives. You aren’t in control of the elements here; Metroid Prime has a whole lot of little critters running around. Creatures range from the tiny Zoomer, a grayish creature maybe 8 inches tall, covered in spikes, which roams around in circles carrying out its pathetic existence, up to the Sheegoth, a massive predator inhabiting the Phendrana Drifts, covered in spikes and nearly impervious to all attacks. There are many, many creatures in the game, and some of the scans even indicate an ecosystem, which is a nice touch.
As for returning enemies, there aren’t many. You’ve got Space Pirates, Geemers, Zoomers, and Shriekbats (which are the just Skrees, renamed for the different planet), and a few others. The enemies that are here look wonderful, though. The Baby Sheegoth has a glassy shell of ice on its back, and the Magmoor is a long worm-like enemy with 3 eyes that spits fire at you.
The most notable enemy, though, is the Space Pirate. Unlike the wimps you fought in Super Metroid, Space Pirates are now extremely intelligent (as far as scans go), and very powerful. They’re easily your greatest threat, as far as standard enemies go, and they come in many varieties. The regular Space Pirate is a black, insectoid being, with glowing eyes and an arm-mounted cannon, while the Power Trooper is covered from head to toe in a mix of yellow and black-plated armor.
Samus herself is actually shown a decent amount of times, even in this 1st-person perspective. Acquiring power-ups and activating switches, for instance, bring the camera into a 3rd-person view to show what’s going on. She looks great, too. Her armor is shiny and very well done in 3D, and behind her Visor you can see her eyes, which is a nice touch.
In 1st-person, the most you’ll usually see is her arm cannon. A lot of detail was put into this. The Power Beam is sleek, and it has a couple of glowing stripes running down it. When you charge the Beam, the gun vibrates and puffs up, and its plating shifts position to allow more energy to be absorbed and stored. The aforementioned stripes open up, letting energy shine out of the cracks. When released, the charged energy ball jets away from Samus, and everything around it warps because of the energy pulsing around it. Also, another neat affect, which is somewhat off of the subject, is when you charge the beam and is begins to pull in energies, it will pull in Missiles and Health power-ups, which is good for reaching objects too far away to grasp.
Each Beam has its own look and charge effect. The Ice Beam, for example, causes the plating of the weapon to go from the compact look of the Power Beam and become much more spaced. The power stripes are replaced with ice, filling in the weapon’s cracks. The front of the beam constantly leaks a cold steam, and when charged, the entire weapon opens up and becomes completely encased in ice.
Changing from Beam to Beam isn’t awkward, either. A wave of energy passes from the front of the cannon to the back as it reconfigures itself. The outlines of the weapon glow red and the rest becomes a dark black as the plates of the weapon shift to accommodate the change. After the shift (which usually doesn’t last more than a second), the energy passes back to the front of the cannon and, viola, you have your Beam. It’s just the little things like this that make Metroid Prime’s graphics such a marvel to behold!
Under all of this sweet exterior (and it is very, very sweet), there is but one problem I can identify: textures. This is a very small complaint, though. By walking up to a wall and pressing against it (sometimes it doesn’t have to be that close, either), you can see blurred textures. Samus’ suit also has some of these, particularly in the lines around her collar-bone area. This is, once again, a very minute gripe I have.
Sound: Metroid Prime has excellent sound. I absolutely love both of the Tallon Overworld’s themes (they change around half-way into the game), and the other places have some nice music, as well. Of course, there are some themes I didn’t care for, but those are easily overlooked. There are some musical pieces set to accompany certain enemies also, such as Space Pirates or bosses.
The different Beams all sound very accurate, as well. The Wave Beam has an electrical fizz sort of sound, while the Ice Beam has a sort of pound as it sends out its freezing bolt. The Missile sound could’ve been done better, but it could be worse, also, so hey.
A complaint I have with the music in general, though, is that it doesn’t quite fit in as well as Super Metroid’s music did. Super Metroid’s music flowed right alongside the environments of the game, and enhanced the atmosphere; that’s something you won’t find too often in Metroid Prime. The music is, overall, pretty decent, but nothing spectacular. Of course, when comparing to Super Metroid (my favorite game of all-time), you can’t expect the level of perfection that it reached.
There is almost a complete lack of voice acting the entire way through the game. The only time you’ll ever hear a voice is in the screams of the different creatures, or by Samus when she’s hurt. Of course, the only voice-acting I can remember from any Metroid game was in the intro of Super Metroid, in which a voice explained that, “The last Metroid is in captivity… The galaxy is at peace.” That’s it. Metroid Prime didn’t have much exception to this, and rightfully so. Metroid has never needed voice-acting, and having it would perhaps disrupt the quiet, solitary attitude of the game.
Story: The story is nothing spectacular; the real treat comes from reading the Chozo Lore (text engraved into walls, left behind by the Chozo themselves), and Pirate Date (notes left by Space Pirates, addressing important issues such as creature containment, experiment progression and Phazon testing).
What is Phazon? The driving force behind the story. At first, you start out knowing nothing. This game follows immediately after Metroid: After the destruction of Mother Brain, the Space Pirates broke into two camps: One to repair the planet Zebes and reconstruct the base there, and another set out in search of a powerful energy source. They didn’t search long before they came across the planet Tallon IV, which was rich in a highly volatile compound, code-named “Phazon”. Samus’s ship picks up a distress signal, and she follows it until she finds the derelict Space Station. This is where the game begins.
The story isn’t much, and is told mostly through the scans that you’ll find littered throughout the world. The large amount of Chozo Lore you’ll find is enough to tell you why they were on Tallon IV and why they left, as well as information in between. They also mention Samus several times, which I felt was an extremely cool addition to the game. The Space Pirates have also taken note of Samus, the one who single-handedly destroyed their planetary base on Zebes, and mention her several times as well.
I won’t reveal too much else (not that there’s much to spoil). The lack of story isn’t that bad, since Metroid games have never been driven by stories anyway.
Replay Value: As it is, I think Metroid Prime has tons of replay value, just going through the quest again. There are power-ups spread throughout the land, like Missile expansions and the combo Beam power-ups, which are hidden (though there are only 3 of these you’ll have to search for). There aren’t many hidden items to return for, and as far as beating the game goes, all you’ll get is a harder difficulty (and for the amount of scans, some gallery images). I don’t replay for the items, though; I’m in for the quest. I love the game every time through. I’ve beaten it twice and I’m on my third run, and I’ve only had it since November (That’s roughly 4 months). For a game as massive as Metroid Prime, me replaying it as much as I am is very rare, but what can I say? I love the game a lot. As with Super Metroid, this is one of those titles I’ll be playing off and on every other month or so. I can’t speak for everyone; the quest is long and can be challenging, but it’s fun the whole way through.
Rent or Buy: Metroid Prime isn’t for everyone; the length of the quest and the amount of scans can be a bad thing for some people. It’s definitely not a traditional FPS (1st-person shooter), and anyone expecting this will be sorely disappointed. Metroid fans may or may not like this game, as I can point out a few fans I know of with a huge bias against the game, merely because of its viewpoint. I’d recommend a definite rent to anyone who loves a good adventure, and a buy to anyone who loves the Metroid series as much as I do.
In closing, Metroid Prime is not only my second favorite Metroid game of the five, not only my favorite GameCube game, but perhaps one of my favorite games, period. It does have its bad points, but these are small enough to be easily overlooked. I spent $50 on this game, and haven’t wanted a penny back. Kudos to Retro for an exceptional job well-done, and a very worthy addition to the Metroid series.
Replay Value: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/13/03, Updated 12/07/03
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