Review by rgw

"Does Prime follow the series' foot-steps?"

Metroid Prime and fear, uncertainty, and doubt were synonymous since gamers learned that Samus was getting her first game in over eight years and Retro Studios, an American developer, was getting the difficult task of making Metroid work in 3D. Retro’s troubles with development groups and cancellations of projects made many worry that Metroid was in bad hands. Some gamers gave up hope after learning that the game was going to be played from first-person.

E3 2002, where Metroid Prime was first shown in playable form, restored some hope to many doubtful gamers. The media loved Metroid, but some still thought Retro couldn’t pull off Metroid from a perspective that makes it harder to jump and is used predominately for shoot-um ups. The doubt over Metroid Prime got so bad that some message board users on gaming sites suggested Metroid Fusion (GBA) over Prime because Prime wouldn’t have the traditional Metroid feel. Boy, they were off.

In a surprising role-reversal, Metroid Prime got all the elements of a Metroid adventure, while Fusion doesn’t. Prime has all the back-tracking, expansion hunting, and upgrades to get Metroid veterans drooling, while Fusion is so straight-forward you can beat it in two or three hours. Metroid Prime successfully reminds us older gamers what it was like to play Metroid or Super Metroid when we were younger in an in-direct and direct way (more on that later).

Metroid Prime garners not only the gameplay traditions of the series, but the story traditions, too. Prime’s story is as bare boned as they come in today’s epic RPG world. Amazingly, you can play through the whole game and not know why in the hell you’re even on Tallon IV if you decide not to scan objects. The scanned entries to your ‘log book’ explain what is going on, on Tallon IV and why you should send the Space Pirates packing. Prime has absolutely no dialogue, and cutscenes are only used sparingly. While this may all seem bad, it is actually not so bad. Metroid Prime doesn’t screw you out of a single dollar you spent on it. From just about the minute you start it until the end, Prime is nothing but solid action.

The bare-bone story revolves around Tallon IV and the Space Pirates after Samus kicked the Pirates off their base in Metroid I. The game starts at an abandoned space frigate near Tallon IV. Samus went to the ship after receiving a distress signal from around the planet. Samus heads through the ship and discovers one of the Pirates experiments. She destroys the enemy and must evacuate the ship before it crashes into the planet. An explosion before she makes her escape caused her suit to malfunction back to its original form. Finally, a sighting of an old nemesis compels her to head down to Tallon IV and see what is amok.

The Space Frigate is no more then a tutorial level before the real action begins. It is nice though that Retro put an escape sequence in the game like in Metroid and Super Metroid. The game really begins at Tallon Overworld, where you step out of your ship considerably naked in an upgrade sense. From the overworld you can gain access to the other parts of Tallon IV, which are way larger then the overworld. Even the first area you gain access to can quickly become cumbersome. The game’s 3D maps almost become necessary to plot your way through each area. Prime’s large levels make save stations a precious commodity. After a short while in the game you find yourselves not only heading towards undiscovered country, but also hoping to find a new save station. A good rule of thumb is to save every time you have the chance, even after completing the most basic task. Not saving often can mean losing your newly found upgrade or expansion.

Metroid Prime features all of the old upgrades, except the screw attack and speed dash, and a few new ones. The morphball alone is cool enough, but seeing arm cannon upgrades and other upgrades in 3D is great. Basically all of Metroid’s gameplay is based upon finding upgrades and expansions for the upgrades while destroying anything that gets in your way. The uses of the upgrades are well executed. The morphball gets a ton of action in the game; obviously Retro wasn’t scared of a little third-person. The visors are great, too. The combat visor is the default for fighting; the scan visor is for reading computer consoles, devises, and enemy morphology; the thermal visor can lock on to heat signatures; and the X-Ray visor can see through wall and see the un-seen. Arm cannon-wise all of the old staples are back: the basic power beam, wave beam, ice beam, and plasma beam. Missiles make another return and the new missile-beam combos are great, too. Backtracking through many levels to find upgrades is hard, but finding the expansions for the missile launcher and power bombs are even harder. The game does reward you if you get every upgrade and expansion with an ultimate ending. To be exact Prime features three endings; each one is shown depending on your final completion percentage. To help gamers with the backtracking there is a hint system included in the game. The hint system points you towards certain rooms on the level map that might contain an upgrade or something to help your progress. The hints are great for those who want to pilot through the game without the help of a guide but still need a little help to find their next objective.

Of course the best part about the upgrades is to use them to pummel the various distractions in Samus’ way. The basic minions throughout the game are quite simple. Most of the enemies you see early in the game are indigenous to Tallon IV and are only attacking to protect their territory. It isn’t until a good bit into the game that you see the more technically advance side of Tallon’s baddies, and when you do the game gets a lot more difficult then it already was. Prime has a few bosses and none of them past the Space Frigate are too easy either. Prime boss battles out do past boss battles in other games not only in the strategies, but the sheer fun factor of facing the foe. Every boss has a new twist on it that makes it more difficult then the last. The ways of beating each boss are innovative and sometimes frustratingly hard. One of the few problems I can find in this game is that there is a big gap between two boss battles in Prime. You face a boss at about one-third of the way through with the game and you don’t face any other bosses until your around four-fifths done with the game. During this gap there isn’t any lull in the gameplay, but in retrospect I would like to have seen a few more big battles. Controlling Samus can be a little confusing when you first pick up the game. Prime doesn’t work like every other shooter mainly because the game doesn’t use duel analog to aim while moving. The targeting system actually works more like Zelda 64 then a shooter. Overall, Prime’s control layout is actually well laid out. Though it can difficult to manage at the beginning, Metroid Prime has great controls.

With all the talk about the gameplay, I forgot about the graphics. Prime’s graphics are certainly not a slouch. The game looks simply beautiful. The first-person perspective through the visor sets the standard for first-person display. Rain droplets bead up on the screen, fog can cover the visor, and sometimes you can see Samus’ reflection on the glass. Tallon IV is large, and Retro went through the trouble of painstakingly crafting this world down to every texture. No two rooms look exactly alike in Prime. Though Metroid Prime isn’t as technically advanced as the likes of Star Fox Adventures, it still looks very nice. Some textures might be a little grainier then Star Fox, but it is nonetheless nice.

Sound wise Prime is great if techno music is to your liking. The old Metroid tunes are remixed for your listening pleasure. The music does become repetitive the further you get into the game. The tunes that play while you face certain enemies become annoying quickly, especially when the tune mean a Chozo Ghost is in the room. One of the best touches in the game is the sound of the Power Suit. The hum of the suit, the recoil from the missile launcher, and the thrust of Samus’ jump make you seem like you are in your very own Power Suit. For you sound junkies, Metroid Prime is Dolby Pro Logic II compatible.

Not only does Prime have the expected alternate endings, but also it has a few secrets for those willing to shell out some more money. Those with a Gameboy Advance, Metroid Fusion, and a Gamecube GBA Cable can unlock these secrets. When you defeat Prime, you can hook up the GBA with Fusion in it to get a new look for Samus’ suit. By defeating Fusion and hooking the games up will unlock the original Metroid to play on the Gamecube.

The Good

* The Visor
* True to the Metroid series
* One of the longest game on the Gamecube

The Bad

* Not enough boss battles
* Somewhat grainy textures

Graphics: 9
While I can’t call this a technical achievement, I will say that Prime’s graphics is a great overall package. Some textures might not be as clean as other games on this system, but Retro made up for it with a very fluid framerate and neat little effects on the visor.

I have always loved Metroid’s music, but the tunes can become annoying after a while. All of the music sounds good, but obviously Nintendo didn’t write enough pieces for such a large game. The sound effects are top notch, but will go almost unnoticed unless you listen for them.

Brilliance: 9.5
Metroid Prime takes the best of both worlds: the action of shooters and the strategy of adventures put it in first-person. I couldn’t have imagined such a great transition to 3D for Metroid. Nintendo gave Retro a chance, and they took advantage of it.

Lifetime: 9.5
Metroid Prime is one of the longest games I have played since Zelda 64. The lure of seeing the ultimate ending will get you to search all over Tallon IV for every single expansion, which can take a long time. The inclusion of Metroid I gives you chance to see a little piece of Nintendo history, and it isn’t half bad when it comes to length either.

Overall: 10
Metroid Prime transcends any hype it had, and demolished any doubt in any gamers mind. When I say this is the one of the best games I’ve ever played, I’m putting it next to the likes of Nintendo’s greatest title. Heck, this thing could arguably be at the top of any best games ever list. Prime is not only Nintendo’s current flagship title, but it is also among the flagship titles for this generation of consoles.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/12/03, Updated 07/12/03

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