Review by stiffy

"Possibly the best single player experience in this generation of consoles."

The GameCube has been around for a while. And though I would disagree, some people have been saying that the GameCube doesn't have a ''killer app.'' Well, there's no denying it now, anybody who has been waiting for a reason to own a GameCube, this is it. There's no reason for a secure hardcore gamer to not own a GameCube.

So what can I say about Metroid Prime? If you're wondering weather or not you should buy this game, spare yourself some reading. Go, right now, to your nearest electronics retail store and pick this up. Trust me, I'm not wrong about this. Anybody who even remotely enjoys playing video games shouldn't be without the experience that is Metroid Prime. Nothing released in this century even comes close to Metroid Prime's level of greatness. Sure there was Halo last year, and Metal Gear Solid 2 the year before, and I'm aware of this, and I still stand by my ''game of the century'' statement.

I have to admit, I've been following this game since the beginning and have been skeptical the entire way. All of Nintendo's other franchises have done a seamless job translating into 3D, but what was to become of the Metroid series? Why, a first person game, Nintendo tells us...

Well who could see that one coming? Then we ask them, ''You're making this game yourself, right Nintendo?'' To this Nintendo responds: ''Well, actually, there's this brand new development house. They've never done any games before. We thought about starting them off light with a less important title, but then we said 'What the hell!' Oh, and they're from Texas.''

Now I knew that nothing good had ever come out of Texas. Not one thing. So you could see why I was skeptical. As more and more specifics about the gameplay surfaced over time, I kept saying ''Hmmm... that could be good.'' But I was never sure. I kept hearing good impressions from sources who had tried the game before it was released, and everything seemed to be coming along smoothly. Why, then, was I still so skeptical? I'm not sure, but now that the game has been released and is in my hands, I have to give Nintendo props. They had us all saying ''We'll believe it when we see it.'' Now that we've seen it, we can all finally believe it.

So why is this game so good? Well, it's all in how it's played. For starters, I don't think that a game like this has ever been done before. It's completely original. It has first person shooter elements, but Metroid Prime is nothing like a first person shooter. Metroid Prime is all about exploration. It's actually much more of an adventure game than it is a first person shooter. Prime even has some platforming elements. In past years, platforming and first person have always spelled disaster, but not this time.

As most good adventure games have, Prime has a huge world to explore. There are no levels, but rather it's one huge interconnected world. Think Red Faction, but less linear. Yes, you will backtrack, but the game doesn't put a huge emphasis on this, and it never seems to get repititous seeing the same place twice.

In past Metroid games, you have always started off with very few of your potential abilities, and you acquire each of the new ones as the game goes on. Well, the same rule applies in Prime, and I think that in the game's 3D world, the gradual process of becoming more powerful makes for one of the most intricately structured adventure games ever made. To paraphrase, every time you earn a new ability, a new, unexplored portion of the world becomes available to you. For example, you will start off going through the game noticing a bunch of small holes located throughout the environment. However, once you get the morph ball, which allows you to shrink into a much smaller size and roll around the environment, you’ll be able to go through those holes. That's just one example, and similar rules apply throughout the rest of the game.

Despite the somewhat radical transition from a 2D platformer to a first person 3D game, it somehow still genuinely feels like the Metroid games of old. Prime features the same great gameplay and same ideas that we knew and loved in the 2D generation. The morph ball from the old games is in here, and while that may have seemed impossible to do with a first person perspective, Retro found an easy way around it. Whenever you change into the morph ball, it switches seemlessly into a third person perspective. It's so obvious, why didn't the rest of us think of that? Using the morph ball is just about as perfect and finely tuned as it could possibly be. Jumping and platforming has always been a major part of the Metroid universe, and many people thought that platforming couldn't be done from a first person perspective. I don't know how, but Retro made platforming in a first person game seem like second nature. I don't know what it is, but jumping around in Prime feels completely natural. The only time platforming becomes frusterating is when it gets difficult. It’s never difficult because the controls are faulty in some way, it’s just genuinely difficult.

Like I stated previously, Metroid Prime's main focus isn't as a shooter. While you do shoot things with an ultimate goal of killing them, heart pounding shootouts aren't very common. Every once and a while one will pop up, and when it does, it's a blast. Instead of accuracy and aiming being the key to success in an open shootout, the key to victory lies more in timing and an ability to strategize the best way of bringing an enemy down. Prime features the ability to lock on to an enemy simply by holding a button. You're not going to find a ''lock on'' button in a first person shooter. The only time that people will be disappointed with Prime is when they start playing expecting it to be a good first person shooter experience, or think that Prime is the next Halo/Perfect Dark/Half-Life. Metroid Prime bears almost nothing in common to those sorts of games.

The flow and structure of Prime couldn't be more perfect. Together, they make up one of the most enjoyable and fun gaming experiences that I can remember. With everything that Prime does right, it's amazing that they could incorporate it all perfectly on the GameCube controller. Granted, it may take some getting used to. The more you play PC based FPS, the more you're going to complain about Prime's controls. Having to hold down one button to strafe and a different button to look up and down seems downright weird in the dual joystick world of today. But really, for everything that Prime needs to do, the seemingly awkward control scheme is perfect. And once most people get accustomed to the controls, they will realize that they are perfect as well.

So when it’s all said and done, Metroid Prime will have taken you on a 25+ hour joyride through incredibly varied environments that are all sure to impress. You’ll be introduced to all sorts of nifty gadgets that are all incorporated into the game as smoothly as possible. One thing that is revolutionary, but in a much more subtle way is the manner in which Prime tells its story. Samus, the game’s heroine, is given four different modes for her visor. One of these modes is a “scan visor.” When Samus activates this visor, nearly everything found in the environment can be scanned. Enemies, plants, doors, and lots of other stuff, too. In fact, Prime even sports a comprehensive “log book” in its menu screens that keeps a record of all of the enemies and cool stuff that you have previously scanned.

People who just want to enjoy the adventure and action that Prime has to offer are invited to do so and will be able to do it without ever having to think twice. However, Prime offers one of the deepest and most involving storylines ever featured in a Metroid game. The catch is, it’s all told by using Samus’ scan visor to scan computers, enemies, and parts of the environment. Since there is no interaction with other people in Metroid Prime at all, the telling of the story is done in a much more subtle manner than in most other games. The great thing about it is that you only have to listen to the story unfold if you want to.

Graphically, Metroid Prime is yet another showcase of what the mighty GameCube can do. The visual style of the game is generally very realistic. The world itself is also a brilliant design. The look of the creatures is entirely fictional, but still manages to somehow be believable. The idea behind Prime is that a radioactive substance has altered the ecosystem and mutated all of the living things. So in general, the creature design is something that can be believed.

What’s amazing about Prime is that you never hear about how good it looks, even though it does look amazing. Everything about the environment and the different things you encounter genuinely makes you believe that you’re on an unexplored alien planet. A lot of the effects that Prime sports are also pretty amazing.

Take the destruction of a bomb spore plant as an example. If you shoot it enough, it will eventually explode and release a strange dripping fluid. Not only does the destruction of it look amazing and believable, you can actually watch it ooze from the treetops. It reminded me of maple syrup, and I don’t think it should have done that. Another one of the more subtle effects in the game is the visor. Whenever you walk by a hot place that is ejecting steam for some reason, your visor will fog up and slowly clear in a really true-to-life fashion. Not only that, but the thermal and x-ray visors are really cool looking too.

Prime’s audio effects are also on the money. The musical score, while tiring in some places, is usually excellent. For example, there is this part of the game that is a fiery inferno. And that portion of the world has its own specific music. Now this one song I think is the only one in the game that’s actually pretty bad. Because it’s not that good, you always seem to notice and cringe whenever it’s playing. However it’s not so bad that you get to the point where you hate it.

The music playing on most of the other worlds is usually very good, however. It’s always changing, too. The only one that isn’t fun to hear is the one from the volcanic portion of the game, as I previously stated. The score is almost always dead-on with the environment you’re in, too, which is nice. Sometimes when you’re exploring someplace important, no music will be playing at all, and all you’ll hear is the sound of Samus’ footsteps. This is an example of one of many dramatic effects that are incorporated in many places throughout the game done via the music. Most of the time, you won’t even notice them.

So to close, let me just say that I was blown away by Metroid Prime. Nearly everything about it is as perfect as it can be. With the exception of a certain boss battle at the end, Prime is enjoyable from beginning to end. Just completing the game will take about 25+ hours. Even if that’s all you do, it’s worth shelling out the $50. However, there’s some nice extras in the game, including unlockable art galleries and alternative endings. You can even play the original NES Metroid if you link up with a GBA and Metroid Fusion.

So if you want to call something GameCube’s “killer app,” Metroid Prime is that something. You must own it. It’s definitely the greatest single player adventure since Ocarina of Time.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/28/03, Updated 07/28/03

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