Review by Walker Boh Ohmsford
"Metroid is still as good as ever..."
Back in about 1987 or so, Nintendo released a Nintendo Entertainment System game called Metroid, little knowing that it would set up the stage for a whole series of games of the same name. Metroid is, despite some people's beliefs to the contrary, a classic that does stand the test of time. Yeah, it's not perfect, but it definitely warrants a place in your collection. As for me, I own the entire series and am proud of it. Anyway, after the phenomenal Metroid, there was silence for a time. Then in about 1990 or so (probably closer to '91), Metroid II: Return of Samus was released on Game Boy. While not nearly as epic as its predecessor, Metroid II was also a good game, much longer than the first and in some ways a lot tougher. Samus also got to use the Spider Ball for the first time. You also learned that the little jellyfish isn't the only form in which Metroids come.
After Metroid II: Return of Samus, there was another couple years of silence. Then in 1994, Super Metroid was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Metroid is everything I expected and more. It has the usual confusingness about where to go, but it also has the hitherto nonexistent (at least in Metroid), bonus of a map system, so you're not left completely in the dust. What the first two lacked in challenge, Super Metroid definitely compensates. It also features the ability to switch between various suit enhancements (though once your gun is upgraded ya can't change it). Anyway, on with the retrospective.
After Super Metroid, there was a long silence. How's eight years sound? Then came not one, but two new games to add to the Metroid series. Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance is more like the 2-D games we know and love. Others may disagree, but I think Metroid Fusion is an excellent game despite its flaws. But the one I anticipated more, the one I'll discuss in this review, is Metroid Prime for Game Cube. Metroid Prime is Metroid's forst foray into the 3-D world and eliminates one of the biggest flaws in Super Metroid, which wasn't really all that bad considering what they had to work with back then. The new features are also worth experiencing. Well, with the retrospective out of the way, let's get on with the review, shall we?
Gameplay 10-10. It's very addicting and challenging. You have a huge world to explore and Samus has a plethora of new abilities to learn and items to collect. You have the traditional energy and missile upgrades and restorers, but then you've got quite a few new weapons and items to find as well. One of the most interesting things is the visor. Samus' helmet visor now has the ability to scan things in several different ways. The normal scanner is used to activate certain switches or control panels and to detect enemy weak points. The thermal visor searches for heat signatures given off by enemies. Some enemies can only be seen with this visor. The X-Ray Visor is similar to the X-Ray Scope from Super Metroid. It allows Samus to see things that would otherwise be invisible. And yes, this applies to certain enemies. The Combat Visor is the default visor, the one you start with. You don't need to do anything to equip this one, and it doesn't have any special features except that you can lock onto enemies and switches and shoot them that way. ANother cool feature is that Samus can look around without actually moving. So if you're just entering a room that could be very dangerous, you can look around without moving from where you stand and get an idea of what's around you. You also have to do this in order to be able to target certain switches and enemies.
Another cool thing about this game is that, unlike Super Metroid, Samus doesn't have to go to a menu screen in order to select different things. Each ability can be accessed via the touch of a button. And Samus can switch between beam weapons! Yep, you heard me. Using the Camera Stick, Samus can switch her arm cannon so that it fires one of four different beams...provided she's found upgrades of course. And there's no switching from beam to missiles!..Ok so in a way there is. It's just a lot less tedious in this game.
As hinted above, Samus has the ability to scan objects and creatures to get information about them, which is then downloaded to her log book. And yes, if you scan every object in the game and collect every item, you can unlock various hidden features in the game, not the least of which is the original NES Metroid, although you need a GBA and a copy of Metroid Fusion to do that...and also a GBA/GCN Link Cable of course. Like I also mentioned above, scanning an enemy is a good way to learn its weakness, and most times you won't be able to cause damage until you've scanned it.
Control 10-10. It might be intimidating at first, but it's really not that hard. A fires, B jumps, Y fires missiles and X switches between normal and Morph Ball Mode (even that hasn't changed much). Using the D-Pad, Samus can switch between the various functions of her helmet visor, although she only has two of those at the start, the Scanner and the Combat Visor. The C-Stick is how you switch beams. If you hold L, you can perform various functions. When in Combat Mode, L locks onto an enemy to shoot it (although sometimes you have to be looking at it). In Scan mode, L performs the scan. Hold it down for a few seconds and it'll download data to your log book. L also allows you to use the Grapple Beam once you find it. If you press and hold R, you'll enter Look Around Mode (also Aim Mode), where Samus can look at things without actually moving. This also allows her to aim at a given thing or creature and shoot it without leaving her current position. Even the Z button has a purpose, that of bringing up the map screen.
Audio 10-10. The Metroid series has always had great music. Metroid Prime is no exception.Even when there's no music, there's atmospheric sound that fits a given area. The hum of the forcefields in the first area comes to mind rather quickly. Even the Item fanfare is featured in all its glory and, apart from being updated a bit, it hasn't changed much. The tune is the same but the quality and presentation is a little different. All the other sound is great, too. The scanner makes some pretty cool sounds as do the enemies and weapons. Even the alarm that sounds when Samus' energy tanks are low doesn't get too annoying because unlike Super Metroid's it isn't that loud. Samus even has a bit of a voice in this game. She'll grunt slightly when she gets hit and, when her energy tanks are depleted she'll give a sort of echoing cry followed by a lot of beeps and buzzes. One of them even sounds like those heart monitors in hospitals that give a flat tone when the person's heart stops beating. In short, the SFX and music in this game are great.
Story 10-10. Metroid has always been known for its story. This game's story fits in between the original Metroid and Metroid II. Some people choose to place it after Super Metroid because many of the weapons and items were never found in any of the prior games, but Nintendo places it between 1 and 2, so that's what we have to go by. Besides, this is a totally different planet from either SR388 or Zebes. Anyway, after the destruction of Mother Brain, the Space Pirates were left leaderless. They fled the ruins of their base on Zebes and went searching for another planet that would furnish them with the energy they needed. They settled on Talon IV, a world not far from Zebes. They chose it because of the massive energy signature it gave off. The energy was of a type previously unknown. The pirates split up into two teams. One of these was sent back to Planet Zebes to try and resuscitate Mother Brain, Ridley and Kraid. The other group proceeded to Talon IV to examine this new energy source. They discovered that it came from a strange meteorite that had crashed on the planet's surface some time ago. They named it Phazon. They quickly discovered that it could be adapted to suit their purposes and that if it was injected into the bodies of the planet's indiginous life forms, the creatures became quite savage. Research proceeded at an incredible pace. But came the day when one or more of these experiments went horribly wrong onboard an orbiting spaceship. The pirates sent out a distress beacon. Unluckily, the one who picked it up was none other than their archnemesis, Samus Aran. Thus starts Samus' adventure, first onboard the pirates' spaceship, then down to the surface of Talon IV. The pirates are up to no good again and it's up to Samus to stop them. Whether or not she succeeds is entirely dependant on the skill of the player. Thank Bob for memory cards, eh?
Overall 10-10. Metroid Prime is definitely worth the money. I got lucky in that I bought it new for $30.00 along with Eternal Darkness (though I had to pay for that as well). Usually such games are closer to fifty bucks, but i was at a game exchange when I found this game, and I'd just sold my Play Station. Anyway, you really ought to give Metroid Prime a try if you haven't already. If ya like it, cool. If ya don't, then don't play it. As for me, I like it. It may not fit into the series quite the way some of you would want, but it's good in itself. The controls, the gameplay, the music and overall hugeness of the game are definitely pluses. Another thing I like is that like Super Metroid, the music shows up or changes at exactly the perfect moment. You'll be in a place with the mysterious music playing and then all of a sudden you'll hear a roar and the music changes to a faster tune as a huge monster leaps from hiding to attack you. And the explosions---although I probably shoulda put this in the Audio section----are just great! I should warn you that this is one of those games that you probably won't appreciate fully unless you've got your Cube hooked up to a bigscreen TV and Home Theater. Regular TV's just don't do this game justice, especially where sound is concerned. Get yourself a Home Theater or a stereo with that capability and hook your Cube up through that. That's one step toward getting the most out of your Metroid Prime experience, especially in those tense moments right before a boss fight. Anyway, I'll get back to the point. Metroid Prime is definitely worth the money and, if you have Metroid Fusion and a Link Cable, you can get that much more out of the gaming experience as you use the Fusion Suit in Metroid Prime or unlock the original NES Metroid. It'd be cool to hear that through a Home Theater. Anyway, try Metroid Prime. Maybe you'll like it and maybe you won't.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 01/07/04
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