Review by NeoTS

"My 1st Metroid... I Was Missing Out!"

It's difficult for me to describe just how good this game is. Maybe it's the fact that this is my first Metroid game, or the fact that I was expecting another typical FPS, but something, no, everything about this game has just rocked me. It's the solitary feeling that seeps into my mind when I'm traversing the wild terrain of the planet, or pure rush of adrenaline as I await the oncoming charge of a gargantuan alien beast. It's the breath-taking vistas that open up before me, and it's the sense of awe at the discovery of a new weapon or ability. It's the fact that this game is perfect on so many levels, it made me realize how soft games are getting. It made me feel like a novice gamer all over again, as I sat in my chair, eyes unblinking, not daring to rip them from the boss in front of me, lest he smash the heroic Samus Aran into the ground. This game captivated me from the astonishing opening to the magnificent ending. I didn't want to put it down, or play any other game. It accomplished what very few games can do. It never ceased to amaze me.

A massive space station floats onto the screen while a planet sits in orbit. A small shuttle flies in close, and the top hatch slides open. A mysterious figure, clad in a mech-like suit, leaps from the ship, and slams down onto the deck of the station, a Space Pirate Frigate. The figure stands up and reveals the glory of weaponry of a hero of the past. It is Samus Aran, otherwise known as the Hunter. The Space Pirates fear her, and will taste her wrath again. The frigate is damaged and crashes, but first, Samus learns of Space Pirate activity on the planet below, which is called Tallon IV. She takes her shuttle there, landing in a soggy valley. A poison has left this a barren and unforgiving world, in which the Chozo, an advanced species, once thrived. It's up to Samus to wipe out the Pirates, and trash their plans for the planet. What horrors lurk in the depths of Tallon IV? Only the gamers made of the right stuff will be man (or is it woman?) enough to find out.

The world of Tallon IV is vast and cruel. You'll need the most advanced weapons and techniques if you hope to survive the inhabitants. After an explosion on the frigate, Samus loses pretty much all of her equipment, and the rest of the game will be spent getting it back, and uncovering the sinister plans of the Pirates. As she gains more weapons, she'll be able to access different areas. For example, when she regains her missile launcher, she'll be able to open certain doors that require a missile blast. You'll need the four main (basic) weapons to progress through the game, but there are certainly plenty of unholy weapons of mass destruction at your disposal if you knew where to look. The basic beams are Power (Standard), Wave (Electrical), Ice (Duh) and Plasma (Fire). Each of these weapons are needed for the many varieties of enemies that you'll encounter. For example, there are several machines that will simply send the Power Beam ricocheting right back at you. But nail it with the Wave Beam, and it's all over. The Ice Beam is slower than all the rest, but if you can hit your enemy, you can freeze it, and proceed to pound unrelentingly. As for the unholy weapons of mass destruction that I mentioned early, well, unless you enjoy overkill, you won't really need them until the final few bosses.

To complement her arsenal, Samus also has four different visors, each allowing her to see the world of Tallon IV in a different way. The Combat Visor is the standard screen, with a target reticule and all that nonsense. The Scan Visor allows Samus to see important objects in her surroundings, like Pirate data, and things in the environment that she can use to her advantage, like half-pipes and grapple points. Why would she need a half-pipe you ask? Well, I'm not there yet, so be patient. You can also scan the creatures, which download into your log book, making for a cool mini-quest. The Thermal Visor allows Samus to see heated objects in the dark. Coincidentally, the dark sections are at times truly terrifying, especially if you aren't sure if you're about to be attacked. The X-Ray Visor allows Samus to see hidden objects in the environment, most notably invisible platforms. They also help with fighting the freakish ghosts that seem to pop up when you least expect it. But visors and weapons isn't what Samus is all about. Turning into the Morph Ball is perhaps her most famed ability, and these sections are easily some of the most entertaining portions of the game. By pressing the X button, Samus will roll up into a little ball, and will be able to squeeze through tight places. Oftentimes, the camera will rotate, and present you with a 2D maze to navigate. While in this mode, you'll be able to lay standard bombs, Power bombs, and charge up your speed to get over the lip on those half-pipes. You can do this, once you find the proper upgrades of course. Later on in the game, you'll be able to double-jump (a technique that is virtually absent in FPS games) and the ability to grapple onto certain objects to swing across pits and reach high places.

Tallon IV is massive, and it is all connected, and in quite a clever manner. From the point where you land your ship, you're literally within walking distance of the final boss, and most of the world is accessible to you. As you progress, you'll uncover hidden nooks and crannies leading to places that you'd least expect. From the rainy Landing Site, there's a deserted Chozo city, a deep volcanic underground, snowy drifts that contains a sprawling Pirate facility, the crash site of the pirate frigate, a mine shaft and it is frighteningly long and complex, and of course, the Impact Crater, the source of the poison. You'll have to do plenty of exploring, and even more backtracking, to uncover all the secrets that this game has to offer. This never gets boring, as there is always a missile or health expansion to find. Combat is rarely a chore, unless you're lost. Getting lost isn't very hard to do, though the map does come in handy. Enemies are tough, and present a challenge each and every time you fight them. You may manage to just ignore the earlier enemies while backtracking, but trying doing that later on in the game and you're going to end up dead faster than you would ever expect. This is where scanning becomes important, because you'll be able to find out an enemies weakness is. Some you could just blast, but will you be ready for that suicidal dash they make it when they're about to die? Probably not, unless you've already scanned them to know the smart way to take them down. Scanning the bosses is very important, especially the last bunch. If you go into a boss fight blind and unprepared, you'll likely get crushed within the first round or two. Defeating the bosses is always a rewarding experience, since you'll generally be given an upgrade to your suit or a new weapon.

At it's best, Tallon IV is a beautiful and serene planet, and at it's worse, it's a revolting cavern of darkness and foul looking creatures. The landscapes, whether pretty or scary, are always creative and beautiful. Stepping into the snow drifts for the first time will probably leave you staring at the screen for a moment or two, trying to register the sheer brilliance of it. Pure snow blankets the earth, icicles hang from cliffs, a river clogged with ice slowly flows through the center, under a bright sky with puffy snowflakes falling all around you. It's truly incredible. All of the environments are simply packed with detail. The attention to detail completely immerses you into the world of Tallon IV, making you feel like you really are the only one there. If you walk to close to a steam vent, Samus' visor will collect bits of condensation in it. When emerging from a lake, streams of water will pour down the visor, which is extremely realistic looking. If you happen to look at an explosion at the right angle, you'll get a reflection off of the visor and you'll be able to see her face. This happens to different degrees as well, sometimes you can only see the outline of her eyes, and other times you will see her entire face. It's really cool, especially the fact that emotion can be seen in her eyes, usually it's determination or a mean look, but it does change. If you fire your weapon too fast for too long, heat waves will rise out of the end for several seconds. It's really cool, coming out of a ferocious duel with a pack of Pirates and seeing your gun smoking like an old Western movie or something. It's a nice touch, and adds quite a bit to the realism of attacking a horde of aliens. The creatures range from plain and simple to complex and absolutely horrifying. Just wait for a metroid to latch onto your visor.

Like I said, this is my first Metroid game, so I couldn't tell you if there any classic tunes to be found here. Loading up a saved game will result a triumphant little beat that kind of motivates you to get going again. Other than that, the music in the game is very low key, but very stylish and suitable as well. It isn't over the top, exciting music, it's subtle. Subtle music is key in a game that involves backtracking, because loud, obnoxious music would get on anyone's nerves the fifth time going back through a place. Pirates can be heard bouncing off the metal catwalks of the facilities, which is especially scary if you can't see them coming. When there is no sound, the game is at it's scariest and most intense. Whether it be the blowing of the wind, the humming of machinery or just the deafening echoes in a deep cave, the ambience is perfect for each of the environments. Your weapons are crystal clear, and each make a unique and cool sound. The explosions are loud, and the alien cries are pretty freaky. But I guess when your body is being blasted away bit by bit, you won't sound to happy about it.

Metroid Prime is easily one of the best games of this generation. With a few different endings, and plenty of secrets to uncover, you'll find yourself coming back for more and more, and you won't be satisfied until you have everything the game has to offer. It's truly a remarkable game, in every possible way. It's a vast, challenging game that will make your palms sweat and your brain think. So if you're tired of playing the same old action game over and over again, step into the Spaceboots of Ms. Samus and give her a go. There is no way that you'll be disappointed with a game this good.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/24/04

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