Review by discoinferno84

"Taking Metroid a step further..."

I received my Gamecube during Christmas of 2002. With it, I received two games: Super Smash Bros. Melee and Metroid Prime. I figured that I needed a decent FPS to add to my new Gamecube collection, so I had asked for the new Metroid game. But, I was a rabid SSB:M fan, so I virtually ignored Metroid Prime for a good two months before I even put it into my Gamecube. I’m still kicking myself for not playing this game sooner. Metroid Prime is a solid game filled with remarkable gameplay and features.

I’m only a casual Metroid fan, so I have a very limited idea of how Metroid Prime fits in with the continuing story. Our heroine is Samus Aran, intergalactic bounty hunter. That’s right, I said heroine. If you don’t know anything about the Metroid storyline, chances are you won’t be able to tell the gender of the main character. It’s nice to see a female video game character that doesn’t revolve around the visual appealing perspective in our current culture. In any case, Samus Aran was orphaned at an early age, and then raised by ancient civilization of the Chozo race. The Chozo were an advanced civilization with technological superiority throughout the local cosmos. The Chozo created a colony on the planet Tallon IV, in hopes of placing more importance on simplicity rather than technological advances. Unfortunately, the peace on Tallon IV ended when a large meteor struck the planet, result in the death or mutation of the indigenous life forms. The meteor also spread a lethal element called Phazon throughout the planet. Despite all their technological power, the Chozo were unable to keep the Phazon’s power under control. The Chozo built a temple over the meteor’s crash site, then left talon IV in search of a new home. Samus Aran’s enemies, the Space pirates, entered the Tallon system in search of energy resources to plunder. The Space Pirates used the power of the Phazon as a catalyst for creating new energy resources, as well new military power advantages. Trained to be a warrior by the Chozo, Samus Aran fights in a Power Suit made from Chozo technology. Her mission is to eradicate the Space Pirate presence once and for all.

When I first started playing the demo of Metroid Prime back in 2002, I got the impression that the game was designed to be a first person shooter. Wow, was I in for a rude awakening…while Metroid Prime takes a step away from the usual Metroid game formula, it still stays true to its roots. Metroid games have always placed an emphasis on exploration; Metroid prime is no different in that aspect. The world of Tallon IV is massive. To unlock all of the planet’s mysteries, it’s a given that plenty of exploration will be involved. As with other Metroid games, this game starts off with Samus having very limited abilities. Actually, all she has is the inner shell of her beloved Power Suit. She’ll pick up suit upgrades throughout the progression of the game. These suit upgrades will in turn give her improved abilities and will allow her to search new places in the inner workings of Tallon IV. It’s essentially the same Metroid gaming formula used in the other games found in the series.

The break in tradition lies in the first person perspective aspect. Metroid games are traditionally in third person, but apparently the game designers wanted to go a different direction for Metroid’s arrival on the Gamecube. Some may say that this transition to first person perspective is a travesty. Samus can no longer perform some of her classic abilities, like the Screw Attack. But is that really so bad? For the first time, you get to experience the game through Samus’ eyes. Anyone can control a video game character, but the first person perspective allows you to see the game through a whole new light. The first person perspective creates more of a connection between the gamer and the character.

Metroid Prime makes full use of Miss Aran’s abilities. Every aspect of the Power Suit has been upgraded for a new gaming experience. One of the biggest aspects of this game is the visor menu. Samus is wearing the Power Suit, one of the great technological creations of the Chozo. Accordingly, her visor menu offers superior vision of her surroundings. The importance of exploration in emphasized through the different visor options. Seeing your surroundings and shooting anything that moves is nothing new. The importance of exploration lies with the Scan Visor. Samus can pick up additional information by equipping the Scan Visor. All she has to do is download an image of what she’s looking at, and her Power suit will come up with all sorts of information of the surroundings. Want to know what that Chozo Artifact says in English? Download it. Are you faced with a massive enemy and have no clue how to take it down? Download its image to get the information on the beast. You may get some valuable information that could be vital to your success. Also, Samus can find other upgrades to her visor, allowing her to see more of the world around her. When you find the Thermal Visor, you can find your way through dark passages and read energy signatures vital to the game’s progression. When you find the X-Ray Visor, you can see invisible ledges or holes in walls that allow for new areas to explore. There are plenty of hidden places on Tallon IV that can only be found through these various visors. You need to be alert and attentive of your surroundings to unlock the mysteries this game has to offer.

No game would be complete without the Morph Ball. Samus has always been able to curl up into a tiny ball to get through some passages. This time around, Samus can find new abilities for just her Morph Ball. Sure, you’ll get the standard ball bombs and Power Bombs, but the very ball itself will be upgraded. Samus can find a booster, which will allow the ball to travel at greater speeds and be able to roll up some walls once enough speed is achieved. Samus can also find the Spider Ball, which will magnetize the Morph Ball. Samus can then travel along the various magnetic rails that are strewn all over the hidden areas of Tallon IV. The importance of exploration is emphasized through the use of the Morph Ball. Samus won’t get very far on Tallon IV without using the Morph Ball effectively. It’s up to you to explore the numerous walls and passageways for various holes that can lead to hidden areas. The Morph Ball serves as a reminder for you to keep your eyes open.

Also, the various weapons have been upgraded. Unlike older Metroid games, Samus has different beam weapons that can be toggled at will. Each weapon produces a different attack that will affect enemies in different manners. Take the Power Beam for example. There’s nothing special here, just a charged blast of pure energy to take out your enemies. Then try equipping the Wave Beam and attacking your enemies. Instead of a ball of energy, your attack turns into three electrical waves that can briefly paralyze certain enemies. The Ice Beam can freeze some enemies solid. And for all those pyrokinetic fans out there, the Plasma Beam can catch some enemies on fire. When combined with missiles, these various beams can create massive damage. Sure, variations in attacks may seem entertaining. But the great aspect of the different beams lies in the use of the beams throughout the environment. If you’ve ever played a Metroid game before, you know that only certain beams open certain doors. That’s nothing new. This time around, the weapons can be used to alter your surroundings. If you’re faced with a wall of ice, just equip the Plasma Beam can watch as the ice wall melts in front of your eyes. Or if you’re about to be blasted by a flamethrower, freeze the flamethrower for safe passage. Even the Wave Beam conducts more energy underwater. It’s little specialties like these that make the various beams worthwhile.

One of the overlooked aspects of Metroid Prime is the excellent use of physics. When you roll into the Morph Ball, your speed and progress are determined by the angle of the ground you’re on. If you’re traveling on a smooth surface, there’s no problem in rolling along. But if you’re trying to make it up an angled surface, like a hill or ledge, it becomes harder to get the ball over the incline. You have to push down harder on the control stick to get the ball rolling. If you’re trying to gain speed to roll up a wall, you need to build up momentum by rolling down another wall. The more momentum you achieve, the higher the ball will roll. If you shoot at a door with the appropriate weapon, the energy of the beam will be absorbed and the door will open. But if you shoot the door with the wrong weapon, the beam will bounce back at an angle, depending on the position from where you originally shot. I appreciate the great attention to physics used in this game. The use of physics contributes to the game’s presentation and overall realism.

The graphics of Metroid Prime are excellent. The Power Suit looks metallic and reflects the various light sources. I love the effects of the various beams. When you equip the Ice Beam, the cold air is emitted from the barrel of the gun. After you charge up the Wave Beam, some residual electrical activity causes sparks to emanate from the weapon. The Wave Beam sends out three bursts of electrical energy that vibrates differently, depending on the energy frequency used in the visible light spectrum. If you look closely at the Power Beam shots, you’ll notice the ripple of heat as the beam travels through the air. The visor effects are equally detailed. When you jump out of a pool of water, you’ll notice the water sliding off the exterior of the visor. During some intense fights, the various lights will cast into the Visor, causing Samus’ reflection to be cast. When that happens, you can actually see her eyes looking out of the visor if you watch closely. When you equip the Thermal Visor, you are thrust into a world of ultraviolet light. The X-Ray Visor creates a stark black and white image of your surroundings. You can see the ripples as you splash through a pool of water. The only thing lacking from the graphical experience is the use of surface textures. The textures of the varying settings are well done, but they are just lacking some indefinable aspect that makes for better realism.

The sound effects are amazing. Metroid Prime makes great use of the Dolby Sound effects. Samus emits sounds of pain when she’s attacked. All of the beams have different realistic sound effects. Even the enemies have different grunts and roars to add to the overall setting. You can even hear the faint hum of the Power Suit as you look around your environment. There is a great crunching sound when an attack damages Samus. The music consists of mainly electronic mixes. It fits well with the various areas of Tallon IV. The sound effects just add to the overall presentation and gaming experience.

Metroid Prime is an amazing game. The creators of this game have come up with great improvements over older game concepts, but the game still remains true to its origins. The great attention to detail, the varying forms of gameplay, and the overall aspects of this game make it a memorable gaming experience. If you favor shooting everything in sight as opposed to exploring your surroundings, the game style my draw you away. But if you appreciate games that are presented and organized well, take a long look at this game. Metroid Prime offers a great gaming experience.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/08/04

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