Metroid Prime – Review
If someone mentioned the idea of a first-person Metroid game back in the Late-90’s, many would automatically assume such a game would ruin the franchise. Traditionally a 2D platformer, Metroid hadn’t seen a sequel on the Nintendo 64, leaving an 8 year drought up until Metroid Prime was released on the GameCube. It was an extremely high risk to create a first-person Metroid game, but Retro Studios absolutely knocked it out of the park with Metroid Prime by capturing everything that made the earlier installments great.
To understand some of the controversy and doubt back when Metroid Prime was released in 2002, it’s important to take the time period in context. Up until that time platforming was notoriously bad on games with a first-person view. Playing a game like Turok on the N64 was often times, frustrating, because it was difficult to judge landings between jumps. Basing an entire game on platforming, especially Metroid, was heresy. It was something that could have easily ruined the game, but Metroid Prime managed to make platforming feel second-nature and enjoyable to perform.
Twelve years have passed since I had last played Metroid Prime on the GameCube, and the outdated control scheme is the most noticeable flaw to the game. Lacking the dual analog setup of modern shooters, it takes time to get used to not being able to move and manually aim at the same time. Fortunately the game heavily uses a lock-on targeting, and it works as intended in most cases. Having this lock-on feature also makes sense since Samus is in a technologically advanced power suit, so it fits the setting. The Wii version uses the Wiimote to aim and shoot, so it isn’t an issue there.
An impressive aspect of Metroid Prime that may be overlooked is the ever-present awareness that the player is in a combat suit. From the ability to switch visors and scan the environment for information to losing a visual signal when met with electrical interference, the execution of such visual display is brilliant and impressive to this day. Walking by a spray of steam will cause condensation on your visor, and encountering bright flashes of light will cast a reflection of Samus’s eyes. Little details like these enhance the experience, and aren’t always utilized in modern games.
Most importantly, everything that made Metroid games great are present in Metroid Prime to the point where it feels like a proper Metroid game. Acquiring new items to open unexplored areas is there; an eerie, isolated atmosphere is there; great music; familiar enemies; a large open-ended world; and familiar game mechanics are all there. It is obvious that Retro Studios put a great deal of care into making the best game possible.
I’d like to point out that bosses in this game provide a bit more of a challenge than I remember, and I consider that a good thing. They aren’t impossible, but they require a little bit of strategy, and keep you on your toes. There were a couple tense boss fights I had where my health was whittled down to near death, and I was able to defeat the boss just in time before the one hit could kill me. Challenges like these provide a sense of accomplishment, and is not seen in too many Nintendo games anymore.
Their story to Metroid Prime – rather how it is told, can be something that isn’t for everyone. Relying almost entirely on data entries, Samus must scan objects with the scanning visor, slowly and subtly unfolding the story the further she progresses. This is approach is something I don’t mind, in fact, it was intelligently executed, but some people may not like it. The good news is it’s entirely optional, and if you enjoy just playing the game it won’t be a major loss.
Aside from the fact the colors aren’t as rich on the original GameCube version, the graphics hold up rather well. I never reached the point where the graphics became an unpleasant distraction.
The soundtrack is simply amazing. Remixing familiar Metroid tracks and introducing new ones, all of them manage to set a wonderful atmosphere and make you want to return to areas just to hear a particular song again.
Although it’s not my favorite Metroid of the series, it’s still one of the best. I actually enjoyed the game even more 12 years later, after not having played it in so long. The level design is superb as shortcuts open with joyous surprise each time. There are many things Metroid Prime does right with little wrong, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a GameCube or Wii.
Style – First-Person Action Adventure
Publisher – Nintendo
Developer – Retro Studios
Release – November 2002
- 5.0 – Gameplay
- 4.0 – Graphics
- 5.0 – Sound
- 4.5 – Entertainment
- 3.0 – Replay Value