Sequels are usually made for many reasons.. to make more money, to continue the story, or the 'legacy' of whatever it is, whether it's a movie or video game. When it comes to sequels, I'm usually impressed. I loved Star Wars Return of the Jedi (the movie), and I loved Spider-Man 2. This time however, in regards to Retro Studios' 2004 Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.. I wasn't too impressed, really, it is a good game, but..
It's not that different.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes once again puts Samus in the spotlight as she battles the evil in the galaxy. Upon crash landing the planet Aether while originally searching for a lost Federation ship, Samus learns of the planet's trouble as for some reason the planet has a dark side, like an alternative reality, 'Dark Aether', where in this world the Ing exist, and emerge to the other side (the light world of Aether) to destroy the peaceful Luminoth race. So, Samus begins to help what/who is left of the Luminoth, and jumps back inbetween the worlds to try and stop the evil Ing, and of course, an old villain makes a return (an old villain, OH NOEZ! Please note: I will not be revealing anything about this 'old villain').
The gameplay is pretty much the same from the first game. The left analog stick controls movement, the C stick selects weapons, Samus jumps with B, attacks/fires with A, fires missles with Y, turns into the morph ball with X, locks on or free aims with R, and strafes with L. The graphics however have definetly had an improvement, the environments look much better, and Samus also must of had an upgrade on her suit, it looks better than ever in this game. The framerate is incredibly good, never slowing down at all really (in single player, that is), this is possibly one of the best looking games on the Game Cube.
The music.. eh, I don't know. The music has taken a downfall, and has lost its 'epic' touch that it had in the first game. Sure the music is still alright, but it just doesn't really fit where you are in the game, in Prime, the music would greatly help the environment you're in and give you that, epic feel that you're really exploring an unknown world. This time though, it just doesn't really cut it.. the sound also seems to have taken a downfall somehow, back in Prime I left the volume of my TV at 25, now in Prime 2 Echoes I have to turn it up to at least 35 to actually hear anything, it's kind of weird.
A new aspect in this game is the ability to travel into the 'Dark' and 'Light' worlds of Aether. Both worlds are different, yet similar at the same time. While in either world, you'll recognize that some of the areas look the same, but changed in some way.. Dark Aether is definetly much more darker than Light Aether, using alot of strong dark colours such as purple and blue, unlike Light Aether which is.. generally more lighter, and having a more realistic look to it. Enemies are also different in each world, while they are relatively the same appearance-wise, enemies in the Dark world are known as 'Dark <enemy>', and are generally stronger than there Light counterpart. One final, obvious difference is that in the Dark World, the atmosphere and oxygen is very dangerous and damages Samus while she attempts to venture there. Spread out are many Luminoth 'light crystals' which generate a light force field, allowing Samus to recover her lost energy and be unharmed by the harmful oxygen of the Dark World (approximantly one piece of energy per second). This element is quite interesting, however can be extremly frustrating depending on how much energy you have remaining, and can be quite intense in boss battles in the Dark World. Doors tend to take their time when opening, as it's as if the game is trying to secretly load the next area without really 'telling' the player, so Samus might find herself standing outside a door for about five, or maybe even ten seconds, losing precious health/energy to the Dark World's oxygen.. a pain, indeed.
Boss battles are very similar to Prime 1, you will fight ridicuously large creatures that'll probably make Samus soil herself. The bosses' look great, and usually require someway to defeat them similar to Prime 1 once again, the scanning visor again comes into play to scan creatures (particularly bosses) for any weaknesses and whatnot. Although.. the boss battles again, don't feel as 'epic' as the first game. I'll never forget that fight in Prime 1.. Samus versus Mecha Ridley..
..er, anyway. Once again, Samus will find many power ups in this adventure, this time however, different weapons.. the first weapon will be the Dark Beam, a beam cannon which launches slow, but powerful 'Dark' shots, while launching an larger sized one once it's fully charged. Next comes the light beam, which is a quick firing weapon (which when fully charged, fires a shotgun-esque blast), and finally there is the interesting weapon, the Annihilator (or Annihilation Cannon), a beam weapon that oddly uses sound, in a way, it's a combination of both the light and dark beams. Unlike the previous game, this game has ammunition for each of the special weapons, so you better be careful on who you plan on shooting your weapons at (the Annihilator uses both Light and Dark ammunition). Samus will also acquire power ups from the first game, such as the morph ball, power bombs, missiles, the boost ball, etc.
What is cool is Samus acquires new visors and suits, unfortunately.. the visors work very similar to the ones in the previous games, they are just designed differently. The same goes for her weapons, it's as if the developers just reskinned her weapons from the previous game and gave them new names and sounds. Not much effort there really. The suits however, look quite impressive, the Dark suit, which Samus will have for the majority of the game (Samus starts off with the Varia suit, which is nice), then the almighty Light suit. The Light suit, looks extremly cool, and even though you're not exactly wearing it, it makes you feel as if Samus is untouchable, she could probably pull a Goku from DragonBall Z and shout to her enemies "I am the light in the darkness!" or something, despite the fact that's a really corny line. Samus also acquires some new abilities such as the ability to fire more than one missile at once (up to five), able to lock onto multiple enemies with her missiles, and even the classic screw attack, which works pretty well.
In regards to reskinning, one thing that I noticed (and got me incredibly annoyed) was many of the enemies. You're supposed to be on another planet, but you fight enemies that have the exact same physical design, animations and attacks as many of the enemies did in the first game. It's as if the developer's just reskinned the enemies, and gave them different scanning information to try and make them look like different aliens. Similar to the weapons, I felt that little effort was put into the actual enemy design in this game.
Another cool feature of Prime 2: Echoes is multiplayer. However, it's not too good really. First of all, there's only two modes. Deathmatch, and Bounty. Basically, Death Match is just 'whoever has the most kills in the end, wins' while in Bounty mode, when players are shot or killed, they drop coins. The player with the most money at the end wins. Sounds cool and all, but multiplayer could of seriously had some more modes, but also, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes' multiplayer isn't good for a casual gamer, or friend of the owner (of Prime 2), because due to the game's controller scheme, new players will have to go through a massive learning curve while you'll easily have the ability to "pwn" them. I also noticed that in multiplayer, the framerate can drop while the graphics have been downgraded, still, the graphics are nice nevertheless, but nowhere near as good as single player.
That's pretty much it. I can definetly say, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is definetly more challenging than the first game, but probably not as long in length, it's also a game where it can become quite frustrating at times, and make you want to murder the developers. The game has top notch graphics and a decent story, but I feel that alot of the 'reskinning' that the developers did.. well, it's as if they didn't want to put much effort as they did in the first game, which is truly a shame. The sound and music isn't quite as good as the first game, while multiplayer, despite being a new feature, is heavily flawed. If you're a fan of the Metroid series, particularly Metroid Prime, then you should check this out, but don't be suprised if you feel that the first instalment of the Prime series is better than Echoes. Also, if you're new to the Prime series, I suggest you play the first game before touching this one.
Those Space Pirates never give up, do they?