Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
In the early days of console gaming, two companies ruled the markets. Sega was big with its fast-paced, arcade style games and it had Sonic the Hedgehog piloting the ship. The other titan was Nintendo under the head of multiple stars like Mario and Link. One of those stars was very big but remained under the radar. I’m talking about Samus Aran. The blaster wielding, pirate killing, bounty hunter that starred in her own series of popular Super Nintendo games. This side scrolling gem was a classic in the Nintendo library and a favourite for many. Metroid Prime is one of the latest instalments of the series and the first for the Gamecube. It moves away from its roots of side scrolling and moves into the new territory of the first-person shooter. I have played the classic Metroid but it was this game that really got me hooked.
The first thing you notice about Metroid Prime is its graphics. This game demonstrates the Gamecube’s real power (where it’s hiding it in that small box is beyond me) and shows that it can contend with its Microsoft and Sony competitors. The graphics are smooth and textured and there is no lagging which is expected from a not-so-NextGen system. What really won me over was the minor details that Retro added. For example, if you walk through some steam, condensation builds up on your face plate. If you frag a gooey enemy, slime splatters on your face plate. My favourite was when you are in a dark room and a bright light goes off, you can see the faintest reflection of Samus’ eyes. Little minute details like these made this game stand out.
As far as game play goes, MP is out of this world. No longer are you running back and forth, jumping and dodging things. You have a rich, three dimensional world to move around in, one that is full of enemies and creatures galore. When it comes to controls, Retro provided a unique setup that works very well with the game play (after a little practice). Instead of having two control sticks to control movement and aiming, you move with one stick and if you find something of interest, you lock on to it. Locking on centers Samus’ focus on that object/enemy to which you can scan or attack. It provides a better interface for fast-paced game play. You have four weapons at your disposal along with four visors you can use to view the world around you (the X-ray visor is pretty cool). These may seem limited but the game is holding onto its roots. I.e. , you obtain the ice beam and the wave beam, etc. To add to the nostalgia, the morph ball comes into play and quite often. Where would Samus Aran be without her morph ball? It’s part of who she is. Morph ball mode is fun for the first little while when you have to scoot around some tunnels and blow up some rubble but it can get tiresome when you have to navigate your way around these areas all the time. It’s not to bad because these areas are often only small, connection tunnels.
Much of the game is spent searching for your lost equipment and discovering what those nasty space pirates are up to. They have built a research facility in a seemingly abandoned Chozo city. You have to discover what they are doing and, naturally, foil their plot. There are some very tense times when you are slinking through a corridor and things jump out at you. There is a certain part of the game when the lights go out and you are forced to use your thermal visor to see your enemies. It makes the game tense and fun to play. (Reminiscent of Predator)
When it comes to replayability, the game has lots of things to find, collect, and scan. You’ll find yourself moving around the map trying to pick up the slightest sign of a scanable item. Any trace of a hidden missile expansion. This makes the game replayable but it’s not a happy time. When you do find everything and unlock that different ending, you’ll wonder why you spent so much time of your life pulling your hair out in front of the T.V. when you could have done many more constructive things. On top of all these things, you can make use of the Game Boy Advance connection to unlock some goodies but only if you own Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy. I don’t own a Game Boy so I don’t know what the extras are like but from what I read, it’s not worth the extra money you pay to unlock them.
Sound is what you would hope for from this solid GC game. If you have Dolby Surround then hook it up to enhance your game, you’ll feel like you are in the armor blasting enemies. The music is well done and it adds the mood when you are in a tense situation. What more can be said? You won’t press the mute button on your remote.
Overall, Metroid Prime is a gem that should be in all Nintendo fans collection. If you own a Gamecube, then you will have fun with this game. It’s nostalgic of the olden days but it blasts through into new territory with great success. If you find it on a used game rack then grab it. The graphics are phenomenal for the GC and it is a truly fun game to play. There are the set backs in the form of long time spent searching. The unique control setup is both a pro and a con because it works well for the action but does get annoying at times when you just want to look around. Samus Aran brings home the gold for Nintendo with this one.