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...
It's funny, everyone's played games like the original Metroid and Super Metroid.. but the only Metroid game I ever recall playing was Metroid II: Return of Samus (on Gameboy). When I was about.. seven or so years old, I would play the game everyday in the morning just before I went off to school, and then nine years later.. this is the next Metroid game I played.
Talk about a massive upgrade.
Metroid Prime is a prequel to Metroid II: Return of Samus, officially being known in a way as 'Metroid 1.5', the game takes place after the events of Metroid I (the oldschool one back on the old Nintendo) where the intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran has arrived to a space station in orbit above the planet Tallon IV. Those darn Zebian Space Pirates are at it again, and it's up to Samus to open up the can on their asses.
The graphics of the game.. absolutely fantastic, even if the game was released nearly three years ago, it still rivals many other games of today. The sound effects are also brilliant, and the music, while being very good, ranges from classic Metroid tunes to fit into Prime, or completly new and 'epic' music to fit in some of the game's absolutely stunning environments.
Players will definetly notice that the game is not 2D, like the previous Metroid games. In fact, it is now a 3D first person shooter (straight from Samus' visor).. but to be fair, it's not exactly a third person shooter. The controller scheme is quite difficult at first, but eventually becomes second nature pretty quickly, the C-stick is oddly the weapon selection, A is fire/attack, B is jump, Y will launch Samus' missles, X will allow Samus to use the classic morph ball, R will either give Samus the ability to free-aim or look around, or if an enemy is nearby, lock onto them, while L gives Samus the ability to strafe. The D-Pad is also used to select Samus' visors, we'll get into that a bit later.
Combat works simply, when you encounter enemies, you quickly press the D-Pad left button to bring up your scanning visor (if you have already encountered/scanned this certain enemy before, then don't bother), using the L button you can then scan the enemy and then acquire information regarding them, once you're done scanning, it's time to do what Samus does best. Quickly press the D Pad up button to go back to the default visor, the Combat visor, then press the R button while looking at the enemy to lock onto them, this in a way works kind of similar to the Legend of Zelda's lock on system, however done from first person. While attacking, you can strafe quickly from side to side using the left analog stick (moving it left or right) combined with the B/jump button. It's really quite intense, especially when you're battling Space Pirates.
Eventually, Samus will find her way upon the planet below the space station, and this is where the adventure really begins. The environments of Tallon IV are absolutely huge and there is so much to explore, and it just feels awesome doing so due to the appearance of the environment, there's just so much to see, it's very epical. Once again however, Samus manages to lose all of her power ups, and it's up to you to go and find them again. Finding power ups is the necessity of making any progress through the game, some power ups will allow you to access new areas, whether it be higher areas or unlocking certain doors (as the Metroid theme keeps up, some doors require a blast from a certain weapon to open), and power ups will just generally make Samus more powerful, such as energy (health) power ups, and suit upgrades. Samus will also be able to acquire new visors, which may also be used to access new areas, or even work for her during boss encounters.
The morph ball, now that's a cool aspect in this game. While in the morph ball, Samus can roll around as a ball about half her normal size, and access smaller areas she normally couldn't. The morph ball looks pretty damn cool and realistic, and it's just enjoyable to just, roll around. The morph ball is able to drop small bombs to blow up some smaller objects, and to even make Samus (while in the morph ball) bounce to get to a higher step, or something. It's really cool anyway.
The boss battles of this game are absolutely amazing, one of the best games I've seen when it comes to boss battles. The bosses are always creatures of massive proportions, and always look extremly cool. Samus' visors come into play during boss battles, her scanning visor can identify any weakpoints within the boss, while her other visors (which if you have them) can identify any other weakpoints and whatnot. Each boss has a specific way to kill it, sure shooting it works just fine, but it depends where you shoot it, and with what weapon. Boss battles can last up to twenty minutes to half an hour, and can be extremly intense, but it is ever so satisfying when you watch that gigantic beast fall to the ground.
One of the letdowns of this game though, is the story. The story is good, but bad in a way, depending on what the player is like. The story is pretty much told through scanning certain objects, such as computers, datalogs and all that kind of thing. Personally, I like it, but some players would just prefer the story being told to them, through cutscenes and actual character dialog. Another letdown is the game's gameplay time, it lasts for about ten or so hours, however if you are desperate to try and find all of the games power ups and secrets, then you may just boost the game's play time to about fifteen hours. The game definetly has some replay value, as you'll definetly want to take on some of these bosses again.
If you have a Gameboy Advance, plus a Gameboy Advance Game Cube cable, plus a copy of Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance, then what you can do is after you finish Metroid Fusion, you can upload the Fusion suit and play as Samus (wearing the Fusion suit) in Metroid Prime. This in a way sounds cool, but you'll only actually see the suit during third person moments (such as cutscenes). Another cool thing though, is if you've finished Metroid Prime and you plug it into Metroid Fusion, you can unlock the original Nintendo Metroid and play it on your TV, nice!
So overall, Metroid Prime is a very awesome game and definetly worth the attention of any Game Cube owner. With beautiful graphics, intense action, and loads of power ups to find in the massive environments, Metroid Prime too is definetly one of the Game Cube's best gems. Get your weapons boys and girls, it's time to hunt down some Zebian Space Scum.