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SummaryIf you can successfully nab a copy you are in for a treat. Make that 3 treats.
- 3 strong games
- Graphics and sound hold up surprisingly well
- Captures the Metroid essence perfectly
- Awesome soundtracks
- Fantastic controls
- Highly immersive, especially in part 1
- Nintendo has discontinued the game.... (Seriously, why!?)
- May be an acquired taste
- Backtracking can become tedious at times
- First two games can also be very confusing
- Third game lacks much of the immersion of the first two
- Non-linearity can lead to inconsistent difficulty
The Bottom LineThere are two things you should know about me. One is that my all time favourite Super Nintendo game is Super Metroid and the other is that I missed out on the last console generation. The main reason for this is that I was finishing college, getting married, and preparing my future which meant that with the exception of a few PC games I had to put down the controller and focus on my life. Naturally this meant I missed out on A LOT of games.
When I returned to gaming circa 2005, the next generation was on the horizon and I found it bothersome to go out of my way to pick up all the games I missed but there were still certain games I desperately wanted to play. If my 360 hadn't distracted me a gamecube and Metroid Prime would've been the first on my list. I was skeptical of Metroid going 3D, let alone first person, but I had heard nothing but praise and as such I wanted to try it. However I continued to miss out until I saw this shiny metal tin gathering dust at my local Gamestop. I needed something for my Wii and I nabbed the game almost as quickly as my eyes glanced upon it.
Anyways on to the review. If you've been under a rock for the past 20 years or are brand new to gaming, let me get you up to speed on the Metroid series. You play as Samus Aran, the most kick-ass bounty hunter in the universe. Samus is waging a seemingly ceaseless war against 2 threats to the galaxy; The nefarious Space Pirates (Notably their leader Mother Brain and Samus' nemesis, Ridley) and the eponymous Metroids. The Space Pirates simply want to rule the galaxy, but their methods use horrific genetic experiments and their aim is to gather and experiment on the Metroids for their whim. The Metroids themselves are a very deadly species that feed on the pure essence of life itself.
Metroid Prime is wedged inbetween the original game and its portable successor. This means that Mother Brain and Ridley have been defeated for the time being, but Samus has yet to destroy the Metroid homeworld meaning there are still plenty out there.
The game is all built on atmosphere, and there is no true narrative in the traditional sense per-se but this is actually beneficiary to the atmosphere and tone of the game. The game starts off simple, Samus finds herself following yet another distress signal but the most curious bit is that said signal is coming from the space pirates. She lands on a derelict space station, and from this moment on you are in control and it is all tension and build up from here on.
Rather than have exposition or dialogue, you must scan the environment for clues. You can read computer logs and you can scan dead bodies to see what killed them and it becomes clear very quickly that the Space Pirates have created something terrible. You encounter one example of their mutagen, a small and humble creature known as a "Plazmite" turned into a ferocious and vicious monster. Before you can find anymore clues, a metallic beast resembling your old foe Ridley sabotages the craft and you must make a quick mistake. You use the clues you gathered to head to Tallon IV to unravel the mystery.
The game follows the same pattern of having you scan the environment for clues, and the things you learn are quite fascinating and build the universe. True sci-fi has the science behind it and it is clear that the developers put in a vast amount of detail in this regard. Not only do the events get increasingly disturbing as you discover hideous mutations, every creature can be scanned and a detailed biology is given and in boss fights this scan can be used to discover their weakness.
It's this attention to detail that makes the game so immersive and the atmosphere is very thick. While not a game you could call "Terrifying," Metroid Prime is very eerie and unnerving which is true of its 2D predecessors as well and you truly feel like you are on an Alien world with a very bizarre and unpleasant bestiary to deal with. The environments are all unique and have their own ecology and the game is built around exploration. It is non-linear, and you will find most of the game to be locked up. This is classic Metroid gameplay, you must explore this vast alien world for upgrades and secrets in order to progress and you will have to return to areas in order to unlock new sections with your new gadgets, weapons, and tools. The only difference to a classic Metroid game is that this time it is in 3D and it is first person.
Despite the perspective, do not call this a traditional first person shooter. Shooting is not the focal point of the game however the first person perspective is very key to the games atmosphere. As mentioned before, you must scan your environment and the way you interact with your environment is unique and believable. You have various visor modes that change the way you see your environment and will allow you to see through walls, scan the environment as already mentioned, lock onto enemies etc. and your beam arm is much more than just a gun as it opens doors, alters the environment, and later on can grapple onto special hooks. You also have the classic morph ball, and as strange as it is even it is believable and it is fun to see Samus curl up into a teeny ball and roll around a half-pipe.
The controls are extremely intuitive and smooth and naturally they have enhanced them for the Wii. I have played the game briefly on a friends Gamecube, and in that version you could not aim but rather always had to lock on and the camera automatically targets a perfect aim meaning you can only shoot one enemy at a time. It's nice that it ensures you can always hit an enemy but it is clunky and leaves you far more vulnerable. In the Wii version, you control Samus' arm with the Wii-mote and it is smooth and very easy to do so. The targeting is accurate and to move her, you simply move your crosshair to the edge of the screen and she will turn or look in that direction. The nunchuck stick is used to control her strafing and bipedal motion and you can still lock on to get help, but it is very nice to be able to aim anywhere and shoot multiple enemies with ease. Switching tools and weapons is easy as well, simply press the minus button for visors or the plus button for weapons and move the cursor to the mode you want and release. They are arguably the best first person controls on the Wii and controlling Samus is easy and you'll run, jump, shoot, and roll around with accuracy.
As involving and fun as the game is like all games it is not perfect. Backtracking is to be expected, but it can wear on you during long play sessions and although you are given an auto map as well as an on hud mini-map it is much harder to navigate such a map in 3D than it is in 2D, which was simple and grid based. In Prime and its sequels, the map banks and looking at the big map you have to be VERY precise to look for the area you want and even then you won't always be sure you are heading the right way even if you've already been to an area or found a map downloading station.
The map isn't the only thing that suffers from the jump to 3D, it was much easier to forgive the sprawling levels and respawning enemies in 2D and even then you had a much clearer goal. It's rewarding to explore and find your way on your own, but it's still nice to have at the very least a nudge in the right direction. The closest you get is a Hint system, which decides if you meander around the wrong way too long it will tell you which sector your next possible goal is in though you still have to navigate your way there yourself unless you already have the map downloaded and know the routes. The game can get confusing and when you aren't intentionally back tracking, it does eventually get monotonous or frustrating to run through areas over and over and learn you aren't even thinking in the right quadrant.
The difficulty is also uneven because of this. Enemies return, which is a Metroid staple and it keeps the action flowing, but for much of the game they will remain the same type even after multiple upgrades that mean they are no longer a threat. They do eventually update the enemies and place more powerful ones in other areas, but this comes far after you would want it to.
Regardless the pacing, atmosphere, and overall gameplay are excellent. As the game thickens it becomes more and more interesting and there are many memorable moments, your first encounter with the Metroids in the first Prime game is very intense and for those willing to read there are plenty of fascinating morsels that expand not just the plot but the overall Metroid universe. I found it very interesting to read that when a Metroid latches on to its prey and drains them, it doesn't drain blood or even internal organs; it literally drains the essence of life itself and that concept is simply fascinating and even raises philosophical questions.
As you've noticed I've mostly been talking about the first game, but I do have a few words about the other two. I simply focused on the first game since it sets up the other two and the gameplay is more or less the same in all 3 with some differences. The first game is easily the strongest, it's got the best atmosphere, the best "plot," and leaves the biggest impact though that may be simply because it is your first impact.
The second game is of equal quality but doesn't change the formula much. The biggest differences lie in the setting, which now revolves around an evil dimension and a good one, and in place of classic weapons are new weapons based on those dimensions as well as the deadly mutagen Phazon which plays a massive role in all three games as the all consuming "Corruption" that the Space Pirates use for their experiments, the evil dark dimension consumes, and later poisons Samus. You also gain a new suit and a new "mode" which allows you to use Phazon energy to attack your enemies more aggressively and move faster; but only for a short period of time.
The third game sadly is the weakest and doesn't end the series with a bang, but it still is a very strong and fun game. The drawback with #3 is that it fails to recreate the atmosphere and eerie, surreal tone of the first two games. A stronger narrative is a detriment and the fact that Samus interacts with other humans takes away much of the feeling that you are alone on an alien planet with alien beings and alien surroundings. The third game is also the closest to being a traditional first person shooter, some sections ix-nay the exploration in favour of Halo-esque brawls with weapon clad Space Pirates. The boss fights and puzzles are fantastic and the game is still undeniably fun, but it won't have the same eerie tone or immersion that the first two games have.
The graphics are surprisingly good for each game. Metroid Prime came out in 2002 and it is certainly very impressive for 2002, but it still has many impressive effects and while it can't hold a candle to most current generation games the fantastic art design and detail is more than enough to make up. The same goes for Echoes and Corruption, Corruption being one of the better looking games on the Wii.
The saddest thing though is that the chance of you popping this fantastic collection into your Wii is very slim. Y'know how Disney releases DVDs of their classic 'toons as "Special Editions" then removes them from the market and ceases production? Well, Nintendo pulled a stunt exactly like that with this game. The game came in a shiny tin rather than the standard white box and is emblazoned with "Collectors Edition," and I found out I got lucky in my early purchase because later the same year Nintendo pulled the plug and no longer manufactures or ships the game.
You can buy it from Amazon for a very pretty penny, you can rent it from GameFly but my friend informs me that it is always on Low Availability and otherwise your chances of getting a copy in North America are practically zilch. Apparently the Australians got lucky in getting a white box copy that is still made but because of Region laws and whatnot an import won't do you much good unless you have an Australian Wii or hack your Wii which isn't recommended.
The game wasn't released in Japan, because the first two Prime games were already re-released with the same controls as part of their "New Play Control!" series which releases updated for Wii GameCube games; but once again, you'd need a Japanese Wii to play them or a hacked one and the penny you'd pay to get them imported is probably prettier than the one you'd pay for a copy off of Amazon.
Please, Nintendo. Pack this great disc into a white box and send it back into stores. For those like me who missed out the first time or those who want to relive the magic with Wii enhancements and get fancy extras, this disc was a great deal and I assure you people will buy it. But if you already have a copy or are lucky enough to track one down these are 3 great games and worthy of the Metroid title.