Review: Metroid Prime (~30 hours, GameCube)

The first time I played Metroid Prime, as I was nearing the end of the game, I thought “This is one of the greatest games ever made.” Years later and no longer a teenager, I still think so. Having played only Metroid Prime and the original Metroid [not any of the other games in the series], I can say that Metroid Prime excels in one area especially: pacing. Every room is a puzzle, and solving the puzzle results in, at the very least, a door to the next room, better, a Missile or Energy Tank upgrade, and best of all, a wholly unique upgrade, such as a double jump or an enhanced space suit. The game pushed available graphics tech to the limit and still looks great to this day.

There is no better time to play Metroid Prime than the present. The game Metroid Prime Trilogy for Nintendo Wii offers widescreen graphics, as well as support for the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, letting you accurately point at an area of interest on screen. If you own the disc, you can make a backup with the Wii Homebrew Channel. I implore you to “back up” Metroid Prime. Once you’re running on the Dolphin emulator, you will have full HD 1080p, 60 frames per second, and built-in anti-aliasing. It might not sound like much, but these three features allow for a superior gameplay experience. Also, God bless the mod community. I have seen the Wii Remote and nunchuk controls translated into mouse and keyboard, and the result is of the highest quality. There is a fan-made 1.8 gigabyte texture pack, which uses AI algorithms to improve existing texture quality, although only for the GameCube version.

With the original Metroid, the only other Metroid I finished, as a point of reference, Prime manages to retain the atmosphere of previous Metroid games while adding beautiful scenery and the best pacing among video games on the whole. In the original Metroid, upon defeating the first two bosses (of three), you receive a ton of scattered missile upgrades, which feels lazy. Here, every upgrade feels deserved. An example of an upgrade after defeating a boss is the Wave Beam, which is more powerful against electric enemies, and unlocks purple doors. The idea behind the series is that when you approach an area, you realize that in order to make progress, you need to find a single power-up. You then must look for the power-up. One puzzle in Prime sends you on a detour that is more than an hour long to have the right power-up.

Metroid Prime is flawed in three ways. One is the controls. We were living in a post-Halo world after Metroid Prime was released, but Prime isn’t a dual joystick shooter on GameCube. The second joystick is used for selecting options. You will control most of the game with the left stick, and it’s cumbersome. The good news is playing with the Wii Remote is a huge improvement, though not quite as good as the dual joystick can allow. The other area where the game falls short is the map. The map is three-dimensional, and is somewhat hard to view or make sense of as a result. Seeing as Super Metroid‘s map system was praised and became a big influence in later Castlevania games, it’s sad Metroid Prime can’t get the map right. Finally, there is a lot of scanning, and subsequent downloading to your logbook. “Download” was definitely the word of the era. Unfortunately, most of this is just raw text dumps. Fewer scans with more presentation value in each scan, such as narration and camera work, would have been preferred. That said, there is hardly any dialog in the American version, which does add to the spooky atmosphere.

There are stories behind this game. There was flack over the studio’s use of MIDI for the soundtrack, but Retro Studios was quick to remind us that MIDI is just an interface, and not indicative of the final sound quality. Retro Studios was founded by someone who worked on the Turok series. Initial news about the game taught us Nintendo was initially dissatisfied with the quality, and sent Shigero Miyamoto in from Japan to call some of the shots. We are witnessing this yet again, with Metroid Prime 4 being announced at E3 2018, however the release date has apparently been pushed back because Nintendo was dissatisfied with the quality. The series is a trilogy (at present), though the light world / dark world stuff in the second game was frustrating, and I never touched the third title. Metriod Prime introduced many to the Metroid series, and will forever be a classic.

5/5

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