|By Zach Patterson||Monday, 15 Jan 2007|
I think most people’s reaction to a pinball game featuring Samus and Metroid Prime environments was “uggghh”. For whatever reason, the Metroid series has for a long time never been subject to license whoring, and has largely lived on its primary games (save of course the Smash Bros games and random guest appearances). So many were not particularly happy to hear that Metroid was going to be a pinball game. I, on the other hand, was elated. If it is one thing I like, it is video pinball. From the earliest days of gaming I can remember, I remember playing pinball. Perhaps a result of my brother’s love of it as well, I have always enjoyed a good game, be it live or video. Some of the first games I played for PC were pinball games. So the idea of a Metroid theme really excited me.
And to Fuse Games credit, they really did a fantastic job transferring the world of Metroid Prime to a pinball game. Represented here is 7 environments: Main tables Pirate Frigate and Tallon Overworld, Boss tables Phendrana Drifts, Phazon Mines, Artifact Temple, and the Core, and multiplayer level Magmoor Caverns. Pirate Frigate and Tallon Overworld have by far the most to do on them, with various event battles where you can attack creatures as Samus in ball form or roll out to have a shootout from a stationary, rotating position. There are also short minigames that require you to wall jump up a gap to retrieve an item or extra ball. The boss tables are a little less detailed, with less to collect and less opportunities for points. However, they do allow you to collect upgrades and fight some pretty impressive boss battles. And to the game’s credit, the enemy AI on the tables are simple but effective. Space Pirates present an annoying challenge, Metroids actively seek to latch on and drain your life away, while the bosses generally mind their own business until you come up into their screen. Which leads me to another thing about this game. What is great about this game is that there is no scrolling that had long plagued video pinball. Both screens are used effectively for displaying an entire table, so you never lose track of the ball (or multiballs) and it is relatively easy to follow the ball and still pay attention to other things happening on the table. This unfortunately comes at the cost of multi-leveled environments, which while very cool, are not included here.
Graphically, the game is beautiful. The game uses 3D animated sprites to give a very detailed and faithful rendition of many enemies, bosses, and Samus herself. Modes are usually accompanied by flashy text that tells you what to hit, and the environments are very similar to Prime’s, with perhaps Tallon Overworld and Phendrana being the most impressive.
The game is also very intuitive and easy to pick up, like any pinball game should be. The controls are very responsive, using either the L and R or d-pad left and A as the flippers. Either is comfortable. The physics for the most part are pretty great, a bit better than Fuse’s last game, Mario Pinball Land. There are times when the ball doesn’t bounce the way it should off a certain item or the in a multiball where the balls tend to forget the rules of the board, but this is very rare and hardly detracts from the overall gameplay.
There are some disappointments that set in after the overall wow factor is gone. For one thing, some of the enemies are just cheap. It’s guaranteed that more than a few times, you will want to throw your DS in disgust as a Triclops spits you down the center. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if you hit the enemy from behind, you may still be attacked and unmercilessly thrown to your doom. Other annoyances include the unpredictability of the flippers to hit certain targets (accurate most of the time, but some ramps are extremely difficult to hit consistently), as well as the complete ineffectiveness of the nudge feature. You press the bottom screen to nudge, but it really does nothing to affect the outcome of where your ball is going. (I’ve not yet had a nudge save my ball as I saw it falling to its doom). Another gripe that can or cannot be a sticking point is that while there are 7 tables, the multiplayer table is rather dull (come on, it’s Magmoor, guys! It could have been great…) and there are only two tables that don’t feel incomplete (Tallon and the Frigate). Additional tables from the past games or Prime 2 would have been great, but this game follows Prime pretty closely. Its multi-mission mode does present a pretty nice story type mode where you have to collect all the artifacts to enter the temple (just like the Gamecube game) and then square off against Metroid Prime. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a reward for beating the game, as you just get a short 5 second cinema followed by credits. I don’t really expect much of an ending, but it feels a bit rushed with no real transitions or conclusion. And one last issue; sometimes games can take quite awhile, and a save state function like what was included in Final Fantasy IV Advance (i.e. you can save anywhere but once you load the file, it is gone) would have been nice.
There are bonuses for beating the game, and I suppose the game does encourage you to play boards a lot for better scores, but I cannot help but wish a few more upgrades could have made the game. A new suit, new beam, anything would have been nice. It was a rather nice surprise to have the power bomb, missiles, bombs, and the new force ball, but this really is an excellent concept that seems like it could have been perfect with a little more development time. As it is, though, the game is fiercely addictive and for pinball enthusiasts, or Metroid fans, it is bound to be a joy to play.