|By Zach Patterson||Thursday, 27 Jan 2005|
I was initially reluctant to play this game simply because it was 3D, and a first person shooter. To me, that wasn’t Metroid, so I ignored the praise it received and never played the title outside of a couple demo run-throughs and playing small parts at a friends house. I thought the scanning looked tedious, and the different visors/beams was confusing.
Imagine my surprise when I finally broke down and played through the game. I suppose I shouldn’t have doubted Nintendo and Retro, because they knew they were taking a big risk and had to make it worth it to all the hardcore fans.
The game unfolds with a great and somewhat stealthily told story. I call it a stealthy story simply because the game lacks explanatory cut scenes and voice over narratives. Instead, the story is told through scans, logs, and events that you trigger as Samus. Samus is as quiet as you would expect, relying only on her facial expressions you occasionally get a glimpse of along with her body language to get a better feel for the character. Through the story, you actually learn quite a bit about the origins of Samus as well as the loss of the Chozo on Tallon IV.
As I said, most of the story is told through scans, which are a new feature that you will either love or hate. Basically, scanning gives you more information about your environment, enemies, and the story. It requires you to switch visors from the combat visor to do so which at first seems like a waste of time. However, it soon becomes second nature and you will learn that it’s not that bad and scanning gives you a much better feel of the game all together. Think about it: every enemies has a log you can read about, every environment has tons of information to discover, and every item has facts about as well. This gives more information than any Metroid game before it.
Another part of the beauty of this game is the environments. At first, they seem kind of stereotypical; ice level, lava level, underwater level, industrial level, etc. However, each environment is so varied, large and full of secrets that it really makes you feel like you are in those places. Phendrana feels like a barren wasteland, and the animals there have adapted to the environment. Chozo Ruins likewise feels like a crumbling structure of what used to be a beautiful area of shrines. The great part about these environments is that while they look great from afar, they also have superior detail upon closer observation. The level of detail in this game is something the PS2 could never handle and really shows the Gamecube’s true power. In addition to the very detailed environments, each one looks different through each visor, all of which looks very nice. All the visors have a well thought out purpose too, which consequently allows you to return to the same environment many times and see completely different things.
And while the game looks beautiful, I am very rarely happy with a first person shooter on a console. I am happy to say that Metroid Prime may be the first case on a console where it is honestly better than what it could have been on a PC. The controls are so naturally mapped to the Gamecube controller that it feels like second nature. Using the triggers to free look and lock on is a great system. Furthermore, this is a game that uses every button on the Cube controller, so it is a bit complex at times, but still very intuitive.
Next up is the sound and music. The sound in this game is absolutely excellent and a big factor in immersion. I recommend surround sound if you have it because it makes you feel like you are on Tallon IV. Each area has its own ambience, and each hidden item makes a definite sound that you can identify and hunt down. Likewise, larger enemies have their own music or signal to tell you they are in a room. The music mostly matches the ambience aside from some updated tunes like Magmoor and event driven music like Space Pirate attack. It’s very subtle and suiting, and occasionally comes to the foreground to make you realize just how good it is.
I really could ramble on and on about the game and how great it is. It has excellent puzzles that, while sometimes strangely placed, are a welcome reprieve from a Metroid or Space Pirate attack. The bosses are absolutely huge and epic and require different strategies. The enemies all have their own personalities and unique attack formations (for example, a shee-goth acts very differently from a metroid. A metroid will float about aimlessly in an almost terrifying carefree manner until you provoke it or it sees you. A shee-goth will get up from its slumber when yo come near and charge you until you ‘blast ‘em in the ass’, as Chuck would say). Certain enemies disrupt Samus’ visor and cause it to fuzz out, an amazingly real technique. the ball form is so fun that it feels like it should be its own game. It moves like a large marble (and sounds like one) and leads to some great 2D side scrolling puzzles. The game also excellently spaces out your ability to access areas through the power-up distribution. At first some areas seem impossible to access, but by the end, you will see how easy it is to get to these areas. The way it mimics the 2-dimensional games like SotN and Super Metroid is a remarkable feat.
I have to say that this may be one of the best games I have ever played.