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Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii) artwork

Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii) review

"Those who have played through the games before can likely think of a number of places where improved control would come in handy, and they should rest assured that in most cases the experience feels every bit as wonderful as they imagine."

Nintendo can be such a tease! Months after revealing its New Play Control line, the company still hadn't confirmed the release the first two Metroid Prime games in North America. We got Pikmin, Mario Power Tennis and even Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Samus Aran, however, appeared only in conversations held by gamers who talked about how sweet it would be to finally relive those two GameCube classics with the Wii control scheme implemented by Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Then came the surprise: in late May of 2009, Nintendo revealed that North America wouldn't be receiving those titles after all.

What could have been a crushing blow was softened by a hasty and welcome explanation. It turned out that the reason the first two games weren't going to arrive in North America is that they'd been bundled together--along with the third installment--to form Metroid Prime Trilogy. For the price of a single game, anxious fans would finally be able to enjoy the beloved series with a single control scheme, on a single disc and on a single system. It seemed almost too good to be true, but fortunately Nintendo was done teasing; only three months after the surprise announcement, the compilation has arrived. All that's left now is to see how well everything came together.

The glue that binds in this particular case is the new play control method. When Metroid Prime first arrived on the scene in 2002, one of the main complaints people lodged against it was the lack of dual-analog controls. The same held true of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, so that by the time Metroid Prime 3: Corruption arrived in 2007, the point-and-shoot mechanic not only felt fresh because it's the sort of thing Wii was made for, but because within the franchise its inclusion felt overdue. There was a price to pay, however.

While the first two games had offered generally tight and predictable control, the new scheme can leave a question in your mind about how well everything will go. Sometimes you need to stop to collect your thoughts--and concentration--before attempting a tricky series of jumps or wandering into a difficult battle. That's because both the camera and your shots are aimed by the Wii Remote. To turn, you have to move toward a given edge of the viewing perspective, at which point the camera will swing accordingly. Then you move your cross hairs back toward the center of the screen and aim within your more limited perspective... you hope. Sometimes, the Wii Remote gets stuck along the edge and the results can be distracting as Samus spins rapidly in perfect circles until you convince the camera that yes, you really have moved the Wii Remote back toward the center of the screen and would very much like to aim at the approaching enemy or to negotiate that series of jumps with some sort of stability.

Overall, despite the occasional hangup, the new control scheme is an improvement. Both Metroid Prime and its immediate successor feel smooth now. Some battles are easier to survive because in the likely event that you play through a sequence without encountering any control issues, you can easily strafe and shoot with fluidity not previously possible. Those who have played through the games before can likely think of a number of places where that sort of control would come in handy, and they should rest assured that in most cases the experience feels every bit as wonderful as they imagine.

Besides the revised control scheme, Metroid Prime Trilogy now offers a ton of unlockable content. As you work through each of the games, satisfying certain objectives (such as defeating a boss or scanning a set number of enemies) will result in a medallion appearing briefly on-screen. These medallions can be considered loot. From the main screen where you now select which game to play--none of the games have individual title screens anymore, but instead are selected from a menu that is in turn associated with one of three profiles you can create--you can head into an "Extras" menu and spend your in-game currency on selections from the soundtrack, pages of concept art and so forth. It's a nice reward for working through the games again.

Of course, most gamers won't need that incentive because the Metroid Prime trilogy is so good right to its core that they'll be anxious to relive those excellent adventures. Playing through the three games back-to-back can diminish some of the enjoyment if a person doesn't pace himself, but there's no rule saying that you have to be a glutton. The bundle consists of somewhere around 50 or 60 hours of play, which is perfect to keep someone busy for a month or so with frequent play sessions. And despite the age of the series, it's unlikely that you'll feel like you're stepping into a museum; all three of the games are a feast for the senses, with some of the finest art direction seen since gaming discovered the third dimension.

Despite their similarities, there also are important differences between each of the included Metroid Prime titles that make each one feel distinct. The first game feels very much like you'd expect from an attempt to take the sensibilities of Super Metroid into the third dimension. Exploration serves as a primary focus, as does the act of backtracking to areas previously visited once you have acquired new gear. There's a definite sense of an organic environment, whether you're hopping up platforms around a massive tree or wandering through frozen snowdrifts or even leaping over roiling lava as wyrms emerge from the molten depths to spray you with fire. Cinematic boss battles cement the classic experience that many consider the trilogy's strongest entry.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes continues in much the same vein, but brings along a few key differences that change the overall dynamic. Samus Aran again finds herself mostly alone on an isolated planet at the galaxy's edge, but now her exploration is more structured. There seem to be fewer detours and there's a lot of prodding to keep moving forward, which leads inevitably to the dark world. Here, the very atmosphere drains energy unless Samus takes shelter within the reach of light crystals. Exploration often amounts to a series of quick dashes from one shelter to another, which would keep things tense except that sometimes the player is forced to stop and let energy regenerate before moving onward. This can get tedious and kill momentum, plus the environments that must be navigated seem less varied. As a result, the game is less of a treat than perhaps it could have been.

As the first installment to arrive on Wii, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption could probably have rehashed the first two games with prettier visuals and the new play control. People would have been delighted. While some of that did indeed occur, Retro Studios continued its ambitious evolution of the series. Sometimes that worked for the better--as with an early cinematic struggle against a familiar foe to the backtrack of a space station under siege--but there are other times when the sprawling universe feels a bit too grand for its own good. Samus can now travel between planets, not just regions. This has the effect of ensuring that the scale seems more impressive than ever before, and the remarkably polished visuals ensure that new environments are a treat, but sometimes the design feels less refined than it did in previous installments.

If each of the games included here falters on occasion, however, the series as a whole never really does. The weakest moments are inevitably followed by something fantastic and the status quo is one to which many games can only aspire. As such, Metroid Prime Trilogy is one of the strongest compilations in recent memory, even if it is comprised of only three titles. That would have been true of the bundle even without the generally refined controls, the ocean of unlockable content and the new option to view everything in a widescreen format. Instead of straight ports, though, you get the definitive version of three of the best adventure games in recent memory, wrapped nicely in a collectible steel slipbook with artwork. Nintendo may have made gamers wait awhile to get the goods, but the delay was worth it. Here's hoping that there's more teasing to come...


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 25, 2009)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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zigfried posted August 25, 2009:

I was glad to see this review, and glad to hear that the games all remain excellent. This won't surprise you, but I've never played any of the Metroid Prime games. What might surprise you is that I'm actually in the market for a Wii (blame No More Heroes) and the timeliness of this review makes me think that perhaps this is a good candidate for Game #2.

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jiggs posted August 25, 2009:

i already own all three games and i wouldn't mind buying all three games again just for the sexy packaging and revamped controls for the original games. never got to finish Metroid Prime 2 though...because that game at times can be frustratingly difficult, but i heard they balanced the difficulty out in the revamped edition.
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jerec posted August 25, 2009:

I'm glad I didn't get around to buying Metroid Prime 3, because if I want to now, I can get this one. But I still probably won't. Nice review, Venter. It told me all I wanted to know!
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Suskie posted August 25, 2009:

Just picked mine up today and scored a nifty poster and T-shirt in the process. Sweet packaging. I can't wait to play.
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Masters posted August 26, 2009:

You and me both, Zig.
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drella posted August 26, 2009:

Congrats on #500, bossman.
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zippdementia posted August 26, 2009:

Every six months or so I feel bad about having gotten rid of my Wii. This is one of those times.

Oh well, guess I'll have to make do with the incredibly awesome Arkham Asylum (holy shit it's great).
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jiggs posted August 26, 2009:

i can't wait for Muramasa: The Demon Blade to come out. another reason to get a Wii.

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