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Metroid Prime (GameCube) artwork

Metroid Prime (GameCube) review

"Metroid Prime is not a first-person shooter, however. Nintendo itself has hailed the title as a first-person “adventure,” and for good reason; throughout the game, the player must pay close attention to his or her surroundings, observing and thinking more than shooting."

When Nintendo first announced that the GameCube Metroid title would involve a first-person perspective, the first thing it received was skepticism…lots of it. Many gamers did not feel that Metroid belonged in the first-person perspective; after all, the series was all about exploration and platforming, and how much of this could be accomplished in first-person? The answer is plenty. Metroid Prime not only manages to perfectly convert the mysterious feel of Samus’ world into 3D, it also ends up being one of the greatest games ever made, more than worthy of the Metroid name.

The game begins with Samus Aran, shortly after the events of the original Metroid, boarding a Space Pirate vessel orbiting Tallon IV, a planet in the same solar system as SR-388 and Zebes. After witnessing the cruel research being performed and engaging in a rather heated rendezvous with a parasitic experiment, Samus evacuates as the frigate destructs, and follows a certain mischievous, winged creature—reborn and improved—to the surface of Tallon IV, ready to investigate.

As the player traverses through the (gorgeous) environments of Tallon IV, everything is seen from behind Samus’ visor. The entire HUD display is very detailed, and creates a very sleek appearance yet still contains all the necessary components—an energy meter, missile count, radar, map, even a danger gauge. As Samus gains new visors, such as the infrared Thermal Visor, the interface changes, omitting certain features, but they all retain the sleek, futuristic look that should be expected.

The Scan Visor, available from the start, is in a league of its own: as she investigates her surroundings, Samus must scan certain objects to gain information. Creatures may be scanned to discover weaknesses, while Chozo lore explains much about the galaxy’s past. Everything is added to a log book for future reference, giving Samus a strong opportunity to gain an advantage over her threatening surroundings.

Each of Samus’ beams has its own unique look and function; the Power Beam is the basic weapon, fast and powerful, while the Ice Beam can freeze enemies. Knowing when to use each beam in combat becomes an essential factor in survival, just as using each visor in the appropriate situation is imperative to progression.

As in the other Metroid titles, Prime uses item upgrades as rewards for accomplishing tasks, such as the famous Charge Beam. Each of these items allows Samus to reach previously inaccessible areas, so remembering areas you cannot reach at the present time, but could reach with a certain upgrade, is a key factor in progressing.

The first-person engine is surprisingly well executed. Jumping is not a hassle as in other first-person games, as Retro Studios made an extra effort to make sure jumping was simple and easy to pull off. In an interesting innovation, during combat a lock-on feature is present. This works much like the N64 Zelda titles, allowing you to move around while you battle your opponents, instead of being bogged down to simple strafing as in most first-person shooters. Against multiple enemies, this allows Samus to focus on one opponent at a time, and she can strafe, run, and jump all while shooting at the same enemy.

Metroid Prime is not a first-person shooter, however. Nintendo itself has hailed the title as a first-person “adventure,” and for good reason; throughout the game, the player must pay close attention to his or her surroundings, observing and thinking more than shooting. The only thing the first-person perspective does is put you behind Samus’ visor; this game is Super Metroid in 3D. Shooting enemies is only part of the equation, as playing with the environment, discovering new things and opening new paths is necessary in order to succeed.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t keep you interested, however. There are enemies, lots of them, and finding the best way to destroy each one quickly is an important lesson. Most of the common enemies are easy to defeat, and offer many weaknesses for you to take advantage of. Other, more powerful opponents take more effort to beat, and many require that the player learn quickly how to avoid attacks as well as deal them effectively. The boss battles are what you would expect in an adventure title—large, menacing monsters with a key weakness that you must discover and employ in order to defeat them. The entire bestiary is creative and original, and they all seem in place with the Metroid universe, complimenting the futuristic, intergalactic feel that the characters provide.

Suffice to say, this game is beautiful. Aside from a few boring textures (that never seem out of place, however), the environments are all immersive and breathtaking. Each world contains its own unique areas, though they all feel interconnected and never alien to their surroundings. Samus’ visor interacts with rain, dust, and blood spatter, and one particular effect with water streaming off the visor after emerging from the water managed to rouse a “Wow!” out of my brother and I. The character models are particularly impressive: Samus looks amazing in her various suits, while the enemies are well animated and contribute well to the atmosphere.

The music, which comes straight from NCL’s fine composing team, draws the player into the environments with its wonderful techno feel, though each piece is instantly recognizable with the world it represents. Every enemy has their own unique sound effects, which often serve as cues to the player as to what’s in store, while each of Samus’ weapons offers an appropriate aural accompaniment.

The only major flaw in the game is the presence of a rather annoying glitch—occasionally the game will freeze after riding an elevator, causing you to reset the system and continue from where you last saved. This is unfortunate, though it really doesn’t detract from the overall experience of the game; everything is so well done, so polished, that this can easily be forgiven.

Metroid Prime is, truly, one of the greatest games ever made. Worthy of both the Metroid franchise and the Nintendo name, the first 3D adventure in the series has ended up as arguably the best, despite its harsh criticism at its announcement. Retro Studios has pulled off something great, a game that is so unbelievably polished it is hard to find any flaws without being too picky, save for the one glitch. With a good 30 hours of gameplay, as well as a few bonuses to encourage further play time, no self-respecting gamer can afford to miss Metroid Prime. It’s fantastic.

Knux's avatar
Staff review by Zack M (November 29, 2002)

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