Review: Metroid Prime

1986. The year that Nintendo, or Gunpei Yokoi more specifically, launched upon an unsuspecting market the glorious wonder that is Metroid. Sure, it looks past its time now, but the core gameplay remains intact, and is seen all jazzed up in the latest instalment of the Metroid series, Metriod Prime. It was a risk. It was new. This wasn't "jump on bad guys head enter opened door repeat until finale" gameplay, this involved collecting improvements, re-visiting old areas with new hope, knowing a new area was at the mercy of your fingertips. The development team threw out the "how to make a platform game" book and said dammit, lets do something different. And how they succeeded. Metroid was a classic, the later released Metroid II (1991 U.S) on the Game Boy, still an essential purchase, continued the series reputation for distinguishing gameplay and high quality. Three years later the epic Super Metroid was released, the best in the series to date. It's been nine long years until a new Metroid, and they came twofold, with Fusion and Prime. The most significant European GameCube release so far, people say this could make or break the console. Well, lets just say I'm throwing my lot with Nintendo, as this is possibly the best game ever created.

You run home from your local game store, giggling like a little schoolgirl, as you have in your hands Metroid Prime, and you know that behind that familiar Nintendo plastic wrapping that there is a true gem inside. You open your GameCube, quickly dispose of whatever disk that's in there (in my case, Sonic Mega Collection) and quickly, yet carefully, remove the disk from its box and put it into your GameCube, and hear the satisfying "click" as your disk locks into place. Feverishly, you sit back, take your controller into one hand, and reach over your GameCube with the other, and turn it on. Your experience has begun. Welcome to Metroid Prime.

Graphics:

Metroid Prime is a graphical masterpiece. From the outset, on the derelict space frigate, you begin to see not only the special effects and textures of the graphics, but the style that the game is presented in. It has barriers so you cant jump off the level, you see a thin yellow bar blocking your escape, but they are done so well as to make you think that they were put there for a reason, so they crew of the ship wouldn't fall off. Its little things like this you may not think about twice that make Prime so fantastic. The visor was one of the most advertised features of the game, and it turned out brilliantly. Walk through steam and your visor gets fogged up, and some moisture is seen on the visor. Blow an enemy to smithereens up close and you get a tour of their insides on your face. Skilfully dodge a rocket and see as a result of the brilliant light created, your reflection in the visor and then whilst you admire the sight, for only about a half a second, the second rocket hits you square in the face and you're out cold. Visor upgrades are also readily available, which include a Thermal scanner, a la Predator, an X-ray scanner, a la every sci-fi movie ever, and a scan visor, which is very important to your progression, and the traditional combat visor, used mostly for dispatching regular foes.

The levels are beautifully rich in detail and some of the textures used are nothing short of stunning. The levels are definitely huge, but thanks to graphic design of these levels, you always know whether you have been in a certain room or not. The enemies which occupy each of the game's levels were designed clearly with each location you visit taken into consideration. The enemies belong in each level, and need specific tactics to exterminate. The animation is first class, as you see smaller enemies scuttling around on a specific path, you see other larger enemies who lumber around sluggishly. Everything looks right, and despite the many arguments about gameplay over graphics, or vica-versa, it is important to the gameplay and the other elements of the game that everything looks as it should, and its helps to no end to heighten the interactivity of Prime.

Sound:

From the opening titles of the game, the music is pleasing to the ear, sounding like the older Metroids but tying in some funkier effects. The sound effects are very similar to the earlier games, yet the game does take full advantage of Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound, which simply means utterly fantastic sound if you can get the right setup. Whether the music is coming at you full force during a ferocious gunfight or creeping up behind you whilst searching a seemingly dormant cave, you always know its there, but it never goes too far as to distract you from your exploring. The way the music changes when you encounter a Space Pirate or Chozo Ghost adds to the experience of fighting them, as the music gets you all hyped up for the battle that will surely ensue. Very little speech is used throughout your adventure, except for a "recorded to log book" announcement upon scanning an item. This does help the atmosphere of the game, as you are left with no human contact and helps to add to the theme of isolationism. You could also take the opinion that they didn't have enough room on the disk to throw in more speech, and that too is likely, so id say it's a combination of both.

Gameplay:

Now we reach the most important part of any game, its gameplay. If any of you has once played a Metroid game you will know that its gameplay is quite unique when compared to your standard first or third person adventure. Thankfully, Metroid Prime keeps the innovative gameplay that saw the earlier games receive so much acclaim for, and Prime deserves the same, if not more, acclaim for bringing this series into fruitation in glorious 3-d. Not only does it fully realise the potential of the three-dimensional world in which gaming now exists, it transforms and enhances the classic series, building on its foundations something unseen and unsurpassed in modern gaming.

When beginning the game, the gameplay seems very straightforward, linear and at times annoying due to the gigantic rarity of save points in the levels. You begin to say, "Why can't I strafe easier? Why do I have to scan things? Why do I only have one gun, where's my minigun? " And first time Metroid players will say this, but the utterly fantastic thing about Prime is that all these initial flaws that bug you upon first play become the very reasons you ask your PS-2 or X-Box owning friends over to show this game off, and when you reach the point you're saying to yourself "Did I scan everything in this room?" you know you've been hooked. The sparse save-points will annoy you to begin with, but this is a game about survival and exploration, and when you visit a save-point, stock up on ammo and look at the elevator leading you to the very depths of the hellish Magmoor caverns, you know why. You're an explorer, not an action hero. The weapons in the game are very few; only 4 real weapons, with one add-on for each. Eventually, you will meet enemies who need a specific weapon in order to defeat them, like for example the purple Space Pirates need the purple gun-wave beam-to defeat them. The weapons each need different tactics to operate efficiently also. The ice beam has a low rate of fire, so the best method for tackling foes with it is to fire and dash for cover. The low amount of weaponry on hand may annoy the more action game orientated gamer, but soon you'll learn to rely on each of these weapons to get you out of a particular situation. One of the greatest qualities of the older Metroids was that you started out with nothing, but by the end you have every possible upgrade and are at the greatest strength possible. You only really notice the changes effecting your suit and weaponry when you re-visit an old area, an area that you had great trouble with earlier on, and then mop the floor with the once-hard enemies. It gives a fantastic feeling of progression, and it really leaves you wanting to hunt down the next piece of your technical gadgetry so that you can have that experience with every place on the map. And you will, provided you give enough time to finish the game proper.

Speaking of the map, it is HUGE. There are four main sections in Tallon IV, and the only disappointing level of the lot is Magmoor caverns. Magmoor caverns acts as a route way to the other three levels of the game, and it also isn't large enough to feel like a wholly independent level. Inevitably, the huge map leads to backtracking, and there is a shocking amount of this in Metroid Prime. It seems if you want to go somewhere, you're never near an elevator to take you there, as they are either bunched way too close together, or are on complete opposite sides of the map. Also, the vast majority of backtracking is done to reach save-points, which are also too few and far between. I have no problem with the location of save-points on most levels; it's on the Phazon Mines level, where it becomes unacceptable. In my opinion (and many others), Phazon Mines is the hardest level of the map. Not only is it the hardest level in the game, it also has the two furthest away save-points ever. At the start of the level there is one, and then there isn't another for at least 45 minutes. Considering within that time the game is throwing everything its got at you, it is very infuriating. When you die after playing for a half an hour and have nothing to show for it, it's annoying to say the least. However, the pros out-weigh the cons by a considerable margin, and don't even come near to ruining the game. In total, the game takes about 8-10 hours to complete, and twice that to complete fully. The amount of stuff to do once the game is finished is insane, as you'll want to collect missed energy tanks, missile expansions, scan-worthy rooms, there is just so much to do. Even saying "right, I think ill go through Chozo Ruins today" shows how your interest remains in the game, despite the obvious handicap of completion. Plus the link-ups with Fusion clearly help prolong the experience to no end. You can get the Fusion costume in Prime, and also, get the original NES Metroid on your GameCube!!! How cool!! So up till now there has been little to no reason to buy a GBA-GC link up cable, now is the perfect time.

Controls:

The controls are fantastic. I don't like how, even when something is scanned, L must still be held down, but it's a minor niggle to an otherwise top class set of controls. The way the D-Pad and C-Stick control visors and weapons respectively was a touch of genius on Retro's part.

3-D Stick-

Move
C-Stick-Change Weapons
D-Pad-Change Visor
L-Button- Hold to strafe-lock on-scan-use grapple beam
R-Button-Aim
A-Button-Fire weapon
B-Button-Jump
Y-Button-Fire rocket-power bomb in Morph ball
X-Button-Morph into Morph ball
Z-Button-Show map

Final Say:

Well, what more can I say. This is the essential GameCube game to own. It mixes strategy, platformer, shoot-em-up, puzzler and everything else to deliver to you, the gamer, possibly the best game ever created. It gives gamers hope for the future now that Rare has left, and with such a top class developer in Retro under Nintendo's belt, you can rest assured they will never let them go. Microsoft had better start counting its days, because if the GameCube keeps getting games of this calibur released regularly, it may even be a threat to the PS-2. Up there with Sonic 2, Ocarina of time and Mario Bros. 3, this is one of, if not the, best game ever created.

Check out the opinions of other C-E staff on Metroid Prime in our mini reviews...

>>> Mini Review #1 - 9.5
>>> Mini Review #2 - 9.7
>>> Mini Review #3 - 9.7
>>> Mini Review #4 - 9.5

N-Europe Final Verdict

Amazing, astonishing and beyond anyones expectations. A true masterpiece.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability5
  • Visuals5
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan5
Final Score

10

Pros

Fantastic Sound
Fantastic Gameplay
Possibly the best game ever

Cons

Rare savepoints
Backtracking
That's it


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