Reviews: Metroid Prime

A Maze With a Dark, Lonely Atmosphere...

...Your reaction might depend on your tastes.

Between this and Majora's Mask, I think I shouldn't just jump into acclaimed games and always expect things to go swimmingly. As a newb to both Metroid and Metroidvanias, and to appreciate "classics," I bought the original GameCube version, and had a mixed experience. The graphics and presentation are certainly brilliant. The controls, while a bit clunky at first, I eventually managed to grasp, and combat and gameplay turned out to be smooth and engaging enough.

Where the game gripped me less successfully was the narrative. After investigating the Orpheon and chasing Ridley to Tallon IV, you're left to your own devices. There are no friendly NPCs at all, and you have to explore for... whatever reasons. I can't say I'm fond of this incommunicado approach. To learn more about the world and what you have to do, you must use a scanning mechanic. But there were so many things to scan. I was overwhelmed by information overload from walls and walls of text, but I scanned everything anyway for fear I'd miss something important. There was some absorbing info (like tidbits of "Chozo" and "Phazon"), but reading scan after scan just wasn't as captivating as, say, talking to an actual character (at least when scanning's the only method available). So while it was occasionally engaging, it was also very tedious.

The biggest hurdle was, of course, the backtracking. It's only exacerbated by Tallon IV literally being a maze. All too often, I'd find myself lost or taking a pointlessly long route to get from A to B, only to discover B didn't have what I wanted in the first place. Fun that was not. I suppose some might enjoy this exploration and realism, but a combination of differing tastes and bad luck(/skill?) prevented me.

After winning, I contemplated 100% completion, but upon learning of scanning missables and the five octillion scattered upgrades I had yet to grab (and flashbacks of backtracking), I quickly forgot that. Overall, Metroid Prime was fine, but not my cup of tea. If you wanna try it, expect a dark, lonesome atmosphere, extensive backtracking, and don't get lost. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it more than I did.

There Is No Polygon Ceiling

The easiest way to describe Metroid Prime is this: You know how Mario 64 was so succesfuly because it changed the premise from crossing a 2D plane towards a goal to a series minor tasks in a major 3D environment? Metroid, however, didn't need to change a thing. The greatest strength of Metroid was always exploration, and the addition of a third dimension only enhanced that.

If you enjoyed a 2D Metroid, you'll enjoy a 3D Metroid. The idea of switching to a first-person perspective may put you off, but once you start playing it immediatelly becomes clear that putting the camera inside Samus Aran's helmet only adds to the sense of immersion. Ambient sounds combine with a camera that reacts naturally to its surroundings, doing a better job of making the player forget they're sitting in the living room and focus completely on the environment of the alien planet they're exploring.

Gush-tapping demands at least one complaint, and for the Metroid Prime series that complaint belongs with the Gamecube controls. However, with the entire Prime series having been re-released with flawless Wiimote precision controls, that complaint is completely eliminiated. Beyond that, Metroid Prime manages to convey not only the greatest features of the 2D Metriods but also the minor annoyances. Yes, there's lots of backtracking, yes, you may get lost, and yes you'll waste plenty of spare time hunting down those last few missile upgrades preventing you from reaching 100% completion.

Metroid Prime is Metriod in 3D. Undoubtedly the textbook example of the transition done right.

Score: Almost perfect.