Time to be totally honest here: the underdog turns out to be an all-time classic. Metroid Prime, surrounded by so many rumours about development troubles, is nothing short of a breath-taking experience. We would even go as far as mention it in the same breath with the Nintendo 64 classic Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. No doubt you are wondering to yourself how on earth a game can be this good. Weâll tell you.
The first hour or so in Metroid Prime acts like an intro, giving you time to learn the basic controls while the story develops. Nintendo seems to have a patent on engrossing game intros. Instead of most other games where a boring trial is present, here you actually feel like youâre learning while having fun. You are excused when thinking in this first hour that the game is nothing special, but at the end of this beginning, youâll find yourself totally engrossed and youâll realise the perfectionism of this game. You wonât be able to put it down from there.
People new to the series (and youâre excused for this as well: the last Metroid game was on the Super Nintendo) have nothing to worry: Metroid Prime introduces you to the female bounty hunter in the orange robot suit, Samus Aran, all over again. It will also introduce you to an entirely new way to playing shooters. In fact, Nintendo is calling this new genre the first person adventure instead of first person shooter. Youâll move around with the analogue stick, but you wonât be able to look upwards and downwards: this also means no strafing. Unless you use the R button at the top of the controller to look around freely (while unable to move) or to lock on enemies or items, not unlike the latest Zelda games.
But thereâs more to it: for instance, the C-stick will allow you to change your gun. Actually, your gun stays the same, but thereâs different (endless) ammunition to use. Thereâs also the ability to use rockets, although these do no run on an endless supply. The real innovation lies in the age old D-Pad: you can use this to change your visor. In Metroid Prime, you see everything through Samus Aranâs visor: from the steam making it all moist, to the water leaving little drops on it. You can change the standard visor into three other visors, with one being used a lot: the scan visor. With this, you can lock on computers and little tiles spread everywhere in the gaming world. They hold lots of information and they are the only thing driving the story of Metroid Prime further. No real cut scenes, just text. Itâs different, but it works quite engrossing. Itâs not for everyone of course, so some players might grow tired and skip through all the text. Weâd advise against this, as there is some really interesting information stored in most of it.
Samus is also able to roll in a ball, the Morph Ball. The camera will flip to third person and youâre off rolling around. At first, this seems like a handy mechanism to roll through tiny holes and past hard to reach places, but later in the game, puzzles especially designed for the Morph Ball will prove to be one of the most enjoyable facets of the game.
In the intro, youâll land on a Pirate spaceship (the Pirates are the baddies in the game, that use an evil substance and the horrible Metroid creatures for their own good) and youâll get to grips with the controls by infiltrating the ship. Youâll get used to everything fairly quickly, and just when you feel secure enough, youâll face the first boss, and what a boss it is. Beat it and a timer starts counting down: race to the surface of the ship in a hurry to survive. The word exciting doesnât do it justice.
After this intro, you land on the planet youâre going to walk around on for the rest of the game. This planet is so engrossing because it presents itâs own ecosystem. Every interesting plant or creature (be it offensive or just going itâs own way without noticing you) can be scanned and more can be learned of it. It feels like youâre walking around in a living, breathing world and while thereâs no interaction between other characters at all (which makes the feeling of total abandonment stronger), youâll feel like youâre really there. Raindrops on your visor only makes this feeling stronger.
The game takes on a Zelda-like structure from there. While factually the game is one big world, it is still divided up in themes such as an ice world, a lava world and an industry world that canât be visited all at once. Rather, youâll have to find new items to enchant your suit to reach places you couldnât reach before. Mostly, these items are acquired by beating a boss or solving a giant puzzle, and the feeling of accomplishment when you succeed in collecting a new item is unparalleled.
The big world does bring a few drawbacks. Sometimes, despite the maps in the game, itâs easy to get lost, and getting back to a place you couldnât reach before can be a right pain in the butt thanks to extensive backtracking and some maze-like environments. This sometimes borders on irritating, but itâs a small problem that youâll want to forgive, since the rest of the game is such an accomplishment.
Itâs hard to pinpoint what makes this game so good, rather itâs a mix of all sorts of elements that makes it such an adventure. The boss battles really are highlights in the game, with all sorts of ingenious ways to battle them, not to mention the size of the creatures can really intimidate. The simple joy of reading about the environments, jumping your way through levels like it is a platformer and solving clever puzzles with your morph ball is enough to make even the most jaded gamer smile.
So, Metroid Prime is far more than we could hope it would be. Itâs definitely the game that makes a purchase of the GameCube worthy, and maybe itâs even the best game of this generation, although that is, of course, too early to tell. With the few small niggles in the game not providing any real trouble and most of the game being not only beautiful to look at and ingenious to play through, but also a downright challenge for any gamer to take part in, what we have here is no doubt an all time classic. A high quality, substantial adventure was what the GameCube was lacking, but Metroid Prime presents it on a golden plate for you. Buy, buy, buy!
- Big adventure in immersive world.
- Satisfying gameplay and way of exploring more and more of the game world.
- Probably the deepest shooter ever made.
- Some backtracking makes for some boring minutes.
This game is for: Everyone should try this just once to see if itâs for them. Even shooter haters.
This game is not for: No one. Try it before you die.
Written by Michel Musters (Moz La Punk) / Previously published on www.mozlapunk.net