Retro Review: Metroid Prime (GCN)
You know what makes me feel old? The fact that I’m even calling this game “Retro”. Has it really been more than 10 years since the release of Metroid Prime?! I still remember when I was first introduced to this game, well more specifically, the main character Samus Aran.
I remember owning a copy of the original Metroid for the NES…I also remember it being frustrating. I understood that the object was to explore the area, but this game was pretty brutal for its time and for me being the young gamer at the time, I skipped it. This would also mean that I would skip the acclaimed Super Metroid for the SNES, which I would eventually play years down the road. Better late than never I suppose.
It was actually Super Smash Bros for the N64 where my curiosity of Samus grew. I kept wondering about who she was and her popularity in the Nintendo world. It wouldn’t be till years later when Metroid Prime was released for the Nintendo GameCube. I may have missed the other great installments, but I wasn’t about to miss her first 3D adventure. And boy did I pick a great title to begin my true experience into the franchise that is Metroid.
Our adventure begins with our bounty hunter heroine receiving a distress call from a nearby space station. Turns out, this station is run by the notorious space pirates as they’re experimenting with a dangerous element known as “Phazon”. Exposure to Phazon can kill some life-forms or mutate them into something dangerous and hideous. When you arrive at the station things are quiet and the station is heavily damaged. Something happened here and the only clues are the dead bodies of space pirates. This really sets the stage in and immerses the gamer with a curious and nervous sensation. What happened here? The only clues given are how these space pirates died via your visors scanner. Everything from broken spines, severe burns, head injuries, internal bleeding, you name it. Yeah you read that right, mortal injuries described in depth in a Nintendo game. Still think it doesn’t appeal to a hardcore demographic?
Soon after your exploration, the space station becomes unstable and begins to self-destruct. As you escape two major events happen. It turns out that Samus’s nemesis (say that five times fast) Ridley, has been revived and is now in a metallic form that looks like something from a metal band in the 80’s. Not only that, but due to an explosion, you lose most, if not all, of your power-ups. Charge shot? Gone. Morph Ball? Non-existent. Missiles? HA, you wish. After dragging yourself back to your ship, you take off in hot pursuit of Ridley to the planet Talon IV and with that, the true adventure begins!
Throughout the game, you’ll be exploring every corner of the planet not only in search of Ridley, but to recollect your upgrades along with some new ones to help find out the mystery behind this planet. If there’s one thing I love about this game, its the cinematic immersion. Whenever I reclaimed an old or new power-up, I really felt a sense of progression and that I was only growing stronger. With new abilities, I could access new areas and take down enemies that once proved challenging.
As you continue to explore the planet, you’ll come across some hidden Chozo lore and Space Pirate data that begins to shine some light on whats really going down. Theres the occasional mention of Phazon, the death of the Chozo inhabitants and brief mentions of a being known as Metroid Prime. It was this information that I stumbled upon that really drew me in my first time playing it. I knew about as much as Samus did when she first arrived planet-side and wanted to know the answers to the many questions in my head. What was once a mission of hunting down Ridley, suddenly expanded into something bigger than collecting a bounty. This sense of immersion is one of the major points that really sold the game for me. Well, that and its control.
Not only is Metroid Prime the first Metroid game on the GameCube, but its the first time the franchise has taken a step into the 3D world. I’m not really sure why it took so long for this to happen. Mario and Zelda did a fantastic job adapting to a 3D environment, maybe they wanted to wait a until they had stronger hardware? Either way, the game looks gorgeous! Every time I boot it up, I’m blown away by how well the game has aged and that this was released on the GameCube.
Previous installments in the Metroid franchise were 2D platformers with a large emphasis in exploration. In Metroid Prime, we’re instead given a First Person Shooter (FPS). This was something interesting to adjust to but with the games fantastic controller set-up, it would become an easy transition and something enjoyable in the Prime games to come.
If there was a negative thing that I could point out, it’s the back tracking. I’ve never been a fan of back tracking in any game no matter the amount of warp points or fast travel. I’ll avoid spoiling this as much as possible, but theres a section near the end of the game that will require you to find specific hidden objects needed to advance the plot. While it does feel rewarding finding these objects using only the cryptic hints given, I felt as though it was only there to elongate the game. But this of course was a minor nuisance that in no way makes the game unplayable.
Nintendo did release the Metroid Prime Trilogy for the Wii, which contains Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. While Metroid Prime 3 is already a Wii title, Metroid Prime and Echoes have been given updates incorporating the use of the Wii-mote similar to that of Metroid Prime 3. If you can find this pack, I highly recommend picking it up. Just be warned that it might cost a pretty penny seeing as though how rare it is.
Metroid Prime was both a fantastic game and a fantastic first step for future 3D Metroid games. From its cinematic quality, an evolving story and easy to pick up controls makes this a title that belongs in any Nintendo fans collection. Do yourself a favor, pick up a copy and I’ll see you next mission!