reviews\ Nov 22, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Metroid Prime - GC - Review

It began long ago, several months before the world was aware of its presence.  A top-secret project was brewing in the offices of an unknown building, one that housed collaboration between two of the world's deadliest corporations.  Their goals, inconceivable.  Their intentions, purely evil.  But if they were to succeed, a new force would be unleashed, one that would be powerful enough to consume our entire lives!  Soul-snatching, this was not.  No, this "force" would attack the eyes, the ears, and the most important part of a man's body...his thumbs!

Upon the product's completion, a small, square-like object appeared from within one of the evil corporations.  Its name was new and unfamiliar at the time, though now it is slowly becoming common in many American homes.  Its objective was invisible, hoping to hide the truth from any predators that may be watching from afar.  But we figured out what it was.  The truth was revealed!  These evil corporations weren't only after our thumbs; they were out to entertain us, too!  They conveyed this message with one tiny, three-letter word: fun.

Now that the truth was out, there was nothing left for "them" to do.  They decided to unleash the finished project, knowing that none of us would be able to resist temptation, even if it meant losing our thumbs.

As we sell our thumbs, eyes and ears to Metroid Prime, the first next-generation game in the series (from Retro Studios, developer, and Nintendo of America, publisher), we're thankful that we had these body parts to barter for this entertainment.

Like Super Mario 64, Metroid Prime's release was long overdue.  However, once you play it, you won't care anymore.  Metroid Prime didn't interest me too much at first.  I was just as skeptical of the game as anybody else.  Most games aren't as good in the third dimension, and this one would force gamers to play from a first-person perspective.  It sounded odd and unnatural, like a great game development idea gone bad.  But the only "bad" thing about it was my skepticism, which should not have existed at all.  Although my lack of interest made the wait go faster, Metroid Prime deserved a higher amount of anticipation from the gaming community than it received.  An overabundance of hype is never a good thing, unless everything the developer says is true.  Metroid Prime's perfect transition from the second to the third dimension proves that Retro Studios was not lying.

The controls are not set up like your typical first-person shooter.  In fact, Metroid Prime's controls are not like any other FPS out there.  The left thumbstick is dedicated to Samus’s forward and backwards movement.  It's possible to strafe, though it's only necessary when locked-on to an enemy.  When the lock-on button (L) is not depressed, pressing the thumbstick left or right will result in a turn in that direction.  This feels awkward at first, especially if you're used to playing console first-person shooters like Halo and Medal of Honor: Frontline.  But, as you'll quickly find out, Metroid Prime is not a first-person shooter.  Nintendo has dubbed it as a "first-person adventure," but I wouldn't call it that either.  Instead, I'll refer to Metroid as a true 3D successor to its legendary franchise.  The first-person perspective just happens to be the way that Retro Studios chose to translate the gameplay from one dimension to the other.  A wise decision, indeed -- without the first-person view, most of the game's coolest play mechanics could not have been created.  The view makes you feel as though you're wearing Samus’s visor.  At times it even makes the game feel a little claustrophobic, adding to the effect.  Not only that, but camera problems tend to arise in third-person adventure games.  Metroid Prime avoided that problem by going with a more appropriate view.

One of the new additions to the series is the Scan Visor, which allows you to scan every area of the game for door switches, ancient marks (that, when activated, unlock specific doors), poisonous plants and deadly monsters, among other things.  Once scanned, monster data will be added to your log book.  You can usually unlock a door just by finding its switch, assuming that's how it has to be unlocked.  The Scan Visor is extremely clever, but it's only one of three unique visors that Samus can use.  Don't even think about asking what the other two are though -- you're better off finding out for yourself!

The things that make Metroid Prime a true Metroid game are the levels, the battles and the puzzles.  Designing levels is no easy task.  Anyone can make a bad level, but a good level, or even a great level, is extremely hard to create.  Somehow, someway, Retro Studios has managed to convert the classic Metroid feel to the third dimension without rehashing any of the 2D environments.  Every level feels like a new experience.  They're perfectly designed in such a way that they never feel too big (which causes boredom) or too small.  You'll be amazed by the depth of each area of the game.  Even small, seemingly insignificant rooms have hidden areas that are not easily found, and are not easily accessed.

Metroid Prime's battle system is quite different from what I expected.  You have the ability to lock-on to every enemy you come in contact with.  While targeting a monster, Samus can evade attacks by moving around (circling) the enemy.  It sounds strange, but it works very well, especially during the boss battles.  Some of the bosses will blow you away.  They're big, beautiful and require a little bit of brain-power to defeat them.  However, once you figure out how to defeat them, winning isn't very difficult.  Find their weakness, master their pattern and blast them into oblivion.

A great deal of hype surrounded Metroid Prime's "Morph Ball" technique.  The Morph Ball allows you to "morph" into a ball and roll through small and hidden areas that were previously inaccessible.  Here the game cinematically switches to a slick third-person view with an impressive computer-controlled camera.  This is perhaps the most simplistic part of the game, but it's so much fun to roll around, and such an integral part of the transition that I really can't complain.  Samus can move a lot faster while rolling, making it possible to evade enemies and escape a dangerous area, including a space station that's about to self-destruct...

Within Metroid Prime's exquisite world, you'll find a plethora of puzzles that'll boggle your mind!  Seriously, the puzzles can be pretty mind-boggling.  Some of the more obvious puzzles tend to be the hardest, since you never expect the obvious solution to be correct.  I'm not going to reveal the game's coolest puzzles since that would spoil all of the fun, but I must give you one example.  In the beginning of the game, you'll come across a hologram of a round object.  Your scanner tells you that a sphere-like object must be placed inside of the slot below the hologram to open the door.  Can you figure out what needs to be done?  Ten minutes passed before it dawned on me that if I switch to the Morph Ball, Samus will become a sphere-like object!

If Nintendo had more games like this coming to the 'Cube, there'd be nothing that could stop them from beating Microsoft, and Sony would have to work really hard if they wanted to stay #1.  By all means, do whatever it takes to get this game.  Even if it means buying a brand-new console.  It's worth every penny.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 9.7
Despite not being a full-fledged FPS, Metroid Prime may go down in history as being the best single-player first-person shooter ever made.  This is by far the greatest game available for the 'Cube.  A must-have title for absolutely everyone.

Graphics: 9.5 
Metroid Prime features out-of-this-world visuals that no one knew the GameCube could produce.  It'll make you wonder why all GameCube games don't look this good.

Sound: 8
Deep and atmospheric, Metroid Prime's sound suits the game well.

Difficulty: Medium
None of Metroid Prime's enemies are too difficult to defeat on the first few tries, though the puzzles and the perfect level design will keep most hardcore gamers from finishing the game too quickly.  No matter what though, you'll still want more when it ends, a good sign of a classic game.

Concept: 9.5 
Metroid Prime's brilliant, extremely original design is a better-than-perfect transition from Retro to next-generation gameplay.

Overall: 9.7
Retro Studios could end up being the best game development company that Nintendo has ever worked with.  Metroid Prime is 100% Metroid.  It may not seem like it at first, but believe me, it is.  Retro Studios has taken a classic 2D series and moved into the third dimension without a single mistake.  I'd buy a GameCube for this game alone!  "What, you mean to tell me that this game is worth $150?"  Yep, that's right.  If there is one GameCube game that I wish had never ended, this is it.


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