By now the press has gushed so much praise on METROID PRIME that I’m sure a few of you have gotten copies that might be just a little bit sticky. Unlike Star Fox Adventures
, I won’t go against the trend and bash Metroid Prime
. In fact, I think the game has GameCube Game of the Year locked up, and deserves even more accolades than that!
The METROID series originated on the NES, continued to the Game Boy, and eventually made its way to the SNES for the third game. Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance is the sequel to the SNES’s Super Metroid, while Metroid Prime is essentially Metroid 1 ½. Samus is once again chasing after space pirates who are trying to use the Metroid species as a biological weapon.
If you’ve never played Metroid before, this game will seem very odd to you. While you play from the first-person perspective, it’s not really a first-person shooter. It’s a first-person exploration game that has shooting parts. The controls are not typical, the control stick handles forward and backwards movement, as well as turning. Strafing is accomplished by holding down the L button (which also serves to lock onto an enemy, allowing you to circle strafe). If you want to look around, you’ll have to hold down the R button, but you are stationary during this time. I’m sure you’re wondering what Retro decided the C-Stick would be used for.
The C-Stick is used to switch weapons between the four types of beams. You’re not limited to just four types of weapons though, each of them can be charged up. You have a complement of missiles (which can be combined with some beam weapons) as well as bombs and power bombs that you use in ball form. By pressing X you can roll into a ball, and fit into small spaces or roll along certain types of tracks. The Y launches missiles, the Z button brings up the map, and the B button allows you to jump. The D-Pad brings up different visors that you’ll use depending on the circumstances.
The prospect of jumping in a first-person game is an immediate turn off. But it’s pulled off remarkably in PRIME. The jumping actually gets to be fun, especially once you find the double jump power-up. The control scheme as a whole is not the most intuitive, only because it is very different than anything else you’ve ever played. After 5 hours of gameplay or so, it’ll feel very natural.
Once Samus gets onto the planet (the space station portion is a brief intro) she’ll be fairly weak. You’ll have to slowly find her power-ups throughout the levels. This means you’ll be exploring, find places you can’t get to, getting the equipment you need from somewhere else, and then backtracking. Backtracking has always been big in the METROID series, and it never seems to get old in PRIME. It’s the major portion of the puzzles, “ok, I have something new, where can I use it to advance farther?” A lot of the time, these puzzles will yield an expansion to your missile or health capacity, and the rest of the time you’ll find a new ability.
The four visors included in the game also play a big part. Your default is the combat visor. There is also a scan visor that allows you to scan computer screens and pick up information or scan enemies of weak points. Some of these scans add much to the atmosphere and environment that surrounds you. They also tend to add a dark sense of foreboding that is much appreciated in the game. There is also a thermal visor that allows you to see heat, and an X-Ray visor that allows you to see through things.
There is combat though as well, you’ll come across tons of nasty creatures, pirates, and of course, the small energy-sucking Metroids. The combat can be a little tricky at first due to the lock-on dependence. You need to get good at this, and players of games like ZELDA shouldn’t have a hard time getting use to it. I like it a lot and think it allows you to focus more on exploration. There are some pretty combat heavy sections, and health sometimes doesn’t abound. Most of the time you’ll use a save point to fully replenish your health.
There are a few massive bosses in METROID PRIME, and most of them are easily beaten once you figure out the pattern. It’s another throwback to old-school gaming.
While METROID PRIME does not feature a multiplayer mode, there are plenty of reasons to keep playing. There are dozens of missile upgrades to find, and completing your library of data by scanning different objects unlocks extras. Also, by completing METROID FUSION and linking to the Game Boy Advance, you can play the original METROID on the GameCube. The inverse is also true as by completing METROID PRIME and linking, you can wear the power suit from FUSION.
Rain falling and bouncing off your gun, a blast of steam fogs your visor and leaves condensation on it, a bright flash of light lets you see your own reflection in the visor. These are just a few of the many effects that make Metroid Prime stand out above its peers. I nearly wet myself the first time I fired my weapon rapidly and noticed that heat waves came out of the barrel. Using the X-Ray visor, you can even see the skeleton of her hand. The game cruises with a smooth framerate and overall is just absolutely gorgeous.
The sound effects are well done and many times play a distinct part of the game. You can sometimes hear the power-ups nearby before you can see them. But better than the sound effects is the score. Take the classic score from Metroid and bring it up to date. It is absolutely fantastic. This soundtrack stirred so many emotions inside of me. One of my favorite pieces in the game is when you are under attack by multiple pirates and the intense music that plays while you battle them.
I’m blown away by how good a job Retro did with this game. This is the best GameCube game to date, and a must-own for any gamer. As Halo is to the Xbox, Metroid Prime is to the GameCube, except Metroid Prime is BETTER.Like to get more bang for your buck? Then you'll definitely want to check out Prima Games' excellent strategy guide. It covers both Prime and Fusion, that's like two guides for the price of one!