Hello all! Last week’s game was a Wii JRPG that was a bit overshadowed by bigger releases. But it’s a personal favorite, because it’s got heart.
Today brings us to one of the best games you can own for GameCube—hell, it’s one of the best games, period.
There’s not a whole lot to say that’s not already been said about Metroid Prime, Nintendo’s first 3D entry in their popular alien-blasting series. Like every game in the Metroid series, Prime finds Samus Aran expolring an alien planet (in this case, Tallon IV) and shooting various creatures.
Obviously, that’s not all there is to it; that’s the most basic summation of a Metroid title, but as with every game, you need to play it to understand. The first three Metroid games pioneered...well, Metroid-style gameplay: rather than a linear set of levels, you explore until you find a weapon, tool, or ability that helps you reach previously inaccessible areas, allowing you to explore further. Repeat as necessary.
I remember when Metroid Prime was first announced and displayed. There was an outcry over the first-person viewpoint. I was in high school at the time, and I remember reading that issue of Nintendo Power (kids, Nintendo Power was a magazine—um, like the Internet, but made of paper and you had to buy it and hold it). I remember thinking “this looks cool.” It did look cool, even if the first-person view didn’t immediately seem like Metroid. People were concerned that first-person meant you would simply spend your time blasting monsters. They thought Prime would dispense with the standard, tried-and-true Metroid formula. (Seriously, Super Metroid is a perfect game and a masterclass in game design)
All those fears proved to be completely unfounded when Prime released. What some expected was a mindless shoot-em-up, solely because it was in first-person. What we got was a game that changed the camera angle while retaining everything that made Metroid great while adding some new tricks of its own. Things as simple as scanning the environment and creatures, which seemed annoying at first, quickly became addictive (not to mention mimicked by seemingly every game released soon after Prime). It makes me wonder how Nintendo consistently keeps their franchises fresh while retaining their classic feel, all the while creating many of the greatest, most important games of all time. Probably because they’re really good at what they do.
Prime is also filled with little moments which make the game more than the sum of its parts. Quiet bits, like entering a new environment and taking it in for the first time. Finding a secret area, which is a Metroid staple. The visor.
Especially the visor; Samus is wearing a helmet, after all, and the game’s HUD runs with it. Your view wraps around the screen, simulating the glass you’re looking through. Remember the cool helmet POV in Star Wars: Republic Commando? Metroid Prime did it first, three years prior, and better. The way Samus’ face reflects off your visor at certain moments is one of the best parts of the game. It makes you feel like you’re a walking, living character, and not just a floating gun; a lot of shooters have trouble escaping the “floating gun” feel...then again, Prime isn’t, *ahem* primarily a shooter.
Sometimes, during these brief moments where you can see Samus’ face, you can see her blink. That’s incredible; maybe you don’t think so, but I do.
Metroid Prime is a lot of things. It’s an FPS with an emphasis on exploration, which was something that hadn’t really been done before. It’s a successful update of a classic series, evolving without losing its roots. It’s a game that teaches you never to judge a game until it’s done and released. But most importantly, it’s amazing. Fourteen years later, it’s still tough to find something better.
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Next week brings us another successful remake, or at least, I think it’s successful. Here’s a hint: Three games: one is a legend, one is a trainwreck, and one—next week’s game—is pretty good. And they all share the same name.