Metroid Prime GameCube Review
Finally, Metroid Prime is out for the Gamecube! You haven’t taken control of her suit for almost 10 years. A new threat has struck the galaxy: the Space Pirates have begun experimenting with a chemical substance called Phazon, and it’s up to Samus to set things right again. Now, let’s get down to business
Graphically, Prime has everything in exactly the right places. Even the opening menus are wonderfully animated, overlaid over a very realistic render of what appears to be the innards of a Metroid. The camera pans dramatically over this fleshy construct. The frame rate is as smooth as silk, the environments are luscious, there is a variety of enemies, beautiful colour usage, and high polygon count. These features make this game a real looker. Whether or not it is the best looking game on the Gamecube to date is up for debate, but it is definitely vying for that top spot. To put it mildly, there is not a single instance when the game looks bad, and any complaints that arise will be extremely minor. Samus herself is incredibly detailed, and the game employs countless special effects that are used brilliantly to enhance the tense and often creepy atmosphere.
In Metroid Prime the majority of the game is spent targeting foes, and sidestepping while blasting them to pieces. If that isn’t your cup of tea, then Prime isn’t your kind of game. The heads-up display (HUD) is taken to the next level in Prime, actually putting gamers inside the head of Samus. The view area is enclosed in the confines of Samus’ signature visor, with indicators for missile reserves, danger-proximity and the targeting reticule. As a final nifty touch, Samus’ visor will actually get foggy when she walks through steam jets, drops of rain will spatter on it, and it will get splattered with gore if she blasts an enemy at point-blank range. You begin the game at a space station, where Samus must escape as the self-destruct mechanism counts down. In an interesting touch, Samus is hit by an explosion, slamming her into a wall and deactivating a number of her special functions, requiring her to start from scratch as the game really begins. She escapes, hot on the tail of an unnamed villain, to the planet Tallon IV, a former home world of the Chozo, the bird-like philosopher-scientists who adopted young Samus and designed her formidable power suit. Tallon IV, luckily enough, has all of the conventions of the previous Metroid games, offering a new and gorgeous take on old areas. The architecture is astounding. From the ruins of the Chozo city to the wide-open, organic spaces of the Overworld, to the fiery Magmoor Caverns, to the icy Phendrana Drifts, each area is beautifully designed.
Retro managed to incorporate Prime’s story through the use of Samus’ scan visor, one of four which she collects during her journey. Samus can scan creatures to learn their weaknesses, Pirate technology to learn about their schemes on Tallon IV, ancient Chozo writings to learn about their exodus from the planet, and items of general interest to find hints on how to proceed. The more important things are stored on the log screen for later reference. A new technology, unseen in previous Metroid games is the concept of charge beam combos. Super Metroid had secret combos that used single beams, the charge beam, and power bombs to hit all enemies on screen. Prime takes this a step further, combining missiles, the charge beam and possibly another beam to cause some serious damage. The power beam combo fires a super missile, at the cost of five regular missiles. Certain items destroy things of certain materials – Prime’s answer to Super Metroid’s blocks which can only be destroyed with certain items. If you see a wall made of Bendezium, for instance, you’ll have to remember it and come back with power bombs if you want to proceed. Luckily, Prime’s excellent mapping system makes this easy, since every single room in the game has a unique name. See something made out of Cordite? Just remember that it is in Research Lab Hydra in Phendrana drifts, and you can come back and see what happens when you blow it up. The combat in Prime is very tight, since Samus can automatically lock on to a certain enemy and strafe around it. While this isn’t terribly useful in the early stages, the ability to lock in is crucial in fights against large numbers of space pirates, who will use their formidable AI to dodge, flank you, and generally become a royal pain.
The music in Prime is simply awesome with some tracks being new takes on old favourites; the music is atmospheric and unobtrusive to the point of being almost subliminal. The sound effects have a typical science-fiction flare to them, but are always wholly appropriate. The space pirates sound agitated, the monsters sound hungry, and even the harsh winds sound like their breezing past your face.
There are about 20 to 40 hours of game play for the first time through, with the ability to go back and continue to explore to find more items after beating the game to get that 100% completion. Not a perfect 10 as no multi-player, however with GBA link-up, you can play the original Metroid on the Gamecube.
Metroid Prime is a game long in coming, but was well worth the wait. Averaging out at about twenty hours of play time (far longer than any other Metroid game, and indeed longer than most games of today), with huge, memorable boss battles, a huge amount of unique power-ups to collect, and even a decent story, Metroid Prime is a definite candidate for GCN game of the year. Is it worth buying? Definitely. Even FPS fans who know nothing of Metroid will find it a fun ride.