Friday, March 15, 2013

400th Review! Metroid Prime (Wii) Retro Review

After nearly five years of service, SuperPhillip Central has reached its 400th review. We couldn't help but celebrate with what is rightfully considered one of the greatest games of all time, Metroid Prime. Here is our review.

The Girl With the Golden Touch

Metroid is a legendary franchise and one that has created many imitators. However, few have ever reached the levels of greatness that Metroid as a series has obtained. While many Metroid fans find the greatest height of the franchise being the Super Nintendo's excellent Super Metroid, others find the first fully 3D Metroid game, Metroid Prime, as the best Samus Aran has to offer. This reviewer sides with the latter argument. Metroid Prime isn't just the best Samus Aran has to offer, it's simply one of the best games in modern gaming history.

Metroid Prime begins with Samus Aran investigating a Space Pirate frigate in the quiet of space. The crew had been decimated by the experiments being manufactured on board. Inside the ship she uncovers a grotesque Parasite Queen, one such experiment gone awry. After defeating it, she comes across a genetically altered version of her nemesis, Ridley, who quickly retreats and heads for the nearby planet of Tallon IV. As Samus retreats from the then-self-destructing frigate, she makes chase in her Gunship of the new Meta Ridley creature. Little does Samus know that there's more to Tallon IV than meets the eye.

Samus is on the scene.
If you are unfamiliar with how the Metroid series works, let me enlighten you. The Metroid series is built on exploring areas and uncovering new abilities through power-ups. By finding new power-ups and gaining those new abilities, you are able to access previously unreachable areas, thus being able to explore more and more of each series's games. That's generally the crux of how Metroid works. Metroid Prime gives players for the first time a fully 3D world to explore instead of the typical side-scrolling 2D action the series is most known for.

The world is incredibly well put together. Tallon IV is a living, breathing world full of things to see, do, and discover. You really feel like you are on a mysterious planet-- a bold new world. Tallon IV is split up between multiple areas: you have the Tallon Overworld; the footprint of the Chozo tribe, the Chozo Ruins; the underworld of Tallon IV where molten magma and blazing beasts call their home, the Magmoor Caverns; the eerily tranquil and icy areas of the Phendrana Drifts; and the radioactive quarries of the Phazon Mines. Each area is connected by elevator from one area to another, and each area has multiple elevators. With all of these areas you might think that getting lost is easy. Thankfully, it's not too terribly bad, despite the addition of a new dimension. Metroid Prime has its own fully rotatable map with every room and hallway having its own name. Uncovering map stations allows you to reveal the lay of the land. Rooms in blue are not yet entered while orange rooms are. Meanwhile, save stations allow you to obviously save your game, and are routinely placed in convenient locations around Tallon IV.

Tallon Overworld is the main hub 
of Metroid Prime.
Samus Aran has a lot of her abilities from past games such as the Morph Ball that allows her to curl up into a ball to squeeze through narrow passages, the Space Jump that allows her to perform a double jump, and the Power Bomb that grants her the ability to blow up certain walls that would otherwise be impenetrable.

I'm getting cold just looking at this screen!
In addition to new abilities, Samus can gain new beams. From icy shots of arctic cold with the Ice Beam to the intense heat of the Plasma Beam, these can be cycled through by holding the + button on the Wii Remote and then holding the pointer over the desired beam to select it. Outside of beams, an important part of exploration comes through obtaining different visors for Samus to utilize. For instance, the Thermal Visor allows Samus to obtain heat signatures within pitch black rooms while the X-Ray Visor grants Samus the ability to see through walls and uncover hidden goodies. Without these visors, journeying through the perilous Tallon IV would be next to impossible.

A big part of discovering the back story to Metroid Prime is done through the Scan Visor, which allows Samus to scan objects, items, and enemies. Nearly everything in the game can be scanned. These scanned items go into Samus's log book where players can read up on the history of Tallon IV, the Chozo, various enemies, Space Pirate data entries, and much more at any time. Players can honestly go through the game without knowing much of anything regarding what is happening if they don't bother to read the various scan information around Tallon IV.

Discovery is indeed an important part of the Metroid franchise, and it is remarkably well done in Metroid Prime. As new upgrades are acquired, new areas are able to be entered, opening up new sights and sounds for Samus to see and hear. Hidden in the game are an immense amount of helpful expansions. These increase the amount of missiles, power bombs, and health Samus can hold. In order to obtain that often heralded 100% completion percentage, not only do all of the expansions need to be found and received, but all of the pages in Samus's log book must be filled through scanning the necessary objects and enemies.

Perhaps something that will turn off some players is the copious amounts of returning to previously explored areas. You will be backtracking a lot in Metroid Prime, and while that is an accepted part of the genre, some players may get tired of trekking through old haunts just to reach one new room. That said, Metroid Prime limits needless backtracking to a great degree, and it's one of the better examples of the genre archetype to be had. One other issue that relates to backtracking is a quest that needs to be done at the end of the game. That is, twelve Chozo Artifacts must be found before you can reach the final area of the game. Their locations are given in cryptic hints, and they require returning to past areas to find them. Again, this is something that might drain the enthusiasm of some players.

Tallon IV's so dangerous that even the 
plants are trying to kill you.
The planet of Tallon IV is full of interesting (and dangerous) creatures. Each can be scanned to get details about the proper way to dispose of them. This is no truer than with Metroid Prime's colossal bosses. Each has their own patterns and ways to defeat them, from gigantic rock monsters to Phazon-powered omega-level Space Pirates. The boss battles themselves are entertaining, and some are downright challenging too. Generally each boss is the last thing in the way of Samus acquiring a brand-new power-up or even better, a brand-new suit.

Stop, rock, and roll.
While we're on the subject of combat, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk are the tools of your trade to eliminate the threat to Tallon IV. By pointing at the edges of the television screen, you move the camera around (i.e. Samus's viewpoint). In correlation with the analog stick, this is how you move around. Aiming is done by locking on to foes (though locking on isn't necessary, it's quite the help) and pointing carefully with the Wii Remote. While this method of control is not as entirely accurate as a keyboard and mouse combo, it is better in precision (and much more fun in this reviewer's opinion) than dual analogs. As for every other control input (curling into Samus's Morph Ball, firing missiles, and so on), everything makes sense as to how it is performed and situated on both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

Show this baddie who's boss.
Metroid Prime still astonishes with its graphics. Little touches like steam fogging up Samus's visor and rain droplets tinkling down her armor make for impressive sights. Then there are the big touches like the gorgeous environments (Phendrana Drifts is one of the most beautiful places in a Nintendo game) and the well designed enemies and bosses that make for some sensational sights (and fights). The music is a series of remixed Metroid classic themes and entirely new compositions. It is a mix of music that makes for a marvelous soundtrack. It perfectly fits with the feeling of being on an alien planet.

The Arnold Schwarzenegger of Space Pirates.
It is simply amazing how well Nintendo and Retro Studios have managed to transplant the gameplay of the Metroid series from its 2D roots and place them into 3D so splendidly. The level of polish and attention to detail is just enormous, and you can tell that Metroid Prime was crafted as a labor of love between developer Retro Studios and publisher Nintendo. Although it has a first-person perspective and there is plenty of shooting, those looking for Nintendo's answer to Halo are better suited to look elsewhere as Metroid Prime is Metroid through and through with all of its backtracking and exploring. With the addition of Wii Remote controls, the best version of this game can now only be found on the Nintendo Wii.

[SPC Says: 9.75/10]

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