Metroid Prime — 2Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of GameSpot.com

The return of Samus after 8 years is welcome

As a long­time fan of the Metroid fran­chise, I sup­pose I could be for­given for not mak­ing the imme­di­ate leap onto the Prime band­wagon. After all, Super Metroid is my bea­con of hope still shin­ing for 2D games, a sym­bol of the pin­na­cle that the genre reached. I mean, I plan to name my first­born daugh­ter Samus. That’s how much I love Metroid. So, when Prime hit the shelves, I was duly skep­ti­cal. It had been eight long years with­out so much as of a whiff of Samus’ scent in the mar­ket of solo games and I was starv­ing. Enter Prime.

Prime isn’t so much a pure Metroid game as it is a com­bi­na­tion of Metroid and first–per­son shoot­ers of the day. What you need to know to under­stand Prime is that it’s set between Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus, and it’s the first real game in the series to start putting the pieces of the Metroid saga together. Samus roams around Tal­lon IV to uncover the past of the Chozo (her care­tak­ers after the death of her par­ents in a Space Pirate raid), and takes on the vil­lain­ous group, who are con­duct­ing bio­log­i­cal exper­i­ments on the planet. That’s the meat of the story essen­tially, but it mostly means that you’re going to do some explor­ing. This being Metroid and all.

The first-person con­trols could have been haz­ardous to the game’s health but they aren’t. They’re actu­ally sim­ple to use and sur­pris­ingly easy to get used to even if you’re inti­mately famil­iar with Super Metroid’s setup. My main con­cern was how does Samus’ action trans­late to the first-person mold? Can she still move around flu­idly? And, how is the action han­dled when she has to switch to Morph Ball mode? All of these ques­tions were imme­di­ately answered with a sim­ple playthrough. Action is fluid and move­ment is clean and paced well. There are no prob­lems with switch­ing modes, and I rather liked how that is han­dled. It’s almost as if some­one on the devel­op­ment team at Retro Stu­dios remem­bered what it was like to imag­ine you were Samus in the Varia Suit.

I appre­ci­ated the atmos­phere of Prime, con­sid­er­ing that if a game is to be called Metroid in any way, it must have the “Metroid atmos­phere.” I cer­tainly got that as I mean­dered through maze-like cav­erns with fore­bod­ing music play­ing gen­tly in the back­ground. What I appre­ci­ated about the sound­track mostly was the use of old themes to tie the games together. You can tell you’re play­ing a Metroid game if you lis­ten hard enough, and I liked that the issue wasn’t thrown in my face con­stantly. I didn’t need to be hit over the head repeat­edly that this is a Metroid tale, and the music was polite about remind­ing me.

My only prob­lem with Prime is that while it feels like a Metroid game should, I wasn’t that immersed in the tale. Every Metroid game released up to this point, I played through and was engaged thor­oughly. Prime? I really couldn’t get into the story that much, and I didn’t really care all that much about the Chozo. I real­ized that because of the way Metroid ends, Samus can’t really go back to the Mother Brain issue. How­ever, Prime just struck me as boring.

Prime was the start of a good thing, obvi­ously, since there are two sequels and a host of spin­off games. What I was most pleased with, how­ever, was the fact that Samus returned in top form. It was about time. Eight years was way too long to go with­out using some ver­sion of the “Metroid instinct.”

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