Metroid Prime — 2Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of

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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