Retro Review: Metroid Prime (Release: 2002 / Platforms: Nintendo GameCube & Wii)



When people talk about gaming classics from Nintendo, many talk about titles like Super Smash Brothers Melee or Super Mario 64. But one game many also come back to with such praise is Metroid Prime. This title faced very difficult development, with Retro Studios facing many hardships getting the title finished.

Scrapping other projects in development within the studio, reworking core gameplay concepts and Shigeru Miyamoto helping with development; this was a project Nintendo had a lot of faith in for success despite it’s developmental challenges.

Metroid Prime released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002 and while early impressions had people worried about the perspective shift from 2D to First Person, it ended up being a critical darling for the GameCube.

But it is 2016 as of this writing. Does Metroid Prime remain a classic? We will find out through this review!

The Story

Taking place between the original Metroid and Metroid 2, Samus intercepts a distress signal from the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon but soon learns that she got there too late. The space pirates took out the entire crew and Samus’ faces the Parasite Queen before leaving the ship. As she leaves, her Power Suit gets damaged and she loses all her gear. Looking into space, she sees her long time foe Ridley. She hops into her gunship and races after him, landing on the planet Tallon IV.

From here, the story continues with Samus exploring the planet and taking out any Space Pirate threat that comes her way. The story is entirely based on the player’s engagement; if they want to learn more about the world, they can use Samus’ scan visor to get logs about the world, which contains lore about the planet.

Exploring and interacting with the world unlocks more story basically, making the plot quite interesting. You can learn about how Space Pirates tried to experiment with similar Chazo technology Samus has with failed results or specifics about the various creatures you encounter. This results in the story being strong if you are heavily engaged with the world around you.

Samus herself is a wonderful character, characterized with no words but only actions and animations. Examples include reflections of her eyes appear on her visor when flashes of lights appear, animations with her blaster s and when the game goes out of first person for select story elements Samus still appears to be strong. I must restate this, as I greatly appreciated Retro Studio’s take on the character; they respected her silent origins from the SNES days but still gave her a personality. The story here is strong if you put effort into seeing the world around you.


The Gameplay and Design

Metroid Prime is a great showcase on how to bring a 2D game into 3D, as many elements that made the original Metroid games so iconic are present here. Samus has most, if not all, her abilities from prior games. So she can use the Screw Attack, Charged Shot and Morph Ball from past games. But more obscure powers she had in games like Metroid 2 make a come back like the Spider Ball. It allows her to have a lot of movement options as she explores the large overworld of Tallon IV.

The world is massive in scope, with you exploring places like temples and ice covered landscapes for example. This makes the planet feel large and alive, giving it a sense of place. But one aspect to Metroid is the exploration, which Prime does not forget. You have a great map system that can be opened by pressing Z on the controller and important landmarks are highlighted as you reach them. Fully exploring the game world requires you to gain all your abilities back, which is how progression is dealt with.

As you play through the game, Samus can find various upgrades like the Grapple Beam and Space Jump to help get to new locations. Like the 2D games finding that item or tool to see more of the world feels so rewarding, making exploration through areas over and over again enjoyable.

However having the spirit and core gameplay of Metroid is great, but one question everyone asked when Prime released; How does the first person perspective effect gameplay? It does a lot to make things more engaging honestly. Samus looking at the world through a first person perspective allows you to have more careful aiming for your weapons, making combat a greater challenge compared to the 2D games. Sure your movement speed is far slower compared to Super Metroid or Zero Mission, but having more control over Samus for combat makes up for this.

This slower movement pushes the importance of Samus’ various visors, as you have the basic normal visor but other ones like the X-Ray Visor and Scan Visor offer important functions for core gameplay. The Scan Visor lets you learn more about the game world through detailed logs and every object scanned adds to your completion gauge. The X-Ray Visor helps you pin-point weak spots and allows you to make precision shots with your arm cannon.

The only issue I have with the gameplay is that in the GameCube version, you cannot aim your arm cannon unless you stand still and hold R. You can lock on with L and strafe (even move left/right fast by mashing B) but in the original GameCube version, you cannot aim and move at the same time. The controls work perfectly fine despite this omission but it is still odd. Thankfully, the Nintendo Wii version of this title in side Prime Trilogy offers aiming controls while moving around.

Metroid Prime is a game that at it’s very core gameplay wise, is true to the heart and spirit of the series. It feels great to play and the shift to the first person perspective is a natural one.


The Lasting Appeal

Metroid Prime is a large game, so fully 100% the game will take quite a long time. You have a nice log for your unlocking percentages and with the games detailed map system that clearly shows you where everything is, you will not struggle to find every item. Scanning everything might take a while and can be a challenge, as after specific points, you lose the chance to scan that item (boss fights come to mind).

The GameCube version has some nice extras which includes connective with Metroid Fusion on the GBA, unlocking not only a special Fusion Armor Skin for Samus but also a playable version of the original Metroid if you beat both games.


The Presentation

If you always wondered what Metroid would look like in 3D, than Metroid Prime answers that beautifully. It holds up remarkably well today and still stands as a great looking game. Textures and locations have detailed art portraying an alien world to explore, sound effects sound clear and crisp and nice visual effects enhance the atmosphere.

The music in the Prime games is fantastic, having some wonderful tracks that add to the atmosphere and mood of the world you are exploring. Feeling adventurous while exploring Tallon Overworld, sounding tense and frantic during boss fights, and even hauntingly beautiful watching snow gently fall across the landscape. 

Metroid Prime has one of my favorite Nintendo soundtracks and today it still holds up strongly regarding the overall presentation.


Overall: 5 out of 5

Metroid Prime is the example of taking a 2D game and bringing it into 3D. It takes everything past titles accomplished and adapts them perfectly to make a natural transition into the first person perspective. Having little to no issues, a wonderful presentation that holds up well today, and tight level design/gameplay that honors series origins; Metroid Prime is a Nintendo classic that I highly recommend everyone gives a shot.

I reviewed this game using the Nintendo GameCube version, but you can also play it on the Nintendo Wii and Wii U through The Metroid Prime Trilogy collection. It contains all three games in the Prime series with motion controlled aiming.

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