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Retro Studios



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11/17/02 Nintendo
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Review: Metroid Prime (GC)

By super_etecoon 05th Mar 2009 | 6,724 views 

Samus returns after a long hiatus with a fresh perspective on a classic franchise.

by Mike Campa

How do you bring a 2d sc-fi platformer/shooter built strongly around the mechanic of item collection and exploration into the modern era of 3d gaming? You turn it into a first person shooter, of course. And when Metroid fans heard this was the route fledgling developer Retro Studios was taking with their beloved franchise, there was an audible collective groan heard amongst the gaming community. Not only would fans have to wait nearly a decade to get in their Metroid fix, but they were also being told it would not be a 3rd person platforming adventure, but rather something certainly intended for the Doom generation. Of course, had they been told then that this idea to change the Metroid perspective had come from none other than gaming icon Shigeru Miyamoto, they may have changed their tune. Because rest assured, Retro Studios, with a few guiding words from Miyamoto-san, has created a sequel to the original Metroid so wonderfully crafted that it would be difficult to imagine that the game would have been as good in 3rd person.

Metroid Prime's title screen, ala Fight Club , sets the stage for this 3D take on the 2D franchise.


So what makes Metroid work so well in the first person? Well Samus is part machine most of the time. That is, she spends most of her life in a suit crafted by an ancient race known as the Chozo. And putting the game in first person allows the player to see life from her eyes. There is seamlessness between the Metroid universe and the player that would only be possible from this perspective. You see, your HUD is Samus’ own HUD. You are seeing all the information that she is receiving to carry out her mission. The HUD lets her know when she is in danger, how many missiles she has left, and if there are any enemies in her vicinity. It’s all the same info that you would get from any other game, only this time it plays out as if those stats are a natural part of your character’s reality.

Your vitals aren’t the only things that get displayed with the use of this visor. Samus also uses her visor to scan the objects around her. She can scan enemies to determine their weakness as well as to get a bit of scientific background information. She can scan her power-ups, ship, and various apparatus to learn both about herself as well as her abilities. She also has the ability to hack into computer systems to retrieve massages that the Space Pirates have been passing back and forth to each other. It is in this way that the story unfolds. In previous Metroid games the story was almost non-existent. The first Metroid plops you down on a planet with no explanation (unless you read the game booklet) and Super Metroid on the SNES gives you a relatively short scenario at the opening of the game. Metroid Prime is rich in details, however. As you pass from one area to another you have the opportunity to access files regarding both the Space Pirates experiments with the dangerous poison Phazon as well as the security communications being passed from sector to sector as Samus invades the operation. I must emphasize the word “opportunity” since scanning all this data is optional. In fact, if you don’t care about the story at all, you don’t have to bother reading any of the transmissions, save for a few that are required to pass from area to area. But don’t worry, you’ll enjoy scanning. Not only are the communications informative, they’re also witty at times. Take for instance a specific piece of data you retrieve while in the Phazon Mines: “[Samus] Aran's Power Suit technology remains a mystery, especially the curious Morph Ball function. All attempts at duplicating it have ended in disaster: four test subjects were horribly broken and twisted when they engaged our Morph Ball prototypes. Science Team wisely decided to move on afterward.” How’d you like to be one of those test subjects?

As expected in the Metroid series, Samus won't be short on toys and gadgets with which to dispatch the baddies.


But the game isn’t all data collection, scanning, and reading. There’s more than enough action and exploration to keep even the most action-oriented gamer happy. There are plenty of enemies in each of the rooms intent on keeping you from acquiring the various abilities and power-ups. And Retro Studios implements a little trick learned from Zelda: Ocarina of Time: auto-targeting. At the simple click of the left trigger, the closest enemy is instantly put in your sights. Once you’re locked on to that enemy, all movements left and right strafe you around the selected creature. It’s an adequate feature that takes away some of the hassle of aiming at your enemy in times of panic. Of course, since they focused on this method of aiming, free aiming is very cumbersome. You won’t ever get a sniper scope or anything that just allows you to aim without moving. So you essentially have to “lock-on” to nothing, then move your point-of-view. All in all this is never that big a deal, but you do find yourself on occasion attempting to hit a target that is beyond your lock-on range and getting a precise hit can be a bit problematic. Don’t worry, though. Much of your fighting takes place in such close quarters and at such a frenetic pace that you’ll take the lock-on targeting system over a better free-aiming system any day.

The game has more than it’s fair share of normal enemies (those that reappear in each room), but it’s the bosses that really make this game tough. Most of them require that you use a new power-up that you recently received and all of them will make you sweat. As with many bosses, once you find the secret to taking them down they aren’t nearly as difficult. The only question is how many tries it takes you to get there. Thankfully, there are plenty of save rooms in this labyrinthine world, assuming you’ve taken the time to find them. It’s a good idea to explore as much of the world as possible, paying extra attention to the 3d map that you can access with the Z button. The map is a 3d rendering of Tallon IV, the planet on which the Space Pirates have taken up their operation. The map is a necessary aspect of the game, but one that you will curse at from time to time. It isn’t that the map isn’t detailed or that it doesn’t give you an exact picture of where you are, it’s that the entire map is all colored orange (or blue if you haven’t been there yet). Granted, the room you have selected is a brighter orange, but the rooms around you tend to blend together. It takes a few moments messing with the control sticks to get your bearings and see where you have to go.

The game's occasional cut-scenes offer a fleeting glimpse at what could have been if Retro Studios had taken the game into the third-person.


So using your targeting skills, paying close attention to your map, and exploring every possible area in the game may be a decent strategy plan for attacking this game, but it isn’t a fool proof victory. This game gets confusing, and often has you running in circles trying to figure out which way to go. If that doesn’t bother you, and it really shouldn’t, make sure you start the game by going into the options and turning off the hints system. You see, Retro Studios knows they made a complicated game that would have gamers either pulling out their hair, or worse, turning off the game and never coming back. So they put in a default hint system. With this hint system on, on occasion, the game will let you know if you have steered too far from course. If you’re on the right track it won’t bother telling you where to go, but if you deviate, even to get a hidden expansion of missiles, it will alert you of your next destination. And this isn’t something you can just bypass. To make the pop-up message disappear you have to hit the z button which will take you to the map screen and the specific location you’re supposed to be heading. Of course, the game doesn’t tell you how to get to that location, it just gives you a gentle nudging in the right direction.

Samus' signature morph-ball gets its own set of upgrades, including bombs, super bombs, and Metroid II throwback, Spider Ball.


Speaking of gentle nudges, here’s one that many gamers might miss their first time through. Part of completing a Metroid game is to collect all the items in the game. This includes every missile expansion, bomb expansion, and beam upgrade. At the end of the game it will tell you exactly what your percentage is. And figuring out how many items you missed is easy: there are 100 items in the game, so for every percentage you missed, you missed an item. Finding those last 7-10 percent can be tricky, and Retro has done what they can to make that task a bit easier. Pay especially close attention to the sounds in the game. Many enemies make a signature sound, as do health and energy units. Even your visors make a distinctly different sound, depending on the one you have selected. But if you go into a room with no enemies, no energy units or missiles, and without a visor selected you may hear a faint hum. That is, if there is a hidden item in the room the humming will increase as you get closer and decrease as you get further away. It’s a very subtle clue that shows the attention to detail that the team put into the sound of this game.

And the music? It’s very much the music of Metroid. Long-time fans will instantly recognize many of the themes, including the Norfair theme, the Item Room theme, and the always welcome jingle you hear upon collecting an item. Of course, they’ve also added a few new ones that have a distinct ambient, techno, trance vibe that sets the mood for this sci-fi quest. My favorite would be the theme from the Phendrana Drifts; no doubt you’ll have your own.

The HUD Visor gives us an opportunity to see Samus' world in strikingly strange perspectives such as this one, via the X-Ray visor.


Metroid fans had to wait a very, very long time to get to don the suit of Samus once more. I, for one, am not in the least bit bothered by the wait, having played Metroid Prime. I can’t imagine the game that would have come out if Nintendo had made one in the days of the N64. The Gamecube is a far superior machine and the N64 wouldn’t have done justice to the transition of the Metroid franchise into 3d. If you like a bit of carnage in your platformer, or you’re tired of the linearity of your shooters, you have to give this game a try. Just remember to have lots of patience while playing this 15-20 hour campaign and don’t give up when you’re stuck. Half the fun of this game is finding out where you are and where you’re trying to get. And then once you’ve beaten it, don’t forget to come back through. Your first time through collecting 100% could take you as long as 25-30 hours, but Metroid has always been about shaving off those hours and minutes to make a perfect speed run. So whether you just want to blast your way through this game in a few days, or spend months mastering the games speed routes, there's plenty here for everyone.

VGChartz Verdict


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Shipping Total

2,840,000 Units
As of: December 2014

Opinion (63)

Karolek12 posted 10/12/2018, 05:23
ExplodingBlock, This games sold better in Japan than in European countries. And for sure Japan is more west than you think. Music, movies, games - they love ''dark'' and mature things even more than Americans which like ''kawaii'' more than Japanese. US is more childish. So stop saying bullshits 'cause u don't know how pop culture in Japan looks like.
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Keybladewielder posted 19/11/2018, 09:40
This game is so amazing
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ExplodingBlock posted 31/01/2015, 03:01
Why does Japan hate anything that isn't kawaii?
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leedlelee posted 19/01/2015, 07:07
Skullwalker, you're in luck...
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Skullwaker posted 10/01/2015, 06:10
I need to play this. Like, now. I'd love for the Big N to release an HD remaster or at least put it on the VC but if I have to I'll track down the Trilogy. I've heard nothing but great things.
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DieAppleDie posted 16/09/2012, 02:01
Brilliant masterpiece
love the soundtrack so much
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