Metroid Prime 2: Echoes Bonus Disc Impressions

We get an exclusive look at the upcoming Metroid bonus disc from Nintendo.

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Hot on the heels of Nintendo's recent announcement of the upcoming hardware bundle featuring the original Metroid Prime and a bonus disc that includes a playable demo of the game's sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, we managed to get our hands on the actual disc. We checked out the disc's assorted content to see if it has the goods to please old and new GameCube owners. Read on to see if the disc is a hit or a miss.

The Metroid Prime 2: Echos demo isn't far away, and we got our hands on a copy to test out the upcoming game.

When you first fire up the disc you'll come to a menu that lets you cycle through its options. The first option is the chronicle, which is a timeline of each of the entries in the series. Clicking on each game's box art will call up a video of it in motion as well as text that recaps the highlights of that title, complete with music samples. The next option is a trailer for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes that runs through a series of gameplay and cinematic highlights from the upcoming game. The option for the playable demo is the next choice, which is followed by another cinema.

Unlike the first trailer for the game, this cinema is a much more dramatic and story-focused piece that shows off Samus' reason for being sent to Aether. You'll see snippets of footage ostensibly taken from the combat visors of various members of Bravo Team during a mission that's going very wrong, in that "last stand in Starship Troopers" kind of way. Despite the fact that it's pretty likely that Bravo Team has become alien food, Samus is sent in to find them and render assistance.

The bonus disc unfortunately doesn't include any of Metroid Prime 2's multiplayer action, but it does have a chunk of the single-player game demo that was shown off at E3, which offers a sampling of what to expect from the gameplay in the upcoming sequel. The demo opens with an intro showing Samus' ship approaching Aether, which doesn't appear to be terribly hospitable. The ship takes a beating (surprise!) and winds up making a rough landing on the planet, which shows off the ship's nifty new shock absorbers. Once you see the standard intro cinematic of Samus leaving her ship, you're given control of her and you set out to explore the area. The early part of the level is a series of mellow rooms that slowly start to pile on the enemies and offer refreshers on the basic mechanics of controlling Samus as you progress. Your first real challenge will be a gaggle of space pirates in need of a whuppin' that is easily doled out. Once they're defeated, you'll come to a door, and you'll need to use your dark beam to open it.

You'll have to explore the relationship between light and dark to survive on Aether.
You'll have to explore the relationship between light and dark to survive on Aether.

You'll then come to a room that requires you to use the morph ball and its bombs to access a new area and navigate a tight passageway with force fields you'll have to avoid. Once you're back in human form you'll have to clear a room of pesky space pirates and activate a dark portal. While doing so you'll get a glimpse of a mysterious doppelganger of Samus, which is sure to be troublesome in the final game. Once you activate the portal, you'll port to the dark incarnation of the area you're in, and you'll have to navigate the pockets of safe zones strewn about it in order to reach a light portal. The area also gives you your first glimpse of the oozy shape-shifting dark enemies you'll face. The demo actually ends once you reach the portal, in a stylish summary screen with a catchy end theme.

Although fairly short, the demo shows off a good chunk of the gameplay you can expect from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The major elements are, of course, the light and dark gun mechanics that serve up some Ikaruga-style touches. You'll notice that the dark enemies you encounter will be vulnerable to the light gun's attacks, that you'll have to use the dark gun to get by certain barriers, and so on. As you defeat enemies you'll find that they'll drop ammo for the light or dark gun in addition to the standard array of energy and missile pickups. Each gun can be charged, like Samus' main weapon, and they feature unique animations as you build up energy and unleash a devastating blast of energy.

The game's presentation is shaping up well and offers a strong mix of visuals and audio. The graphics are looking sharp, and they build on the excellent look of Metroid Prime. The environments are looking more alive with moving objects and little critters zipping around. So far the graphics don't pack quite as big a punch as those in the original Prime did, but the early areas are modest in scope, so they're hardly a proper showcase for what the game will offer. For example, if you compare the later levels in the original Prime with the early levels, the differences were night and day, so we're understandably excited to see what kind of craziness Retro ends up doling out.

Look for the bonus disc containing the demo to hit around August 15.
Look for the bonus disc containing the demo to hit around August 15.

That said, the dark world locales are a bit more promising, thanks to their numerous effects. Overall the game has a much more assured and polished visual style that gives it a sleeker presentation than the first game. The interface elements, such as Samus' visor and weapons, are all slickly laid out with subtle touches, such as the information screens that pop up once you scan an object or enemy. The same holds true for the intro screen, which is an artsy collection of black and white images. The audio is coming along very nicely so far. You'll hear a lot of the familiar effects for weapons fire and Samus' visor. We're pretty taken with the new tunes we're hearing in the game, which feature some variations on some of the themes from Prime as well as new pieces.

Overall the Metroid Prime 2: Echoes Bonus Disc is a nice way to tease those waiting for the upcoming sequel to Prime and to give existing fans of the franchise some interesting bonuses. The Metroid Prime 2: Echoes Bonus Disc will be available August 15 in the new Metroid Prime hardware bundle or via Nintendo's Web site. Look for more on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes in the coming months.

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