Metroid Prime impressions

We have hands-on impressions of the final version of Metroid Prime.

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Metroid Prime is one of the last high-profile GameCube games of this year. The revival of Nintendo's classic franchise has been one of the most anticipated entries in the console's software library since it was first unveiled. With the game's November 18 release date fast approaching, we got our hands on a final build of the game and have been putting it through its paces to see if Metroid Prime will live up to all the expectations.

Metroid Prime's tone is set by its moody title sequence and its stylized menus, which are overlaid on what appear to be magnified bacteria that move around as the menus rotate. The game's opening level is essentially the same as the E3 demo, and it serves as an extended prologue to the game and a tutorial that helps you become familiar with Samus' abilities. The game begins with a scene that closely resembles the space station sequence from Super Metroid, in which Samus flew down to the planet in her ship in the middle of a storm.

As you traverse the game's various environments, you'll have an opportunity to scan enemies or objects using your visor. Unless it's used to help solve a puzzle, scanning doesn't seem to be necessary very often, but it does provide background information on Talon IV and the Chozo civilization that once inhabited it, as well as hints for beating boss characters. So far, we haven't had any real problems adjusting to the first-person shooter elements of Metroid Prime, but it can be a little tricky to use the auto-targeting system on some of the quicker enemies. We've tried switching to manual targeting, but even that becomes a little problematic, since you can't move around while using the free-look option. In addition to Metroid Prime's 3D gameplay, you'll find sequences in which you've changed into the morph ball that offer 2D side-scrolling gameplay.

However, what stands out right is how the game seems to come together as a cohesive package. The graphics are detailed and feature a host of impressive special effects that are a fine showcase for the GameCube hardware. There are also some really nice effects relating to Samus' visor, such as the bug blood that occasionally splatters on it and its tendency to fog up when it comes in contact with steam from cracked pipes. The character model for Samus is especially good, and it looks just as we imagined a 3D version of the intergalactic bounty hunter would. The frame rate has remained at steady 60 frames per second so far without any substantial signs of slowdown. Most impressive of all, the game's load times have been pretty much imperceptible, outside of a few brief pauses.

The game's audio, especially in the Dolby Pro Logic II mode, creates an immersive soundscape using ambient noises and sparse music arrangements that fit the onscreen action. Of special note are the snippets of music from previous Metroid games. Of course, there are plenty of other references to the series, such as enemies like the spiked zoomers, which circle platforms, and the skrees, which are batlike creatures that drill into the ground like darts.

Judging from what we've played so far, Metroid Prime certainly seems to be a solid and immersive game. We'll have much more on the game leading up to its launch later this month.

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