Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is the single most atmospheric game ever.
Two years later, Retro set out to create a sequel to their original masterpiece. The framework was set; they proved that Metroid could be done in 3D, now they wanted to create another Metroid title, one with even more ingenious ideas and puzzles than the first. They succeeded yet again.
Metroid Prime had one of the best intros ever, it truly created the mood for the entire game and started everything off with a bang, it was especially notable that you played through the intro, rather than watching it. Echoes on the other hand starts off by having a short cut scene that shows Samus crash landing on an alien planet yet again, not exactly the first impression many were hoping for. However, the tension builds as you move along through the game, and very early on you can tell that Echoes is just as atmospheric if not more so than the original Metroid Prime.
Echoes' story begins with everyone's favorite bounty hunter, Samus Aran, being given a mission by the Galactic Federation to search for some lost soldiers, who crashed on an alien planet, known as Aether; chasing after the nefarious Space Pirates. However, after finding out that all the Galactic Federation troops are dead, Samus soon finds herself in the middle of a war of light and darkness between the noble, moth-like Luminoth and the vile, hellish Ing horde. The Ing themselves live in an alternate dimension, an almost carbon copy of Aether known as Dark Aether, not exactly the most original name but it will suffice.
You will use portals to teleport between the two worlds, and when doing so you will notice that the beauty of Aether is lost in Dark Aether: The lush plant life, the breathtaking environments you find yourself in, from a wasteland to a swamp and even a fortress of the Luminoth, all are replaced by darkness and a sense of corruption through out the world. Dark Aether is a hellish place and even the very atmosphere within it hurts you, taking your health down very quickly. The only way to not lose health in Dark Aether is to stay in bubbles of light left by the Luminoth warriors; and you will fight hard against the mutated, vile denizens of Dark Aether to enter those bubbles of light. Those that played Metroid Prime will feel right at home with Echoes, it has the same control scheme as the first, so Prime veterans will be doing just fine in this game. The HUD is identical to that of Metroid Prime, the controls are also quite similar. The lock-on button is still present as is the scan visor. However those that didn't play Metroid Prime before will have a hard time with Echoes, it is not as forgiving as the original Prime, which tried to ease players into the experience, since no one had played anything like it before, newcomers will have a hard time getting through Echoes, the difficulty starts off somewhere similar to that of the half-way mark in the first Prime.
You start off with the usual equipment: Varia Suit, the Morphball, Power Beam, Scan Visor, missiles and so on, but many of the series mainstays are missing, most notably the Wave Beam and Ice Beam, and the Thermal and X-ray visors. However you will find plenty of new toys to keep you entertained, from the Dark Visor and Echo Visor, to the Dark and Light beams. All these items come in handy throughout the entire game, helping you solve the game's many puzzles. You will use the Dark Visor to see things that are not visible to you and the Echo Visor to see sound waves. The beams are also quite useful as many of the enemies are either light or dark oriented so one beam will work better than the other for just about every enemy you meet. In general, the Dark Beam should work extremely well in the light world, where as the Light Beam should be a rather potent weapon in the dark world. You will also find other weapons like the Annihilator Beam which uses a mix of light and dark energy, the Seeker Missile, which lets you lock on to up to five different targets at once and fire missiles at it.
One of the most notable returning Metroid items that wasn't present in Metroid Prime but has made a comeback in Echoes is the Screw Attack. It is a wonderful looking attack, however it isn't very well implemented into the game, it lets you leap across great, open chasms and wall jump on specific walls, you can also kill some of the weaker enemies with it, but you wont use it very often in Echoes.
You will also receive some new suits in the game, as stated before you start out with the Varia Suit, it protects you from heavy water pressure and intense heat but you will find some other ones that help you survive in Dark Aether's atmosphere. The Dark Suit is the first you will find, it gives you better protection from Dark Aether's poisonous atmosphere. You will notice that your health drops very slowly when wearing the Dark Suit. The other suit you get is given to you later on in the game: The Light suit. It gives you absolute protection from Dark Aether's atmosphere letting you explore at your own free will.
Echoes wouldn't be a Metroid game, if you didn't lose your equipment somewhere near the beginning of the game. In Metroid Prime it was a suit malfunction, in Echoes your items are stolen by the Ing, you will spend the majority of the game recovering your items and finding new ones as well. The more items you have, the more areas you can explore. You will notice many areas are inaccessible at first even in the beginning, but then again, Echoes wouldn't be a Metroid game if it didn't have you backtrack through the game.
The gameplay of Metroid Prime was shockingly new and refreshing, Metroid Prime 2 is more of the same gameplay, except now you get to utilize all these new items in the game's wonderfully created areas. The puzzles are exceptionally difficult especially when compared to that of the first Prime, you will use your head as much as your equipment as you travel through both worlds to solve these puzzles. You will fight a host of creatures that will test your mettle, throughout the game, increasing in difficulty as you progress through Echoes.
The creatures are all unique to their own environments, many are brand new, however some have been recycled from Metroid Prime and brought back for Echoes. The Bombus for example are now robots. Others like the Grenchler are identical to the Baby Sheegoth, give or take a few differences. However, killing these beasts is still a lot of fun even if you use some of the same tactics as the first Prime. Other creatures will be taken over by the Ing making them substantially more powerful then they were before.
One very noticeable creature is Dark Samus, you meet her quite a few times and battle her many times throughout the game. She is a rather formidable opponent, but many of the bosses are tougher than she is.
The boss fights are absolutely amazing, and many of them have you using your equipment in many ingenious ways. One of the boss fights is fought in Morphball form the entire time, another has you grappling across platforms floating in poisonous water, as you fire at the boss, while another has you shooting at a boss until it becomes dazed and then you use your Morphball to latch onto it's head and plant a bomb. The gigantic Guardians, the bosses are called Guardians in Echoes, take up almost the entire TV screen and are extremely fun to fight, more so than the sub-guardians, the mini bosses of the game.
One thing that must be pointed out about Echoes is it's little key hunt that takes place near the end. It sticks out from the rest of the game and isn't very fun at all. Aside from this little oddity the gameplay is near perfect.
The atmospheric mood of Echoes is absolutely spectacular; many claimed that despite the wonderful atmosphere of Metroid Prime, it didn't feel alien enough for them. Rest assured to those that thought Prime didn't feel alien enough, that Echoes delivers a true feeling of solitude on an alien planet in spades. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is the single most atmospheric game ever.
The areas in Echoes are absolutely wonderful, where as Metroid Prime had to use standard adventure environments like an ice world, lava world and so on, Echoes uses completely original areas, like a wasteland and a swamp, including Dark world variants of those areas.
Echoes is one of the most visually intoxicating games ever created. The light world shows it's pristine beauty, with creatures and plant-life, and Dark Aether looks like a twisted version of the light world, with it's hellish creatures screeching through it's poisonous atmosphere. One thing noticeable in the Dark world is it's mainly purple hue, it could have benefited from some other dark colors aside from the purple.
The sound in Echoes is more or less the same as Metroid Prime; the sound effects once again are very weak. The weapons don't pack the punch I expect from them. It never sounds like you're firing actual missiles, or planting a bomb. The Power Bomb should sound extremely powerful, but it sounds very weak much like your other weapons. Don't be fooled by names like Super Missile, Annihilator Beam, or Sonic Boom, because these weapons do not sound powerful at all.
The creatures themselves do not sound imposing or powerful at all. Many were created to seem like an enemy you would fear, such as the Warrior Ing, but they do not sound powerful or frightening at all. This is rather disappointing during the boss fights. Despite their gigantic, screen-filling size, these monsters do not sound that great. It's a bit disappointing, especially when you consider how high the quality of Echoes is in all the other areas of the game.
Like Metroid Prime, Echoes doesn't have any voice-overs. This wasn't a problem in Metroid Prime where there was no one speaking in the game. However in Echoes there are characters that have dialogue, but no voices. The game would have seemed far more dramatic had these warriors any voices to speak with Samus. Unfortunately we have to read the dialogue, bringing down the dramatic tension we could have had.
The musical score on the other hand is absolutely spectacular, every single song will suck you into the game. The tense songs that accompany each boss fight really builds up the tension in the game. Each area has a song that will suck you into the world of Aether and further immerse you into the game, and the dramatic song that comes up when you meet a fallen Luminoth warrior is absolutely stunning. The song during the start screen is absolutely epic. The music is half of the experience in Echoes.
There is also a multiplayer component in Echoes, and it isn't very fun at all. There are two modes Deathmatch, obviously when you kill your opponent, there is another mode where you kill your opponent to collect the coins he bleeds; however, it doesn't feel any different from the Deatmatch. There are six levels to play on, and not many options to choose from. Echoes should not be bought for it's tacked on multiplayer, it should be bought for it's epic single player campaign.
The game is quite long, a twenty hour-long adventure, and it will take longer than that to complete if you choose to find all the items. Echoes is adventure gaming at it's finest; so don't be surprised if you play through the game more than once.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is one of the best reasons to own a Gamecube, it has rewarding gameplay, is a visually stunning game, and has a long meaty adventure. It is one of the finest games on the Gamecube, and is far more atmospheric than the first Prime. This is a game that shouldn't be missed by anyone who enjoyed Metroid Prime. A classic.