User Rating: 9.9 | Metroid Prime GC
This game surprised the hell out of me. I’ll admit that I was one of those who scoffed the instant I learned that the new Metroid would be first-person. A Metroid first person shooter? That can’t be done. There’s no way Metroid could work as an FPS. I held this sentiment almost to the very day I got my hands on the game, and to be honest, I don’t think I should be faulted for doubting Retro Studios. It was the logical thing to do. Here was a green development company that never handled a really huge project before, and suddenly they were given the responsibility of making a new game in a beloved side-scrolling, adventure based Nintendo series—and then announce that it’ll be played from a first-person perspective. A lot could have gone wrong, but nothing has. Retro Studios pulled off this massive undertaking majestically and not only created a truly exceptional game, but more importantly, a game that’s astoundingly faithful to its roots. And I am gladly eating crow. To put it simply, this is the best 2D to 3D conversion of a series ever. Metroid Prime truly is Metroid in 3D. It’s not just a new game in the guise of Metroid. It is Metroid, absolutely and definably. The weapons, power-ups, enemies, and atmosphere—it all hearkens back to classic side-scrolling Metroid. The mechanics of the game are exactly like those in previous games in the series, specifically Super Metroid for the SNES. There are no individual levels; you explore an enormous world seamlessly (there are no load times), fighting numerous enemies and bosses, and finding new weapons and abilities along the way that allow you to reach new areas that couldn’t be accessed before. As those of you who have played prior Metroid games (or some of the later Castlevania games) already know, this kind of game design, when done well, has a real gratifying sense of accomplishment and continuously coaxes you onward to explore all those previously inaccessible areas that your newest ability opens up. And although a gigantic world is sprawled before you right from the start, the game is excellent in the way that you’ll never feel completely lost, but you’ll never feel like you’re being guided by hand either. Furthermore, the difficulty curb is brilliant. The game starts off easy enough, but as you start to feel more comfortable with the controls and your abilities, the enemies become tougher and smarter, and the necessary leaps become more grandiose and precarious. It really is perfect. You also feel completely in control at all times. The controls take a little getting used to at first, but once you get acclimated to the scheme it’ll become completely natural. A common complaint may be that a more traditional, dual-analog stick FPS control scheme would have been nice in some areas, but I honestly never found myself yearning for it much at all. In fact, all the platforming in the game fundamentally requires the single analog stick control scheme, since you obviously need your other thumb to press the jump button, not to mention how awkward “steering” in mid-air would be using two analog sticks. Speaking of jumping, MP defies the seemingly unspoken rule in the FPS genre that says jumping must suck. It’s hard to put into words just why the jumping in MP feels so smooth and natural, but rest assured, it does. Visually, MP succeeds just as gloriously. The graphics are the very best you’ll see on the GC, and rank right at the top amongst every console. There are absolutely no inconsistencies, gaffes or glitches in the visuals, the textures are super sharp, the lighting exquisite and particle effects abound. MP also has the best special effects ever seen in a game before. Condensation and water beads form on Samus’ visor, heat waves discharge from Samus’ gun after a continuous volley of blasts, the area around charged shots warps as if the light is being sucked in, and that’s to say nothing of the incredibly effective displays of Samus’ thermal and X-ray visors. MP also has a very real sense of weight and gravity; the physics and hit detection are perfect, which is never more noticeable than when in Morph Ball mode, when Samus will sway around independently, conforming to the rolls and curves of the ground. The music cranks up the ambiance nicely and is on par with the phenomenal visuals. There are even a couple of treats that old school Metroid fans can pick up on (such as the Talon IV overworld music in the early stages of the game). I can think of only three things about MP that consistently annoyed me. One, doors don’t become blue forever after you unlock them with their respective weapon. This gets annoying in the later sections of the game, when all you want to use is the plasma beam but you must keep switching back to the ice or wave beams to open most of the doors. Two, it would have been nice if the lock on targeting automatically switched to a new target after you killed your current one. As it is, it gets specifically irritating when dealing with a large swarm of enemies, which causes you to press the L button way more than you’d want to. The third isn’t really so much of an annoyance as it is a design choice regarding the weapons that I wish Retro never made. See, no beam weapon ever really replaces the older one; you use all four types of shots throughout most of the game. This makes the later weapons seem a little less powerful than they should. Once I get my plasma beam, nothing else should even compare, and switching back to the humble power beam shouldn’t even be a consideration. As you can clearly tell, all three of these complaints are nitpicking of the highest degree. Sure they’re a little annoying (specifically the first two), but they affect your enjoyment of the game to such a small degree that they’re barely worth noting once, let alone dwelling on. The fact of the matter is that Metroid Prime is one of the most polished games I’ve ever seen. You can really tell that Retro Studios was aware of the colossal challenge they faced and tried their damnedest to overcome it. And overcame it they have, for Metroid Prime is one of the best games ever made.