Original Release: November 17, 2002
Developer: Retro Studios, Inc.
Platform: Nintendo GameCube
One of the harder parts of this project of mine is writing about games that I know I like. I’m sure you noticed with Banjo-Tooie, but it tends to lead to shorter articles where I don’t really go into detail about what I like or dislike about the game and, in the case of sequels, I just mention what’s different. It’s okay, but not ideal. As such I want to try and discuss things that I noticed on a recent replay and what I like or dislike about them. So let’s start with a bit of personal history.
I don’t remember exactly when, but I received Metroid Prime for Christmas one year along with a few other games like Egg Mania: Eggstreme Madness and Mario Kart Double Dash. I had recently learned about Metroid thanks to Super Smash Bros on the N64 and this was the first game in the series that I had ever played. I had no idea what to expect because my older brother was never a fan of the series and thus we didn’t have Metroid or Super Metroid available for me to try out when I was younger. I was blown away with the intro sequence almost immediately and liked that I could press the A button and Samus would fire as fast as I would press it. Little things like that really make a difference when you’re young.
As was the case with Super Metroid before it, Metroid Prime opens with Samus investigating a distress signal coming from somewhere nearby. In this case, it’s the Space Pirate research Frigate Orpheon. Once inside, Samus finds that all of the escape pods have launched and a majority of the remaining space pirates are either dead or dying from causes ranging from lacerations to acid burns to cranial trauma. Prime differs from its predecessors in that 1) it’s the first installment in the series to utilize a 3D space and a first-person perspective; and 2) Samus’ tools can be changed out as the situation calls for it. Need to activate something? Switch over to the scan visor. Door isn’t opening with your current beam weapon? Try one of the others as you find them! It’s been a while since I played Super Metroid (that’s due a revisit), but I feel like you could change weapons there? I could be wrong, but I digress.
Anyway, once you’re through the opening segment and Samus has been deprived of some of her equipment due to a malfunction, you’re into the meat of the game proper on the nearby planet of Tallon IV. Obviously you can’t do too much at first since you can’t fire missiles or activate the morph ball, but you can look around make note of things you might want to come back to later. Another change from earlier Metroid games is that the map shows up in the top right corner of the HUD and is in full 3D rather than the traditional 2D map from previous installments. It even rotates and shows you where you are!
It was a real treat to come back to Metroid Prime for the first time in years. Even coming up on its nineteenth anniversary it still looks amazing. Samus’ arm cannon is still nice and reflective, her power suit has a gorgeous metallic sheen, and everything just looks absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, even the HUD is diegetic! It makes perfect sense that Samus would be able to track her ammo and current beam weapon selection from inside her helmet, especially considering that she’s a bounty hunter. Retro Studios did a phenomenal job in regards to their design. And the game’s darn fun to play, too!
Most of my notes are just reminders of things that I wasn’t able to access when I first found them, so I don’t have a lot to say regarding my reactions to the events over the course of the game, but it was a delight from start to finish. Are there things I’m not all that much of a fan of? Yeah, some things, but most of those are just a result of the game’s age.
Let’s start with the map. It’s lovely to have a color-coded model to let you know where you have and haven’t been yet, but the lack of a compass of any sort makes it tricky to know exactly where one elevator will put you. For example, each elevator is marked in the style of “Transport to Magmoor Caverns North” but if you zoom out to the world map and then zoom into the region in question, it can be hard to tell where said transport will put you if you’re not familiar with the layout. I still don’t fully remember what’s closest to that transport if I’m being completely honest. You’ll be traveling back and forth a lot as you get more equipment though, so you will learn the map layout to some extent.
Of course, the other part is that some of the visors can be a bit hard on the eyes. Here’s the Thermal Visor for reference:
The screenshots I took are a bit small so it’s not as bad. And honestly the thermal visor is pretty neat! I wish I could say the same for the X-Ray Visor:
Yeah that’s pretty hard to look at for too long. Unfortunately, there are some enemies that you can only track (or maintain a lockon) when using it. They aren’t too frequent, and at least the game lets you know when you’ll need to use it if you scan the enemies in question.
That’s another thing that’s different from earlier installments, every enemy you run into can be recorded into your logbook for later reference if you scan it with the scan visor. In fact, you can unlock some image galleries if you scan enough stuff! Pirate data, chozo lore, creatures, even pickups and other things you come across throughout your adventure will count toward that total. Scan everything. Trust me.
I should warn you that there are some things that you’ll only have one chance to scan or you’ll permanently miss them. Bosses (some have multiple parts, so check to be sure), and some enemies in the intro, but I think that’s all of them. Maybe one bit of pirate data. You’ll know if you’ve scanned something because the icon will be faded and duller in color. Chozo lore in particular has a sort of watery layer overtop of it if you haven’t scanned it so you don’t need to switch visors to double-check. It can be tedious and maybe slow down the flow, but if you’re into the lore of the world around you it’s worthwhile.
The other thing is that, while you’re backtracking, you’ll be able to find 49 missile expansions, 14 energy tanks, 4 power bomb expansions, and 4 beam weapon combos like the super missile and flamethrower scattered throughout the world. You’ll know there’s something nearby because you’ll hear a low droning hum that grows in volume as you get closer to them. If you can’t reach something right away, make a note of it and come back later when you have some more of your gear!
It’s kind of funny now that I think about it, this game was also my introduction to metroidvania-style gameplay. I think by this point my brother had moved out and taken my PS1 with him, so I had no exposure to Symphony of the Night. And as I’ve said I’d never had any exposure to Metroid prior to this game outside of Smash Bros, so this was an adventure and then some. Coming back to it all these years later I’ve definitely had some more experience between games like Axiom Verge and Guacamelee, but Metroid Prime will always have a special place in my heart. It’s gorgeous, handles incredibly well, and it’s just darn fun to play. I can definitely recommend this one.
Another fun thing that I didn’t get to screenshot is that you can use the Game Boy Advance connector to unlock some connection bonuses if you start up Metroid Fusion while the GBA is connected. For one you’ll unlock the original NES Metroid. The other neat bonus is that you can play through the entirety of Metroid Prime in Samus’ Fusion Suit. There’s also a hard mode you can play through once you beat the game if you’re so inclined! One of the four image galleries is locked behind it, but it’s up to you whether or not you want to do that.
Yeah, Metroid Prime is definitely a worthwhile game. Retro Studios did a fantastic job here and if you’re looking for solid GameCube titles, this is one of them. I’m looking forward to revisiting Echoes at some point!