Metroid Prime

Year: 2002
Platform: GameCube
Developer: Retro Studios
Genre: First person shooter
Review Date: 1/2/04
Rating: ***

After taking a long and well deserved rest, the hunter has finally returned. Samus Aran's previous attempts to rid the galaxy of both metroids and space pirates have proved insufficient, and this time the fight takes her to the Chozo homeworld of Tallon IV. A deadly meteorite has poisoned the planet with phazon radiation, and the space pirates are very interested in the radiation's effects on the local flora and fauna. They've even got some mutant metroids that they're trying to study and breed. Samus must explore the various ruins and locales on Tallon IV to put an end to the phazon corruption and the space pirate occupation. Similar to previous Metroid games, Samus achieves her goal by collecting various suit and weapon upgrades, shooting things, and by jumping around a lot.

What makes this Metroid game so different from its predecessors is that it's played from the first person perspective. For any other platform game this would be the kiss of death, but amazingly Retro Studios managed to figure out how to make a first person jumping game that looks and feels natural. Another thing that had long time Metroid fans cringing was the fact that the previously unheard of Retro Studios was developing the game instead of Nintendo. Fortunately, they pulled it off splendidly.

First and foremost, the game is stunningly beautiful. All of the levels are laid out extremely well and full of detail, color, and atmosphere. A lot of care and attention was put into all of the subtle details and effects. The controls are also simple and intuitive, and Samus's HUD is richly detailed, yet compact and easy to read. Loading times for "Metroid Prime's" huge levels are effectively non-existent, making the entire experience seamless. Another seamless element is the brilliant integration of the classic morph ball mode, which switches the game to a third person perspective and allows Samus to roll around freely and easily. The music is probably the least memorable part of the game, with tunes ranging from bland to good.

And yet, for all of its technical brilliance and artistic supremacy, "Metroid Prime" just isn't that fun to play. Like all other Metroid games, this one is extremely long and difficult. It requires a lot of skill, patience, intuition, and attention to detail in order to play, which are all talents that I do not possess. I managed to make it about ten hours into the game before it become too much to deal with and I was forced to pull out the Action Replay and start going step by step through the strategy guide. Even with these aids the game can be frustrating and tedious, which is mostly due to the fact that "Metroid Prime" requires a LOT of backtracking, and enemies are almost always respawned whenever you re-enter a room. Not only is this unforgiveably annoying, but it introduces a serious logic and continuity flaw in an otherwise flawless game. Nothing is more frustrating than destroying a room full of enemies and stationary objects, only to have to clear the room again as soon as you go through a door. (it reminded me a lot of the alarms in "BloodRayne" that would mysteriously fix themselves after I'd smashed them) Unfortunately, this respawning issue quickly bleeds all of the enjoyment out of the game, and I found the sweet spot to be about six hours in before the fun factor started dropping dramatically. Sadly, by the time I got to the impact crater (which took me about thirty hours), the game became so frustrating, tiresome, and annoying that I couldn't even muster up the enthusiasm to battle the final boss. Samus has a hard job, and I don't envy her in the slightest.