Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Game Review: Metroid Prime Trilogy (Part 1: Metroid Prime)

Metroid Prime

It's like prime rib

Gamecube, 2002 / Wii, 2009

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Retro Studios

Time to Complete: 7 to 12 hours first go

Note: This review covers the Metroid Prime Trilogy version of the game.

Metroid Prime heralded the long-awaited return of the Metroid series after an eight year - eight year! - post Super Metroid absence. It went on to spawn two sequels of its own. A few years later, all three games were bundled together to create the limited-release Metroid Prime Trilogy for Wii, one of the most cost-effective deals in the history of gaming. Trilogy features a new widescreen format and updated Wii controls.

I will say unabashedly that the Metroid series may well be my favorite game series of all time. Metroid Prime is actually the second game in the series chronologically. Since this is a series I can appreciate the continuity of, it's time for a quick history lesson. The series chronology is thus:

Metroid (or the Zero Mission remake, if you like) 
Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Metroid 2: Return of Samus
Super Metroid
Metroid Fusion

That's seven games. The upcoming, oddly-named Metroid: Other M will likely be between Super and Fusion. The Metroid series may not be the continuity mess that the Zelda series is, but Nintendo has done a somewhat bad job when it comes to boxing themselves in somewhat with the story. Super Metroid does a good job ending the space pirate storyline, while Metroid 2 has Samus literally obliterating the Metroid homeworld. These events in and of themselves make sequels difficult, but it gets worse.

The most glaring example of Nintendo boxing themselves in had to be Metroid Fusion. The very nature of Metroid Fusion - which has Samus undergoing a drastic change - pretty much necessitates that it has to be the last game in the series chronologically... or at least that Nintendo can't make a Metroid that takes place after it while still keeping Samus in her normal state. , which is why Other M precedes it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Early reports indicate that Other M will develop the stories of both Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion further, which demonstrates that Nintendo is paying attention to their timeline and continuity in this series.

So clearly, when you box yourself in with possible series-ending scenarios, that's when you make prequels, such as the Prime series. There's also Metroid Prime Hunters for the DS, which presumably takes place during the Prime series. I don't really count it as a main series game, because it isn't very good, doesn't particularly feel like a Metroid game, and has little to no plot relevance to anything else that has happened in this series.

Everyone get all that? Good.

The 2002 release of Metroid Prime was quite a boon to the then-upstart Gamecube, and is debatably the system's finest single-player moment. Some would give that title to Zelda: The Wind Waker or Metroid Prime 2, but chances are the majority of Nintendo connoisseurs would agree that the original Metroid Prime wins out. Simply put, the game is a masterpiece. Players traverse the world of Tallon IV, battling both series mainstays and all-new villains in a new three dimensional, first-person format. While many people had their doubts about this new format before the release of Prime, those doubts were quickly quieted once the game hit stores. Tallon IV is a living, breathing world, with its own ecosystems, food chain, and some awe-inspiring weather.

First-person or not, the game brilliantly captures the mood, feeling, and style of past Metroid games. Aside from some areas, like the brutal, tedious, difficult Phazon Mines, the game is extremely enjoyable and has a great variety in the types of terrain you traverse. The aformentioned Phazon Mines are definitely the low point of the game, but they're late enough in the game and short enough in length that they don't detract too much from the overall game.

The weaponry in the game deviates from the usual Metroid fare by following an elemental theme. Several series mainstay weapons appear here, like the standard Power Beam and the Wave, Ice, and Plasma beams. Notably absent is the Spazer Beam, and it is missed. Unlike other Metroid titles, the Wave and Plasma beams have been given electric and fire properties, respectively. It's interesting that these beams were given properties to rival the existing Ice Beam's... elementalness. That said, in the case of the Plasma Beam's new fire blast consistency I found myself missing the laserish Plasma Beam of old.

This game is full of moments that stick with you; your first arrival on Tallon IV in the middle of an un-ending rainstorm is one such moment, while the intense battle with Meta-Ridley towards the end of the game is another. This game is unforgettable overall, and definitely one of the best games of the past decade.

All that said, how does the Wii version stack up? The new widescreen format is useful and very much appreciated. It seems slightly off at times, and it still isn't the prettiest game around when played on an HDTV, but it's certainly an improvement over the original 4:3 appearance.

The new Wii controls are something I was skeptical about beforehand. At first, they can be tremendously awkward, especially if you have previously played the Gamecube version. At first, the game is actually more difficult as a result. The first few bosses actually gave me some challenge this time around. However, after playing for a little while, the controls become second-nature as any new controller would. It takes a bit longer, but it's worth it. The Wii controls make aiming and movement in general much easier once you get used to them, and the game itself gets more fun as a result. While at first I disliked the new controls, now I have a tough time imagining the game without them. Protip: Switch the jump and fire buttons with each other in the control scheme. It's much more intuitive of a setup than the original configuration.

I have one small complaint about the Wii version of the game. Since all three Primes share the same title screen in Trilogy, that means each game doesn't have its own individual title screen/select screen. This is mainly a problem because the title/select screens of the first two games in the trilogy have such awesome music. Especially in the case of the first game, the select screen music is missed.

The replay value of this game is off the charts. With better times and higher item percentages to shoot for, as well as higher difficulty levels, the game has plenty of depth and replayability. The Wii version adds a new difficulty level after you finish the game once, for a total of three. Even better, the game keeps track of which difficulties you've finished the game on, and finishing the two higher difficulties gives you new rewards. Lots of games have a high replayability factor, yet their fun factor doesn't particularly compel you to feel like
replaying them. This one is fun enough that you'll WANT to keep going with it and see everything it has to offer. Even for people who aren't hardcore Metroid fans, or, like me, have little free time, playing the game once through on normal difficulty is something that every gamer should experience.

Metroid Prime Trilogy is an outstanding collection. If you already own all three Metroid Prime games, there isn't really anything new to be found in Trilogy aside from a nice metal case. People who only have one or both of the first two games, however, would be well served to pick up Trilogy instead of Metroid Prime 3. Consisting of one brilliant game and two nearly-as-brilliant games, this series belongs in any Nintendo fan's collection. Metroid Prime frequently amazes, and isn't that why we play games - to be amazed?

Still to come, reviews of the other two parts of the trilogy. Stay tuned.


  1. Finest single player moment? F Smash Bros!

  2. Wind Waker has a shot, but it also has the triforce search so it's out. I don't think many people think Prime 2 is better than 1. The only other game that's a real competition to Prime for perfection is Resident Evil 4.

  3. The Metroid Prime menu screen music is gone?! BOYCOTT

  4. I'm really impressed they brought Metroid over to first-person shooting to begin with.