Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Game Review: Metroid Prime Trilogy (Part 2: Metroid Prime 2)

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes


Gamecube, 2004 / Wii, 2009

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Retro Studios

Time to Complete: 10 to 15 hours first go

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

Metroid Prime 2 is a somewhat divisive game. Some people swear by it, while others think of it as the black sheep of the trilogy. I have heard it compared to Majora's Mask in that regard. Does it deserve the comparison? In a way, yes. It's much darker than its predecessor and it has a central hub area that the other areas branch off of. The similarities end there, though. It's a bit different, yes, but this game is largely misunderstood and doesn't deserve the black sheep status. Kind of like the teenagers, with their loud "Gaga Lady" music and their not getting off of my lawn.

I've played this game three times since it was released in 2004. All three playthroughs have been very distinct from one another - one in 2004, one in 2007, and one in 2010. Each time I appreciated the game slightly more. It also became clear to me on the second playthrough that the game is far better when not rushed or played in a hurry. It isn't quite as good as the game which precedes it, but it's close. While the first Prime had players exploring the lush world of Tallon IV, this game takes you to the shattered world of Aether.

First of all, the most notable difference between this game and the first is that this game is dark... very dark. Almost from the outset, the game gets right in the player's face with its darkness; the first few minutes of the game have Samus having to fight off stiff, robotic, possessed marine corpses. Furthermore, probably about half of the game takes place in a "dark world", a sort of twisted mirror image of Aether. Those who have played A Link to the Past or fellow Zelda game Twilight Princess are familiar with the concept and execution here. While the light world is a place of beauty and light - even if it does mostly lay in ruins - the withered dark world exudes all kinds of evil out of its very pores. Even the poisonous atmosphere in the dark world is damaging to Samus, and it teems with creatures that chitter insanely like Fox News employees.

Dark Aether, as it is called in the game, is the kind of game design that people really either love or hate, depending on the person. Some people would argue that dimension-hopping overcomplicates the game and increases the odds of getting lost at any given time; those people are right. On the other hand, people like myself would argue that there's a certain atmosphere and prowling menace to a "dark world" that adds a lot to a game and leads to some pretty intense moments.

One thing I could kind of do without is the pushing of Dark Samus as the series' new main villain in both this game and the third Prime. Dark Samus isn't terribly interesting or compelling, and it seems like Nintendo tried way too hard to make Dark Samus into this mega-badass at the cost of making most of the other antagonists seem like chumps. This trend is even worse in Prime 3. It's too bad a villain who is actually over with series fans didn't get this kind of push, such as Ridley. Speaking of which, Ridley is absent from this game, and certainly missed.

The play control hasn't really changed at all from the first game. It's still good. This time around, the double jump (er...Space Jump) is acquired much earlier in the game than in the original Prime; this is definitely a cause for celebration given the tremendous usefulness of said double jump. My only question is, why not call it the High Jump Boots? That would be more in line with the past.

New to this game (in the Prime series, that is) is the Screw Attack (which probably should have been called Space Jump, given that it's far more like the Space Jump of the rest of the series than the actual Space Jump is...confused yet?). The Screw Attack is extremely fun to mess around with, and is definitely one of the things this game has over the first.

Unfortunately, most of the equipment in this game ends up being a step down. The visors, especially, end up being a backwards leap by the game designers. While the first game had the tremendously cool and useful Thermal and X-Ray visors, Prime 2 gives you the Dark and Echo visors. The former is a (moderately useful) poor man's combination of Prime 1's visors, showing foes and invisible targets in red and everything else in muddled gray that makes it unwieldy to move around with very much. The latter...oh boy. The Echo visor is essentially useless except for finding hidden switches in a number of rooms that I could probably count on one hand, as it renders you almost blind and you certainly won't be running around with it on.

The beams are also a step back. Prime 1 had its elemental-themed beams, and Prime 2 continues that theme (sort of) by having Light and Dark beams. After this, I was half expecting Prime 3 to have Lunar and Dryad beams (does that mean the starting power beam is Gnome? And do enough people remember Secret of Mana to make these references worthwhile?) but no dice. The Light and Dark beams, obtained relatively early on and in close proximity to each other, are both cool weapons; the problem is that they have limited ammo. Yes, limited ammo. Very limited ammo. It's possible to find expansions for their ammo capacity, but generally not until late in the story. So for the most part, you avoid using your cool new beams.

Hope you like using the Power Beam for nearly the entire game, because that's what ends up happening. Also, their usefulness is lopsided. The Light Beam is vastly more useful than the Dark Beam, which makes sense as the game's antagonists are basically shadow creatures. Near the end of the game is a third beam, the Annihilator Beam. This one is a combination of light and darkness, and uses the ammo of both. It's pretty rockin', but the ammo runs out even faster (as it draws from both of the other beam supplies). So, once again, you can't just sit back and enjoy your new-found powers of obliteration, and find yourself going back to the Power Beam still more.

Something I believe I forgot to mention in my review of Prime 1 is that the Wii version introduces a sort of trophy/achievement system. Metroid Prime Trilogy awards various emblems for achieving objectives in the game, primarily defeating bosses. This is definitely a cool addition, and made me wish that the Wii itself had some sort of trophy system. It should, especially considering that it's an online system.

In general, the Wii version of the game makes the same improvements to it that Prime 1's Wii-make does. The controls are still vastly superior to the Gamecube's, though people who have trouble aiming the Wiimote (either due to the sensitivity not being adjusted, atmospheric interference, or, in the case of most women, wall-eye fish-vision) might have some issues with the lock-on not being the total lock-on that it was in the Cube version. However, once this hurdle is overcome, the lock-on actually becomes superior, as it's easier to not miss when targetting small weak spots on bosses from odd angles. Personally, this worked out best for me when sitting around five/six feet or so of the Wii sensor bar; from closer and especially further distances the lock-on and aiming in general became problematic.

The game is somewhat longer than the original, and definitely more difficult. Much like Prime 1, it sports a lengthy fetch-quest towards the end that some players may not find agreeable, but for the most part the game ebbs and flows nicely. It's a great follow-up to Prime 1, but it is important to go into it with patience. Both games are nearly equal in most regards and both deserve to be played; that said, if you only play one game in this series, go with the first one.

Rating: 9.2 out of 10


  1. Are teenagers really misunderstood? Adults have already been there. If anything it's adults that are misunderstood by teenagers.

  2. Sounds like the game has a similar weapon problem that MM10 had compared to MM9.

  3. to be honest, i think metroid prime 2 is cheating by using the arm cannon shape of the elemental beams from prime 1, they could have at least put different looks in!

  4. i think dark samus was cool just they didn't make him look good or stick true to his origin on metroid prime 1 sorry for the spoiler whoever didnt kno dark samus was really metroid prime but the in game hint is the fact that there is PHAZON ON AETHER MEANING ONE THING METROID PRIME DID NOT! DIE IN THE FIRST GAME!!

  5. I agree about Metroid Prime 2 cheating with the arm cannon shapes. They reuse beams quite a bit throughout the Prime series. Where was the Spazer? Prime needs more Spazer.