Friday, April 12, 2013

Metroid Prime (Gamecube, 2002)

Considering that the Metroid series is one of my favorite of all time, it's crazy that it took me this long to include one in The Three Decade Project. A lot of that has to do with how I already did posts for most of the games in the series; however, I never did one for Prime, and it slides nicely right into the 2002 block. While I do in some ways prefer their darker follow-ups, Prime 2 and Fusion, I feel like Prime is tied with Super Metroid for the title of "best game in the series". That's some tall praise right there.

The file select screen in this game - in addition to having a really creepy background that looks like footage from a microscope slide of a deadly virus - has AWESOME MUSIC. The Metroid Prime Trilogy remake of this game may sport a new widescreen presentation, but for some reason they omitted the file select as we know it... which means this music is missing. This is the only negative thing about the Wii version. BUT IT'S IMPORTANT, OKAY?

This game, like Super Metroid, starts you off on a doomed space station. Since this series completely skipped the N64, this was the first 3D Metroid. I remember playing this for the first time in 2002 and being completely blown away that one of my favorite game-verses was being fully realized this way.

Note: The screenshots in this post are camera-shots, so they won't be the best. Also, I'm playing the Gamecube version on the Wii, which means the picture is stretched a bit. I suggest playing the Wii Trilogy version I mentioned, which has an inherent widescreen format. And better controls. And NO FILE SELECT MUSIC WHY

One of the biggest new additions to this game is the Scan Visor. With this you can scan literally almost everything in the game, be it creatures or computer screens or even plant life. You can get all kinds of fun facts from this, like how part of the wall is weak to weapon fire or how Ridley is actually a lesbian. That's right.

 The first boss is the Parasite Queen. It's freaky-looking, but it isn't a difficult fight. If anything, this is the training stage. The best thing about it? Alia isn't busting through the screen explaining everything to you, like the last game I played. Nope, you're figuring things out as you go along, and this first area pretty much teaches you everything you need to know.

 The station explodes, Ridley escapes, yadda yadda... it's the usual Metroid plot. One thing that is different about this game that I like is that Samus starts out with a lot of her powers, but loses them when hit by a shockwave during the escape from the station. Good of the game to explain her taking a downgrade, something they usually just gloss over.

 Samus chases Ridley to the nearby planet of Tallon IV. This planet is a sister planet to the notorious Zebes; this one is far more hospitable, though. At least, it was, once upon a time. Before the Republicans.

Samus lands on Tallon IV, and the real adventure begins. And what an adventure this is. If you have a Gamecube and haven't played this game, go... wait a minute, why would you have a Gamecube and not have this game? Aside from Wind Waker, this game and its sequel are pretty much the only reasons to own a Gamecube. In any case, if you have a Gamecube or Wii and don't have this game, go get it and play through it. I'll wait. Back now? Good times, yeah?

Tallon Overworld is the first area, and probably my favorite area in the game. The music here is very atmospheric. The area itself is stormy and lagoony, and if you look up at the falling rain it lands in droplets on Samus' visor. Not bad at all. It takes me back to the first time I ever played this game; I was on my last day off from work during the 2002 Thanksgiving break, I had a cold, and I was eating shrimp.

Very shortly after the outset, the game introduces you to the dusty Chozo Ruins. This is effectively the Brinstar of the game, all overgrown with vegetation. Far more of the early-game takes place here than Tallon Overworld, which is unfortunate. It isn't as interesting or awe-inspiring. It's still better than Agon Wastes (which is like the first third of Prime 2), at least.

There are a bunch of what I consider miniboss fights in this area. None of them are particularly interesting or memorable; this game takes a bit of time to really get rolling. For the most part, the first hour of the game consists of running back and forth in the ruins to collect power-ups. The Morph Ball, Missiles, and Bombs are all collected in this early stage, and every one of them is pretty crucial to even start exploring.

The first truly major boss is found in the Sunchamber, a huge room at the top of the ruins. This would be Flaahgra, a giant plant from hell that seems to be poisoning all of the water in the ruins. How is it doing this? Do we want to know?

You defeat by depriving it of light sources, more or less. The music during this fight is one of the better tracks in the game. Pop those peepers, because this is a creepy fight.

Since I completely missed getting a screenshot of the boss fight, here's a video of said boss fight. It's worth checking out just for the music. As a boss-thusiast, I approve of the major bosses in this game. The string of mini-bosses early on? Not quite so much. This is where they start getting good.

As is tradition, beating the first major boss nets you the Varia suit. This is Samus' most iconic look. Her original suit is more yellow and lacks the "buffness". This lets her survive in super-heated areas, so naturally the next part is the lava area. Getting the Varia is an awesome moment in most Metroid games... aside from Other M where it consists of Samus finally getting permission from Adam to turn on the Varia after BURNING ALIVE IN SWELTERING HEAT for a while. I really felt a sense of achievement on that one!

Magmoor Caverns is probably my least favorite area in the game. Just not really a fan of caves, though I do appreciate all of the lava. The music here is a remix of Ridley's Lair from Super Metroid, but I don't like it as much as the original. Way too heavy of a beat in this version.

I like the dragon-serpent things that pop out of the lava and attack. They're similar to creatures from earlier games in the series, only three-dimensional. Magmoor Caverns is odd because it's the only area in the game that doesn't have a big boss. If they ever do an HD remake of this game with new content, I think they should add a hidden postgame-style boss here. Crocomire or something. That'd be pretty sick. It'd be simple enough to implement, too. When restarting from a completed game save, a message could pop up saying "Seismic tremors detected in Magmoor region" or something along those lines, with a new cave opened up in one of the larger chambers.

The attention to detail in this game is astounding. When Samus runs through steam, her visor fogs up for a moment. It's almost as cool as having raindrops land on the visor while outdoors. If this were a regular first-person game with no visor, it wouldn't have been able to do any of this. The HUD also makes sense in this context. In 2002, this made most other first person shooters look like Wolfenstein 3D on DOS.

Phendrana Drifts is the ice area of the game. Now there's something that was missing from Super Metroid, an ice area. This is without a doubt the most popular area in the game, and with good reason. The music here? Very, very good. Almost sounds like something from Yasunori Mitsuda (the guy who did the soundtracks for Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Shadow Hearts Covenant).

There's constant snowfall here, and it's a huge zone with a lot to explore. While I personally like Tallon Overworld a bit more, I'll admit that Phendrana Drifts is the high point of the game.

Some of the rooms in this game are HUGE. Very expansive. I like the way the game exposes you to most of the areas very early on, even before you can make very much headway in any of them.

There are a lot of "side-scrolling" morph ball only areas in this game that basically amount to 2D hallways. Since they're the exception, they're pretty cool.

Much like Metroid Fusion, I have never found 100% of the items in this game. I think my record is a measily 65% or so. As a result, every time I play this I find things that I've never found before. Here we see a precariously-placed Missile that I found for the first time.

The Space Jump is one of the most important powerups in this game, as it lets you double jump. It's located in a grove very close to the starting point of the game, and it's actually possible to get it at the very beginning if you use a certain dashing glitch. The game is very different if you have the double jump from the start.

Back in Phendrana, the menacing Sheegoth is one of the more memorable mini-bosses in this game. It guards...

...the Wave Beam. It takes awhile to get a new beam in this game, but when you do it's a big improvement. The Wave Beam has a much wider range than the standard beam and has the nice side effect of emitting a lot of light when you fire it. I use it a lot in dark areas to light things up. One interesting thing this game does with the beams: elemental properties. New to this game, the Wave Beam is now electric-themed and the Plasma Beam is now fire-themed. The Ice Beam is still ice-themed, as always, and it's cool to see the other beams get elemental properties as well.

People interested in lore will find insane amounts of it in this game via the Scan Visor. In this room we find out that Zebes and Tallon IV are celestial neighbors, and...

...Tallon IV is slightly bigger in mass.

This solar system map shows us a number of other planets in the same system, but none of them are particularly consequential in the Metroid universe. Yet. ...yeah, they probably won't be doing anything with any of these. They had the perfect chance to in Prime 3, which features multiple planets, but instead they chose to just create new planets for that game.

It wouldn't be a Metroid game without Zebesian Space Pirates, and this game has a lot of them. At first they aren't much of an issue to dispatch, but they quickly adapt to the threat posed by Samus. Soon you start encountering flying Zebesians with rocket launchers, Zebesians with cloaking devices, and multi-colored Zebesians that are only vulnerable to one weapon.

Those are probably the worst, especially when they attack in mixed groups. Best thing is, as you infiltrate the pirate bases, you can scan their computers to read about how they're reacting to Samus' presence by beefing up their armaments. It'd be funny if they had some trash talk mixed in there on the computers. Like if in addition to updates on their progress in stopping Samus, the pirates asked how she got out of the kitchen to begin with.

They're also breeding Metroids. The first time Samus finds one in stasis, it's a creepy moment. Without any dialogue, Samus reacts strongly to the presence of the vicious life-form. If this were Other M she'd launch into a lengthy monologue about motherhood and stuff while making Adam a sandwich. Keep it simple, folks. Metroids are basically the honey badgers of the cosmos, and they're scary face-raping fiends.

Nice camera rotation around Samus and the Metroid as they seemingly stare each other down. Of course, it breaks out of the case and attacks; it's the first of many Metroids to fight in this game.

A scan of the Metroid brings up some interesting pictures. One thing that I found disappointing in this game is that there are only two breeds of Metroid: the original one seen here, and the Hunter Metroid. The latter is basically a more aggressive standard Metroid with a tentacle. It would have been nice to see other Metroid mutations fully realized in 3D, something that we haven't really seen from this series.

The Thermal Visor is one of the cooler artifacts in the game, and gives you Predator-vision. Helps a lot when fighting Predator-cloaked Zebesians. That's right, this game borrows heavily from both Alien (per usual) AND Predator.

Thardus (a bizarre stone golem deal) is the big boss of Phendrana, and one of the more memorable fights in the game. You make full use of the Thermal Visor during this fight, and the music is yet another great track.

Thardus has his own version of the Morph Ball, and the visibility conditions get notably worse as the fight goes on. Great battle.

Each of the beams in this game has a "super attack" that gets its own powerup. None of these (aside from Super Missiles?) are necessary for completing the game, but they're all useful. The standard Power Beam gets Super Missiles (consumes five missiles, fires a super-shot); the Wave Beam gets the Wavebuster (consumes missiles continuously, generates a Ghostbusters style electric beam); the Ice Beam gets the Ice Spreader (consumes ten missiles, fires an ice missile with a wide freeze effect...not that useful) and the Plasma Beam gets the Flamethrower (honestly, not sure how this one works, never have gone out of my way to get or use it...maybe this time). The Wavebuster is by far my favorite of the lot due to its usefulness and my fandom of Ghostbusters, and I always make sure to grab it as early as possible.

The Spider Ball is one of the cooler powerups in the Metroid canon. It made its debut in Metroid 2 for the Game Boy; in that game you could use it to literally cling to ANY walls in the game. As a kid I would roll across every surface that I could, bombing everywhere to try and find hidden stuff. The best part is, occasionally I WOULD find hidden items, rewarding my seemingly Quixotic efforts. I think that may well be the sole Metroid game that I have gotten 100% in. Well, I did that in Super Metroid once too, but that was a concerted effort with a guide. Getting everything in Return of Samus with no help is a highlight. In this game, Spider Ball usage is limited to pre-ordained tracks for obvious reasons.

Chozo statues that send you to where you need to go if you roll up into a ball in their hands? Yeah, this game has that. One of my favorite conventions from Super Metroid. It just makes sense that if you see a statue with open hands, you'll want to roll into a ball there. I was doing that in Metroid 2, back before it even had any results. It just looked cool.

THE CREEPIEST STATUE EVER heralds Samus' umpteenth return to the Chozo Ruins. I consider Thardus to be roughly the halfway point of the game, and at this point you have a lot of freedom to traverse the various areas of the game and collect items.

The Ice Beam is the next beam to get in this game. It actually isn't that useful in this game; the Wave Beam is more damaging and you can't use frozen enemies as steps like you can in the 2D games. Still, it has its uses, like grounding flying Zebesians. No love for the Spazer in this game, unfortunately. Then again, they already ran out of elements, so I'm not sure what the form the Spazer would even take. In a way, the Wave Beam in this game is a Wave/Spazer hybrid since it fires three beams at once.

The Ice Beam looks cool, at least. It's difficult to get a shot of the beams in action in this game due to the first-person view, but when you charge the Ice Beam your entire arm cannon gets icy. That I certainly can get a shot of. NOW TO RUN AROUND FREEZING EVERYONE.

The next part of the game features some pretty extensive trekking back and forth that gets a bit tiresome. On Tallon Overworld, there's a "sub-area" of sorts, the Crashed Frigate. It's clearly a reference to the Wrecked Ship of Super Metroid. It's the doomed space station from the intro of the game, only now it's sideways and flooded. Getting through here requires the Gravity Suit, which means trekking way back to Phendrana.

The deeper parts of Phendrana have new, funky music. A decade ago I was into this track, but now that I'm older and less hip, I prefer the lower-key theme from earlier.

The Gravity Suit is found in a frozen lake. It has the iconic Screw Attack emblem, for some reason. The Screw Attack isn't actually in this game, because they were saving it for Prime 2. It's TOTALLY RAD in that game.

Here's a shot of the Gravity Suit. Players of Super Metroid no doubt remember it from that game. It has a particularly nice color scheme. The vibrant yellow and purple call to mind a serene lake sunset. AND NOW BACK TO KILLING!

After trekking all the way back to the Crashed Frigate, it is now traversable. It involves a lot of Thermal Visor usage and powering conduits with the Wave Beam. Yeah, this part drags on a little bit, but that's okay because soon we're headed to the fun-mania known as...


The Phazon Mines are the most brutal, frustrating area in this game; best part is, you get to go through them twice.

Here's a little trick: There's a room full of gas with endlessly spawning enemies. You can hide out by the doors and not be affected by the gas, and from there it's simple enough to snipe enemies until your health is refilled. At this point in the mines, it's a crucial bit of assistance. One that I wished I had had the first few times I played. WHERE WERE YOU FOR ME IN THE PAST, PRESENT-DAY ME?

Most of the Phazon Mines consist of rooms like this, full of multicolored Zebesians. You're pretty much under a constant barrage of laser fire, and it's no picnic. Unless you have your picnics in Detroit. Then it's about right.

An electrical maze leads to the Power Bombs, which are gained oddly late in this game. They're extremely useful since they can one-shot Metroids, but ammo for them is very scarce and only dropped by certain enemies.

Much like Super Metroid, the Power Bombs lead to the Grappling Beam. The latter is a lot of fun, as expected.

Again like Super Metroid, the Grappling Beam leads to an X-Ray scope... though in this case it's an actual visor that compliments the Thermal Visor by seeing things that it can't. While Thermal vision helps with spotting foes and power conduits, the X-Ray Visor lets you see walls that are breakable. One particularly cool little thing about this visor is that you can look through Samus' hand with it and OH MY GOD THERE ARE BONES IN THERE!

The big late-game goal here is to find the twelve artifacts of the Chozo. This is a scavenger hunt that annoys a lot of players, but it isn't anywhere near as bad as the similar Triforce Shard hunt in Wind Waker or the keys at the end of Metroid Prime 2. I guess this "PAUSE THE MOMENTUM AND GO DO SOME BUSYWORK FOR A WHILE!" gameplay device is a Gamecube thing.

For starters, you don't need like 4,000 rupees for this, plus this is actually fun. You can get started on it early, too. I usually wait until the end and then look for all of them at once, but this time around I got as many as I could before the endgame.

There's one in the Artifact Temple near the start of the game. Since this is basically a freebie, there are really just eleven of these things to look for throughout Tallon IV. Most of them are pretty easy to get, though there are two that are out of the way in the depths of Phendrana and two that are really out of the way in Phazon Mines. It's important to get those two while you're there so that you don't need to make yet another return trip after you're done with the place. All in all, I enjoyed this scavenger hunt because it makes you revisit all of the areas with your array of endgame abilities, and you find all kinds of hidden items in the meantime.

The chamber leading up to the Plasma Beam is a massive room full of Spider Ball tracks and various puzzles. This is my least favorite room in the game, because it's an ascent all the way and if you fall, you start over.

The Plasma Beam is hanging out in this molten room, mocking Samus. Actually, if this were a modern-day Zelda game, the Plasma Beam would be a sassy red-haired man-child with a pointy hat.

Forgot to mention up to now: this game has an abundance of different colored doors that can only be opened by specific beams. While the amount of multicolored doors goes overboard a bit (especially in the later parts of the game when you have all of the beams and constantly need to switch them just to travel across an area), I appreciate that the game uses this mechanic rather than lame keycard collecting like some games. Basically the same result, it's just a lot less noticeable. Though it would have been nice if doors stayed blue after you opened them with the right weapon once, ala Super Metroid.

Another semi-menacing Chozo statue that triggers a pathway. The Chozo are interesting creatures, and it's unfortunate that they've all died off by the time of the Metroid series. I'd like to see more of them in one of these games, if possible. But that won't happen, because THEY'RE DEAD! THEY'RE DEAD ALRIGHT!?

As if one jaunt through Phazon Mines weren't bad enough, the game sends you back there at the end. This time, you get to traverse the entire three-floor area, rather than just the (bad enough) first floor. Heavily-armed Zebesians attack by the half dozen in here. I wish they had brought back and remixed the bitchin' Space Pirate theme from Super Metroid for this.

The deepest level of the mines contains a lot of Phazon, the blue stuff seen here. It's radioactive and far deadlier than lava. This means that even though it looks REALLY COOL, it's best to avoid the stuff.

As if this weren't bad enough, the place is also crawling with Metroids. One Power Bomb will take out multiple Metroids at once (if they're all stacked up around you, as they tend to do) but ammo is limited and scarce, which means the player is faced with some decision-making here.

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball.

I particularly like the rooms that have glowing Phazon mushrooms. Pretty unique scenery here. Then again, I like just about any video game area with giant mushrooms.

Get used to seeing this a lot in the Phazon Mines. I didn't even come close to getting killed for the entire game before the Mines, now I've seen this screen several times.

The boss of this area is the infamous Omega Pirate, who ends more than a few playthroughs of the game. This fight can be either very difficult or very not difficult, depending on how aggressively you attack.

Since the boss regenerates, staying on offense is the best thing to do here. In my case, I got completely destroyed the first two times I attempted the fight, then won easily on the third go by being relentless. Also, Super Missiles are key.

Winning nets Samus the Phazon Suit, which is exclusive to this game. It turns her armor black and makes her invulnerable to Phazon. I wish more games had this suit, because it might well be the most badass suit in the entire series canon.

Being able to move through Phazon is useful for getting items, like this artifact.

Speaking of, grabbing all twelve Triforce Shards artifacts means you can finally go on to the last area of the game, the Impact Crater. But first!

It wouldn't be a Metroid game without a Ridley fight. Unless this were Metroid 2, I guess. Or Prime 2. In any case, the Space Pirate commander is no doubt enraged at Samus' decimation of the pirate base in the Phazon Mines, and he caught up with her just in time.

Samus proceeds to completely lose her mind in horror as Ridley approaches, flashing back to her childhood and becoming completely unable to fight back. Wait, that doesn't happen at all. In actuality, she completely whoops his ass without flinching while another great remix plays.

As the fight goes on, Ridley's wings burn off. Once he's grounded, he actually gets more powerful. This battle gets a bit difficult towards the end, as his weak point can be hard to zero in on.

After Ridley's demise - yet again, he has more lives than Sigma - a bunch of Chozo ghosts appear and open the way to the Impact Crater. The crashed meteor within is the source of the Phazon that wiped out the planet, and it's full of Metroids.

The crashed meteor is the final area of the game, and it's really bizarre. It looks like the inside of a massive creature, and some of the platforms look like teeth. It also contains red super-phazon that damages Samus even with her new suit.

In the last room, Metroid Prime lurks. It's all balled up in a web, and resembles a demonic face. This is the most powerful Metroid in existence, made that way by exposure to massive amounts of Phazon.

After it uncurls, we can see that it looks a bit like a giant spider. On a personal note, when I was a kid I "designed" Metroid IV in a notebook, and the final boss of that game was a highly-evolved Metroid that resembled a giant spider. I should find that notebook eventually, it probably had some good ideas in it. This battle has great music, which is almost needless to say at this point.

Much like the Ridley fight before it, the finale of this game is pretty easy at first and gets more difficult as time goes by. Like so many of the late-game foes, this boss changes his weakness with increasing regularity as the fight goes on. Lots of weapon switching is needed.

Of course, the final boss has another form after that: this bizarre jellyfish-like apparition. This is another tricky battle since a lot of Metroids spawn in the room to mess things up. Power Bombs are key for taking them out. For this boss, we get what might be the best battle tune in the game. It's certainly the most memorable final boss tune in the whole series.

After Samus vanquishes it again, Metroid Prime inflates into a gigantic Phazon blob that bears a fairly strong resemblance to the X Parasites in Fusion. Huh, that's weird.

It pulls off the dark suit Spider-Man 3 style, leaving her with the Gravity Suit. How that works, I have no idea. I guess the dark armor was just a coating.

It then gobbles up the Phazon Suit to create Venom., seriously. Dark Samus gets spawned from the suit and shows up in Prime 2 as a villain. I'm onto you, Spider-Man 3! Either way, Samus escapes as Metroid Prime implodes on itself. This game lacks an escape sequence at the end. Most Metroid games have one. Not sure why this one doesn't, because Samus does indeed have to get off of the planet, but for some reason it transpires in cutscene rather than a playable escape sequence.

Credits roll, letting us know who is responsible for this. Retro Studios deserves a huge round of applause for this game.

Gotta say, ten hours is a lot longer than it usually takes me (5-6). I must be getting worse at games. Then again, I was pretty thorough with item collection on this run. This game is ridiculously good, there isn't much more to say about it.

Other Metroid-related posts from around the site:

Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime 2
Metroid Prime 3


  1. Metroid Prime Trilogy is missing the MP1 file select music? 0 out of 10.

  2. Wow, that game is gorgeous. Good stuff as always, Jericho. Why no love for the Gamecube? Smash Brothers holds up better than maybe, I don't know, ANY game of the generation

    1. I just don't feel like the Gamecube measures up to the competition. Sure, it has Smash Bros, Wind Waker, the two Metroid Primes, and... well... I guess you can count Twilight Princess if you want to. But outside of that group, the system really doesn't seem to have a whole lot going for it, unfortunately.


      Sure it came to other systems eventually, but it was a Gamecube exclusive first, and it was better than the PS2 port that came out later. Either way, Resident Evil 4 is a 10/10 game that should never be ignored when talking about the cube.

  3. I came here to read your blog... and tell you it sucks!
    I'll crush onto your words until they're bangers and mash.
    I've seen better blog work in Tango & Cash.

  4. Epic post. Just so much happening here, and so many great shots and explanations. Thanks a lot for doing it. Thanks especially for linking all the songs!