Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Top 52: Metroid Prime (#48)

This week's Top 52 features one of the Gamecube's gems: Metroid Prime. Gamespot's review for this game says it best: "It's not just one of the single most atmospheric games ever created, but it's also quite simply one of the best."

Title: Metroid Prime
Console: Gamecube
Release Date: 11/19/02 (US)
Genre: First-Person Adventure
My Ranking: #48

I was not excited about Metroid Prime when it was first announced. I thought the first-person camera would ruin the classic platforming/shooting style they had perfected with Super Metroid. I have played first-person shooters before and with all of the FPS’es I’ve played before this one, the environments were boring as the status quo was run into an area shoot some bad guys and move on. The Metroid series, I thought, deserved better than to be reduced to a standard FPS. Apparently, the developers thought the same thing, creating one of the most engaging first-person shooters I have ever played.

I say engaging because the gameplay environments are so crisp and rich with color. The water honestly looked so real that you could see the separate water drops in the waterfall. Heck, you could even see the water drops form on the visor that Samus sees the world from. The atmosphere did not feel realistic though, which was excellent. The environment looked as though the developers took Super Metroid, made it 3-D, and then made the graphics as sharp as possible. The caves and space pirate buildings felt just as creepy as they did before and the grassy environments felt reminiscent of the fantasy world created in Super Metroid.

I quickly realized that this game was much more than a first-person shooter. The world was so open that I felt the need to explore every nook and cranny. I was even rewarded for doing so because by looking in the odd spots I often found energy tanks or missile upgrades. I also never felt lost in this game despite the open environment. The map system would tell you the general location of where you need to go without giving you a direct route nor would it tell you what puzzles you would need to solve to move on ahead.

While most of the game was in first-person, when you do switch into morph ball mode, the game switches to a third-person camera where you can control Samus in a ball. You can roll around in this mode and use your bombs jump up or to hit some enemies. Metroid Prime utilized this mode very effectively, often giving you morph ball puzzles where the game’s camera would move out to show a 2-D tunnel landscape (both vertical and horizontal ones) that you had to navigate through using the morph ball. These areas were surprisingly fun as the mazes often had special power ups in them that were hard to get.

Figuring out how to get where you need to go was probably the most fun part of Metroid Prime. After taking out some ghost pirates using the X-Ray visor, there was one point where you had to use the morph ball to find a tunnel to weave your way through, switch your weapon to the correct type to unlock the switch, get fired out of a cannon and then use your spider ball mechanism to hit another switch that would lead to another morph ball maze. The game required you to use all of the abilities you got and to execute them properly.

Combat in the game was also incredibly fun. You’re able to lock-on enemies that you saw but, often times enemies would come at you in huge numbers. So, while you’re shooting you would need to jump, strafe and dodge incoming enemies while taking out as many guys as you can. Not every enemy fell to your basic shooting power however. Sometimes you would need to switch to your wave gun to stun enemies or maybe their weakness is only located in a specific spot on their body. Battles became little arenas where you are constantly moving trying to gain a good angle for some shots.

Bosses were never as simple as fire and get cover as well. For almost every boss battle, figuring out how to beat the boss was the challenge. Once you figured out the pattern to the boss the battle was pretty easy but figuring out that pattern involved some creative use of your abilities once again. Sometimes you had to use a specific gun at a certain time or maybe you would have to use the morph ball to get into a tunnel and set a bomb underneath them.

The reason why this game isn’t ranked higher though is for some little things that could have made this game even more amazing. For one, there is no multiplayer mode in this games, either co-op or competitive. On-screen co-op might have been difficult to implement but would have been amazing considering how creative and smart the enemies were. Metroid Prime is also a little bit too easy. Once you get four or five energy tanks, it’s really hard to die as the game gives you a lot of health back. The story is also kind of bland, but I like it that way, as there was little text and a very open adventure.

Many people disliked the Nintendo Gamecube as a whole. Metroid Prime is one of the Gamecube games that made me love the system. Metroid Prime not only provided a stunning environment to explore but it also redefined how deep and diverse a first-person shooter can be.
My Top 52:
#47 --- Revealed on 08/12


Anonymous said...

To this day, I still haven't given Metroid Prime a chance because I was (am) disappointed by the switch to FPS. Maybe someday...

Richard R. said...

Seriously Will, I felt the same way, but give this game a chance. I hate most FPS games but this one absolutely blew my mind. You won't be disappointed. You may not come back to it again and again like Super Metroid but I you'll be glad you played it

Lima said...

Morph ball kitty! I wants it!

ultima301 said...

Good game, agree with the difficulty complaints, the game was won with exploration though. The second one was better challenge wise, but the light-dark mechanic didn't always work well IMO. Some of the bosses were just beastly to fight, and had no real weakness (other than to use the light beam to hurt them more) and just needed a lot of plugging away at. The third one was a disaster;it so linear and destroys any semblance of the "lone bounty hunter" feel of the metroid series.

The weak point of the series to me is the hint system, which made finding your next upgrade way too easy. Thankfully this could be disabled in the options menu, but I still think it ruined the exploration aspect for a lot of people that didn't know how to / want to disable it. I really hate games that hold your hand through it step by step. The third one didn't even let you disable hints, which was the real nail in the coffin for me.

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