Metroid Prime Triolgy
Developer: Retro Studios
Release Date: August 25th, 2009
If you were to tell me in 2002 before Metroid Prime was released that in 2009 we would be celebrating the re-release of one of the greatest videogame trilogies of all time in the form of Metroid Prime Trilogy, I couldn’t even be able to put into words how dumb I would think you were. The fact that Metroid Prime was good, let alone the masterpiece that it is, defies any and all kinds of logic. The game was being made by Retro Studios, who prior to the games release was the laughing stock of the industry. This was a all star development studio made up of hand picked members from Texas’s finest development houses (id, Gearbox, Ion Storm, etc.), who since their inception in 1998 had cancelled four separate titles, and hadn’t released a single one. Then it was later discovered that the head honcho of the company, Jeff Spangenberg, was running a porno site (with content starring himself) and hosting it on company servers. All their eggs were in the basket of Metroid Prime, which Nintendo fans worldwide had already written off as a blasphemous insult to a once great franchise. Not only did Nintendo hand over development to a bunch of unproven westerners, but they were turning one of gaming’s premiere side scrolling franchises into a first person shooter of all things. Anyone with a brain could see this as the recipe for diasaster that it was surely going to be.
Then it came out, and everyone seemed to shut up pretty quickly.
Seemingly overnight, Retro Studios went from running gag to the toast of the town, and suddenly a franchise that had been dormant for almost a decade was once again thrust into the spotlight. It was, as the great Jeremy Parish put it, a miracle. Seven years and two stellar sequels later, we have yet another franchise reboot on the way with Metroid: Other M, which makes it a great time to go back and bask in the glory of the Prime trilogy, and Nintendo has decided to give these games a proper send off with this fantastic collection.
It’s quite obvious from the moment the game is in your hands that Nintendo had the hardcore Metroid fan in mind when designing the packaging. In a word: Gorgeous. Every version of MPT is housed in a beautiful steelbook case with a nice little art booklet/timeline thrown in for good measure. The menus from the three games have been condensed into a single menu designed to look like the inner workings of Samus Aran’s arm cannon. This menu is slick, easy to navigate, and a nice alternative to the basic static screen where you pick which game you wanna play that you see in most other compilations.
Let’s move on to the actual games in the compilation, starting with Metroid Prime and…Fuck, I don’t even know where to start.
Metroid Prime is a generation defining work of art. For my money, it’s the best Metroid game ever made, it’s the best Gamecube game ever made, and probably the single best game from the last console generation, which I think probably puts it as one of the top five or so best games ever made. Retro Studios greatest achievement in Prime 1 was the transfer of the core gameplay of a 2D side scrolling platformer into a first person viewpoint, and they did it flawlessly. Metroid Prime is a platformer through and through and any resemblance to a first person shooter is completely superficial. Somehow, Retro Studios made Metroid Prime truly feel like a Metroid game. One of the big reasons for this is something you might take for granted: Jumping. up until that point (and frankly it still hasn’t been properly replicated) jumping in any kind of First Person game felt stiff and janky. In Prime, it works flawlessly.
Another one of their accomplishments is just how immersive the game is, and the way they pull this off is how well the game makes you feel like you are in the Varia suit. Raindrops hit the visor, steam builds, and once in a while you can see Samus’s reflection when it gets really heated. This feeling is further heightened by the most intuitive and all around best HUD in any game ever created, that at any point in the game will tell you everything you need to know about your current status without ever getting in the way. However the most important thing Retro did to keep the mood intact throughout is they have removed the #1 mood killer in all of videogames: Load screens. There is not a single load screen at any point in Metroid Prime. Granted, there’s lots of hallways to make up for this, but that’s far better then the alternative.
One of the few complaints thrown Metroid Prime’s way is the games lack of a story, and this is completely unfounded. In Prime, the story surrounds you, you just have to seek it out. Using the games genius scanner, you will see that every plant, every piece of architecture, every creature, and every computer screen has a story to tell. There is a hidden narrative where you learn of the fate of the ancient Chozo race, the Space Pirates biological experiments, and maybe a little about the one they call “the hunter”. There isn’t a upgrade shop with a jive talking merchant, no commander feeding you intel from a base somewhere, and there isn’t some evil overlord spouting rhetoric every chance he gets. All of this leads to a feeling rarely felt in gaming: loneliness. It’s just you, your gun, and a giant (and I mean giant) world for you to explore. Tallon IV is a dark, claustrophobic place, and one of the most detailed and well designed locales in gaming, with beautiful art design and more secrets then the CIA. Add to this the phenomenal soundtrack by Kenji Yamamoto, and you have one of the most atmospheric games ever created. Everyone who loves videogames should play and own a copy of Metroid Prime.
So needless to say Retro had their plate full when work started on the sequel, as Metroid Prime 2: Echoes had a lot to live up to. Given the mammoth pedigree of the first Prime, expecting the same type of revolution from Echoes would just be unfair, but it is a nice little evolution. The core gameplay is basically identical to the first (this is a good thing) sans for a few weapon swaps and the inclusion of the almighty screw attack. Prime 2 is a much darker, more sinister title the first game. While Tallon IV had more of a organic feel to it, the world of Aether is far more technologically advanced, especially when the dark world takes over and you see the light world twisted and distorted. Some people didn’t like aspects of the dark world, such as it constantly draining your health while in it, but I didn’t mind it. I thought it added tension, and the rate it drains health at isn’t really enough to put you in serious danger in most parts, plus you get an upgrade later to protect you. From a design standpoint, Echoes is every bit the game Prime 1 was, but Prime 1 did it first, so Echoes doesn’t have the same wow factor, but it’s still is a absolute joy to play. One leg up Echoes does have on it’s predecessor is in the graphics department, as this is probably the best looking Gamecube game ever made. Prime 2 also has four player split screen multiplayer which I have never played and probably never will, as the idea of multiplayer goes against everything I like about the series. Plus even in 2004 I was already past split screen multiplayer for shooters, and in 2009 there’s no fucking way I’m doing it.
Now we come to Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Being a Wii game and all, Corruptions big thing was the control scheme, which I think works flawlessly, however it does have a fairly steep learning curve. Give it an hour or so and you’ll get the hang of it. Some people have said it’s the best controlling console first person shooter ever, and I don’t know if that’s a fair comparison as, like I said earlier, the Metroid Prime games aren’t really first person shooters, but for what Corruption is you really couldn’t ask for more out of the controls provided. Corruption is, in my estimation, the weakest of the three games. While Echoes did have a “real” narrative to it with the occasional cutscene, there’s simply way too much in Corruption. There’s lots of badly acted Star Trek techno babble between characters you won’t give two shits about while Samus just kind of stands around waiting for a order. Also instead of taking place in one giant world, Corruption takes place on numerous smaller ones, so the pacing isn’t as smooth as in the previous games, and the overall level design suffers because of this. Granted Corruption is still fantastic and one of the top two or three games on the system (and from a technical standpoint it‘s the best looking game on the system), but it’s not the game it could’ve been.
Metroid Prime 1 and 2 have both seen some pretty significant upgrades for Trilogy, the most obvious being the control schemes. The fantastic controls from Corruption have been ported over without a hitch, and they are a improvement over the original Gamecube controls. The other big addition is the ability to play the games in true 16:9 widescreen for us with HDTV’s, and that is a really big deal. Going from playing the first two games in the series on a 19 inch CRT with a Gamecube controller to my 40 inch flat screen with the Wii controller has been a great treat so far, and both games still look better then 90% of Wii games anyways, so anyone going back to play these games will be very pleased. One last thing is that apparently Retro went back and tweaked the difficulty of Echoes in certain spots, so the Boost guardian isn’t as much of a total bitch to get through as he was in the original. Really my only complaint with this box is the exclusion of the original Metroid, which was a unlockable in Prime 1. Granted you needed to connect your GBA to your Gamecube with a copy of Metroid Fusion to get it, but it would’ve been nice to have it here as well. Buy hey, why do that when you can buy it on Virtual Console for $5, right?
A thought crossed my mind as I was driving home with Metroid Prime Trilogy: there’s quite a few people out there who will be buying this who have never played these games before. If that person is reading this before, I just want you to know just how jealous I am of your precarious position. Ohh how awesome it would be to go back to when I was fourteen and my jaw was on the floor as I traversed Tallon IV for the first time. Unfortunately you can’t go home again in this situation, but playing Prime again on an HDTV with Wii controls has been a wonderful experience so far. I cannot stress how awesome this package is. You get probably the best game of this millennium fully upgraded with its two awesome sequels thrown in to boot with great packaging all for $50. while I hope most of the people reading this played Prime 1, I’m sure many of you missed out on Echoes for whatever reason, and now is the perfect time to go back and play a overlooked gem. Hell even if you didn’t like Prime when you first played it, maybe you’ve smartened up a bit in the last seven years and you’re ready to appreciate its greatness. This has gone on long enough, so I will end with this: There is no better disc to spend $50 on for Wii then Metroid Prime Trilogy. Buy it right now. read