While rumors that had been swirling for years pointed to the likelihood of a port of 2009’s Metroid Prime Trilogy, Nintendo surprised us by dropping Metroid Prime Remastered instead. This is entirely unlike Nintendo for a few reasons. Mostly, it’s because Metroid Prime Remastered isn’t just a port. They actually went to the effort of gussying up to the nines. Weirder yet, they aren’t charging some sort of premium for it or even full price. Sometimes they pretend that Metroid doesn’t even exist. Is this a mistake?
In any case, I love Metroid Prime. The GameCube had a lot of momentum coming out of the gate, giving fans a lot to draw their focus away from what was happening on other platforms. Metroid Prime dropped in North America, exactly one year after the continent got the console itself. I loved it. For a good period of time, I considered it my favorite game of all time, and while that title has tarnished a little, I still love it. It’s great to see it get a thoughtful spit-shine.
Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch)
Developer: Retro Studios
Released: February 8, 2023 (Digital), February 22, 2023 (Phsyical)
The story sees the alleged bounty hunter, Samus Aran, as she follows a distress signal to a Space Pirate frigate near the planet of Tallon IV. One thing leads to another, and Samus is planetside without a bunch of her gear.
If that sounds like the setup to Super Metroid, well…
Aside from the plot, Metroid Prime is both a tremendous divergence and a faithful continuation of the series. While Metroid Fusion was a more conventional entry being released as a companion on GBA, Retro Studios decided to bring it into the third dimension and shove you into Samus’ visor. Rather than a side-scroller, Metroid Prime is a first-person exploration game with shooter mechanics. A lot of people compared it to Halo in 2003, and that’s just not a very apt comparison. Metroid Prime is closer to a platformer than a shooter, even if Samus’ gun is constantly on screen. More focus is on solving puzzles than blasting beasts.
Metroid Prime was a graphical jaw-dropper at the time of release. It wasn’t so much that it was a polygon pusher, it mostly came from its commitment to lavish details. Mist would stick to the screen in droplets, bright flashes would cause Samus’ face to reflect in the visor (for some reason), and the x-ray vision would show bone. It was amazing.
My initial thought when the remaster was announced was that it didn’t really need to be remastered, and I still think it didn’t. However, now that we have Metroid Prime Remastered, I have to say I’m impressed. It’s not just that the game looks a lot nicer now, it’s the fact that so much of it has changed, and it still has the same aesthetic feel. If you hadn’t played Metroid Prime over the last 20 years, you might make the mistake in thinking it’s the same game playing at a higher resolution, but a great deal of work has gone into tying a bow around it.
The textures, the models, and the lighting have all been updated. For a Switch title, it’s quite the looker. Yet, despite that, it plays exactly the same. The environments and models feel as though they’re built over the bones of the GameCube original, and while the effects all look better, they function the same. You’re able to choose from a variety of control types, including the original sticky lock-on mode and the updated Wii motion controls. I went with dual-stick because I like looking around, but I’m very accustomed to the sticky lock-on. Metroid Prime just doesn’t feel right unless I have to lock onto everything.
The Hunter is here to wreck house
There aren’t very many quality-of-life adjustments. The only one I can truly identify beyond some accessibility settings is that your cannon will fire a few times before beginning to charge. The map functions the same, which means you won’t get any information on where items may or may not be hidden. There’s also the primary goal of finding all the Chozo artifacts, which is just as much a pain in the ass as it was originally.
Scanning remains the same, too. I never had much of a problem with it, but this time I went through with only scanning when I had to, and it was a better experience. Unlike most games in the series, Metroid Prime is jam-packed with lore, and a lot of it is given to you through the scanning visor. Some of this is the absolute most pointless soft-science flavor text imaginable, other times it just tells you about the soil composition, but my favorite is all the messages where the Space Pirates are like, “Look out! The Hunter is here to wreck house!”
While I normally hate the tell-don’t-show storytelling of basically handing an encyclopedia to the player, it kind of works with Metroid. The games have always presented an atmosphere of absolute isolation. Metroid Prime doesn’t have a single friendly character for you to interact with, and any exposition or dialogue would kind of diminish that. In fact, you can turn on the audio narration that was present in the PAL version of the game, and I think it’s awful. It makes the beginning and end feel like clips from a movie trailer.
Where credit is due
Metroid Prime Remastered is a fantastic renewal of the classic GameCube title. It now looks like how our brains tell us it looked the first time we played it. Moreover, I feel that by touching up the graphics, it does a great job of underlining how well the game itself actually holds up. Metroid Prime was lauded as a masterpiece. It feels bigger and more confident than a lot of games at the time did. Taking the patina off of it was a worthwhile endeavor. I’m just surprised Nintendo, of all people, did it.
It’s just too bad they didn’t credit the original developers beyond a single card.
However, I don’t want to oversell it. While Metroid Prime has been built up to near mythological status by some, if you’ve played a Metroid game in the past, it’s mostly in line with that. In fact, if you’ve already gone through the recent Metroid Dread, you might come away disappointed with the slow, tank-y combat and minimalistic plot. That’s not to say Metroid Prime is an inferior title, it just has a lot to live up to.
Nonetheless, whether you’re diving into the Prime sub-series for the first time or you’re returning to Tallon IV, Metroid Prime Remastered is a loving touch-up to the beloved title. It would be great if Nintendo followed this up with remakes of the other two games in the trilogy, but I feel they already expended all the effort they had with this. They’re probably just going to nap for a while.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]