Last month was busy, and in the midst of the launch of Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii U, I admittedly forgot to celebrate a pretty big milestone. Metroid turned 25 years old, and Metroid Prime had its tenth anniversary. Metroid Prime was a game that many feared would ruin the franchise. Following the release of Super Metroid, fans of the series wondered what might be next for Samus Aran, the first lady of gaming. With a brand-new 3D console on the way, she was sure to have her biggest adventure yet. Unfortunately, the developers at Nintendo struggled to put Metroid on the Nintendo 64. Miyamoto had successfully brought The Legend of Zelda into 3D, as well as Super Mario. Metroid though, is not a Miyamoto franchise.
Without his guidance the staff struggled to find potential. Then, before the release of the Gamecube, the hills began to whisper of a new, American studio being handed the reins. Fear, rather than enthusiasm, was in the minds of most Nintendo gamers. At that time Western developed games really weren’t very prominent, or even good. Japanese gaming was at its height, and for Nintendo to open up a brand new studio in Texas, and give it the rights to one of its biggest characters, was more than risky. It was suicide in to most. Or so it seemed. Indeed positive word was rare to find leading up to launch. The reveal of Metroid Prime being a first-person shooter did not help matters. Metroid was doomed.
Then, the game launched. The game more than launched, in fact. It blasted into the public’s hands to RAVE reviews. It sold a few million copies and lives in the hearts of many as one of the best games ever made. So, how does it hold up today? Surprisingly well. In fact, this game along with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, holds up better than almost any 3D game of the last fifteen years. Graphically speaking, Metroid Prime still looks absolutely stunning. The game launched amidst a pool of other FPS titles which had you shooting down villains in office buildings and generally squared environments. Metroid Prime doesn’t seem to have a straight edge in it. Its world is round, curvy, vibrant, bright when it needs to be, and absolutely filled with detail. Yes the graphics themselves hold up against even some XBOX 360 titles, but what really sings is the art direction. This feels like a real planet sprung to life within that purple lunchbox, the Gamecube.
Control-wise, the Wii port works better. Pointing with the Wii Remote is super-easy and very precise. Playing with the Wavebird works fine too, but dual-analog isn’t present. Walking and aiming are all done with the Control stick and the R button. The C-Stick is delegated to handling weapon-selection. Metroid Prime is very long too. The game will take you anywhere between 25-40 hours, and that’s if you don’t stop to scan everything. Another aspect of the game worth mentioning is the amount of inspiration it provided other games that appear on this generation of consoles. The most notable example is Halo. Specifically, Halo 4. Much of Halo 4’s development team is comprised of ex-Retro Studio men, and it shows. Enemy placement, an emphasis on exploration, the environments, even the basic story, are all reminiscent of Metroid Prime.
Also, things like ‘Detective Mode’ in Batman: Arkham City all clearly stemmed from the different visors Metroid Prime features. Finally, Mass Effect. Part of what makes that series so brilliant is its extensive mythology, history, and lore, which can be accessed in-game when certain actions are performed. Metroid Prime did it first, almost ten years sooner. Almost everything in the game world is scan-able by Samus’s scan visor. Scan a creature and learn the zoology of it. Scan a space pirate and learn about how he died. Scan the floor and learn what kind of wax was used to clean it. (Well, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.)
Metroid Prime works so well because it stays close to its roots where necessary, and innovates where possible. The emphasis is placed on adventure rather than shooting, and for that reason, it often feels more like a first-person Zelda than anything. Metroid Prime received two, excellent sequels, and will hopefully receive yet another for Wii U soon, if rumours are to be believed. Absolutely pick up Metroid Prime. It is a must-own for any gamer.