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Review: Metroid Prime

Posted Apr-04 2007 by ron
For Gamecube, runs on Wii, optional 60Hz mode

"Space marine in power armor" is a pretty ubiquitous concept today. Samus Aran started the job a couple decades earlier than most aspiring pups though, and she could still teach them a few gameplay tricks.

Samus walking through snowy Phendrana

Samus Aran. One of the few female game characters with long-term success. She's been wearing that power armor since 1987 and keeps going strong.

Metroid games have carved out their own niche by combining platforming and intense combat with exploration of large non-linear worlds. The story backdrop has been roughly sci-fi horror, with space stations or entire planets overrun by strange and lethal creatures, the metroids, that float around in their gelatinous bodies and suck the very life force out of whatever stands in their way, and by those who'd seek to exploit the metroids for their own agendas. It has been the fate (and at times vendetta) of the lone bounty hunter to stumble upon these messes and clean them up good.

A large ruined plaza with a bridge of tree roots

This is the standard gameplay perspective. The little obstructions at the top and bottom of the screen indicate that this hud is supposed to be what Samus sees through her helmet visor. Step one to improved immersion.

On the surface Metroid Prime looks like a regular first-person shooter, but we want to point out up-front that the control scheme is very atypical for that genre, and most of the common fps paradigms just don't apply. With the exception of boss encounters, an okay combat performance isn't hard to achieve, and most basic enemies can be ignored and avoided anyway if you're not in the mood to fight. We'll postpone further details about the combat controls to page three, as we first need to cover a few more installment-agnostic Metroidisms.

Samus on a platform surrounded by toxic waste

A worthy mess for us to mop up.

Metroid Prime is the first 3D game in the series, but it stays remarkably true to its 2D predecessors. The basic pull of all Metroid games is that even though the world is large and non-linear, and the game lets you know that from the beginning, there are many paths that you cannot access initially. They are just dangled in front of you, and to progress you at first have to follow a path that is essentially a linear ride. You can of course back-track at will, but that is not our understanding of "non-linear". Open for free roaming is what Metroid Prime's game world, from starting point to the entrance into the final boss's lair, becomes, as you gradually add to your … inventory.

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