In Case You Haven't Played It Yet
Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Game System: Gamecube
Distributed by: Nintendo
Reviewed by Frank L. Ocasio
It's just plain fact: the Gamecube did not do too hot. Sure, it didn't bomb like the Jaguar or the 32X, but neither did it get the kind of distribution Nintendo was hoping for; it definitely never came close to achieving the kind of frantic rapid extraction that the Wii has.
The result? There are plenty of Wii owners out there who might not understand the hype behind the Wii sequel to the Gamecube series that made every Cube owner in the country weep tears of joy. Yes, I'm talking about Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the newest and seemingly final installment in the Metroid Prime series. A series that began on and is exclusive to (and always will be exclusive to) Nintendo. A series that can be purchased now and played on your Wii with a Gamecube Memory Card and a Gamecube controller (preferrably a Wave Bird).
A series that, in case you haven't played it yet, I present to you now:
Now, there's a chance you have absolutely no idea what Metroid is at all, in which case, you're so deprived that it's sad--Metroid is and always will be one of the most original and incredibly well developed side-scrolling franchises ever. Trust me. Castlevania doesn't come close--sorry fanboys. The original premise was that you are an intergalactic bounty hunter called Samus Aran who's sent to planet Zebes. On this seemingly abandoned planet, sinister Space Pirates, under the command of Mother Brain (literally a giant brain), have set up a subterranean base where they're breeding Metroids, a kinda jelly fish-looking creature that draws the energy from everything and anything to feed their undying hunger. To learn more, just buy or download Metroid: Zero Mission for the Gameboy Advance; it's a damn good remake of the very first Metroid game for the NES.
Metroid Prime took the franchise into a completely new direction though. Set after the conclusion of the original Metroid and before Metroid II: Return of Samus (for the Gameboy), Metroid Prime reinvented the game as a what I call a Non-linear FPS. And what a damn good job it did.
What makes a Non-linear FPS, you ask? Well, Metroid Prime isn't about shooting things and running to the next room to pick up a bigger gun and shoot more things. Sure, there are tons and tons of action and alien frying (or freezing... or electrocuting depending on what blaster you use), but Metroid Prime is about exploring an incredibly deep, huge, and history-rich planet called Tallon IV. A planet that's completely derelict for reasons that you have to unveil.
Metroid Prime is about really stepping into Samus's shoes and feeling like you're really there because of many, many intricate details I've never seen in another First Person game. Walk by an open air vent--your visor fogs up. Stand in front of a wall and shoot it--Samus' face is reflected off of her visor (and you have no idea how badly that scared the crap out of me the first time it happened). When you get it, turn your X-ray Visor on and change your blaster--watch the bones in Samus' hand (the hand inside of her blaster arm) swith position and realize that's how Samus alters which blaster she's using. And all of this you could completely miss; the attention to detail here is staggering.
Metroid Prime is about unveiling the story behind Tallon IV by discovering exceptionally written (seriously, grab a dictionary) Lore left behind by its former inhabitants. Lore that tells a story of loss and pain dramatic enough to tug at your heart strings (especially because you walk on its authors' hallowed ground).
Metroid Prime is about investigating what the Space Pirates on the planet were doing with the highly volatile energy source they found there and termed "Phazon," an objective you complete by infiltrating their bases and hacking into their data files.
Metroid Prime is about destroying the Phazon experiment that the Space Pirates call "Metroid Prime."
And most importantly, it's about doing all of this by solving intriguing, really well designed puzzles, beating larger than life bosses, listening to club-quality techno music, sensory-overloading on what are still some of the last generation's best graphics--graphics that will still make your jaw drop with their breath-taking artistic direction--and, of course, by obtaining tons of awesome suit upgrades that range from multiple death-dealing blasters to multiple sight-altering visors (like the previously mentioned X-Ray Visor, and another that is pretty obviously inspired by the Predator films).
I won't tell you that you'll hands down love Prime more than other FPS's. But that's because making that comparison isn't even really right; Prime is more like it's own genre than it is a simple FPS, and so, we could make ridiculous, swaying arguments about whether Halo or Metroid Prime is better and we would get absolutely nowhere. Observe:
Halo Fanboy: Yeah, Halo's better because it has more guns.
Me: Okay. But Halo has like, no plot. You go places and shoot things because it's going to eventually save everyone from the Covenant/Horde/destroy the Halo and that's it.
Halo Fanboy: Okay. Well, the Covenant are way cooler than Space Pirates.
Me: Okay. But there are like, 5 different kinds of Covenant, 2 different kinds of Horde, and a few droids. Meanwhile, there're like, over-100 different enemies in Metroid Prime.
Halo Fanboy: Okay, but there's awesome multiplayer in Halo!
Me: Okay, but Metroid Prime isn't about multiplayer!
In the end, it's like comparing Mario to Zelda. Both have there own merits. You tell me which one is really better and I'll slap you in the gullet because you can't. Both are great for their own reasons and either you appreciate them seperately or you miss out.
And the one final thing you'll have to learn to appreciate Prime? Well, first of all, do you remember when you first saved the President of Arms Tech. from Revolver Ocelot? You had to talk to the guy for a good ten minutes after that. And then, you had to contact Meryl on your Codec and talk to her for another ten minutes. Yeah. I wasn't really too happy with that--I wanted to go plant C4 so I could blow stuff up. The next time I played it though, I got the idea--MGS wasn't just going to let me shoot stuff all day and learn nothing from its characters.
In the same way, Metroid Prime is going to require a lot of two things--scanning and reading. And neither of these things are going to seem too great at first. The same way you just wanted Meryl to shut up, you'll just want your Scan Visor to stop feeding you tons of intricate, incredibly well thought-out, and helpful details about Tallon IV and each of its 100-some-odd creatures so you can go blow something up. However, the same way you grew to accept and even love the Codec transmissions in MGS (until Sons of Liberty) so will you grow to accept and appreciate the truly helpful and mind-bogglingly expansive scanning feature in Metroid Prime. And the same way that you were insanely hooked when you went on to fight Vulcan Raven for the first time, so will you be hooked in by Metroid Prime.
So long as you can understand these things, you'll be able to experience an absolutely amazing game that no one who loves games should miss out on.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
The second installment took the Prime series in the same direction any sequel takes its progenitor. The graphics are even more intricate and beautiful, which seemed impossible to Prime 1 fans. Also seemingly impossible? There's even more work put into your Scan Visor, and there's more thought put into how you progress through the environment (this time the planet Aether). And on top of that, the plot's vastly more developed than its predecessor, introducing, for the very first time in Metroid history, characters who speak to you and help you with your quest.
However, Echoes suffers from what I call Halo 2 syndrome; it's basically Prime 1 all over again. Granted, there are a lot of new things offered in Echoes (most notably, the awesomely executed correlation between the worlds of Aether and it's nightmare, shadow realm counterpart--Dark Aether). But, again, Samus is sent to investigate the Phazon corruption that's spreading through Aether (although this time, she has to do it by repeatedly stepping into Dark Aether, where even the air slowly kills you). Again you find suit upgrades along the way and fight ginormous (although much cooler) bosses. And again, you discover the truth behind the whole mess by exploring the alien monster infested, ridiculously well designed world of Aether, and by unveiling Lore and hacking data files. Now, this is still a formula that works really, really well, but any Prime fan will tell you that Echoes was just lacking something that the original delivered. Still an awesome game full of awesome items, enemies, and environments, but just not as fresh.
Coincidentally though, Echoes is much easier on the palette of noobs than the original. The more engaging story and sweet gameplay upgrades, like the ability to jump through the dimensional tears in the fabric of reality (your gateways to and from Dark Aether), make Echoes much more impressive in an obvious, aesthetic way; just the kind of flashies noobs will need to ween themselves on.
And don't worry about story. Echoes can actually stand alone because it delivers a lot more of the series' story than Prime 1 does. For that same reason, Prime 1 can serve as a beautiful, much more refined prequel for Echoes. And either way, for the sake of a successful weening, a speck of confusion really won't hurt. Besides, you'll play Prime afterward as a prequel and everything will be cleared right up. Seriously, I'd recommend this approach to absolutely anyone--it's just the better way to go.
If you own a Wii, don't consider checking out Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes a chore. Consider it a favor to yourself. You'll have an awesome time wtih both of them, and afterward, you'll understand the story for Corruption with no slip-ups. And trust me, with Corruption being as incredibly story driven as it is--not to mention a game Wii owners must run out and buy right now--you'll need as much help understanding it as you can. Besides, while hardcore games are still scarce on the Wii, there's really no better way to stem the time between them than to get acquainted with a few Gamecube classics you may not have played yet.
One More Thing Before I Quit:Remember to play Echoes before you play Prime 1. Also keep in mind though that Prime 1 and Echoes will only really hardcore connect when you beat Prime 1 with 100% of the scans, which isn't a daunting task but is kind of a pain. But I'm talking about the super secret ending here. Don't expect to be blown out of your seat, but expect to say, "Ohhhhhhh. So that's how that happened!"
Grading For Both Games: On a Scale From 1-10, 10 Being the Best
Overall Gameplay: 9