Written By Shaun McCracken

Let's put the silly questions aside. Why should we ask if Metroid Prime was "worth the wait"? Why should we ask if it's any good or if it's faithful to the series. It's obviously the best Gamecube game to date, and serves as the Gamecube's "GoldenEye" in the way that it totally changes how we play games in years to come. It's Nintendo's flagship title, and yet it WASN'T even developed by Nintendo! Retro Studios, which I believe was made up of ex- Acclaim developers behind the Turok series, as well as other developers hired for the job was behind this masterful piece of work. But the development was fairly controversial in the video game world to say the least.

The project started back in 2001, and things headed off to a bumpy start. Nintendo and Retro seemed to have a conflict of interests at first, and from that point, it seemed like Metroid Prime was doomed. Then Nintendo's biggest asset, the creator being Mario and Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto (I hope I didn't butcher the spelling) stepped in to provide some guidance. As soon as Retro was back on track, they decided to do something completely radical with the game design, place it into a first-person perspective. This set off waves in the gaming community. Some hated the idea, while others embraced the concept. But the one question every Metroid fan asked is "can Metroid work in a first- person perspective"? We waited eight years for a new Metroid game, and the last thing we wanted was a surprise.

But you know what? The first-perspective works! It gives you the feeling of being Samus Aran rather than just controlling her through the world. It also avoids any camera issues that plague many third-person platforming games such as Super Mario 64, Sonic Adventure and even Zelda at times. It allows for fast action, quick thinking and immersion of another world. But Metroid Prime can't really be classified as a first-person shooter like 007 Nightfire, Time Splitters 2 or Turok Evolution. It's deeper and requires heavy exploration, and at it's core, it's a platform adventure that leaps straight from 2D to 3D without any compromises. Whatever you can classify it as, Metroid Prime is a stunning example of how a video game should be, and marks as the best leap from 2D to 3D in a long time.

So about the game. Metroid Prime is not a sequel, even though it does follow Super Metroid in terms of release date. Metroid Prime takes place between the first Metroid and Super Metroid, much like how George Lucas finds a way to make up a new chapter in the Star Wars series without having to go ahead of time. I guess it could be called a "prequel", but that term really sucks when you use it around Metroid Prime. Samus returns to a space station due to a distress signal. Something isn't right, as the whole place destructs minutes after she arrives. She goes to investigate a planet called Tallon IV, a once peaceful and beautiful planet full of forests and wildlife. It's also where the Chozo ended up after being stranded many years ago. But something is going on there. Wildlife has mutated and things have become radioactive. It turns out that the planet was hit by a meteor which was contaminated with a substance called Phazon. As she moves along, she discovers that something evil is at work, and she is not the only one there.

The structure of the game is very similar to Super Metroid, except a LOT bigger. You go from ruins to magma pools with ice and mines in between. Elevators connect each area to each other for fairly easy access of the planet. Along the way, you'll collect the power ups you know and love, such as the Morph Ball and the Wave Beam as well as some new things such as the Plasma Beam and missile combos that work with your beams. And like in previous Metroids, you need a certain beam or missile to open specific doors. A brand new element that only works in a first-person perspective is the visors. Samus has three different visors; the Scan Visor, which allows you to translate wall engravings, Pirate Data and scan enemy weak spots. It's very handy, and is used often. The second visor is the Thermal Visor, which can detect certain enemies that generate heat and find electrical workings that are hidden. It's also useful in really dark places. The third visor is the X-Ray Visor which can find hidden rooms, platforms and enemies. The visor brings a whole new dimension to the game, it's like nothing you've ever played before.

The graphics stand as a high point for the Gamecube and really goes toe-to-toe with the X-Box. The game runs at a near-flawless 60 frames-per- second with a ton of detail and effects. It really puts down games that weren't capable of this feat (such as Turok Evolution) and shows how far you can push the boundaries of a system. If this is a second-generation game, what could be on the horizon? The biggest gripes are that 1) the game tends to be really dark sometimes, and 2) the game doesn't have bump-mapping and the textures aren't as nice up close. And about the textures, they really fool the eye. From distances, the textures do look bump-mapped, but up close, they tend to be a bit grainy. But this is one hell of a nice looking game and serves as a feast for any gamer's eyes.

The sound is just as good. It runs on Dolby Pro Logic II, but even without it, it still sounds really good. Who says you need DVD? The music ranges from remixed Metroid songs from the past to new compositions to atmospheric music. And some of that atmospheric music really gets under your skin. The sound that plays through the lower part of the Phazon Mines creped me out as much as the soundtrack of Silent Hill 2. I was surprised on how much sound played a role in this game. The effects are great, with loud explosions, the sound of your footsteps, the waterfalls and rain to the individual sounds of each enemy. A soundtrack done right with the right amount of nostalgia for anyone who has ever played a Metroid game.

The game play is pretty solid. Unlike other first-person games, the control here isn't complicated. Turok Evolution was a mess, and the 007 Gamecube games had too much to remember. But here, movement is tight, and the buttons are pretty easy to remember. The main firing button is A, and the missile is the Y button. You jump with B, roll into the ball with X, grapple with L and target with R. Lock-on targeting makes shooting easier by just pressing L. Beam changes are easy, just a light flick of the C-Stick changes your beam. You have no idea how easy this is, it's almost second nature. The only problem I had with the design is with the jumping. Like Turok Evolution, I misjudge where the platforms are and missed many jumps. At least here the control is easier and only requires one stick to move instead of two. The game design relies heavily on exploration, rather than mindless shooting. And this is not the easiest Metroid game you'll ever play, or for any game. I've already put in almost 25 hours into the game, plus a couple of hours not logged in the game as a result of me losing and picking up where I left off. And the bosses get harder and harder. Even one of the first bosses is quite tricky. Almost each boss is unique in the way you'll have to defeat it. There is no simple way, and it will take a few tries to get it right. Metroid Prime is a learning experience, after all.

The presentation of Metroid Prime is one of the best presentations I've seen in a long time. I'm really impressed with the interface Retro designed for the title and during the game. It really fits in with what Metroid is about. Metroid Prime also has some goodies for those who have a GBA, Metroid Fusion and a GBA to GCN link cable (I need to get one). If you beat Fusion (which was pretty easy to do), you can play the original Metroid on your GCN, plus you can save your progress to your memory card! No more passwords! And if you pass Prime, connect your GBA with Fusion to get the Fusion suit. It doesn't change anything, it's merely cosmetic, but it's a feature, right?

Finally, I have to applaud Retro for no load times. A game this big without any loading screens is a technical feat. While there is a delay in the opening of some doors (which probably means the game is loading), it doesn't lock up and there are no breaks in game play. There is no way this could have been done on the PS2, which is notorious for some lengthy load times.

For any gamer out there, Metroid Prime is a must to play. It's the best reason to own a Gamecube, and the best example of how you can have a great gaming experience on a machine that has no gimmicks such as a DVD player or a hard drive. It's hardcore game play that remembers that games don't need movies or other things to make it interesting. Metroid Prime is a great investment, and you'll probably play it more than once. I know I will!



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The best the Gamecube has to offer, and one of the best games period.

Halo (yeah, I said it!)

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

A good number of other first-person shooters made.


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