Metroid is one of those games that is so ground-breaking that it births a genre. A Metroid-vania, a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, is a game that contains a lot of platforming with an emphasis on exploration. There is generally a lot of backtracking to previously inaccessible areas, normally when you upgrade your abilities to be able to handle new environmental hazards.
Metroid Prime, originally released back in 2002 for the Gamecube, was the first Metroid game to make the jump the third dimension. It stuck the landing fantastically. It has become one of those games I go back and play every few years. This year I thought I’d try out the remastered version for the Switch for my pilgrimage to Tallon IV.
A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Away…
Backstory time. In Metroid Prime you play as Samus Aran: Bounty hunter extraordinaire who wears an extremely tooled up power suit. Prime takes place immediately after the events of the original Metroid game. You’ve just defeated Kraid and Ridley and wiped out all the Metroids in the research station on planet Zebes. Things are going pretty groovily. Then you pick up a distress call from a Space Pirate research ship orbiting Tallon IV. You go and investigate and find out that the wily space pirates have been experimenting with a toxin found on the planet and seeing how it can mutate the native species to make them stronger and more aggressive. After a bit of a ruckus, you escape the research station and make it back to your ship. But not before seeing a shape that looks a lot like that Ridley chap you vanquished a few weeks back head down to the planets surface. And at this point, the hunt is on.
Metroid Prime will have you exploring the surface and caves of Tallon IV trying to find this shadowy beast. To start off with you will be fairly limited in where you can go. But as you grab new equipment, you’ll be able to reach higher ledges, open new doors and eventually survive inhospitable environments. To the casual observer, Metroid Prime looks like a first person shooter; and there is definitely some of that going on here. But there is a much larger emphasis on exploration.
You have different visors that allow you to view the world differently. The combat visor is your standard, shoot stuff make it go boom affair. The scanner visor allows you to scan enemies for weaknesses, glean little bits of information about your surroundings. This can help you locate hidden pathways or just give you a bit more of a feel for the history of the planet you’re exploring. Eventually you’ll get even more visors which will help you traverse the world. They let you do things like see electrical circuits which you can power up and activate machinery like doors and lifts.
One Woman Army
There are loads of upgrades you can grab through the game too and you don’t need all of them to defeat the big bad. So, you really need to hunt around for them if you want them all. Sometimes you’ll see something tantalisingly out of reach but won’t be able to figure out how to grab it. Most of those times it’s because you need an extra ability, so stick a pin in it and remember to come back later.
The world map is huge. There are 6 or so main areas to explore with some of these having smaller sub areas within them. This world is pretty hostile too. There are enemies a plenty to destroy. Most of them are relatively simple to dispatch but eventually you’ll start facing some more challenging foes. The bosses are all good as well. Nothing too difficult to take out but they all have their unique charm.
Metroid Prime has a good sense of progression. Some of these enemies that give you a bit of grief early on will show up again later in the game where you can smash them with ease. It’s the same with the exploration. Early on you may need to traverse some tricky platforming and fighting the bad guys. Later in the game you may come back through an area and just be able to swing through the area on your grapple beam and be back out before the enemies have even realised you were there. There are still challenges to be had but you do really feel like you’re becoming more powerful as you play.
An Intergalactic Sight-Seeing Trip
The game looks fantastic, there are some great comparison vids out there if you’re curious. But as somebody who has been playing this game every few years for 20 years now, (good lordy I’m old), this game has never looked better. Textures are crisp, the lighting is great and the newly enhanced transparency effects look brilliant. Metroid Prime never looked bad, but this new layer of polish really makes that power suit armour shine.
Whereas a lot of other remasters may change some gameplay elements and smooth out rough edges there isn’t a lot of that on show here. The graphics and environments have been kicked up several notches in detail, but gameplay wise the game is pretty faithful to the original. The only difference that jumped out at me was that a mushroomy enemy early on in the game no longer explodes into a poison cloud that damages you when you kill it. Other than that, it all seems comfortingly familiar.
There are some new control schemes on offer here too. Metroid Prime came out before the RT to shoot, LT to aim, twin stick controls we are all used to was a thing. You can play with the original control scheme if you like or you can use a new updated control scheme that maps into something a lot more familiar.
New Shiny Bits
There is a whole host of new concept art and dioramas that can be unlocked. Some of these relate to the original game, some to the remaster. As you complete more of the game more of these galleries unlock. This is where a lot of the replayability comes from. You’ll want to be scanning everything to make sure you can get all those juicy unlocks. Also, if you manage to unlock 100% of everything and then defeat the final boss you are treated to an extra final scene that hints at the events in the next game Metroid Prime 2: Echos.
I’ve always considered this game an absolute masterpiece. It has such a lot of atmosphere and the sense of exploration is great as you unravel the events that have befallen Tallon IV and the Chozo that inhabited the planet long ago. It’s not faultless though. Some of the platforming can be punishing. If you wander off track into an area you shouldn’t really be in it can be tricky to get back out. The game will give you pointers and advice periodically if you’re a bit lost, but this can be turned off if you wish.
The other bit that gets a little grating is one of the enemies later in the game can takes longer than most of the others to defeat. It also locks all the doors so you’ve got to deal with them before you can carry on adventuring. It’s fine the first few times but if you keep going back to certain rooms it can be annoying to have to defeat them all over again. And again.
Other than those small annoyances the game is incredible and the fact that so little of the gameplay has been changed just goes to show how good it was back in 2002. If you’re a die hard fps fan and are coming here expecting a sci-fi shoot ‘em up, you’re going to be disappointed though. This is exploration and platforming first with shooting stuff being a secondary focus. If that sounds interesting to you, you should give Metroid Prime Remastered a try. I’m hoping that this paves the way for remasters of Echos and Corruption too. Getting both of those before Prime 4 finally hoves into view would be awesome.