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What's So Great About Metroid Prime Anyway?

What's So Great About Metroid Prime Anyway?

After years of rumors and rumblings of its existence in some form, Metroid Prime Remastered was announced during the Feb 9, 2023 Nintendo Direct and shadow dropped on the eShop later that day. While it’s not the complete Metroid Prime Trilogy that many had been hoping for, the first game is an undisputed masterpiece, and the quality of the remaster is far better than many were expecting. The overhaul to the look of the game is so deep that it could be mistaken for a full remake at first glance. The fact that all Metroid Prime needed was a fresh coat of paint and some new control options to feel like a modern game is a testament to how far ahead of their time Retro Studios was with their game design and animation work way back in 2002. Between Metroid Dread, the forthcoming release of Metroid Fusion on Nintendo Switch Online, and now this remaster that presumably is setting the stage for the future release of Metroid Prime 4, Nintendo finally seems to be giving Metroid the love it deserves. Despite consistently strong critical reception and a vocal and dedicated player base, Metroid has always tended to underperform financially. The reception of Dread seems to have bolstered Nintendo’s confidence in the series. In a small attempt to help keep that momentum rolling and point more eyes towards this very deserving series, why don’t we take a look at some of the reasons Metroid Prime in particular is great?

A Perfect Evolution

By the year 2000, the fledgling Retro Studios was struggling to get any finished games out the door. They had multiple game concepts in development at once, and the difficulty was compounded by an unfocused and chaotic work environment. After a visit from Shigeru Miyamoto, they settled on scrapping their other projects and focused on creating a new Metroid title. The task of following up Super Metroid, one of the most beloved and influential games of all time, was daunting. With many projects being cut, Prime’s development staff was downsized to just 9 team members, many of which put in grueling work hours to get the game finished. Initial footage of the game was not well received by fans, who thought the game looked too far of a departure from previous Metroid titles. The odds seemed stacked against the small studio, but they chugged along past the finish line. And everyone’s tune seemed to change when they finally got their hands on the game.

The first-person perspective, which was initially received negatively, proved to be an incredibly immersive way to experience Samus’ lonesome adventure. The game itself never claimed to be a proper First-Person Shooter. Instead, it labeled itself a First-Person Adventure, taking the design language and concepts of the 2D Metroid games and translating them into a modern form. Direct 1:1 translations of Samus’ abilities would not be possible with the new perspective and 3D environments. But much of Samus’ classic arsenal was carried over in forms that made sense. Classic upgrades like the Morph Ball, Super Missiles, various Beam weapons, and Space Jump Boots, and Spider Ball all made the jump to 3D in new forms. Samus’ more limited movement meant that some of the freedom of the 2D games was lost, but the more focused approach had its own advantages.

New to the series were swappable Visors, which let the player view the world in new ways and gather extra information. The Scan Visor became a staple element of learning about the fauna of Tallon IV and getting subtle hints about how to progress.

Immersive World

One of the core strengths of the game is its world design. Through Samus’ eyes, the areas of Tallon IV you explore became more vast, intimidating, and mysterious than any 2D game had ever managed to that point. The realistic and lived-in feel of the environments on Tallon IV made it feel like a real place. The series’ core exploration formula made up the basis of the world design, but it was all coated with a convincing veneer of believable design. With no voice acting, the story was told silently. But scannable Lore entries helped flesh out the history of the planet, its inhabitants, and the invading Space Pirates.

Samus felt grounded in the environment, interacting with it in small but significant ways. Bug guts would splash on her visor. Bright flashes would reveal the reflection of her face. Certain enemies would interfere with the electronics in her suit, causing the operating system to bug out. Little touches like that had never been implemented to such a polished degree in 2002.

Okay, Now Go Play It

There is plenty more that could be said about Metroid Prime, and most of it has already been said thousands of times. The point of this article is basically just to get you to go play Metroid Prime again. The remaster is only $40 USD on the eShop, and you can get it on your Switch right now. A physical version is coming later in the month. If you haven’t played, go play it. If you have played it, go play it again. Just stop reading this and play it. Go on. Git.

Also, can we have an F-Zero GX remaster now, please?
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