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GameCube Metroid Prime Developer: Retro Studios | Publisher: Nintendo
Rating: ATeenomgninjas
Type: Adventure Players: 1
Difficulty: Intermediate Released: 11-19-02

I hate scanning walls.

The opening sequence of Metroid Prime is about thirty minutes of turning on the scan visor and scanning the walls for information. It's not useful information either, but rather superfluous junk like "This is the door to the next room" that's obvious just from looking at it.

Of course, as I played through the meat of the game, I understood why I had to put up with that boring half-hour of wall scanning. Metroid is listed in the gamer's thesaurus as a synonym for exploration, and Retro Studios hasn't sold out the name in an effort to make a Halo clone for the GameCube. Metroid Prime isn't about shooting everything you see to advance to the next area, but rather it's about immersing yourself in the world you've been put in. Scanning, while a bit tedious at times, is a part of that exploration.

To help plunge you into the game's atmosphere, you view the world through the eyes of Samus. The first-person perspective has been debated for months by lonely nerds on Internet message boards, but no other perspective would be nearly as immersive and beneficial to the game as the one that's been chosen. While Samus will visit the traditional ice, lava, forest and desert worlds that are characteristic of nearly all Nintendo games, each world is given its own life that goes just beyond being a backdrop. You'll explore the lush Tallon IV overworld, the gloomy Magmoor Caverns and the somber tranquility of the Phendrana Drifts, among other places.

Each area has its own subtle touches that make every place you visit instantly memorable. Just when Prime starts getting too tense and dark for its own good, you step into the snow-covered Phendrana Drifts, complete with a soothing piano melody in the background.

The beauty is in the details, such as green insects flying around in the rays of sunlight and packets of snow crumbling off the back of a newly-awoken Sheegoth. Little touches like these aren't just exclusive to the scenery, as they also extend to Samus herself. Flashes of bright light in dark areas reveal Samus' eyes reflected in her visor. Heat waves come out of the chamber of your weapon after long gunfights. My personal favorite detail involves an enemy frozen by your ice beam disappearing entirely from view if you have your thermal heat visor activated. These clever touches show Retro's dedication to Metroid Prime, and this dedication extends past the attention to visual nuance and into the gameplay itself.

There's almost too much fun involved in locking on to a Baby Sheegoth, jumping over it when it tries to charge into you, and shooting at the soft shell on its back to reveal the weak spot. While Halo fans will recognize this sequence, doing it in Halo was nowhere near as intuitive or exciting as it is here, and that's thanks to Prime's unique control setup.

Prime doesn't stick to the normal dual-analog movement system used in most first-person games. Instead, the L trigger acts as it did in Zelda 64, as both a strafe and an enemy lock-on. The control system may seem awkward at first (especially using the R trigger to manually aim), but it soon grows on you and you realize the necessity of it. You could manually try to keep your crosshair on the speedy Metroids if you want, but you'd have an easier time just going ahead and trying to shoot yourself in the face.

Unlike the new control scheme, contorting Samus' body into her famous Morph Ball controls exactly as you'd expect, and that old double-jump trick still works great. The screen even switches to a 2D side perspective during many of the morph ball sequences.

Metroid fans should fondly remember rolling around every block of the map and trying to blow up walls to reveal secrets, and that aspect of the game is as much alive today as it ever was. Truly, that's what the heart of Metroid has always been about, and Prime continues that tradition of headache-friendly exploration and backtracking. It's exciting to get the Spider Ball upgrade for your Morph Ball and use it to climb the walls to a new area you couldn't previously reach. It's even more exciting to explore that new area and find another new upgrade that helps you to access an earlier area that you also couldn't reach. The whole game plays out in this fashion, and while the process can get a bit predictable, there's no other game where you'll jump onto a platform you couldn't previously reach and then yell at that platform and remind it that you just beat it.

You could probably go on with your life having never played this game, but that's like going through life without clothes. Metroid Prime is a necessity to a worthwhile, fulfilled existence.

· · · omgninjas

Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime

Rating: Aomgninjas
Graphics: 10 Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9 Replay: 4
2003 The Next Level