Woo hoo! I finally got to sit down in front of a Gamecube for a few hours and played Metroid Prime until the wee hours of the morning. I must say I was amazed by it.
You play as the bounty hunter Samus Aran, who must unravel the mystery surrounding the ruins of Tallon IV. Clad in special armor built by an ancient advanced civilization called the "Chozo," you must fight pirates and various critters native to the planet as you try to discover just what is going on.
But it's not all gore and bloodshed, it's elaborate mazes and puzzles that hook you in and won't let you go. You search and discover. You unlock riddles and fulfill prophecy.
Controls are deceptively simple, but quite natural. 'A' button fires your current weapon and 'B' button jumps, of course. The main analog control stick is simple movement, right? Yes, but it also controls your view...
When you hold down the 'L' button, you automatically lock on to a target in view, and allows you to "orbit" that target, going in circles around it as you move the stick right or left. When a target is not selected, you strafe. The 'R' button enables free-look mode. The analog stick now controls your view only with the Y-axis reversed (like other Gamecube titles). This makes finding and locking possible for objects above or below your viewing angle.
The digital pad ("D-pad") next to the control stick selects your active visor, be it the normal view, the scan visor, the thermal visor, or the x-ray visor. Each visor has its own properties and behaviors. For example, the scan visor allows you to select an object, scan it, and record information about it, or it will activate certain objects like control panels, elevators, etc. The "C-stick" selects your current weapon. The default is a simple energy weapon which fires small energy charges, or can power up and fire a much larger and more powerful charge.
The 'X' button fires missiles if you have an available missile launcher. The 'Z' button switches to the map view, where you can look around, review your position, and decide where to head next. The "start" button doesn't simply pause the game. It opens a complex menu system where you can review your logs, look up information on items you've gathered, or read copies of the text you've collected over the course of the game.
Now we come in for the fun. The 'Y' button toggles the morph ball mode. When you press it for the first time, Samus quickly curls up inside her suit and forms a perfect 1-meter metal sphere so she can roll around through small tunnels and access difficult areas. In this mode, the view switches from a first-person perspective to a smooth third-person camera that follows you around. The camera is well-behaved and never really becomes much of an issue, even when travelling through a winding 1m-wide tunnel. When you get the bomb addition, you can drop up to 3 energy charges at a time which detonate with a surprising force. A new player would be quite content rolling around, however.
You'll encounter a few difficulties along the way. Things like weird monsters, swarming larvae, and the occasional pirate get in the way and need to be popped. Occasionally, you'll run into an obstacle that needs to be blasted away somehow. Once or twice you might even get eaten. But never once
will you say, "Damn, this is boring!"
But if you're like me and think that killing stuff gets old after a while, you won't be disappointed. There are several triggers you need to find and activate, and even a few simple puzzles you need to solve. Nothing is so well hidden or obscure that you'll simply give up, though. In fact, some things are sitting right there in plain view in the most obvious place possible, and you may tend to walk right past them. Several times.
Now you may ask yourself, "It sounds fun, but are the graphics good enough to bother?" The answer is but one word: YES.
If you've got a Gamecube and never liked the old Metroid games, get it, even for the graphics alone.
When you're playing, you quickly realize just how smooth the graphics are. The framerate almost never drops below perfect, no matter how many creatures you're fragging. The poly count will blow your mind. But even if it doesn't, the textures will.
Every area, every room, and every corridor is perfectly themed to the environment with perfect lighting and excellent texturing. The occasional orange hologram is shown floating by a wall, only adding to the emptiness in some areas. The lonliness and vast emptiness of every corner just adds to the feeling of impending doom around the next corner. So keep your thumb close to the 'A' button, eh?
Sadly, I can't add screenshots here for your viewing enjoyment. It's hard to screencap a console game when your computer is a mile away. I'll see about grabbing a few in the future.
Music and Sound Effects
If you like techno and ambient trance, you will love the music Metroid Prime has to offer. Each area plays its own unique, interactive music, which only adds to the feel of the game. Metallic, empty music fills the empty corridors of a research station. Earthy, deathly techno covers the land in the dead, abandoned ruins of a long-gone ancient race. Cold and flat trance accompanies the falling snow. If the graphics aren't your shindig, the music will trap you in its transcendental snare.
For an added bonus, Metroid Prime can be linked with Metroid Fusion to unlock two secret games, including a remake of the original classic Metroid. And, Metroid Fusion has a nice image of Samus - in a bikini.
Metroid Prime is an excellent addition to the excellent Metroid series, which began on the classic NES and until three days ago ended on the Super NES in 1994. Gameplay is fantastic, the graphics are awe-inspiring, and the music perfect in every way. The controls has a bit of a steep learning curve, but becomes perfectly natural once learned.
It's a definite buy
if you have a Gamecube already. If you don't have a Gamecube, get your butt to the store and buy a limited-edition platinum
Metroid Prime. IT IS WORTH IT. Believe me.
Nintendo of America
Metroid Prime official game page
Metroid Prime official screenshot gallery