suicrat's Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GameCube) review

Some of the best boss fights in Nintendo history

When Metroid Prime was released in 2002, critics and fans said "a game like this only comes around every once in a while". Based on the enormous gap between Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, they had a point. However, Retro Studios has proven that lightning can strike twice, and it can strike quickly. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes improves upon everything at which its predecessor excelled. Namely: atmosphere, music, puzzles, and combat.

A hallmark of the Metroid series is the eerie atmosphere in which the games take place, even on rudimentary consoles like the NES and GameBoy, the games conveyed a sense of loneliness and apprehension. The question that the player always asks is "what's in the next room?" "Peril" is the answer each game provides. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is no different. The visual fidelity is superb -- especially in progressive scan mode -- there is little aliasing, the textures are rich, the world manages to be colourful and dark at the same time, the creatures move and act believably, and the environments have a nice level of variety. From the surreal view of planet Aether from space at the outset, to the first time Samus steps into the Dark World and beyond, the designers grab you, shake you, and ask "Are you woman enough to survive?!"

That's right, much like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Metroid Prime 2 takes place in two worlds: Dark and Light, each being an "echo" of the other. This device adds layers of atmosphere, and the differences and similarities between the two are equally palpable. It also adds new gameplay forms with regard to puzzles and combat: The creatures in the Dark World are twisted abominations of those found in the Light World, they're also generally more difficult to defeat. What exactly they are and how they came to be is best left for the well-told story, and unspoiled by your reviewer.

Audio continues to be one of the keystones to the success of Metroid games with Echoes' soundtrack. New pieces and even more remixes of old favourites omitted from the prequel add to the level of immersion. The music always goes well with the environment and situation it's chosen for, and add tension to the segments that demand it, and add a creepy serenity to the less action-packed parts. The sound effects for Samus' weapons and equipment add the necessary punch to fully immerse you in the mysterious world of Aether. Sounds of machinery and equipment collapsing, exploding, colliding, and functioning all sound believable.

One of the less noticeable aspects of video games is lighting. Most often, it sticks out when it's bad, and it goes unmentioned when done well. Metroid Prime had great lighting, but once again, Echoes manages to exceed it in every way. From the lights generated by certain creatures, to the absorption of light from dark objects and weapons, the game's lighting is truly outstanding.

Metroid Prime 2 has its share of puzzles, and great variety and challenge therein, with new functionality to the boost ball in conjunction with the spider ball, there are many more possibilities, and Retro was sure to exploit most, if not all of them. There are particular puzzles that stand out in this reviewer's mind, but they're even better when they are surprises, so details are being purposely avoided.

The same goes for bosses: Every single full boss, and most of the mini-bosses manage to exceed, in terms of inventiveness and difficulty, each of the bosses in every other Metroid game. Metroid games are known for their boss-fights, but they all pale in comparison to those found in Echoes. The game is worth replaying just for the boss-fights!

Retro Studios is batting a thousand, both of their games have been top-notch, and they manage to improve upon the things that their first game did extremely well. If you're trying to find the best GameCube game, the best Metroid game, or the best game of this generation; look no further.

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    If It Ain't Broke, Just Add Multiplayer 0

    When word first came out that Nintendo had assigned a no-name studio somewhere in Texas the task of taking Metroid into 3D, and that it would be first-person, many fans cringed at the idea. Two years ago, Retro Studios delivered what no one thought they could.  Metroid Prime is arguably the best game on the GameCube.  It's not my personal choice, but its greatness cannot be denied.  The sequel is more of what everyone loved in the first one.  It is the epitome of "if it ain't broke, don't f...

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