rane500's Metroid Prime Pinball (Nintendo DS) review

Pretty Good Pinball

I wish I were good at pinball. It's one of those kinds of games that I always imagine is fun to be good at, although I'm sure that's a silly opinion to have in practice. I've never heard of the pinball wizard getting the girl, and as far as I know there wasn't a montage-based 80's comedic underdog movie inspired by pinball...and we all know that 80's montage movies are the definition of what's cool and what isn't. The whole playing purely for a high score mentality has always been just beyond my grasp; I'm just too ADD to really get good at those kinds of games. I'm normally intrigued enough by interesting table design to want to explore and trigger every feature, but once I've run through every aspect that I can manage at a basic skill level I get pretty bored. I think I can still give this game a fair shake, though...you'll just need to take the above statements into account.

The premise of Metroid Prime Pinball is actually pretty clever – Samus spends a great deal of time in both Metroid Prime games in the morph ball form. Rolling through those puzzles and bouncing everywhere gave someone the novel idea: why not make her a pinball? Design multiple levels based around environments from Metroid Prime, work in a lot of neat special maneuvers you could easily see Samus doing, slap in a nearly perfect soundtrack adaptation from the first game and voila – you've got a pretty good game on your hands. The primary game mode even links the tables, making it necessary to travel between them to complete the primary “mission” of collecting the twelve Chozo artifact pieces ala (wait for it) Metroid Prime.

I think it's a bit impressive the developers were able to create a “mission” mode in the first place. You can't really have a huge variety of play modes with pinball...I mean, it's pinball. You smack the ball around on a themed table and try not to let it fall into the hole at the bottom. The only other options are to play a single table or play wireless multiplayer, which is really just a contest to see who can make it to 100,000 points first within a limited time. I will say that it's a thoughtful addition since the DS wireless option is pretty heavily advertised these days, but as usual I don't have friends with the time or the hardware to really test it out. Getting to 100,000 points is actually pretty easy, but it'd be a good enough race all the same.

The typical DS game uses the two screens to present more information simultaneously to speed information processing or to present an extra control interface ala the touch feature of the bottom screen. Metroid Prime Pinball belongs instead to a new minority of games that use the second screen to extend the primary play area, which gives it the ability to display something that really looks like a pinball table. The only catch is the gap between the two screens, which ended up representing a physical obstruction on the virtual table. The ball actually disappears momentarily as it moves from one screen to another, which sounds inconvenient as hell in theory but ends up feeling natural in practice. Your mind will instantly adjust to the virtual gap since there is some physical distance between the screens. In a way it even adds to the realism.

I mentioned earlier that the soundtrack was nearly perfect. Most of the tables have an amazing adaptation of the area's theme music, utilizing the virtual surround of the DS to a degree that still makes me marvel. The Tallon overworld music sounds nearly identical to the GameCube version, and the Phendrana, Chozo temple, and Magmoor levels aren't far behind. The lone exception to this is the Space Pirate frigate, which got some sort of guitar-based metal remix of the Metroid theme. I personally find it to be extremely cheesy and think it sticks out like a sore thumb.

The shoulder buttons control the paddles, blah-blah-blah. Do I really need to cover the control scheme in a pinball game? Well wait, maybe I do. There are a few table features that end up pulling Samus out of the morph ball for a few moments to either shoot or jump, but honestly the controls aren't much of a surprise there either once you get the timing down. I'll say it's exactly what you would expect it to be and leave it at that.

I think that about covers it. It's freaking pinball...if you have no real idea what that is hit Google, because I can't be bothered to bring you into the 21st century. Well...the 20th century. Or 19th. I think that's when pinball really solidified as a game. Well, either way if you've got a DS and you like pinball you should really pick this one up.

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