Metroid Prime is truely something special.
In 2003, with the release of Metroid Prime imminent, many critics and fans alike where wandering if you could successfully make a 3D Metroid game, without loosing all the important things that made the series so popular. With Nintendo opting to let a 3rd party developer take the reigns, the sceptics where even more sceptic than usual, but Retro Studios delivered to us, possibly, one of the best games ever on a Nintendo console. Metroid Prime, while it's a FPS, manages to keep all the action, exploration and platform aspects of the series, while presenting it in a whole new 3D world. You could go as far as to call it a First-Person adventure.
While all the previous games in the series, except for Metroid Fusion, where set on the planet Zebes, Metroid Prime is set in a whole new, and magnificently designed world called Tallon IV.
Samus intercepts a distress signal from a Space Pirate frigate, one of which she has been searching for, and she decides to explore. When she gets there, she sees all the crew dead, killed by their own scientific experiments. While searching further in the ship, she comes across a massive Parasite, and after she defeats it, the parasite falls and causes an explosion, which destroys Samus' Varia Suit and causes her to loose nearly all of her powers. Yet Samus manages to escape, but comes across her nemesis, Ridley, so in her gunship she gives pursuit and follows it to Tallon IV.
When she lands she discovers Ruins of the Chozo race. The Chozo where wiped out when a meteor containing a substance called Phazon, and containing a creature the Chozo called 'The Worm' hit the planet, and those that survived fled to an unknown location. Upon further inspection, she discovers the Chozo Temple, which has the meteor crash site inside, and she also finds Space Pirates, who want to use the power of the Phazon contained in the crash site. But as Samus learns, you need 12 Chozo keys to get in. So Samus sets on a quest to regain all of her lost powers and to find the 12 Chozo keys.
The environments in Metroid Prime are the biggest in the entire series. And while Tallon IV is one whole planet, it has many different regions. You have a forest region, a snowy region, a fiery region, and a Space Pirate Phazon mining station. Tallon IV has all the things you'd expect to see in a Metroid game and sticks to the typical Metroid recipe. You can also select the difficulty you want so if you're not to good on Metroid games, don't worry!
Until you play Metroid Prime you don't know just how similar it is to previous titles. The gameplay, platformer elements and exploration are all there, and expect your fare share of back-tracking. Oh yeah the Morph ball and charge beam remain too. But this game, while it's as similar as it is, it's also completely different. Retro Studios have added so much to this game, and it has all paid off for them.
For example, if you gain a new Gun, instead of been stuck using it like on some of the previous games, you can freely swap between them. You might think why would I want to swap from my strongest gun to my weakest, but sometimes you will have to. For example, there are several different coloured doors, and each door requires you to fire a different gun at it to open it. There are four main guns in Metroid Prime and one special one. You have the basic Power Beam which opens only blue doors. You have the Ice Beam that opens white and blue doors. You have the Wave Beam which opens purple and blue doors. And you have the Plasma beam, which opens red and blue doors. The special gun is the Phazon gun, but you can only use this at one time in the whole game. Apart from blue, white, purple and red doors, you can also get grey doors. Grey require to be shot by a missile. Some doors may have rubble blocking them, if this is the case, scan it because most of the time a simple Missile or a Super Missile will get rid of it. If these don't work, you can use a Mega Morph ball Bomb, once you've acquired them of course. Be aware, only the normal Morph ball Bombs have unlimited ammo, Mega ones have ammo and if you run out, you can't use them. You can get upgrades so you can hold more, and you can find ammo in crates and from dead bodies.
Apart from having 4 different guns, you can also get 4 different visors. You have the main Combat visor which is the standard one and you have the scan visor. The scan visor is the most important one because of the size of Tallon IV, you will have to scan enemies to find weak points and scan the environment to get hints of what to do next. It doesn't sound that good, but works a treat. The other 2 visors are the Thermal visor so you can see in the dark, and the X-Ray visor which enables you to see unseeable things like normally unseeable weak points on bosses and enemies.
You may think that Retro Studios have added too much to the game, but when you play the game you'll see it all works an absolute treat.
As well as having most the abilities that are on previous games, Samus gains a hat full of new ones. A few examples are, the Boost Ball, so you get an added bit of speed in the Morph Ball, and you can even use this to get up Half-Pipes. And the Spider ball which enables you to magnetically stick to special walls so you can reach harder places.
You can also get several suits for Samus to wear. You start the game with the Varia suit, but it gets destroyed, so after this you are in the power suit. You do eventually regain the Varia Suit. What makes the Varia suit important is that if you wear it, Samus isn't affected by extreme weather conditions. You next get the Gravity Suit which lets you move the same underwater as you can out of water. Then the final suit is the Phazon Suit which gives you the ability not be hurt by Phazon and also lets you use the Phazon Gun.
With people sceptic about the game, Retro Studios' had to make the story as good as possible, and they did just that. The story in Metroid Prime, while it's not complex, comes together fantastically. The problem with it though is that because the game needs so much exploration, you may loose track of the story sometimes when you're focused so much on the next objective. Talking about objectives, when you finish one objective, you may have to wait a lengthy amount of time before you get told the next one. Maybe this is so you can have a break, but I think they did this deliberate so you can try to figure where to go next all by yourself. But if you want to know the next objective, it'll be very annoying having to wait.
The most surprising thing about Metroid Prime is the fact that you can like the Game Boy Advance to the Game Cube, and if you also own Metroid Fusion, it unlocks special things. I won't tell you everything, but one thing it does is it lets Samus wear the yellow and blue Zero Suit she wears on Fusion in Primes story mode.
Metroid Prime is quite simply, joint with The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, the best game on the Game Cube and that is a testament to just how good of developers Retro Studios are.
Review by: James Widdowson