Metroid Prime - Retro Studios' masterpiece
I think I speak for everyone when I say that all the skepticism can be thrown out the window. Retro Studios has created a fantastic adventure that was above and beyond what you would expect from a Metroid game. The worlds, rich and detailed. The sound, atmospheric and quality. The gameplay, controls, presentation, pacing, everything was just spot on and amazing. I hope I can cover it all in this review.
It starts off with bounty hunter Samus Aran responding to a distress call from a Space Pirate Frigate Orpheon, where she finds herself thrust into a battle with a gigantic parasite. Just after finishing the battle, the ship is starting to break down. Alarms blaring and sirens whistling, Samus makes a mad dash back to her ship. Along the way an explosive blast slams her into a wall and her suit loses all but the most basic abilities. To make matters worse, she finds her old nemesis Ridley, only he's been transformed into a more metalic and menacing version of himself and now goes by the name Meta-Ridley. Meta-Ridley flies away from the doomed frigate to nearby planet Tallon IV, so naturally, Samus follows suit. Upon landing she finds herself in the tranquil, yet slightly eerie, Tallon Overworld region. The real game, begins now.
You see the game through the eyes of Samus, behind a visor with all of the HUD looking like it's part of the visor. It looks like what Samus sees inside the suit. Right off the bat, you see the beauty of the visuals this game boasts. It's raining, everything's wet, water is dripping off your visor which is refracting everything behind it, and it's just gorgeous. In addition, you have wonderfully atmospheric music playing which sounds like it's straight out of Super Metroid. Everything about the game's presentation is top-notch.
The gameplay constists of running around Tallon IV, with each little portion blocked off by doors, in standard Metroid style. The designers made the world seem completely dynamic and load-free. Everytime you shoot one of these doors, the game silently and smoothly loads the next little portion and the door opens into the next portion. This makes for an extremely dynamic experience that never breaks you out of it. You feel like you're in this world, alone, making your way through. Now is the perfect time to talk about the game's excellent pacing. You're goal is finding your powerups, and even ones you didn't have before, to reach previously unexplorable areas. You might think, with such a huge and expansive world you'll get lost, right? Wrong, even without their very convenient hint system, you can tell where you need to go just by the way the world is set up, it basically leads you along without you even realizing. Or you come to a room where you know isn't the correct way, simply because you can't get past it with your current upgrades. One instance, pretty early on, is a long rectangular room that is half filled with lava. You see weird things hanging from the ceiling but aren't quite sure what they are and why this room is here. Later on in the game you get the Grapple Beam and you have a Metroid-standard: "Hey! This can be used in that one room!" moment. So you make your way back and continue the game as usual. This will happen constantly as you progress farther in the game, and it makes it very enjoyable and very rewarding as you figure these things out.
Samus is equipped with two visors and the standard beam when you start the game, but she will eventually find two more visors and three more beams. All very unique and provide a variety of ways for getting around. The default visors are the standard Combat Visor and the Scan Visor. The Combat Visor is your basic view and you will be inside of it for the majority of the game. It allows you to shoot, lock onto enemies, and do most of Samus' actions. The Scan Visor let's you scan just about any thing of any importance in the world. A lot of this is how the game shows it's storyline. There aren't really cutscenes to carry along the story, but by scanning various things in the environment you read how the Space Pirates are planning to harvest Metroids, the history of Tallon IV, and much more. Most of this is completely optional, which is nice because it's all text so you aren't being forced to read it all. The other visors include the Thermal Visor and the X-Ray Visor. Both should be pretty self-explainatory. The new beams include the Wave Beam, which fires electricity charged shots. The Ice Beam, shooting super-cooled shots that can be used to freeze enemies. Finally, the Plasma Beam, which fires super-heated shots that do a good deal more damage than the rest, but fires slowly. Besides combat they also have their uses for exploring the world. In addition to the beams she also has missles she can fire, with an ever-expanding ammo supply for them by collecting Missle Expansion packs spread all throughout the world.
Another Metroid staple, that will look very odd to most people not familiar with the series, is the Morphing Ball, or just the Morph Ball. This big armored suit that Samus is inside turns into a compact little ball that she can roll around with, at that time the game goes into third person. This is useful for entering small holes that Samus couldn't get into otherwise, which you'll be doing a lot. The Morph Ball can also set little mine-like bombs that blow up after about 2 seconds, if the Morph Ball is sitting near the bomb when it goes off, it will push it in the relative direction. This is useful for getting to a variety of locations. There are plenty of upgrades for the Morph Ball as well. Ranging from the Spider Ball which lets it cling to magnetic surfaces, and the Boost Ball which does exactly what it says, gives the Morph Ball a short speed boost.
The boss fights are really all there is left to cover, and there isn't much to say other than they are friggin' amazing. You'll fight a large metal dragon, a giant ice lizard, an armored bug thats actually smaller than you, and many more. Each with it's own special way of defeating them that you must figure out. All of it is very intuitive and very fun to find each one's weakness.
There is so much to see and do in this game that it's really hard to cover it all. I really hope you check this game out. It's an outstanding achievement and should be played by anyone who likes outstanding video games. Retro Studios did it so right with this game, I applaud them.
This game is a masterpiece and I highly recommend it.