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My Favorite Games! 9: Metroid Prime

I'm back with another of my top 10 favorite games of all time. Again, just for clarity, these are my personal favorite games. Favorite does not necessarily mean best. Objectivity might play a role here, but a relatively minor one (such as is the nature of 'tastes' I guess, right?). These are the games I have found to have left the greatest impact on this hobby we all share. These left the greatest mark. And for a rundown of my history with games, I provided that with my last entry.

So, my number 9 most favorite of all the video games is Metroid Prime 1.

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In the Gamecube/Xbox/PS2 era I landed on the Gamecube and got a lot of fantastic games out of it. Paper Mario, Mario Sunshine, Wind Waker, Beyond Good and Evil, the Resident Evil games, Tales of Symphonia, Metroid Prime 2. But the one that really stood out for me was Metroid Prime 1.

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Ever since I was a kid, I was a sucker for tone and atmosphere in my entertainment. But tone and atmosphere is a hard thing to quantify. I love Batman because of the dark colors and the gothic setting. I love silent films because of the amazing set design and the tone set by pacing of the films, especially the horror films. I love The Road because the tone is so dreary and bleak that when humanity and hope do hit, even if it is minuscule, it carries that much more weight. In video games, I found that tone comes from the interplay between the graphical and aural presentation with pacing and world building. A game like Flashback sets a tone by having sparse music, allowing for exploration of the different levels, and implying a larger world without having to explain in explicit detail the nature of that world. It allows for a more memorable experience.

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Metroid Prime has tone and atmosphere for days. It's a beautiful game, technically and artistically, which is matched with really well crafted music. The music may not be imminently listenable outside the context of the game but within the game it plays perfectly with the art design and the settings. And those settings are amazing. There so much variety in this game, one level to the next and you can experience it all because the game itself, like the other Metroid games before it (Jason's note; this was my first Metroid game) the game encourages and at times demands exploration. By exploring you can see all of the details put into the world and all of the implied history. There's explicit history too, through the use of the scan visor, but I think the hints at a world beyond the confines of the game's world is more interesting.

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I haven't even touched on the gameplay, which works amazingly well when you consider what this game sets out to do. It is a first-person action adventure game with a focus on shooting, platforming, and exploration. In the game, you'll juggle multiple visors and weapon types while also platforming and fighting, at times, swarms of enemies. It's a big ask for a player's hands, in theory, and when you consider what the Gamecube controller looked like it's also seemingly inconceivable that it would work at all. But they make it work to such a large and successful degree that the movement and inventory management almost becomes second nature. The games that control the best are the ones that you control without thinking about what you're doing. It's as if your hands and the games controls are one. That's what it was like to play this game.

So the game had atmosphere, it had a memorable tone, it was paced well, it controlled really well, the presentation was top notch, it allowed for a ton of exploration, and was fantastic start to finish. All of these things lead it to being in my number 9 slot. Also the fact that I've beat it nearly 10 times because I like it so much.

So, as before, I want to end this entry with a video of the game. But, I thought it would be fun if we end with a video from Digital Foundry. An editor over at that site has been taking deep dives into the technical aspects of old games and did a feature on Metroid Prime. It's a cool video and goes into greater detail about the technical prowess of this game.

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