Liam’s Game Room #43 (Metroid Prime, Gamecube)

Introduction

Metroid Prime is a first person action adventure game developed by Retro Studios and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002. The Nintendo Gamecube was released in 2001 in North America and Japan and 2002 in Europe and is the successor to the Nintendo 64. The console had quite a good launch library of games with such titles as Super Monkey Ball, Luigi’s Mansion and Crazy Taxi. The console would go on to sell 22 million units and the reason why the console struggled compared to the Playstation 2 was because of the lack of exclusives and the lack of features. The Gamecube also had some issues with the fact that lackluster sales of third party titles meant that a lot of third party games that were initially Gamecube exclusives would get ported to the Playstation 2 and Xbox.

Story

Metroid Prime is set between Metroid and Metroid II: The Return of Samus where Samus Aran, a former soldier for the Galactic Federation is a bounty hunter. The game is set 10 years after the events of Metroid where Samus destroyed the Space Pirate on the planet Zebes. Whilst travelling across the galaxy looking for another client, Samus received a distress call from a space station that is orbited over the planet Tallon IV. The space station, the Orpheon, was a station maintained by the Space Pirate Science team, which works on genetic enhancements of all sorts of wildlife on Tallon IV. When Samus arrives, 6 hours after the launch pods were launched, Samus finds a lot of deceased Space Pirates and some that are alive but very weak.

The cause of this distress signal came from the Parasite Queen on board the space station and Samus faces the Parasite Queen. However, after Samus defeats the Parasite Queen, the Queen falls into the reactor which overheats and Samus escapes before it explodes. After seeing Ridley, Samus decides to pursue the remaining Space Pirates to the planet of Tallon IV with the goal of wiping out the Space Pirates once and for all.

The story of this game is extremely deep and very interesting, but most importantly players who have not played the previous Metroid games in the franchise will understand what is going on. The way that the game tells the story is quite interesting because Samus never speaks in the game and the story is expressed through text at the beginning of the game and before Samus arrives on Tallon IV. The way the game also directs the player to the next part of the story is by showing the player signals on the world map to show where the next major story point of interest is. This is a great way to show where the player needs to go next without relying too heavily on cutscenes.

Gameplay

Metroid Prime is a first person shooter where the player will be exploring Tallon IV and the game will give the player points of interest to go to. However, because the game is open world and the player has the freedom to explore, the game will not restrict the player apart from areas where more powerups are required. The powerups can be found by progressing through the game and the previously locked areas that require this powerups can be accessed by backtracking. Backtracking in this game is essential because the player will need to access the previous areas to get more powerups and more weapon capacity.

The main goal of the game is find and locate the 12 Chozo Artifacts and return them to the Impact Crater. The artifacts can be found by the game giving hints to the player or scanning the statues at the impact crater, which will give the player some cryptic clues about the location of the artifacts. However, even though the game will give hints about where the artifacts are, if the player knows the location of one of the artifacts, the player can collect them, which will mean that the game will just not give the clue for that collected artifact.

Metroid Prime 1.png

The freedom that the game gives the player to collect the artifacts in any order is a huge positive because it does not restrict the player to having to collect the artifacts in a linear, predetermined order. The exploration aspect of the game really shines because even though backtracking is required to get more powerups and weapon upgrades, the game has so many secrets that exploration is rewarded. The interesting thing is that when the game shows the next point of interest, it will show the room that the point of interest is in, but not show the adjacent rooms. Instead, the game will show the type of beam that will be required to open the doors.

The game has 4 different type of beams and these beams will be required to progress through the game. The symbol and the colour of the door will signify which beam is required to unlock the door. The standard power beam is the beam that Samus has normally and can open standard doors. This beam is a standard ball that shoots horizontally in front of the player and most enemies can take multiple hits with this beam before they are defeated. The Wave Beam is a wide purple beam that shoots 3 beams and it shoots in a triangular formation with the waves crossing over each other. This beams can shoot through some objects, which is required for a specific area of the Chozo Ruins to progress. The Ice beam is the same shape as the Power Beam, but it can freeze enemies in place for up to 5 seconds. The Ice Beam works effectively in tandem with other beams because shooting an Ice Beam shot at a already frozen enemy will just reset the timer for how long the enemy is frozen. However, after 2 Power Beam or Wave Beam shots, the Ice will shatter and the enemy will be defeated. The final beam and the most powerup beam is the Plasma Beam, which shoots a long fire beam directly in front of the player. This beam is most effective in the Phendrana Drifts where most of the enemies are Ice based. The Plasma Beam can also be used in Phendrana Drifts to melt some ice walls to access previously locked weapon upgrades. These beams also have upgrades where it makes the beam much more powerful, for example, the charge beam allows the player to charge up any of the 4 beams to make the beam more powerful. The beams can also be upgraded again and combined with missiles to make the beams the most powerful. For example, the Plasma Beam can become a Flamethrower if the player chooses to use missiles alongside the Plasma Beam, although this drains missiles.

Missiles are the other form of attack that the player can use in this game and are essential during the early part of the game. There are certain doors that can only be opened by missiles and bosses through the game can only be taken out by missiles. The missile expansions increase the total missiles that can be carried by 5, which are plentiful throughout the game and are hidden well, so exploration is essential for finding these expansions.

Metroid Prime 1-2.jpg

The variety of beams in this game is perfect because I feel if there were many more, than it could have become very confusing. It would have also potentially restricted the amount of initial exploration that the player could do in the beginning. The fact that the beams can be upgraded twice as well allows the player to become really powerful early on if the player knows where these upgrades are. It also gives the player a reason to find some more missile expansions because some of the beam powerups require quite a lot of missiles.

The game also has 3 main suits that the player will need to find to progress through certain sections of the game. The player starts with the Power Suit, which protects Samus from damage, but does not have any additional properties. The Varia Suit which is found in the Chozo Ruins allows the player to access areas of extreme heat and is required for the player to progress to the Magmoor Caverns. The Gravity Suit is one of the more important suits because it allows the player to move freely underwater and in lava. Normally, movement in water and lava prior to the Gravity Suit is slow and sluggish and is like moving through treacle. The Gravity Suit also reduces the amount of damage that Samus will take from enemy hits, which is vital in the later sections of the game.

The gameplay feels amazing because even though it is from a first person perspective, the player has a lot of free movement and has full control of the jumps. Whilst at first, the shooting might seem confusing, the game sorts this issue with two forms of aiming, auto aiming and free aiming. Auto aiming is the L button on the Gamecube controller and this will mean that the player will lock onto the next enemy or target of interest. Free aiming is done using the R button and this allows the player to maybe shoot at enemies and targets that perhaps cannot be locked onto. This choice of aiming is perfect for new players and adds a level of complexity for the player once the player is familiar with the controls.

The enemy variety is great because each area of the game has well designed enemies and bosses based upon the environments that the player is exploring. The environments really encapsulate the feeling that Samus would be feeling in the environments with everything from snow falling on the visor in Phendrana, through the bright flares from the heat of the lava in Magmoor. Everywhere has it’s own distinct feel to it and the detailing on the worldscapes is simply stunning. The colour palette used throughout adds to the vivid details in the environments and on the enemies. There was a lot of detail put into every aspect of how the game looks and there is not one enemy or texture that looks either bad nor out of place. It is amazing that this game was released in 2002 because the game has aged brilliantly and still looks great to this day.

Music and Sound

The music and sound design of Metroid Prime was done by Kenji Yamamoto who did all the sound and music for the previous installment in the franchise, Super Metroid for the SNES. The mixing of the sound design was done in Dolby Surround Sound and was mixed by someone at Dolby and the mixing of the sound design is amazing. The aural feedback of the sounds moving in this surround environment is unlike any other that I have experienced before because there is so much detail put into every sound effect and every footstep. This mixing really captures the immersion of the player perfectly and creates the feeling that the player has literally become the character that they are controlling.

The music in this game is simply stunning and adds an extra layer to the environments that the game designers had created. The themes are expansive and help create an atmosphere and a feeling for the player to experience unlike any other. The effects on the soundtrack are perfect as well because there is an emphasis on low end, deep, gritty composition to represent the dangers that the player will encounter in Magmoor Caverns. On the other side of the spectrum, Phendrana has a high end, airy, lonely feeling to it, which represents a lone ranger in a lonely, snowy landscape. There is so much detail put into every aspect of the sound that makes it a pleasure to listen to in the game and the soundtrack away from the game. I can easily listen to the soundtrack whilst I am working on other things because it is such a memorable soundtrack and one that everyone should listen to.

Conclusion

Metroid Prime stands out as a perfect example on how to make a open world exploration game stand the test of time and also have gameplay that feels great. The worlds in the game looks unique from one another and the soundtrack and sound design help bring these environments to life perfectly. This game is a game that I think that everyone should play because it is a game that really stands out in the genre and the game has a lot of content and secrets. Simply an amazing game and one that I really enjoy playing over and over again.

10/10

Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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