Published by: Nintendo Developed by: Retro Studios Rated: T for Teen Learning curve: 10 to 20 minutes Reviewed By: Drew Regensburger
An explosion ripples the deck plates, as the station shudders through fire and smoke. A Pirate falls to the ground, a horrible crunch resounding as his shoulder hits the deck. The smoke clears, and an armored figure steps through the debris, the figure\'s face shrouded in a red helmet that supplies the figure oxygen. This figure is Samus Aran. Metroid Prime is a gripping sci-fi thriller with a bit of a twist. It takes place in the first person perspective, a la James Bond, which is not a very good comparison. Metroid Prime is everything that a James Bond game is not, from innovative levels, to truly frightening enemies, and by that I mean frighteningly cool, not frighteningly scary. Of course, Prime has it\'s share of those, too, from the ice-breathing Sheegoth, to the radioactive Thardus, a rock monster brought to life with Phazon radiation, and with only one goal in mind-- kill Samus Aran.
All of the monsters and environments are brought to life in stunning three-dimensional realism, making Metroid Prime a truly revolutionary, as well as risky, attempt for Nintendo. Prime was developed by Austin, Texas based Retro Studios, a new born company that\'s first game was Prime. And they did a dang good job with it, too. The levels are thoughtfully and caringly done, from the smallest crack in a wall, to the biggest pillar, Prime is most definitely eye-candy. As for Samus herself? well, she has one of the most caring character creations I have ever seen done. In truth, Metroid Prime exhibits the true graphical power of the Nintendo Gamecube, with excellent lighting, particle effects, and environments. Rain affects your visor, as does plain waterfalls, and you can look up, and feel that you are standing outside in the snow. When you kill a bug, you even get gross, three-dimensional goo on your face. If you\'re in an icy chamber, and you look at a pillar of ice, you can even see a rippley, blurred reflection of yourself. In truth, part of the fun of Metroid Prime is seeing the most beautifully realized environments and creatures, and seeing what part of them you can change. Overall, Metroid Prime is worth the wait, if not for the gameplay, then for the visuals, and the sound in particular.
Prime has one of the most rewarding and innovative game designs ever. In the beginning of the game, Samus loses her suit (no, I\'m not gonna tell you why). This severely affects game play, and thus establishes a story. You see, before you can find the evil that lurks below the surface of Tallon IV, you must regain your power suit abilities, and then some. Soon, you can walk normally underwater, walk in heat, shoot ice and electricity-- even withstand radiation. And after all of that, the meat of the game, you must recover 12 Chozo artifacts, each guarded by crazy ghosts, and each a piece of a key that unveils that evil below. Before you stop and say, \'Evil? We don\'t need no evil!,\' let me tell you this. The evil is genetic engineering. It is the manipulation of environment and creature, the killing of an ecosystem, albeit virtual, of wonder and intrigue. The evil is the ultimate abomination of that ecosystem which thrived on the nurture and care of the Chozo, and morphed it into something so appalling, so unreal, that it actually is a commentary on life in general. I\'m probably reading too much into this. However, the game play is not one of violence, nor of death. It is in the spirit of exploration, and you do explore, explore a world which has been taken over by the dastardly Space Pirates, and overrun by a pollutant called Phazon Radiation. In fact, much of the game is finding new areas in which to explore and investigate. Overall, when you throw the pretty visuals and excellent sounds aside, you get the game play left over, and that in itself is wonderful, and full of brain-bending puzzles, and awesome boss battles.
The sound is of very good quality, and includes ambient noises as well as a first-rate soundtrack that rivals that of many movies. The creatures breathe, move, and howl, and blaster shots reverberate off the walls of a deep dungeon. Your feet will clank on walkways, and crunch in the snow. There is really too much to actually tell. Just hope that Nintendo releases a soundtrack.
The Gamecube\'s controller is perfect for this game. Every button is used. I know that sounds hard, but it\'s not. It really is easy to just pick up and play. And because of this, Metroid Prime doesn\'t have a steep learning curve. The hardest thing to get used to is the D-Pad, which is used to switch visors. But soon that too becomes intuitive, and the game earns some of the easiest control in terms of pick-up-and-play-ness.
Although Metroid Prime is violent, and it does have bloodshed, the creatures that are being killed are mostly insects, and are purely made of science fiction, nothing else. These creatures include the devious Space Pirates, the only humanoids in the game, and the frightening Metroids, a parasitic life-form known only for it\'s energy gatering tendrils. However, the game\'s creatures are rather startling at times, and can be very shocking to almost cute. The environments range from a gothic type lair to some of the most beautiful environments that have ever been constructed in a game. The puzzles are also challenging, and there are also ghosts incorporated in the story of the game. Overall, the game is not appropriate for youngsters or anyone easily frightened. Think twice before handing this game to a nine-year-old.