The Metroid series has existed since before I was born. In the grand scheme of their overall catalogue, it’s not one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, but it’s definitely one of my personal favourite series. There are few games that can capture the isolating yet rewarding feeling of exploring an alien planet, completing puzzles and taking down tough but well designed boss encounters like those in the Metroid series. Back in 2002, the series had it’s first fully 3D entry in Metroid Prime. The team at Retro Studios took a brave gamble on moving the game to a first person view over it’s traditional third-person side scrolling perspective but the change was well received and the game continues to be one of the most critically acclaimed titles of all time. Now, just over 20 years on, Metroid Prime has made it’s way to the Nintendo Switch, fully remastered and better than ever. It’s not only a great remaster of an already incredible game, but it’s now the benchmark I hope other video game remasters aim to meet or exceed.
Metroid Prime for those not already aware is a first person action adventure game that sees the return of franchise protagonist Samus Aran. After some fantastic but chaotic events take place in the opening moments, Samus lands on the isolated planet Tallon IV. A planet that used to be home to the Chozo but has been taken over by a great poison referred to as Phazon as well as Space Pirates. The plot involves uncovering the mysteries of the planet and the history of the Chozo race as Samus does what she does best. Taking down nefarious boss creatures while earning bigger and better upgrades for her suit and uncovering the link between this alien planet, the spreading Phazon and the being known as Metroid Prime.
Even though the game was developed over 20 years ago, it doesn’t feel that way, as the design of the game, it’s world and puzzles still feels modern by today’s standards. Which is a real testament to the abilities of the development team at Retro. Along with the slick new upgrade to the visuals side of the game, Metroid Prime Remastered feels and looks like a game that could have released brand new today and nobody would know any different. Whether you’ve played the Prime series previously and have been looking for a reason to go back or if you’re brand new to the series, this is the definitive version to pick up and play today by far.
Metroid Prime has been one of those games that has been long rumoured to be getting the remaster treatment, and it made sense, especially with the 4th title being currently in development. But now that it’s finally revealed, and released, it’s exceeded every expectation I had imagined in my head. This is far more than your typical remaster where the game is re-released as is with some upgraded higher resolution assets being placed in. This release has seen many of the game’s character models, environments and textures remade, making it look absolutely fantastic of course. But another welcome change, one that may be more appreciated than the game’s visual upgrade, is the overhauled control scheme.
The controls in Metroid Prime Remastered have also been drastically improved over the original GameCube release. Where the original focussed a lot on locking onto enemies or objects and being able to sidestep and strafe around the environment, Metroid Prime Remastered has implemented twin stick controls that allows you to play the game feeling like most other modern day first person shooter titles, with the left stick controlling Samus’ movement and the right stick controlling the camera, allowing for fully manual control of manoeuvring, looking around and shooting. This further helps the game feel more in line with a modern shooter experience and along with the visual overhaul helps this be the clear and definitive way to play Metroid Prime. For those that like the nostalgic experience though, you can still use the classic GameCube controls, turn on the motion controls from the Wii release or even create your own custom hybrid scheme.
Many of the discussions around the time of Metroid Prime’s release were around how well the franchise would transition to first person. Looking back in hindsight, the wide reception is that the team nailed it. Retro managed to create a solid first person shooting/platforming hybrid that managed to push the series in a new direction and format while maintaining the aspects of Metroid many loved such as the puzzles, backtracking, character upgrades, great boss encounters and the feeling of being a lone hunter on an alien, hostile planet where everything is new and you don’t know what will be through the next door or around the next corner. The camera does still pull back, providing a third person experience when Samus enters her Morph Ball form, but otherwise the gameplay is entirely first person, with the information such as health meter, mini map and weapon configuration being presented as if they were an inbuilt HUD inside Samus’ visor.
The shift to being a first person game will likely help Metroid find a modern audience of players who have never tried the series with this re-release, largely because most gamers these days know exactly how a first person shooter title looks and feels to play. And with the newly implemented twin stick control scheme, manoeuvring Samus around Tallon IV and taking down foes is going to be second nature to anyone that’s played a first person title that’s released in the past 10-15 years. The change has made it feel very modern, and along with Samus’ abilities that are used to traverse the planet, it’s become the best feeling first person shooter on the Nintendo Switch for me personally.
One of Metroid Prime’s biggest strengths is the world itself. Upon landing on Tallon IV, the atmosphere of everything really immerses you. It feels alien, it sounds intriguing and it’s very apparent that something mysterious is going on. And not knowing exactly what that is, or what could be around the next corner provides both a sense of dread but also real curiosity. The biomes on the planet are diverse, interconnected and really well designed. Providing the player plenty of reason to explore and discover what may be lingering off the main path in each area. And as with previous Metroid titles, the world itself is the biggest puzzle. There are plenty of moment to moment puzzles of course, but you’ll still be utilising the skills you learn later in the game in earlier areas to unlock new zones and learn the most efficient way to back track through the areas of Tallon IV.
The Metroid series is known for being fairly light on delivering the story of the games through cutscenes or dialogue exposition, and Metroid Prime is no different. Exploring the world and living in it reveals most of the narrative. It doesn’t have long sequences of characters talking or lengthy cutscenes presenting the story, there are some, sure, but they’re used fairly sparingly. Retro trust that you’ll figure it out by actually playing the game and living in this beautiful yet very mysterious world.
It’s a great thing that the world is so interesting. Exploring the map to find all the explorable areas and secrets is so much fun, it allows you to explore the world and witness all of what Tallon IV has to offer, and exploring is often rewarded. Finding a new secret area containing a new upgrade never fails to be fun in a Metroid game, and it can really help when it comes to taking down the next challenge or big boss.
Metroid Prime actually provides quite the challenge. Metroid titles often do, as just mentioned, if you’re finding an encounter quite challenging, there’s a good chance you may be under equipped, and going to source out a few more missile container or health upgrades could be the difference between you coming out successful the next time you face off against a boss etc.
The franchise is known for having some iconic boss creatures and encounters and Prime is once again no different. It does a great job establishing some new threats and creatures that will go on to become important to this new trilogy of games, while also having some cool Easter eggs for some of Samus’ previous foes. The encounters typically take place over multiple phases, and with them taking place in bigger arenas than before, it’s more important than ever to learn the enemy attack patterns, utilise Samus’ visors to locate weak spots and also using all of Samus’ various abilities and weapons to overcome each foe. Landing the final hit on a tough boss and ending the battle is still just as satisfying as it was 20 years ago.
Metroid Prime is an absolute masterpiece. It was a gamble taking a 2D series and trying to adapt everything that made it great into a 3D experience but it paid off massively. Now with this remaster it has gotten even better and opened up the door to so many new players. With noticeable improvements to both the look and the feel of the game, this is now the standard I’ll hold all remaster projects to. I’m a massive fan of the Metroid series so any time Nintendo show it some love, it get’s me quite excited. I can’t wait to experience what’s on offer in the upcoming Metroid Prime 4 and more curious to see if we’ll be getting the same remaster treatment in the meantime for Prime 2 and 3.
A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.
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