I did it: I’ve finally completed Metroid Prime.
I’ve been playing this game for a very, very long time–at least a year and a half. It came bundled with my Gamecube, and I’ve been playing it off and on ever since then. I’ve played through it in short bursts: several months of inactivity, followed by one or two weeks of Metroid progress, followed by more months of inactivity. I’ve been playing it so long that I’ve come to associate certain periods of my life with Metroid levels that I was playing through at the time (“Remember when we got married?” “Oh yeah–I was looking for Arm Cannon upgrades in the Phendrana Drifts!”).
But now that I’ve finally finished the game, I’m here to report that it is truly a king among games–living proof that the art of game design is not dead. Almost every aspect of gameplay is polished; the whole game was obviously put together by people who understood exactly what made some of those old-school Nintendo adventure games (the original Metroid, the Zeldas, etc.) so fun.
Some of the things that set it apart from the crowd:
- It lets you explore the game world at your own pace. The game periodically tells you know what your next “big objective” is, but lets you take your time getting there, and leaves you free to find your own route to the goal. You have plenty of time to explore the gorgeous game world, search for secrets and equipment upgrades, and basically just strike out off the beaten path.
- It’s light on player frustration. Metroid Prime is quite difficult at times, but it always plays fair: the obstacles and enemies all have patterns or solutions that can be figured out through careful observation and experimentation. Death is actually fairly rare (except in a few particularly difficult spots), and it’s almost never the result of a random misstep or accident (like missing a jump).
- The “boss fights” are uniformly excellent–some are easy, others are hard, but all of them are beatable with a bit of practice. The final battle was no disappointment at all–it was very memorable, and just the right level of difficulty.
- It handles “backtracking” well. The game world is quite large, but you’ll find yourself quite often returning to places you’ve already explored–sometimes on route to another destination, other times to pick up an item or find a secret that you missed earlier. But instead of being boring (as it is in many games that employ this gameplay technique), this actually turned out to be one of the most fun parts of the game–environments often change after you’ve explored them, and many times new equipment and weapons let you solve puzzles in previously-explored areas that you couldn’t before. All in all, the backtracking really lets you get to know the game world well–it feels like you’re gradually learning all the secrets of the world, rather than (as in other games) taking a whirlwind tour through a level that you’ll never see again.
- It’s not first-person shooter, despite its surface appearance. Metroid Prime is really a platform exploration-adventure game at heart, and that more than anything else is what makes it so fun. Its heart is very firmly in the 8-bit-adventure-game genre, even if its graphics and gameplay are much updated. It doesn’t waste time with the shallow glitz that defines many games today; you’ll find no brooding anti-heroes, scantily-clad babes, oppressive and gritty atmosphere, or super-detailed shock-value violence here. It made me remember that games are supposed to be fun.
- The protagonist, Samus Aran, is just incredibly cool. She’s like an anti-Lara-Croft.
There you have it: far more detail than you ever wanted about Metroid Prime. Pardon the length of the post, but I figured that a game which has occupied me for so long deserves a longer-than-average discussion. It’s an amazingly good game. Now to start thinking about the recently-released sequel…by