A Prime Example of the Perfect Game

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Not much time has passed since the Space Pirates’ plans on Zebes were stopped by renowned bounty hunter Samus Aran. With Mother Brain offline and their Metroid program grinding to a halt, several ships fled the planet to regroup at a number of their scattered outposts. One such ship, the frigate Orpheon, returns to Zebes’ neighbor of Tallon IV, where the pirates have already been researching and experimenting on a unique and VERY promising substance they call “Phazon”. Three years later, Samus receives a distress call that is originating from a Space Pirate vessel that is orbiting the planet Tallon IV. When she arrives, she sees that the frigate that is the source of the call, the Orpheon, is a complete wreck, with the interior in even worse shape. Space Pirate bodies are scattered everywhere, heavily mutated giant beasts have thoroughly trashed the place before expiring, and the survivors are in various conditions ranging from “minimally damaged” to “will die if breathed at”. Residing within the core of the ship is a titanic Parasite Queen, the source of the ship’s destruction. Samus slays the beast, but not before it falls into the core and starts the eminent detonation of the vessel. As Samus makes a beeline for her ship, this already rough day quickly turns into The Worst Day Ever ™, because not only does she run into her archenemies Ridley, who somehow survived their battle on Zebes and is now a cyborg, an explosion causes her Chozo Power Suit to malfunction, causing her to lose most of her abilities and weaponry. She makes it back to her gunship and begins to chase after Ridley towards the planet’s surface, but she loses sight of the space dragon, forcing her to land elsewhere. Settling down in the rainy, overcast area of the Tallon Overworld, Samus must now venture forth into the world to find her lost suit upgrades, put an end to whatever experiments the Space Pirates have been conducting, and learn the mystery behind Phazon. Just another day for Nintendo’s leading lady.

Developed by Retro Studios and released in 2002 for the Nintendo Gamecube to universal acclaim, Metroid Prime is the fifth installment of the Metroid series, the first game in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, and is widely considered as one of the best games of all time. Taking place between the events of Metroid 1/Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid II: Return of Samus, players take control of Samus Aran once more to explore a beautiful and dangerous world filled to the brim with enemies and secrets in order to put an end to the Space Pirates’ latest scheme, this time involving the experimentation of the glowing blue mutagen called Phazon. With the series being traditionally 2D, many were concerned that taking the series into the 3D plane in first-person would not go over well, especially since it was coming out eight years after the release of Super Metroid, still considered the best game in the series and one of the finest games ever made. Retro put everyone’s fears to rest upon release when the game turned out to be just as amazing as its predecessor and that despite the transition, this was absolutely a Metroid game.

Samus has done some growing since the events of Zebes. While she is genetically stronger and more agile than the average human, that was still her very first combat mission. Three years later, she is far more experienced than before and does not let the loss of most of her suit abilities slow her down. Armed with her natural strength, speed, basic Power Beam, and her all-knowing Scan Visor, she begins her trek to obtain not only her old abilities, but also new and very useful ones scattered across the planet. It helps that a colony of the Chozo, the race of avian humanoids that adopted her when she was young, had settled on Tallon IV, using their prophetic vision to set out these upgrades for when she, who they dubbed The Hatchling, would need them most. Their greatest contribution was the construction of the Artifact Temple, also known as The Cradle, and was the only thing holding back the rest of what they called The Great Poison. One day, they knew that The Hatchling would face off against The Worm at the center of it all, and prepared for when she would need to fulfill that duty.

Even with the temporary loss of Mother Brain and their Metroid breeding project, the Space Pirates continue to operate with their singular goal of galactic domination through experimenting and exploiting every single thing they can get their hands on. Ridley, having barely survived his encounter with Samus back on Zebes, has been put pack together as a cyborg and dubbed Meta Ridley. Since he had yet to be fully repaired before the Orpheon was destroyed, the draconic High Commander takes a backseat and opts to oversee the pirates’ efforts, leaving the grunts to try and stop The Hunter. While the Space Pirates are the reason why Samus got involved in this whole mess in the first place, they are only a side effect of the true danger that is choking the planet. Fifty years ago, a meteor of unknown properties smashed into Tallon IV, ejecting the substance within across the planet and seeding it with its corruption, eventually leading to the death of all of the Chozo there. Phazon is lethal to everything that lives, turning lifeforms that are able to withstand its caustic nature into immensely powerful, yet mindless beasts. The pirates want to use the unlimited possibilities of Phazon to fuel Project Helix, which involves infusing their own kind with Phazon to make them unstoppable, but they grossly underestimate its power and are not aware of the fact that the mutagen almost appears… alive. As for The Worm that the Chozo foretold of? Well, there is a reason why this game is called Metroid Prime.

The core gameplay still retains the feel and spirit of the classic games while updating it to 3D and shifting the perspective into first-person. The world is split into several different zones that houses their own unique enemies, bosses, power-ups, and upgrades. The combat in comparison to the traditional 2D games is a bit more robust. Locking on to an enemy allows Samus to keep her arm cannon trained on her target while keeping full mobility, strafing around her opponent to avoid attacks and, in the case of bosses, find a weak spot. Using the Scan Visor is also vital to the game, as it not only provides information on the environment and decrypt lore entries from both the Chozo and the Space Pirates, but also details creature physiology and details any potential weak spots they might possess. Using all of Samus’ arsenal together is vital to survive this hostile planet and secure victory over her foes.

Essentially starting the Metroid Prime sub-series, there have been a number of games that have followed the first one, with two of them being the main titles that make up the Metroid Prime Trilogy. The second game, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, was released in 2004 and follows Samus a year after the events of the first game as she answers another distress call, this time from a Galactic Federation ship, to the planet Aether, where her ship is damaged during entry and strands her on the surface. It is not long before she is dragged into a war of between the native and peaceful Luminoth, the inter dimensional eldritch horrors that are the Ing, and the Space Pirates, who are continuing their Phazon experiments with the deposits that litter Aether. All the while, a mysterious shadow of Samus called Dark Samus is running rampant, killing anything that gets between it and chowing down on Phazon, though there is something very familiar about it. The story comes to a close in 2007’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, where the Galactic Federation finally steps forward to bring the fight to the Space Pirates and end the threat of Phazon once and for all. Unfortunately, the pirates have all become enthralled under Dark Samus and are much more dangerous than before. Setting out to save several other Federation planets that have been hit by Leviathans, organic meteors that carry Phazon, Samus and several other bounty hunters must put an end to Phazon and Dark Samus before they become corrupted by the Phazon eating them from within. An updated release titled Metroid Prime Trilogy was released that updated the first two games with the third’s controls and several other improvements, as well as a few spinoffs that include a pinball game (Metroid Prime Pinball), a side-story that introduces several new bounty hunters, of which one has significant importance (Metroid Prime: Hunters), and the most recent entry that follows a Federation Squad after the conclusion of the third game (Metroid Prime: Federation Force).

While Metroid always did enjoy a bit of popularity, especially after Super Metroid, it would not be until Metroid Prime‘s release that interest in the series increased exponentially, bringing in old and new fans with its fantastic gameplay, level design, music, and controls. Even today, when the series has fallen a bit to the wayside after the controversial Metroid: Other M and the middling Federation Force, fans still hold the trilogy, and the first game especially, as some of the best games Nintendo has ever put out. Whether it be with one of the original releases or all three with the Metroid Prime Trilogy compilation, these games are well worth the money for the amount of content and, more importantly, fun that they bring.

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