I agree with Matt when he says Nintendo's franchise updates have been ahead of the curve. As noted, keeping the good parts and reinventing what doesn't work really is the "secret" to making it happen. Nintendo's not the only company to successfully pull off revamping a classic, but they certainly have a higher rate of success than most. However, I fully expected their winning streak to end in a big way when it came to Metroid.
I've been a fan of the series (and armor-clad heroine Samus Aran) since the original on the NES. After hearing that a virtually unknown American studio was bringing the title to 3D and using a new first-person perspective, I had given up all hope. I just couldn't see how it could be done. The task seemed impossible without ending up as an ill-conceived update trashing an entire legacy. In this particular case, I've never been so happy to be wrong.
The best thing that can be said about Metroid Prime is that the game is classic Metroid regardless of the restructuring and next-generation trappings. Matt's done a good job of making a case for the game, and I'd have to say that I agree on nearly every point. To avoid repeating everything that he said, let me simply state for the record that 98 percent of the game is complete and total brilliance.
However, his opinion and mine do diverge a little bit on that last two percent. My main sticking point (and it's a small one) is about the control. For the vast majority of playtime, everything is smooth and responsive. The layout of the GameCube's pad is definitely attuned to exploration, and that's quite appropriate. But during heated battles things weren't as solid as they should be. Under heavy combat pressure, the control didn't lend itself well to dodge-and-shoot maneuvers. It's rarely an issue and learning patterns of bosses helps compensate, but it should still be mentioned.
The only other area where we part ways is the storytelling. While the level of immersion as Samus was fantastic and cohesive, I felt a few more cutscenes thrown in would have been the perfect icing on an otherwise delectable cake. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking Final Fantasy-level cinematics here. But the amount of scanning to be done was tedious at times, and reading bits of text just wasn't very satisfying (not to mention it was a little hokey to glean concise data from every computer screen you run across-try finding something important on my PC, Samus!). The Metroid series has never been about telling a story and Prime has more plot than any installment except Fusion. This is a good thing. However, I can't help but feel this aspect of the game wasn't as explored or realized as much as the other portions were. On the flipside, I guess I should be thankful the disc didn't get saddled with cheesy, two-bit voiceovers or cliché melodrama.
Those nitpicks noted, there's nothing else to say about the game except that it's a must-play for any GameCube owner, it's easily one of the best games (if not the best) of 2002, and Metroid Prime is destined to go down in gaming history as an outstanding achievement. Retro Studios' creation has earned a place alongside such hallowed names as Super Mario 64, GoldenEye 007, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time—and that's no small feat. 'Nuff said.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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