Metroid Primes

As I mentioned a while ago, I got the Metroid Prime Trilogy and since then, I’ve played through the various Metroid Primes, and I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on them.

Metroid Prime was the only one I had played previously.  I got it back when it came out for Gamecube, so going through it again was nostalgiac.  I do wish I could have given myself amnesia and played through without any memory of my early playthroughs, because I feel the sense of exploration and wonder you get from traversing the planet is lessened once you’ve already done it before.

But I remember that the first time I played it was a unique experience.  You feel like you’re alone on an alien planet.  Your main antagonists, the Space Pirates, don’t even show up for a good chunk of the game after the tutorial stage.  It feels much more like you’re an explorer instead of a warrior.

I love the bosses, even though there’s not very many of them.  They’re all memorable and interesting.  Meta-Ridley is definitely one of my favorite boss battles.

The only thing I strongly disliked about Metroid Prime was when you have to find all of the Chozo artifacts.  I dislike that kind of collection quest, although it went faster this time than I remembered it taking before, so at least there’s that.  I would soon discover that this sort of thing was standard for Metroid Prime games, unfortunately.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes had a different feel for me right away, even in little things like how Samus poses after saving.  In Metroid Prime, she readies her gun.  In Metroid Prime 2, she appears to be taking a deep breath and psyching herself up.  There’s also a lot more focus on the face behind the mask in Echoes.  Her eyes are much more prominent.  In Metroid Prime you only ever really saw them during elevators or if something bright caused a reflection in your visor, but now I feel like I see them pretty frequently.  

The main conceit of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is the light world – dark world dynamic.  When you’re in the dark world, you take damage unless you’re near a light crystal, which regenerates your health painfully slowly.  This, combined with limited ammo for your beam weapons, discourages the kind of exploration that I really enjoyed in Metroid Prime in the first part of the game.  If you’re in Dark Aether, you can’t really just wander off the beaten trail and see what’s around.  Instead, I’m suck sitting in my bubble staring around me, trying to see what’s worth scurrying to for the health I’ll lose.  I can’t take my time and savor the environment the way I could on Tallon IV.  Luckily this gets mitigated greatly and later vanishes altogether thanks to later upgrades, but it’s a very big handicap at first, as I’m sure it was designed to be, but it just goes against the Metroidian theme of exploration to me.  I was thrilled when it was no longer an issue.

Another issue I had with the dark world is that Metroid is kind of a poor series for it.  Usually the point of a dark world is showing you how everything is now murderous and strange, but that’s how the light world is, too.  The dark world just makes everything trying to kill you and slightly more likely to succeed.

However, I think it improved on Prime in a few ways.  The scanning visor got a lot better, for one.  It now highlights the entire object instead of having a small rectangle to find.  I also like the boss fights more.  In Prime, it was mildly confusing sometimes why killing a boss game you items.  In Echoes, quite a few bosses are Ing who have absorbed your items from near the beginning of the game and now use their powers against you.  I admit, I enjoy beating an enemy to steal his powers and claim it for my own.  The bosses are definitely better in general.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was the first game for the Wii, and boy, did they want future generations to know that this game had been made with motion controls in mind.  They can feel a bit gimmicky at times.  (Do I really need to manually pump things?)  But they can be fun and immersive, too.  (I admit enjoying using the grapple lasso to forcefully tear off an enemy’s shield.)  I just wish they had limited its use a bit, although I understand the desire to include it.

The game has good atmosphere.  There’s much more of a horror feel to the game, as Samus gets corrupted, her allies turn on her, you read about space pirates getting mind controlled by your enemy, and you explore abandoned spaceships.  I really like it, although I wish there were less of a Federation presence.  They immediately contact you about every new objective, so there’s less feeling that you’re all alone.

I feel like the scan visor got worse since 2, unfortunately.  I really dislike how in both 2 and 3, lore entries go into the datalog by default.  Maybe it’s me, but I feel like it encourages collecting for the sake of collecting, rather than reading the lore out of interest.  I wish the game assumed that if I scan something, I wanted to scan it rather than increase a number somewhere by one percent.  It just seems odd to me to make the default choice, “Don’t care about our game’s lore.”

Metroid Prime 3 did do an excellent job of making it feel like there’s more to the world than Samus and the various aliens that try to kill her, though.  You get to see the Federation, you get to meet, and um…interact with other bounty hunters, you get to explore multiple planets and ships.  It was nice to get more context, but I admit, I like my Samus solitary.

The central mechanic of Metroid Prime 3 is hypermode, which I absolutely hate.  By using her health, Samus is able to enter hypermode, which makes her invulnerable and greatly increases the damage she does to enemies.  I like the idea.  Do you think that enemy is going to do more damage to you than you’d do to yourself by entering hypermode?  Then use Phazon to ultramurder him.

The problem is that the game thinks that you’ll love hypermode, or something, and throws a ton of enemies at you that are just miserable to try to take down without hypermode.  It’s annoying to have a bunch of enemies around with massive amounts of hitpoints but aren’t really dangerous otherwise.  Worse, your enemies get hypermode, too, and aren’t shy about using it, forcing you into hypermode to take them out easily.  Even just groups of mook level pirates become enormous pains unless you’re willing to use up your own health to take them out.

Bosses weren’t as fun as they were in Metroid Prime 1 and 2 for me.  I know Echoes get a lot of flak, but honestly, I thought a lot of its aspects, like the scan visor and the bosses, to be my favorites of the trilogy.  Metroid Prime 3 does use its x-ray visor well, though.  You can use it to look into locks and through walls to get into doors, and you can use it to look into skulls to shoot your enemies in the brain.  It’s certainly the most creative of the visor upgrades in the trilogy, and it almost makes up for the command visor being an extremely limited subset of what the scan visor could do on its own.

Of course, Metroid Prime 3 ends with another fetch quest.  Annoyingly, this one makes the least sense.  At least in 1 and 2, there were good reasons why you had to find all of the Chozo artifacts or temple keys.  But here, the Federation itself is in danger, and you need energy cells to explore a derelict battleship to discover the necessary codes, but the Federation won’t lend you some marines and spare energy cells.  You have to go look for them yourself, on Federation planets, even.  Just drydock a battleship, give me all its energy cells, and let me save you, you unhelpful jerks.

Overall, though, I loved all of them.  I think Metroid Prime 2 has the strongest foundation out of all of them.  It’s just a shame that they put an annoying dark world and uninspired beams and visors on top of it.  I really hope we get similar games in the future.


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