Prime time viewing
Gamers are a finicky bunch and those who dwell on Twitter even more so. I oft make the point when talking about remasters that so much relies on the source material. Fans live or die by nostalgia. The prime example? The Last Of Us Part 1 on PS5. Sure it looks pretty but mechanically, it’s still the dated and cumbersome experience it was in 2003. £70 for that? Come on!! But what if it was Ocarina of Time, I often counter? A game so beloved and held in such regard. What if that got a fresh lick of paint and a 2013 price? That would be fine, right? Wrong!
Enter Nintendo with their February 8th Direct and stealth release of a beloved GameCube gem – Metroid Prime – now with Remastered moniker. Did I mention it costs just £34.99? Nintendo just changed the game. If you’ve made it this far, you’re in Prime position to make it to the end. Don’t give up on me now.
For the uninitiated, Metroid Prime begins with our heroine, bounty hunter-extraordinaire Samus Aran, responding to a distress signal and traveling to the planet Tallon IV, one-time home of the Chozo. The Chozo are long gone, however, and in their place is a strange substance called Phazon, which has corrupted and mutated all organic life on Tallon IV. What caused the Phazon to spread? How far does the corruption seep? What are those mischievous Space Spirates up to this time, little scamps? What further secrets does Tallon IV hold?
Exploration is the name of the game here and Metroid Prime perfectly encapsulates the essence of the 2D titles and brings it to a stunning 3D arena. The remaster gives this twenty-year-old game a fresh lick of paint but it does so much more too. As aforementioned, Metroid Prime is two decades old, having been originally released on the Nintendo Gamecube (pronounced GOAT) all the way back in March 2003. In the EU at least. For those familiar with the little delightful purple box consoles, the Gamecube Controller didn’t have a second analog stick but instead had a little yellow C-nubbin-thing.
Suffice it to say, controlling Samus – while perfectly cromulent – was a little cumbersome. Rather than just freely navigating via the majesty of twin sticks, you had to hold down R to aim Samus’s arm cannon. Basically, you held down R to turn the L stick into an R stick. L+R=R. In the remaster you can just strafe to your heart’s desire. For the most part, it’s highly effective, however, there were some particularly frantic instances where I found myself reaching for the R button, in order to manipulate the L stick and gain, what seemed like in my 20-year-old muscle memory, a higher degree of control. Of course, you can opt for traditional controls if you so desire, complete with inverted axis and fully remappable buttons.
Combat seems more fluid with the improved control scheme, although switching between beam weapons left me a little aghast at times. In truth, it didn’t deter me during any of MPRs many excellent boss fights and with visors being switched, on the fly, with the d-pad, I guess the layout makes sense. Speaking of bosses, Metroid Primes combat is triumphant. Despite the sandbox being perhaps a little scaled back than what we’re used to today, the arenas always felt meticulously planned and fit for purpose. As you progress and regain suit abilities, Samus becomes a formidable foe, befitting of her moniker The Hunter. As a side note, did Samus always position her hand differently depending on which beam weapon she was using?
With this version being a remaster of the Wii Trilogy version, not the OG Gamecube code, you can also adopt motion controls. Which are also fine. Past testing out the options though, I predominantly chose to play in handheld mode on my OLED, with Hori Split Pad Pro for greater comfort during extended sessions.
Beyond the many ways to control Samus, the actual gameplay loop of Metroid Prime is delightful. As my driving instructor David used to say (and likely still does) ‘scanning and planning’, son. A huge part of Metroid Prime is using Samus’s scan visor to discern information about the planet, its inhabitants, and also the lore of the Chozo. Herein lies the main story-telling modus operandi. Through artifacts and texts engraved on walls, a real monomyth is weaved. If of course, you’re willing to seek it out. The beauty of Metroid Primes narrative is that it isn’t just thrown at you via cutscenes. Sure, the progression through Tallon IV is linear, but it’s up to you, the player, to take the time to get to know the planet. And if you do see everything there is to see, you’ll unlock the true ending.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that I can pay to MPR is just how long it took me to complete. Not because of the game’s difficulty, or not knowing where to head next (the ‘incoming scan data’ (?) does a fantastic job of pointing you in the right direction, should good ol’ exploration fail you), but simply because of how much improved the presentation values are. The models are all the same, but they’ve been given a fresh lick of clay and popped back in the Kilner. But make no mistakes, this isn’t just a case of covering over the cracks. Edges are smoother, light more luminescent and every facet of the planet has so much more detail. Grass and plant life is more plentiful, textures are improved throughout and backgrounds are far denser than they were twenty years ago.
One of the most reported differences has been the doors, with an original developer stating that the gamma levels are too high and as such, they look somewhat disconcerting. And you know what, they’re absolutely on the money. They do look a bit… odd. Aside from that, the biggest change I noticed was Samus Arans’s face. Through reflections from behind the visor and as a reward for 100%ing the title, it is clear that she’s been given a slightly new vibe. Perhaps Retro Studios pulled the model directly from Metroid Prime IV?
This is a lovingly remastered offering that makes Metroid Prime not only stand up to modern games but puts many of them to shame. Which bodes incredibly well for the future of the series. The ceiling for Metroid Prime on Nintendo Switch has never been higher.
Metroid Prime Remastered £34.99