Guest Author - James Shea
So, anyways, Samus the “bounty hunter” is orphaned from an attack by Space Pirates, who aren’t really pirates, just a race of “interstellar nomads”, as the manual says. So after the space pirates zap Samus’ planet, they go and build a huge research complex on the planet Zebes, wiping out most of the native population. They are researching these creatures called “Metroids”, which had been recently discovered by the Galactic Federation.
The Space Pirates stayed there for a couple years, researching Metroids, finding new and exciting ways to blow people up, when who should arrive but Samus Aran. She had somehow avoided being blown up along with the rest of her planet’s population and had been raised by the Chozo, a bird-like race of creatures. It turns out Zebes had, before the Space Pirates moved in, been a Chozo colony! Whoops! So, the Chozo, being annoyed that a world’s worth of their people had been blasted into itty-bitty pieces, they infused Samus with some Chozo blood (giving her super strength, endurance, and speed), gave her a power suit with a gun-arm attached to it, and told her to go smite the Space Pirates until there weren’t any space pirates left to smite.
So Samus blasted her way through them, cutting a bloody swath through their operation and even getting the captain, Ridley, and their giant spike-shooting reptile friend, Kraid. Eventually she got to the inner sanctum of the operation, and blasted every Metroid she could find. Finally, she got to the Brain of the Metroids, the Mother Brain, and she blasted that too. So, thinking her job was done, she went to look for the Chozo, who had for some reason gone into hiding.
But the Space Pirates weren’t done yet. The survivors immediately split into two groups. Group One returned to Zebes to resuscitate Mother Brain, Kraid, and Ridley. Group Two went off looking for a new planet to make a base on. They found Tallon IV, a planet that had been a Chozo colony until a meteor brought some freaky mutating stuff called “Phazon” that drove most of the Chozo to leave. Before they left, figuring it was the most they could do, the Chozo sealed the meteor off with a temple and split its core, sealing the pieces away. By that time, it was too late for the planet. Plants and animals had been mutated into hideous forms, the ecosystem was completely trashed, and basically the planet was one big nuclear mess. The pirates come across it and decide it’s the PERFECT place to live, what with the new experiments they can perform on the little nuclear beasties and such. They leave their ship in orbit so they can send things up and perform “Zero-G experiments” on them. Samus finds them, lands on their frigate, and that’s where the game starts up. Undoubtedly, there are a few holes in this story, such as: where did she get her ship? It was not mentioned, but in the game, it says it is, “Registered to Samus Aran.” So where did she get it registered? And why is she called a Bounty Hunter? These are just some of the many story-loopholes in this game.
The reason I said that Metroid Prime connected Metroid to the new age is because, unlike the Kirby, Legend of Zelda, Mario, and Donkey Kong series, Metroid did NOT have its own game on the N64. Sure, there was Super Smash Brothers, but that was only a cameo role. There have been only four Metroid games so far: Metroid, for the NES, Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Game Boy, and Super Metroid for the SNES. The last one was made in 1994. Metroid fans have gone 8 YEARS without another Metroid game, and now they get it. And it was worth the wait. Metroid Prime is very well done. In their update to the New Era, many games, mostly side-scrollers like Mario or adventure games like The Legend of Zelda, took the “Third-Person camera” view, with the camera following behind the character. However, ruling that a 3rd Person shooting game (not adventure, it’s SHOOTING!) would be kind of annoying, the Metroid Prime design team decided to make it a First-Person shooter. And by golly, it worked.
One of the main differences between this game and other First-Person Shooters is that Metroid Prime has only four types of beam weapons, along with missiles. Most other FPSs have a huge arsenal of weapons, ranging from basic pistols to shotguns to Hi-Tech lasers to guided rocket launchers. Not this game. A basic blaster, an electric wave beam, an ice beam, and a plasma beam are all you get. And even though there are only five types of weapon, this game is anything but boring. Along with the four beam guns, you also get four visors: A basic “Combat Visor”, a “Scan Visor”, a heat-tracking “Thermal Visor”, and an “X-Ray Visor”. The Combat Visor is just the normal interface, seeing the world without special goggles. It does, like all the other visors, feature a Heads Up Display, showing health, missiles and a special Danger Level monitor, which goes up when you are near hazards like lava or poison gas.
The Scan Visor, the only visor where you cannot shoot, serves another useful purpose: scanning objects and enemies. When you scan an enemy, the scan reveals the weak spots of the creature, its environment, and its habits. You can also scan hieroglyphs on the wall to read Chozo Lore, you can scan parts of the environment to study plants, you can scan Space Pirate computers to learn about their evil operation, and you can scan power-ups and various stations to learn about them. At some points, scanning nearby objects gives hints on how to get by an area. There are five categories of scan-able items in your database: Creatures, Artifacts, Space Pirate information, Chozo Lore, and Research (powerups). If a scanned object fits into one of these categories, it is put into your database for later research. If you fill up a certain amount of a category, then you are rewarded with Image Galleries, which contains concept art, storyboards, and so on. The Scan Visor gives depth to an otherwise lonely game.
The X-Ray and Thermal Visors both are good for their own reasons, such as seeing invisible objects and enemies, but if you are trying to look at something right in front of you, then certain qualities may make it kind of hard to see. Also, in certain areas, wearing the thermal visor isn’t such a good idea (such as in Magmoor Caverns, an underground lava-lake).
The graphics in this game are great. From the icy, frozen Sheegoth to the Flaming Magmoor, the creatures of this game are all very well done. Also, the First-Person effects are very well done, too. Go near an electric enemy and your screen becomes static-filled and hard to see through. If Samus is electrocuted or hit for a lot of damage, she puts her hand up to block the blast. Things like these remind you that the character of this game is a person, not just a thing with a gun.
Also, the sound in this game is incredible. The music gives a good sense of place. For example, the music in the Chozo Ruins is mysterious and dark, while the music for the Lava-based Magmoor Caverns is thunderous and includes chanting and such. Certain little tunes, such as the one that plays when you find a major item, will be familiar to players of Super Smash Brothers and Melee (the item tune is what plays as Samus’ victory song). The creatures in the game growl, roar, or shriek, depending on what it is. The beam guns all have different sounds. If the electric wave gun kills an enemy, electricity crackles all over the enemy’s body, making “zzap-zzap” noises for a couple seconds. The attention to detail is immense.
Samus has always been the first real heroine, but the kind where hero or heroine doesn’t matter. You didn’t know in the first couple games that Samus was a girl. At the end of one of the later games, Samus takes off her helmet and reveals her gender, as opposed to being a robot. Heck, in most games you wouldn’t even know she was human! But in this game, you can tell she is a she. You can hear her voice when she is hit, and (this is a feature that adds a lot of realism), when she dies, she screams and the display flickers and goes out. Also, in parts like elevators, the camera shows Samus from the front, and then zooms in on her face. Yes, her face! Instead of just an opaque green faceplate, the faceplate is now transparent, so you can see her eyes, eyebrows and the outline of her head (kind of). This is a HUGE step forward in realism terms. And about her heroine-ness: She is an armored, tough girl with a gun. Her competitors (for example, Lara Croft) go around dangerous ruins in incredibly skimpy clothing. Heroine advantage: Samus, obviously. Good sense counts for a lot these days.
Overall, this game earns an eight out of ten. Metroid Prime is good, but not perfect. The scariness of some scenes makes it not a good choice for some small children. However, if you are used to that kind of thing, this is a great game.
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