Metroid Prime is the first of the three part Prime storyline, which takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. Like previous games in the series, Metroid Prime has a science fiction setting, in which players control the bounty hunter Samus Aran. The story follows Samus as she battles the Space Pirates and their biological experiments on the planet Tallon IV.
Despite initial backlash from fans due to the first-person perspective, the game was released to both critical and commercial success, selling more than a million units in North America alone and becoming one of the most acclaimed games of all time.
As in previous Metroid games, Prime takes place in a large, open-ended world with different regions connected by elevators. Each region has an entire set of rooms separated by doors that can be opened with a shot from the correct beam. The gameplay revolves around solving puzzles to uncover secrets, platform jumping, and shooting foes with the help of a 'lock-on' mechanism that allows circle strafing while staying aimed on the enemy. The game is the first in the series to use a first-person view as opposed to side scrolling, except in Morph Ball mode, when Samus's suit transforms into an armored ball and the game uses a third-person camera.
The protagonist, Samus, must travel through the world searching for twelve Chozo Artifacts that will open the path to the Phazon meteor impact crater, while collecting power-ups that enable the player to reach previously inaccessible areas; the Varia Suit, for example, protects Samus' armor against extreme heat, allowing her to enter volcanic regions. Some of the items are obtained after boss and mini-boss fights, encountered in all regions except Magmoor Caverns.
The heads-up display simulates the inside of Samus's helmet, featuring a radar, a map, ammunition for missiles, a health meter, and a health bar for bosses along with the boss name. The display can be altered by exchanging visors, including one using thermal imaging, another with x-ray vision, and a scanner that searches for enemy weaknesses, and interfaces with certain mechanisms such as force fields and elevators, allowing the player to operate them. Prime also introduces a hint system that provides the player with a general idea of where to go.
Throughout the game, players must find and collect items that improve Samus' arsenal and suit, including weapons, armor upgrades for Samus' Power Suit and items that grant abilities. Among these are the Morph Ball, which allows Samus to roll into narrow passages and drop energy bombs, and the Grapple Beam, which works similarly to a grappling hook by latching onto special hooks, called grapple nodes, and allowing Samus to swing from them across gaps.
Items from previous Metroid games make appearances with altered functions. Art galleries and different endings are unlockable if a player obtains a high percentage of collected items and Scan Visor logs. Prime is the first Metroid game to address the reason Samus does not start with power-ups attained in previous games; she begins the game with certain upgrades, but, during an explosion in the Space Pirate's ship, they are all lost. The producers stated that starting with some power-ups was a way to give the player "different things to do" before settling into the core gameplay.
Players of the game can gain two features by connecting Prime with Metroid Fusion using a Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable: use of the Fusion Suit that Samus wears in Fusion and the ability to play the original Metroid.
The game begins as Samus receives a distress signal from the Space Pirate Frigate Orpheon, whose crew has been slaughtered by the Pirates' own genetically modified experimental subjects. Upon arriving at the ship's core, she battles with the Parasite Queen, a giant mutated version of the tiny parasite enemies occasionally seen in the ship. Having defeated it, the Parasite Queen falls into the ship's reactor core, setting off the destruction of the ship. While Samus is escaping from the doomed frigate, an electrical surge destroys all of her Power Suit upgrades, and she encounters Ridley, now a cybernetic version of himself called Meta-Ridley. She watches as he flies towards Tallon IV before giving chase in her gunship.
Samus initially lands on the Tallon Overworld, a rainforest-like area. She discovers the Chozo Ruins, the remains of the Chozo civilization on Tallon IV that was destroyed with the crash of a meteor, which contained a corrupting substance called Phazon and a creature known to the Chozo as "The Worm". Samus locates a Chozo temple in Tallon Overworld, and discovers that the temple houses a seal to the meteor's impact crater, which the Space Pirates are trying to break. The containment field is powered by twelve Chozo artifacts, which must be found to open the path to the crater.
Samus finds her way to the Magmoor Caverns, a series of magma filled underground tunnels. The Caverns are used by the Space Pirates as a source of geothermal power, and connect all of the game's other areas together. Following the tunnels, Samus journeys to the Phendrana Drifts, a cold, mountainous location home to an ancient Chozo ruin, Space Pirate research labs used to contain Metroids, and ice caves and valleys home to electrical and ice-based creatures. After obtaining the Gravity Suit in Phendrana, Samus explores the interior of the crashed Orpheon, and then infiltrates the Phazon Mines, the mining and research complex which is the center of the Space Pirates' Tallon IV operations. Here she battles Phazon-enhanced Space Pirates and obtains the Phazon Suit after she defeats the monstrous Phazon-mutated Omega Pirate.
During her exploration of Tallon IV, Samus finds the twelve keys to the Artifact Temple, and lores recorded by both the Chozo and the Space Pirates, providing some more insight about the history of the planet and the two races' colonization of it and other activities. As she puts the last of the keys in place, Meta Ridley appears and attacks her, but is defeated by Samus with some aid from the temple's defensive artillery. The Chozo Artifacts and Phazon Suit allow Samus to enter the Impact Crater, where she finds a Phazon-mutated beast called Metroid Prime, the source of Phazon. After she defeats it, all the Phazon on Tallon IV is sucked back into Impact Crater, including the Phazon in Samus's Phazon Suit, reverting her armor to the Gravity Suit. Samus then escapes the collapsing Impact Crater and leaves Tallon IV in her ship. In a post-credits scene only able to be seen if the player has collected 100% of the items, Metroid Prime uses the Phazon Suit to recreate its body, becoming the entity known as Dark Samus, the antagonist of Metroid Prime 2 and 3.
After Super Metroid, Metroid fans eagerly awaited a sequel. It was supposedly slated for the Nintendo 64 or its ill-fated accessory, the 64DD, but while the game was mentioned, it never entered production. Developer Shigeru Miyamoto explained that it was because Nintendo "couldn't come out with any concrete ideas".
Metroid Prime was developed as a collaboration between Retro Studios and important Nintendo EAD and R&D1 members. Retro Studios was created in 1998, by an alliance between Nintendo and former Iguana Entertainment founder Jeff Spangenberg. After establishing its offices in Austin, Texas in 1999, Retro received five game ideas for the future GameCube, among them a new Metroid, despite not even having development kits. Nintendo members, such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Kensuke Tanabe and Kenji Miki, as well as Metroid designer Yoshio Sakamoto, communicated with the Texas-based studio through emails, monthly phone conferences and personal gatherings. The game was originally envisioned as having third-person perspective gameplay, but this was changed to a first-person perspective after Miyamoto intervened, causing almost everything already developed to be scrapped. Among the reasons for leaving the third-person perspective were Rare's trouble with the camera in Jet Force Gemini, shooting in third-person "not being very intuitive" and exploration being easier using first-person. Director Miyamoto has also professed a fondness for games to be in the first person perspective in an interview with Satoru Iwata. He then said he even wanted Ocarina of Time to take place in the first person perspective. Mark Pacini said Retro tried to make the game so that the only difficult parts would be boss battles, so players would not be "afraid to explore", because "the challenge of the game was finding your way around".
In 2000, three games were canceled to establish focus on Prime, and in 2001, the fourth other project (an RPG called Raven Blade) was canceled, so that Prime would be the only game in development. The first public appearance of the game was a ten second video at SpaceWorld 2000. In November of the same year, Retro Studios confirmed in the "job application" part of its website its involvement with the game, and at E3 2001, Prime was officially announced by Nintendo, receiving mixed reactions due to the change from 2D side scrolling to 3D first-person.
Kraid, a boss from Metroid and Super Metroid, was intended to make an appearance in Prime, and designer Gene Kohler modeled and skinned him for that purpose. However, time constraints prevented him from being included in the final version of the game.
The European translation had logs removed or changed, resulting in a different storyline and log book. For instance, a narrator was added in the opening and closing scenes. Some of the changes were in the NTSC region's Player's Choice re-release, along with more changes not in other releases.
Before the release of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes in 2004, Nintendo released a platinum colored GameCube bundled with a copy of Prime containing a special second disc, featuring both a preview trailer and a demo for Echoes, a timeline of Metroid games and an art gallery.
2002 Best GameCube Game
2002 Game of the Year runner-up
2002 Game of the Year
Game of the Year (2002)
2002 Game of the Year
|Compilations of multiple reviews|
Excellence in Level Design
Prime was also critically acclaimed, including a perfect review score from Electronic Gaming Monthly, and numerous Game of the Year awards. It was praised for its detailed graphics, with special effects and varied environments, moody soundtrack and sound effects, level design, immersive atmosphere, and innovative gameplay centered on exploring as opposed to the action of games such as Halo while staying faithful to the Metroid formula. Criticisms included the unusual control scheme, which Game Informer considered awkward; lack of focus on the story, making Entertainment Weekly compare the game to an "1990s arcade game, filled with over the top battle sequences, spectacular visual effects – and a pretty weak plot"; and backtrack, stated by GamePro that inexperienced players "might find it exhausting to keep revisiting the same old places over and over and over".
On Game Rankings, Prime stands as the sixth highest rated game of all time, with an average score of 96.264% (as of May 2008) making it the highest reviewed game of the sixth generation. The video game countdown show Filter named Prime as having the Best Graphics of all time.
Prime was also chosen for lists of best games: 24th in IGN's Top 100, 29th in a 100 game list chosen by GameFAQs users, and 10th in Nintendo Power's "Top 200 Nintendo Games Ever". GameSpy chose it as the third best GameCube title of all time, behind The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Resident Evil 4, while IGN put it at first in a similar list. Metroid Prime also became popular among hardcore gamers for speedrunning, with specialized communities being formed to share these speedruns.
The next game released was Metroid Prime Hunters for the Nintendo DS, with a storyline that takes place between the events of Prime and Echoes. A demo of the game, titled Metroid Prime Hunters — First Hunt, was released with purchase of a Nintendo DS, and the full game was released on March 20, 2006 in North America, and May 5, 2006 in Europe. The storyline follows Samus trying to discover an "ultimate power", while facing six rival bounty hunters. Hunters was not developed by Retro Studios, but by Nintendo's Redmond-based subsidiary Nintendo Software Technology. The game is more centered on first-person shooter aspects than Prime and Echoes, with removal of assisted aiming, more action-oriented gameplay, and various multiplayer modes.
Prime's second full sequel is Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which closes the Prime series, and was released on August 27, 2007 for Nintendo's Wii. In Corruption's story, Samus is corrupted by Phazon after being attacked by Dark Samus, who has become the leader of a Space Pirate group and is sending Phazon Seeds (called "Leviathans") to corrupt planets. Corruption makes changes in gameplay from Prime and Echoes, such as trading the assisted aiming for free aiming with the Wii Remote, and changing the interchangeable beams for a stackable upgrade system. Elements of Metroid Prime have appeared in other games, such as in the Wii game Super Smash Bros. Brawl where the Frigate Orpheon is a playable stage, featuring the Parasite Queen in the background and a medley of the opening and menu music as soundtrack. Metroid Prime's style of gameplay and HUDs also led to influence and comparison in later first-person shooters, such as Geist and Star Wars: Republic Commando.