Retro Studios, Inc.Genre:
First Person Action AdventurePlayers:
T (Teen)Release Date:
November 15, 2004Written By:
Daniel SimsMarch 7, 2005
- The first Metroid Prime game was my first true experience with a Metroid title and was probably the most compelling game I had ever played. I thought it was a truly awesome title that I was unable to put down for days. It was also one of the few titles that I felt making my purchase of the Gamecube worthwhile. When I knew the sequel was in the works, I was immediately interested in everything about it. When I finally got my hands on it, and eventually finished it, I found it to be a game that simply commanded a review. So I put many of my other activities aside and here I am.
Does it out-Prime the first game? Here begins the review...
The Metroid games really aren't known for their storyline as much as other games may be. Like most Nintendo products, Metroid games are almost all gameplay with only what is necessary in terms of storytelling. This is one area in which Echoes just begins to stray away from the rest of the series.
Out on the edge of Galactic Federation territory, a GF ship chases a Space Pirate Frigate onto a somewhat remote and obscure planet by the name of Aether. Soon after, all contact with the GF team is lost. But none other than our favorite Bounty Hunter, Samus Aran, receives a distress beacon. As she arrives, she quickly finds herself caught in a conflict of not one world, but two. A conflict in which she will have to protect the light and fight the darkness.
The slick sci-fi presentation was the most immediately impressive part about the first game. You could tell that the intro area in Prime was meant to immerse you into the game. It did just that and was able to walk you through the controls at the same time. The game continually backed all that up with amazingly beautiful and breathtaking environments. In this respect, the sequel does not fail to follow in the first game's footsteps.
However, as with almost any sequel, it will never be quite as immediately impressive as the first game. It's still amazing nonetheless.
For me, the first game had one of most memorable opening sequences of this gaming generation. The way Retro brought you into the style of the game and taught you how to play was just excellent. It immediately let you know that one of the biggest things about this game was going to be atmosphere.
The second game manages to pull this off just as well too. Of course sense I've been through something like this with the first game, I wasn't as immediately blown away with the intro levels of Echoes. However, I must say that I was completely taken off guard when I saw the opening title screen of the game. It opened up with what looked like a dark ice blue compter screen. As you watch the credits for Retro and Nintendo show up you can see something in the shadows in the back buy you can't quite tell what it is. The way the whole computer screen setup and the changing letters show up on screen just made me gasp the first time I saw it. In my mind I was asking myself is this even from Nintendo?
I was even more intrigued when I took a look at the main menu. Retro actually went and did something unique with something that other developers might never think - the menu screens. Instead of just going down some list, all the options are on orbs, which are connected to poles, which are all connected to one common axis. You rotate this axis in order to select each option by bringing it to the front of the screen. I could probably spend at least 20 minutes just twirling those balls around!
The last game had an opening that had the whole biological virus thing going. This time Nintendo decided to make it look like a computer system, which looks just as good. But then they took it further by incorporating that into the story's opening sequence. I like how they made the whole contract agreement (further asserting that Samus is a Bounty Hunter and not some kind of soldier) and then showed some kind of plot for how and where Samus planned to land on the planet. Very cool.
The first area, called the Temple Grounds, is a sort of desolate canyon type area where you discover the ruins of a Galactic Federation encampment and the entrance to a native temple. At this point the game does just the same. You go around scanning things to get the jest of how everything works. While you are doing this, the game of course walks you through the controls but for me that didn't become as apparent as in the first game. Probably because I already knew the basics.
Still, the canyon-like surroundings, although not quite as atmospheric as the original space station, still serves to initially bring the player into the world of the game. Both places do the same thing too. In the first game, the space station presented you with the bodies of the dead and dying space pirates and through the scans you slowly found out exactly what happened in that place. You do the same thing in the temple grounds in Echoes, just with Galactic Federation troopers instead of Space Pirates.
One of the best things about the first Prime was the interface. The whole behind the visor thing served to enrich every part of the game. In Echoes, that interface as been more improved and streamlined. There are no huge improvements, but if you played the first game, you should be able to catch and appreciate all the changes and adjustments Retro made to the interface. It seems that they have adjusted the logbook especially to make it easier to catch every scan in the game and not miss a thing (except that d*mn Ing Webtrap). You can see all the percentages for each enemy you have scanned, each type of enemy, and even the location based on world.
When you do scan something, instead of just being shown still images (that looked very cool) like in the first game, you can look at a full 3D model of whatever you scan in Echoes. It really doesn't serve much purpose but it is cool.
Speaking of the enemies, one amazing thing about Prime that served to bring the player in was how developed the ecosystem was. When you scanned an enemy, it gave you all the info on the life form on what kind of creature it was, what else in the game it was related to, and how to kill it. This has been taken much farther in Echoes. The enemies look much more menacing, and have a lot more attention paid to their background details. I was always looking forward to the next good scan.
The enemies are all split up into different types too. From what area they are from, to what it does (flyers, ground, predators, etc.). I must say though that a lot of them look like they are simply redesigned enemies from the first game. If you played the first game, you might start to realize this only a few hours into the game (at the most).
That's not to say that all the enemies are recycled from the first game. The enemies in the game are still mostly new. The new ones look even more menacing than any I've seen in the series. Especially the bosses. The main bosses have some of the most inspired designs I have seen all year. Just looking at them sometimes made me a little bit afraid to fight them. I say that with no shame at all.
The environments in the first Metroid Prime game were simply breathtaking. They were big, full of life, and nicely rendered. This game is no different. It seems that just as much talent went into designing the environments of Echoes. When you are walking through each area of Aether you can see the wind and fog drifting by and you can easily see whatever little creatures you encounter. All of this makes you feel like you are walking through a real life environment.
In the first game, the environments that there were very cliché. There was a grass-filled area, ruins, an underground lava river, a land of snow and ice, and a technology-filled factory. The environments in Echoes are a little less cliche. When you enter a level, it will take you a little bit longer in order to realize exactly what kind of place you are in but it does no harm to the overall experience. Instead of the three areas from the first game I mentioned above, Echoes features a garden turned-to-desert, a swamp-like bog, and a fortress almost taken right out of Tron. This in turn actually makes them very unique.
The big draw of this game is the dual world feature (which has been done before in Nintendo games). The environments that I described earlier were for the light world. There is also a darker, more dangerous world called Dark Aether. Somewhere else I read that Dark Aether could be described in a word purple. I see that what I read was pretty much on the mark. Since Light and Dark Aeather are pretty much the same world, the map and topography of the dark and light worlds are just about identical. However, the dark world looks very dead (as it is supposed to). It is pretty much the light world but everything is tinted a dark purple and all the life there looks more demonic. It's not nearly as inspiring as the light world and as such, you probably won't like going there as much as you will like staying in Light Aether. The light world just looks better and more inspiring.
Excuse me, but If I'm not mistaken that's the exact same graphics engine I saw in the first game. Yeah, it is. However I can understand that since the first game had some of the best graphics of 2002 (but not the best). It's just the same here, almost the best, but not the best.
When I first saw this game I tried to look for differences between these visuals and the visuals of the first game. This game definitely looks better, but not the 10 times better you might expect. You will still immediately notice the improvements in Samus's character model. Differences like more curves, improved detail, and most of all, Samus's eyes are far more prominent than they were in the first game.
This is what I saw most when I looked at Samus in the cut scenes. In these scenes you could almost see what she was thinking when she walked around a room or when she faced her enemy. I think Retro did a very good job with just those eyes. It was also easier to tell that they were a Woman's eyes.
Speaking of that, they added a few cool animations onto Samus as well. I thought it was kind of cool when she looked at the dead body of the GF captain and paid her respects and whenever she faced a new boss. What you get to see all the time is her animations for whenever you save the game. Watch as she will feel weak as she enters the save station and when she musters her strength back up after you save. All a little more life-like.
As soon as you take a look at the game's first areas, you will notice some significantly improved lighting effects. When you go through tunnels or when you run into the sun-soaked outside, you will see that Retro took the time to make the lighting just right. In some inside areas, you will be able to see small rays of light peering through any holes in the walls and ceiling. While outdoors ever shadow is clearly visible. I will admit that this still isn't quite on the level of some other titles such as Doom 3 and HL2, which use dynamic lighting, but it's about the best I've seen using regular lighting affects.
These lighting effects serve to really bring out the textures too. They are noticeably improved from the first game. I had always thought that the first game could use some work in the texture department. This game makes some of those improvements. I do however still see some that could be made when I size it up with other games.
Metroid is one series that that puts a great emphasis on good gameplay that flows smoothly in a way that few other games do. Metroid has a way of taking you through the game that no other game (except maybe the post-SOTN Castlevania games) does. That's what's so cool about all the games, this one included.
As you can see from the paragraph above, I am reviewing this as a Metroid game, not an FPS. There's really not quite enough killing in it to really call it an FPS in the true sense of the word. It's an action/adventure game that happens to be in first person.
When you start, Echoes takes you through the game slowly enough so that you are able to pick up the controls whenever it wants you to and learn how to get through situations based on the clues they give you. The first game did this too in a way that immediately brought you in. This game just carries the torch and does it well.
In the first Prime, at times you would figure out what to do based solely on what clues you gained from scanning. Clues such as finding out what something was made out of in order to choose the right weapon to get past it with or finding out where to go based on lore you found written everywhere. In this way the game was able to let the player go through it by living in the game's world in a way. If you know how everything works, then you know what to do.
Echoes performs this well to some extent. However, there were a lot of times when I found myself wandering through an environment for several minutes with no idea how to progress and the game would suddenly just tell me where to go on the map. This happened once or twice in the first Prime but it probably happened about five or six times in Echoes. In that area the game could have flowed more smoothly than it did (at least for me).
Like the other games in the franchise, Echoes involves a lot of backtracking a puzzle-solving. This is because the whole game involves the player exploring one large world instead of many small ones. There is a real sense that all the other areas in Echoes are connected through the Temple Grounds and you can even see that when you look at the map (which still looks cooler than any map I've seen in a game).
When you start, you have just enough space available to you or you to be able to figure out where to go. But As soon as you pick up the controller you will already see places that you cannot reach yet. But you soon begin to get more and more items that allow you to reach more areas and get more upgrades, slowly opening up the world of Aether to you. As in any Metroid game, at the later points when you have amassed a considerable amount of upgrades, you would have to really think in order to navigate Aether.
For me, navigating the world of Aether took some amount of planning. Whenever I was going somewhere of great distance, I would have to look at the map and try to plot the most efficient way there while at the same time making sure to stop by important items and stuff. Doing this allowed me to see how well the whole game is connected and allowed me to learn how to make better plans for things such as this. This is why I like going through a Metroid game, because it allows me to play a game on some sort of intelligent level like so few other games do.
The controls, while different from FPS games (which this game is not) are smooth. This game (as well as the first) makes use of just about every button on the controller. You switch visors with the pad, weapons with the C stick, and move with the control stick. I must say that the controls overall are virtually unchanged from the first game. I guess that's ok.
You still mainly kill enemies by locking on to them and circling them while rapidly firing upon them with the appropriate weapon until they die. However since many of the enemies are more maneuverable, doing this gets a bit more exciting. I really would like to see what dual-analog would have done for the action though.
Now I do realize that including something like dual-analog would change the gameplay pretty much I do think it would do a bit to make the action better in the game. You would have to find some way around the whole lock on thing and how closed some of the action areas in the game are, but it still would have been nice.
One thing I began to notice in this game was that there was a much bigger focus on the 2D morph ball puzzles. In the first game these were pretty fun but also kind of rare. They are of quite abundance in this game. I would go as far as to say that this game probably brings out the potential of the morph ball form more than any other entry into the franchise, ever. Every kind of trick you could think of with the morph ball (including the double-jump) absolutely must be used at some point in the game. There are even entire boss battles where you must stay in morph ball form the entire time! These are actually some of the most fun boss battles in the game and some of the best I've gone through in a very long time. I really do appreciate Retro for looking into everything you could do with the morph ball because doing something like this the way it was done in Echoes takes some true design talent.
There are a lot of boss battles in Echoes. Far more than in the first Prime. Many of them are technically sub-bosses, but they are bosses nonetheless and they are put into the game nicely. Instead of simply fighting a boss that guards some gateway to an upgrade, you must take the upgrade from that boss, which means that you must fight bosses that have all your old abilities. This is done so well that I really don't know why Nintendo never thought of doing this with Metroid games before.
Each boss fight is completely unique from all the others in that you must carefully watch (and scan) to learn exactly what to do and how to react during each fight. This is done quite intuitively and far better than in the first game. The main boss battles in the game are pretty epic and get frantic at times. They are all huge (especially Quadraxis and Amorbis) and take a lot of skill in terms of maneuvering and weapon use. This is probably the most apparent improvement that Echoes has made from it's predecessor.
The big draw of Echoes is the dark & light world thing. This is by no means new to Nintendo games. It's been done many times in Zelda (quite successfully) and is just now being applied to Metroid. Traversing back and forth through the worlds is essential in solving almost all the puzzles. I must say that although I didn't enjoy having to go through enemies in the dark world (kind of hard), I did like the puzzles very much and how Retro pushed it. I think this game pulls off the dual world thing better than any past Nintendo game. That includes LttP and OOT!
When it comes right down to it, Echoes is a game that puts you through just like any other Metroid game would. There were parts where it could have done this a bit smoother. There were also a few points where dual-analog would have done wonders but all in all it never fails to play like what it is, Metroid.
When I first played the first Prime, I knew that I could sit at the main menu screen for hours because of it's excellent techno style music. I even downloaded that music several times on mp3 and had it burned onto CDs! I thought that nothing could beat that menu screen. I was wrong and I realized that moments after I put in Echoes. I must have sat at that screen for at least a half-hour! This cool music continues throughout the game. Especially at the parts with all the action. Whenever there was a boss fight, one of the things that had me coming back each time I died was the chance to fight to such nice music.
At the parts where there wasn't so much action, the music served to give off a sort of mystery feel that supplemented the exploration pretty well. It was really an integral part of the experience. Overall the music wasn't anything to really rave about when it came to other games, but it works as well as it should. Kenji Yamamoto sure did his job!
There were a couple of places in the game where voices would have been pretty nice. The first part is when Samus comes upon a video of how the GF Troopers died at the hands of a swarm of dark Splinters. At one part you can hear one of the soldiers talking in English albeit very quietly so I couldn't really hear it all that well. But when they got attacked and swarmed upon it would have been nice to at least be able to hear their screams or something. When you talk to U-mos in the Great Temple all you hear from him is some kind of weird beep that sounds like alien speech. Although this is the most direct communication ever to occur in a Metroid game, it would have been nice to at least hear him say something, in any language.
Now I never really got the chance to play this thing on a high-end sound system like I had planned, but what I heard was good nonetheless. The booms and bangs of all the weapons were there like in the last game and all the enemies had their chirps and snarls that all helped put the thing together. There's not much I can say about it because in my experience with the game the sound really didn't play that big a part, but that also means that it wasn't bad at all.
Even if you've played through the first game, going through Echoes for the first time will take you just over 20 hours, which is much longer than any other game in the series save the first Prime (which was about the same). After you beat that, you can do hard mode and try to get all the scans and upgrades (which I pretty much did on the first run except for one scan). Hard mode is what it is, hard. I wish I could talk about the multiplayer but I did not get any chance to play it at all.Personal ThoughtsMetroid Prime 2 Echoes is every bit the sequel I had been waiting for since the first time I finished Prime back in 2002. It makes nearly all the necessary adjustments and in some areas still continues to wow me. Metroid Prime 2 is another sign that Nintendo is heading in interesting new directions.9.6
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