For a brief period, we considered giving Metroid Prime Trilogy a 10. The original Prime, released in 2002, was a near-perfect blend of sci-fi shooting and thoughtful exploration. The version on this disc has been immensely enhanced with spot-on motion controls that make the previously stiff aiming a breeze. Right away that’s worth buying… and then Nintendo crams Prime 2 and Prime 3 on the same disc, all with exceptional motion controls. Essentially they’ve made a series of outstanding games, one of which was nearly a 10/10 in the first place, even better than before.
Knowing this, it goes without saying this compilation kicks every other Wii FPS square in the nuts, and we’re flat-out telling you to buy it. But for the sake of elucidation, we’ll explain precisely why Prime Trilogy has us so excited.
When Metroid Prime first released, everyone felt they had to call it a first-person shooter because, well, it was first person, and you had an arm cannon, so what else could it be? The term “first-person adventure” was thrown around a lot, but today we can summarize the experience by saying “it’s a little like BioShock.”
Oh, you kill things with lasers, but there’s so much more to the game than pulling a trigger. The whole planet is your playground, from rain swept caves to superheated underground tunnels to submerged spacecraft, each with slight touches that make it feel distinct. Insects scurry between rocks with no purpose other than to make Tallon IV seem like a real, functioning biosphere. Water, heat and bright flashes all dance across your visor, occasionally offering a glimpse of space-heroine Samus Aran, reaffirming that you’re playing as a definite person, not a walking suit of armor.
It’s not just the atmosphere that makes the journey so memorable – it’s also the sense of personal progression. Each game begins with Samus (predictably) losing her vast array of beams, missiles, grappling hooks and specialty visors, and by exploring every last inch of the planet you build her back up to her usual ass-kicking self. By the end you feel like a one-woman army, capable of ripping through any rock monster, poison-spewing moth or shadowy doppelganger the planet could possibly throw at you. In short, you’re not the same fighter you were at the start, much like the Plasmids and upgradable weapons in BioShock drastically change the way you tackle enemies in the back half of the game.
If you’re one of those people obsessed with backstory, all three Prime games lay it on thick with mission logs, translated artifacts and detailed files on every enemy, item and weapon in the game. Granted, a lot of it’s superfluous and occasionally boring, but it does flesh everything out for those who want to read up on the universe.
As we mentioned in the intro, the first game is substantial enough to warrant its own re-release. Adding Prime 2 to the mix, plus Wii’s Prime 3, all for the price of a regular game, approaches Orange Box levels of value. And while packaging never affects the actual score of a game, it’s nice to see Trilogy shipping in a fancy metal case and slipcover, when barely any other Wii games are worth the effort.
Fun fact about that metal case: it’s a Steelbook, the same that usually adds $10 to the price of various Xbox special edition discs. Maybe that’s what keeps this from being another $30 New Play Control game, we’re not sure. All we see is a slick box loaded with three of Nintendo’s best products for the price of one.
We just spoke of the first game – it’s easily one of, if not the best GameCube game out there, now refitted with strong motion controls (set them to advanced!) and widescreen display. The strange thing is, this game still looks respectable even after seven years, and surprisingly stands above a large number of brand new Wii titles. Just goes to show the power of design and style over cutting edge horsepower.
With so many years between its original release and this re-packaging, it’s easy to forget what the first Metroid Prime actually did - usher in a completely new, universally acclaimed take on a series that hadn’t been relevant for eight years. This is a shining example of how to update, modify and radically alter a property while keeping it firmly rooted in its traditions. And while we cannot overstate how much we (still) love the first game, its sequels were so similar they retroactively lessened its impact.
Echoes, released just two years later, took everything the first game did and… did it again. The experience is almost identical - a moody, brain-teasing space opera with tons of power-ups, backtracking and mystifying lore. So while our review score was high, the sense of awe was gone, and now it was just a great game, not a great game that relaunched an ailing franchise.
Then there’s the extremely tired dark world/light world gimmick that Echoes relies on for almost all of its puzzles. When half of the planet causes damage (because it’s evilly dark, see?), and all the bosses have multiple forms with basic, time-intensive patterns, you lose the desire to press on. Then you get an amazing new power, like the sound-reflecting Echo Visor, and you’re enthused enough to see how it works and what parts of the world it opens to you. But you still can’t shake the feeling you’ve done this before, and the tacked-on multiplayer modes are even more outdated today than they were in 2004.
Corruption is barely two years old, and as such is the least-changed product on the disc. It’s definitely a step up from Echoes, with more emphasis on supporting characters and a plot that spans multiple planets, but it still has repetitive bosses and still doesn’t let you annotate maps (so you can maybe not backtrack for two hours trying to remember where that crack in the wall was). Even though we highly recommend Prime 3 on its own merits, there’s still an inescapable sense of déjà vu that detracts from the first game’s accomplishments… because now you’ve done this twice before.
Essentially, developer Retro Studios never learned from its mistakes. Every tiny problem in Prime 1 is also in Echoes and Corruption. The basic gameplay is copied directly. Hell, all three even end in lengthy fetch quests that needlessly tack on another hour or more.
We could piss and moan forever about ways to moderately improve these already stellar games, but instead we’ll move to what Retro did add. For those that plan on playing repeatedly, there’s now an Achievement/Trophy system that awards you medals for completing tasks. The more you earn, the more bonus content you can unlock. But uh, some of this stuff is prohibitively expensive.
Why not just GIVE us the friggin’ content instead of making us work for it? This is a greatest hits compilation, a supposed celebration of the trilogy’s accomplishments. Do you have to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy four times to unlock the bonus features? No, they’re just there. The ability to hear Metroid’s epic music or take (and share) your own screenshots should be similarly accessible.
We’ve talked up the motion controls quite a bit in this review. Before we move on to the score and comparisons to other shooter options, let’s briefly run through the enhancements:
The old controls were strangely rigid, and didn’t allow for a lot of fast movement. Prime 3 ushered in a mouse-and-keyboard style of play where moving the remote moves the arm cannon and the camera, enabling precise aiming and quick turning. Even flipping between visors, weapons and map modes is easier thanks to the Wii Remote. Take note of that sentence, because we probably won’t be able to say that of any other game.
Metroid Prime 3?
Um, yes? As of this writing, a new copy of Prime 3 still commands $40-50, so you would be undeniably insane to buy it instead of Trilogy at this point. It’s the same experience, but would you rather have just part three or the whole thing wrapped up in one disc?
As far as we’re concerned, yes. Conduit boasted its motion-controlled aiming for months leading up its release in June, but we found them to be no better (and maybe a little worse) than Prime 3, which released in 2007. Then again, if you want more shooting and less researching, go Conduit.
Call of Duty: World at War?
Sure, if we’re talking about the Wii version. Though as with Conduit, if you’re more interested in blowing things away than immersing yourself in another world, Duty might be more your style. If you’d prefer something a little deeper and richer, something more in tune with Bioshock than a straight shooter, strongly consider Trilogy.
Three outstanding games (two of which are vastly enhanced with dead-on motion controls) available for the price of one. We can’t imagine a better deal on Wii this year.
Aug 14, 2009