Metroid Prime Trilogy Review
Posted by Jon Wahlgren
A must-play anthology
It took eight years, a group of Texans and a whole new perspective for Samus Aran, space bounty hunter extraordinaire, to return to consoles after Super Metroid. Seven years and three acclaimed games later, Metroid Prime Trilogy puts Samus’ Phazon encounters in one slick anthology that newcomers shouldn’t miss, but does it warrant another go through if you’ve already conquered its nefarious worlds?
This three-part tale of Samus’ battle against Space Pirates, Metroids and the mysterious mutagen Phazon takes place between the original NES Metroid and the Game Boy’s Metroid II: Return of Samus. In Metroid Prime, Samus explores the dying Chozo planet of Tallon IV, squaring off against Space Pirates who’re meddling with forces way over their heads through genetic experiments with Metroids and Phazon. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has her weaving between the planet Aether and its Phazon-induced alternate dimension, Dark Aether, hoping to restore the planet’s equilibrium and defeat Dark Samus. For the series finale, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus has been infected with Phazon, giving her new power that will eventually kill her. In the meantime, Phazon is spreading on several planets across the galaxy, which Samus must stop.
We won't waste your time with reviews of each individual game here. If that’s what you want, there are plenty of places to read up on them, including Nintendo Life’s very own review of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption where it received a deserved 9/10. We're here to talk about what's new and improved for this compilation.
For Trilogy, the core games have been left intact. No new puzzles to take advantage of motion controls, no grapple attack, nothing like that. So what’s new? Additions to the older titles range from an upgraded visual presentation, making them now available in a much appreciated 480p widescreen, to the incorporation of Corruption’s multi-colored achievement/unlockable system, which now demands all three games are played to unlock certain bonuses. Most of the extras made the cut, like soundtracks and the Fusion suit from Prime; the NES original doesn’t seem to have been included, presumably because of the Virtual Console, but the screenshot function is included for each game. All of this is wrapped inside a tight presentation that feels like a celebration of the series, with Mii integration, classy transitional clips and slick menus. Even the game’s physical packaging pulls no punches, giving gamers a hefty metal tin and an art pamphlet. Nintendo hasn’t put this much effort into a box since, well, maybe ever.
Of course, the big allure of the compilation for long-time fans is the updated controls. Once considered the Wii gold standard first-person setup, customization may seem meager in comparison to The Conduit’s smorgasbord of options. There’s still the basic/standard/advanced aiming options to dictate the size of the pointer’s dead zone, and you can swap shoot with jump and switch the visor and beam select buttons. What’s here is enough to get the job done without the danger of over-tinkering to the point of making the game awkward to play, and it’s still silky smooth. As a result, retrofitting the first pair with Corruption’s fantastic scheme has rejuvenated their once somewhat clunky movement: Samus feels more agile and precise, and even things like navigating Morph Ball tunnels have become slicker thanks to the incorporation of Corruption’s flick-hop into the first two titles.
Echoes’ multiplayer mode is more fun now that players don’t move like tanks, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. There are only two game types (free-for-all and Bounty, a coin-collecting mode), the visuals take something of a hit, you can't change your name or color and control customization only extends as far as aim sensitivity, giving no apparent option to switch jump/shoot or the visor/beam selector buttons; those that put hours into the main games with these options toggled will be met with harsh confusion. The six maps from Echoes are still here, although some need to be unlocked, and the arsenal is the same as in that game; that means no ice or hyper beam, among other things, and it’s also a shame that Retro didn’t go the extra mile to add online support. The blemishes of multiplayer don't harm the overall package, as the core of Metroid never really was competitive. It's a nice inclusion for those that enjoyed it on GameCube, but it's a bit archaic to win many new fans.
With the games presented on one disc, now mechanical equals, the series’ subtle evolution becomes more apparent. While many have criticized Retro for making what felt like the same game three times over, the aim and design choices of each game stand out more than they did with years between them. Yes, the core gameplay is very similar, much in the way core Mario games are, but Prime’s slower pace and abandoned world is telling of Retro’s eagerness to appeal to classic Metroid fans; Echoes shows more confidence in combat and narrative with its light/dark dichotomy; and the Wii brought controls that allowed Corruption to bring Samus’ fight against the destructive power of Phazon to a much more aggressive and organized level, even including allied NPC hunters and soldiers that speak, a rarity in Nintendo titles.
Considering the Prime games didn’t leave huge cliffhanger endings and that players aren’t required to have any understanding of prior events to follow along, the ability to freely choose your adventure from the get-go is a welcome decision. The sense of story continuity between the games is not forced upon you; you don’t need to finish one to attack another. A stronger, cohesive narrative is there to be awarded to those who stick to the series chronology.
Despite their age, none of the titles look or feel too aged today. Sure, some of the texture work can be a little rough up close, especially in Prime, but the art direction stands tall and the cinematic presentation puts the experience high on the must-play list for Wii gamers. In fact, they’re some of the best-looking games on Nintendo’s console, which is either telling of Retro’s talents or of the apathy most developers show towards Wii. A little bit of both, we reckon.
Retro has done a bang-up job in creating a polished compilation of their brand of Metroid games, which are considered some of the best adventures around. If you haven’t experienced Tallon IV, Aether or become corrupt, you owe it to yourself to get on this, and veterans can still find enough thrills and upgrades to make Trilogy a worthwhile endeavor. The core games may not have changed at all, but the beefed up visuals and agile controls makes the experience feel new to old-comers, and the tight presentation is icing on an already delicious cake. If you’ve passed on the Prime series until now, your excuses for doing so have dwindled considerably.