Back when the Nintendo GameCube was starting out, fans rejoiced when they learned that Nintendo was bringing a new version of Metroid to the then-new console. That joy turned to bewilderment when they learned that a relatively unknown Western studio was going to be the one developing the title. The bewilderment turned to anger when they learned that said studio would be turning it into the equivalent of a first-person shooter. After all, the series on previous Nintendo consoles was more about exploration than combat. Even the new Game Boy Advance version stuck to the roots of the series, so transforming the game from exploration to pure combat didn't sit well with those hardcore Nintendo loyalists.
Luckily, those who feared the worst were proven wrong as Metroid Prime turned out to be a game worthy of the series name. The praise continued with the release of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and later on with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, marking the end of a fantastic trilogy of games exclusive to the Nintendo family. With the recent re-releases of GameCube games on the Nintendo Wii, word went out that Metroid Prime would also receive a re-release in Japan. Instead of just adding Wii-specific controls, however, this port would also add a few more elements from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Rather than simply taking that version and bringing it stateside, however, Nintendo and Retro Studios have decided to up the ante and make it more tempting for Wii owners to consider picking up the game. The result is Metroid Prime: Trilogy, a package that takes all three titles and crams them onto one disc. For the price, it's undoubtedly a bargain, and for those who have never played the series before, it's an absolute steal.
The premise of the game, though split up into three distinct titles, works rather well when put together as a whole. You once again take on the role of Samus Aran, intergalactic bounty hunter, as you go through the whole Phazon saga that lies between the original NES game and the second adventure on the original Game Boy. Metroid Prime takes place three years after the events of the first game as you try and hunt down the last of the space pirates on Tallon IV. Along the way, you discover a new strain of Metroid that has been infected by the Phazon substance. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes takes place on Aether, a planet now split into light and dark halves. Here, Samus discovers that the Metroids she previously fought have spawned a Phazon-infused version of herself that relentlessly hunts her down. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption concludes the saga with the discovery that the Phazon version of Samus still lives, infecting the remaining space pirates as they try to take over the galaxy.
The hallmark of the series is exploration and discovery amidst combat in a rather large world. Each of the games tasks the player with trying to get to the end of the world and fighting off the final boss. While the world is seemingly open the moment you set foot in it, you'll quickly discover that almost everything is inaccessible from the start. It's only when you find your first upgrade that you realize that the items become keys to help you discover new areas and go through previously locked areas. Exploring the world and finding new areas to discover become the focal points of the game, making it less of a shooter and more of a traditional adventure game that happens to be stuck in a first-person viewpoint. This intentional design choice gives players some freedom in how they want to complete each game. There have already been videos of people trying to play each game discovering as much or as little as possible, and this is what makes the game so appealing.
This isn't to say that the game falters in terms of combat. Actually, the combat is rather well put-together, with each enemy and boss designed to be challenges in their own right as you struggle to discover more efficient ways of dispatching them rather than simply using pure firepower and brute force to get the job done. Throw in the fact that each game is in the double digits when it comes to average play time and that you have three games in the package of approximately similar lengths, and you'll realize that there's more gameplay in here than in almost all other Wii games that were released in the past year.
While the games are relatively untouched save for a new control scheme and touch-ups to the graphics, the team didn't simply do a port of the games with this compilation. Bugs were cleaned up in all three games and other exploits were minimized, making glitchy speed runs almost impossible to perform now. What's more noticeable, though, is the inclusion of an achievement system for all three titles. First introduced in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the system works like the one featured in all Xbox 360 games, where completing certain tasks gets you achievements. These achievements are used here as currency to start buying bonus material and other useless trinkets, such as a bobblehead for the ship. The achievements are cross-compatible with all three games and are also used to open up the extras in the previous titles, such as the Fusion suit in the first game. For those who are wondering, the original Metroid NES game, an unlockable in Metroid Prime, is nowhere to be found here.
Both multiplayer and online modes are barely here, but considering that the series was mostly known for the single-player experience, this really isn't too much of a slight against the game. Multiplayer is only available on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes maps, with the same modes as before: deathmatch and bounty mode, where players have to damage each other and collect the coins that they drop. The mode is limited to four players, and while it isn't bad in principle, the play style of the series doesn't really lend itself well to the type of first-person multiplayer experiences that Nintendo fans are used to. Multiplayer is offline only, with the online activities limited to sending screenshots to people on your friends list and sending them your leftover achievements. Again, it's not bad, but you'll be playing the game more for the single-player experience than anything else.
The main draw for both new and old fans to this compilation would be the controls. After all, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was praised highly for a control scheme that served as a blueprint for other developers on how to make a first-person shooter work on the Wii. Movement is handled by the analog stick on the Nunchuk, while aiming is done with the Wii Remote aimed at the area you want to shoot. The d-pad is used for visor-type selection, while all of the available buttons are used for shooting, changing to the morph ball, scanning and so forth. The controls are responsive, and the use of motion controls is kept to a minimum. Even a year and a half later, these still remain one of the better first-person control schemes made for the Wii, with only a few other titles being able to compare to its quality.
The graphics were considered to be some of the best that the GameCube could offer up when the first two games were initially released. That praise carries over to this release rather nicely. Creatures and environments look great, especially since the textures on the first two titles have been cleaned up a bit to make them more in line with what the third title offered. Particle effects also come off nicely in all three titles, and the lighting is just as fantastic. When the lighting is so good that a bright enough source can give you an internal reflection of Samus' face, you know you don't really have anything negative to say about it. All of this is presented in 480p, and while the GameCube versions also sported that resolution, this is the first time that both Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes are presented in 16:9 widescreen. The resolution change doesn't hurt the presentation at all, as it makes them more in line with the presentation of the third game.
The sound was close to phenomenal when the games were originally released, and that observation still holds true today. The sound effects are a good mix between newer, richer sounds of creatures and gunfire and classic sounds of opening doors and morph ball transformations. While the effects are as good as you'll find in other triple-A titles, the real highlight of the sound is the music. Not since The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess or Super Smash Bros. Brawl has Nintendo put out a musical score so haunting and beautiful at the same time. Everything, from the discovery of a new weapon or item to the score that plays during boss fights, evokes a sense of awe and is nothing less than unforgettable. If there can be a weak spot to the sound, it would have to be the voices. There's nothing particularly wrong with either the lines or their delivery, but there are very few lines of spoken dialogue, which could make some gamers crave more instances of voices to complement the rest of the audio package.
The only real obstacle in determining whether or not you should get Metroid Prime: Trilogy is if you are currently an owner of both of the GameCube titles and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii. Since the Wii is still a fully backward-compatible system, your love or hate of the control scheme in the third game will help you decide whether you should essentially buy these games again. Nothing else has changed, which, in this case, is a good thing since just about every aspect of the first two titles handles the test of time rather nicely. For everyone else who didn't invest in the game series when it was originally released, you now have no excuse for not owning one of Nintendo's finest space operas.
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