A few weeks ago, Nintendo announced and released Metroid Prime Remastered digitally as part of their Nintendo Direct. They also announced that a physical version would be coming two weeks later, and since I’m a weirdo who likes putting games on my shelf, I decided to wait. The wait was difficult, as Metroid Prime is one of my all time favorite games, but I have the game now. A lot has changed in the slightly over twenty years since Prime’s original release on the GameCube. Is the game still one of the best, or is that nostalgia-fueled rose-tinted glasses?
It’s honestly startling how well Metroid Prime holds up. There’s been two big changes made to the game, a modern control scheme (with the option to play with the original controls or motion controls) and a big graphical update. At its core though, this is still the same game as the GameCube release. I’ve seen a lot of discussion about what makes a game a remaster and what makes one a remake and how the lines have been blurred due to Prime’s completely redone graphics. But I would say that it’s still the same game underneath the new paint, not a modern interpretation, so this falls into the remaster camp. Plus, it literally says “Remastered” in the title. The point is, this is still that twenty year old game, but if this was a totally new release, I don’t think anyone would think it feels out of date. The game really holds up that well.
If you’re somehow not informed, Metroid is a long running series of games, mostly 2D ones, that have you exploring and unlocking sections of a large level by gaining new abilities and weapons. After skipping the Nintendo 64 entirely, Metroid came back on the Game Boy Advance with a traditional 2D release, Metroid Fusion, and on the same day a new 3D take on the series on the GameCube, Metroid Prime. Whenever I see people discuss the original reaction to Prime, it’s always about how skeptical everyone was with the decision to put it in the first person. Maybe I wasn’t as clued in to overall discourse at the time, but I remember just being extremely excited. And I guess my excitement was proven to be the right reaction, as the game would go on to get extremely good reviews and two sequels, with a fourth Prime game announced in the early days of the Switch.
Metroid Prime continued Nintendo’s track record of great first attempts at converting 2D franchises into 3D ones, following Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda. Prime follows the same basic concepts of it’s 2D entries. You’re in one big world that’s divided into multiple areas, all with locked doors and paths you can’t get through right away. As you explore and gain new abilities and weapons, you’ll backtrack through areas to open up new paths. The first person perspective makes looking around the world very easy. I think it was the best choice, rather than a Super Mario 64 style third person perspective with the option to zoom in and look around. It’s also much easier to accomplish with Remastered’s new modern control scheme. On the GameCube, you had to hold down a button to enter a mode to look around, kind of like GoldenEye. Now, you simply hold the right stick in the direction you want to look, like any modern first person game.
The original game made heavy use of a lock-on feature, most likely influenced by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Z Targeting system. Since you couldn’t freely look around while moving, locking on to your targets made combat much easier. Lock on is still here in the new version, and it makes combat still feel like it always did, but now moving through the world is much easier. It’s a win all around, and like I said before, if you just want a more faithful control setup, that’s still there.
One of the things that Prime is famous for is its incredible atmosphere. The new graphics do a great job of holding on to the feel of the original game while also making it look like a new release. The GameCube release’s graphics were incredible at the time, it’s one of the best looking games on the system. Remastered looks the way you remember that game looking, and the improvements become more obvious when you put them directly next to each other.
Beyond the visuals, another thing that really built up the game’s atmosphere was the new scanning system. You have a visor that can scan objects in the environment, like enemies, items, or data logs. This leads to it not just feeling like you, the player, are learning things along the way, but that Samus herself is too. It’s also where most of the storytelling comes from, as you’ll find plenty of logs left from space pirates talking about what exactly they’re up to this time. It’s an effective way to tell a story in a genre that typically doesn’t push the story that hard. It’s also very addictive, I found myself wanting to scan everything I came across, and you do get graded for how much of the possible things to scan you did.
Metroid Prime was always a must play video game. Now that it’s on the Nintendo Switch, it’s not only more accessible than before, but it’s also better than before. If you’ve never played it before, don’t let the fact that it’s over two decades old scare you away. This game feels like a game that came out this year, and it’s still one of the best I’ve ever played.