Sunday 17 February, 2019
Metroid Prime is a metroidvania...wait no, it's just a Metroid game. I sunk 4 hours and 42 minutes into it and completed 15%, but it feels like I've played much longer than that. In fact, I'm sure I have. Maybe 4 play sessions averaging 90-120 minutes each. So I'm not sure how it calculates time. Perhaps it doesn't count time in menus or looking at the map, in which case I believe the timer because I looked at the map SO MUCH.
Why did I look at the map so much? Because for however novel I found Metroid Prime to be (FPS platformer with Wiimote and nunchuck controls!), the backtracking is horrific. Was this normal in 2002? I can't remember. There is no quick travel. If you want to go somewhere, you have to walk there. And since this is a Metroid game, you're unlocking new abilities (weapons, suits, secondary items, etc.) that can get you past previously inaccessible areas, which means you're constantly going back through places you've been.
Making this more irritating, enemies respawn when you leave a room, even if you just go a couple rooms away. This was fine early on when the enemies were simple and avoidable, but when giant rhino ice bugs charge and shoot snowballs, or missile turrets with uncanny aim pummel you, it's demoralizing. I've already killed these missile turrets 10 times. Why are they back again? Combat isn't particularly fun. Using the Wiimote to aim was a bit floaty. Again, it felt novel for a while, but when most of the combat isn't combat you want to be engaged in (i.e., you've cleared this room 10 times before and just want to get back to a save point because it's time for bed), the small issues are magnified.
What I do love about Metroid Prime is the exploration. You're dropped on this planet, Tallon IV, and you just...go. The areas are all a bit different (e.g., ice place, fire place) and full of environmental puzzles you have to solve to get to new areas. Sometimes that involves just finding a new weapon to open a new door type, or using a new ability you got in a neat way, like using the ball boost to roll up half-pipes. Other times you have to scan symbols or other objects to reveal a clue.
Scanning was really fun. I mean, objectively, this was probably the least exciting part of the game. You put on a different visor, look around for a red square, scan it, read the text. But I usually love lore entries and monster-pedias and things in RPGs; this scratched that itch. The game's story wasn't especially riveting, and it was given out in small pieces, but the vague sci-fi narrative coupled with the environment did a lot to pull me into the world.
I decided to quit when I'd made it to a new area in the Phendrana Drifts (courtesy of a helpful hint system that seems to alert you to where you can go next if you are idling) with a big bug boss. I died, but hadn't saved it since forever before. Save points are few and far between, and if you come across a boss having not saved it, you might have in the meantime explored many new areas, found new secrets, and so on...even up to like an hour's play time (oh yeah, there goes another couple hours off the official play timer). There need to be more save points.
I have the Metroid Prime Trilogy and just tried out 2 and 3. They seem very much the same as 1 with minor UI modifications and more prologue in 3, so I think I will retire all these and get on with the other Wii and Wii U games I bought...