Here she comes!I have a handful of gaming obsessive compulsions. Compulsively listing them…

  1. When I am playing any game with even the tiniest purchasing economy, I hoard all gold and items continually. This likely originated with my first playthrough of Final Fantasy (1), when I barely understood the “leveling up = stronger = easier” gameplay mechanic, ran from most battles, and barely had enough resources to survive. I thus have internalized that all gold, items, and even magic points must be conserved, lest I die alone in a marsh cave.
  2. I must “nudge” against all walls, and “engage” all barrels/cabinets/pianos across the globe. This is mostly another RPG problem, and definitely began in the 16-bit days. Practically all RPGs from the Super Nintendo/Sega CD era contributed to this impulse. I would hate to miss something in a town that will be inexplicably destroyed seven seconds after I leave.
  3. I must find all the collectibles on the first try in any given game that tracks collectibles. I will hurl my avatar into a bottomless pit if I realize I have missed some bauble that will require a repeat of the stage. This is wholly thanks to Yoshi’s Island’s report card grading on every stage. Sonic Adventure 2 did not help.
  4. If there are “scans” or “logs” available in an environment, I must scan and meticulously inspect literally everything before taking another step.

And the origin of that final urge? Laying the blame squarely at the talons of Metroid Prime.

I am not someone who traditionally pays heed to videogame controversies (blatant lie), but I will never forget the horror that was the announcement of “the next Metroid game” being a first-person shooter. Super Metroid was a transcendent 2-D action title that all but defined the concept of the metroidvania. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night shamelessly/magnificently copied its best aspects, and brought everything about hunting metroids into the next generation (give or take actually including any metroids). It was assumed that, after skipping the N64, Samus Aran would return to knock Alucard flat on his bat ass, and show the world the Superest Metroid in history. But it was not to be. 2-D Metroid was banished to a handheld (which held the same lustrous pedigree as releasing a movie “direct to video”), and the next generation Metroid was going to be a first-person shooter. Like Goldeneye! The game you played alone only when you wanted to unlock new multiplayer content. That was not a world for Samus Aran! Samus Aran would never tolerate Oddjob! Not for one second!

Stop thatBut when Metroid Prime was released, we found that Retro Studios succeeded by hedging their bets. Yes, Metroid Prime is definitely a whole new dimension for Samus Aran, with a significantly modified moveset that accommodates the transition from 2-D to 3-D. Yes, a severe limiting of jumping meant that the “Space Jump” that previously granted Samus Aran flight is now a double jump, and the beloved Screw Attack is not implemented at all. Samus is a lot less flighty when stuck in a more realistic environment. But! While said environment did gain a whole new direction, Retro Studios went with a world design that was very reminiscent of Super Metroid. Tallon IV is its own planet, but its “lava caves” may as well be the Norfair of Zebes past. And sticking a wrecked spacecraft next to your landing site is eerily familiar. Many other areas across this world similarly echo familiar locations, and we would have to wait for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (huh) to get a world that was truly standing on its own two (bird) feet.

Though Metroid Prime did stick one altogether new feature into the Metroid franchise…

A first-person view effectively means you inhabit your player avatar during gameplay. In Metroid Prime, you see the universe through the eyes of Samus Aran. Retro Studios took this a step further, and confirmed you are Samus Aran inside a gigantic mechanical suit, so your immediate field of vision includes everything Samus sees from her bird costume. And, since you are nestled in here anyway, may as well toss in some cool “visors” to enhance those views. The combat visor is Samus’s normal, all-purpose vision of the world with a HUD displaying her various item stocks. The x-ray visor is an advanced form of the x-ray scope from Super Metroid, and lets everyone see secret passages/items and Space Pirate bones alike. The Thermal Visor is there for when you want to play Predator. And the Scan Visor is exactly what it says on the tin: it scans. Simple visors all around.

Simple, but evil.

Stay hotThe Metroid franchise has always had a little collectathon in its DNA. Metroid’s endgame was all but impossible to complete if you did not find the ice beam and a healthy cache of missiles. Metroid 2 started and ended with a “Metroid counter” that demanded you catch ‘em all on your way to a genocide. Super Metroid could be completed on a minimalist run, but the average player would see an inadequate “Item Collected Percentage” during the finale as a challenge (and one that you could not do crap about if you decided to use the final save point, not that I’m bitter or anything). Finding “everything” in a Metroid title has long been just as much a part of the franchise as the Wave Beam.

But the scan visor… That was something else. Like many contemporary titles, there is substantial lore in Metroid Prime. And, since we are running with Silent Samus for this adventure, all that lore is crammed into scannable objects. Every opponent and item has an attendant data entry, and you are expected to scan anything that moves (or is sufficiently “glowy”) during at least one encounter. Many bosses even seem to have a “first boot” phase at their start, all but asking a player to whip out the scan visor. But, wait, there’s more! Right from the opening tutorial area, there are many inanimate panels and computers that must be scanned. Lore is found in these innocuous spots, and, if you go too long without scanning every damn thing you see, you are often hampered by a door or lock that requires a fresh scan. These items are marked in a very prominent red, but you only see that if you have the scan visor operating. So even if you do not care about the lore, you are continually encouraged to switch back to the scan visor to make mandatory progress. The message of Metroid Prime is clear: you will be rewarded for utilizing the scan visor.

And, Chozo ancestors in Bird Heaven, I am not certain I remember anything else about Metroid Prime.

Spider wall, spider wallMetroid Prime has some great moments. Exploring a space station (frigate?) before and after its crash is great. Obtaining the Phazon Suit, a “fourth” suit upgrade, by accident is nearly unprecedented in the franchise. The signature Ridley fight has a lot going on, which is appropriate to our beloved space dragon. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that my key memory of Metroid Prime is skulking around with my “limited” scan visor equipped at all times, because goddamn me if I miss a single scannable object. And if I do find a scannable object, you better believe I had to read that lore entry immediately. Look at all that data on Space Pirates attempting to corral metroids! Or turning into mangled balls! That was fun! I could never risk missing something like that ever again! I don’t care if the majority of lore entries are “zoomer go zoom”. I have to know! I even took the time to rescan everything when I game over’ed to crustacean lasers, and had to repeat literally everything. That first space pirate laboratory was a treasure trove/threat to my patience! And I was rewarded with a 100% completion confirmation and art gallery when I finished Metroid Prime on the Nintendo Gamecube. It was entirely thanks to my strict adherence to scanning. I am a good boy! I finished all my broccoli!

And, because I like being told I am a good boy, I then proceeded to seek out every piece of lore on every future game. Like in the depths of Talos IV, I spent all my time not necessarily seeing every virtual environment, but playing Where’s Waldo with every potential data source. I must “scan” every individual room for the possibility of a cassette tape that tells me the local mad scientist’s relative level of madness. I could be doing anything else in the game. I could skip it all. I know I won’t. But thou must.

Metroid Prime, you are a great game. But I do not appreciate how you permanently broke my brain.

SBC #31 Dark Samus & Metroid Prime

Dark Samus in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Sorry, angel

  • She any Good? She is our classic fighter Samus Aran, plus she hovers. Greatest of all time. Samus/Dark Samus is known for being a long-range fighter, but her dashing shoulder bash gets the job done more often than not. Can you imagine eating the gigantic shoulder pads of the (dark) Varia Suit? Some Smash Bros are going to lose their teeth.
  • That final smash work? Give me a big damn Phazon Laser you don’t have to aim any day. So many final smashes have that “grab to initiate” thing going, so it is nice to just hit the special button and watch your opponents run for their lives.
  • The background work? Frigate Orpheon is a stage directly from the featured game for once! The random upside down flips are interesting, but everything going partial blackout is confusing. You can still see what you need to see, so it kind of doesn’t do anything? Good stage, but weird choices.
  • Classic Mode: The Great Poison Given Form. Dark Samus fights along various characters who have been “corrupted”. Let’s go down the list: Zelda was possessed by Ganon in Twilight Princess, Robin has an “evil timeline” in Fire Emblem Awakening when possessed by Grima, Ken has Violent Ken (long story), and Luigi was once possessed by a tennis racket (longer story). Ivysaur has never officially been evil, but the plant is literally made of poison. And then you fight Samus and Ridley, because Dark Samus has to avenge herself against her mother franchise. And, yes, then you fight a Hand or two. Hands are how Dark Samus got her start!
  • Smash Trivia: Dark Samus is the only character that is confirmed dead on the Smash Bros. roster. Samus killed her in Metroid Prime 3, and there has not been the slightest hint she will return in another form. Meanwhile, most Smash Bros. villains “blast off again”, Ganon comes back every generation, and Ridley has been cloned more times than I can count (at least once for Metroid Prime!). But Dark Samus is mutant mush.

  • Amiibo Corner: Really appreciate the ghostly/ghastly blue glow of Phazon here. Also: Dark Samus is doing that flying thing all the kids seem to love. We have included the Metroid amiibo, too, because Dark Samus is the first playable Metroid in this or any other franchise. I love that squishy little hatchling. If these statues weren’t presumed to be rare, I would use this amiibo as a stress ball.
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? In spades! Metroid Prime might be the most referenced game in Smash Bros. that was produced by an American developer. We’ve got a stage, spirits, a character, costumes, multiple attacks, and so much music that all originates from Metroid Prime. Heck, depending on how you classify Dark Samus, we’ve got the titular “Metroid Prime” as a fighter/amiibo. Metroid Prime is all over the place!

Dark Samus in Metroid Prime

  • OLD SCHOOLSystem: Nintendo Gamecube, then a “new playstyle” version for the Wii, and now a completely remastered version for Nintendo Switch. For the curious, the majority of screenshots for this article are from the Switch version, but I did dip into my old save file for the Gamecube for this shot here.
  • Number of players: If you want more than one hunter, you are going to have to wait for Metroid Hunters.
  • Lore Questions: Seemingly every other bestiary or Chozo log entry alludes to the fact that Phazon has made the local wildlife huge and aggressive, and that’s why dedicated Spacy Bounty Hunter Samus Aran has to worry about losing her life to a creature that usually crawls around and feeds on moss. And this explanation can be carried forward to the other Metroid Prime games… but why is all the fauna in every other Metroid title so angry? SR388 seems like a crappy place to live (what with the metroids an’ all), but your average Norfairian gamet should be a little less hot under the collar.
  • Ridley is too big: Meta Ridley is probably where Sakurai got it in his head that the space lizard would never (literally) fit into Smash Bros. And that’s reasonable! Meta Ridley seems to be roughly jet-sized for most of Metroid Prime. And did I mention that this might be one of his best appearances in the franchise? A true combat match for how collecting all those damned talismans means you are an explorer. End game, baby.
  • A matter of perspective: In a weird way, I am surprised Retro included the morph ball at all. Yes, it is an iconic part of Samus’s repertoire, and it allows for some interesting level design (or at least a healthy number of 2-D tunnel puzzles). But! It also completely buggers the Samus’s view first-person perspective going on. And that “Samus vision” is so integral to Metroid Prime and its aesthetics that I am surprised they deviated to accommodate a little ball. Metroid should crawl.
  • He IS too bigSay something mean: It may not be geographically accurate, but it feels like it is forever between save points. Maybe it is just a matter of combat actually being weighty here (and not just “screw attack through everything”), but it is not unusual for there to be a half hour or hour between rest periods. And that is important when everything is trying to kill you. Couple that with seemingly excess backtracking (can I tell you how many times I returned to an area with the latest upgrade, and then learned I needed another upgrade?), and Metroid Prime really seems to punish you for not having some level of strategy guide for a little Hunter precognition.
  • Map facts: The 3-D map in Metroid Prime is 10,000 times easier to interpret than the 3-D maps that appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo, you had fifteen years to make something better, and you came up with something worse. How did you do that?
  • Did you know? Jack Matthews, tech lead of Retro Studios, stated in an interview 20 years after the release of Metroid Prime that the “artifact hunt” was added for the explicit reason of padding out the length of the game. I’m pretty sure anyone that ever played Metroid Prime (or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) already knew that, but it is nice to have official vindication.
  • Would I play again: After conquering the remaster, it will probably be a little bit before I return to Tallon IV again. Metroid Prime 3 is still my favorite go-to of this franchise, but Metroid Prime is a strong maybe.

What’s next? I am contractually obligated to acknowledge the latest adventure of one Cloud Strife. Please look forward to it.

She looks good in black

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