When Nintendo chose to announce, and in the process launch, a remaster of the Gamecube masterpiece Metroid Prime on Wednesday night, I'll admit I did a little geeky victory dance in my loneliness. We're talking extreme offbeat and lots of uncontrolled movements with limbs going everywhere, and it was probably lucky that it was so late at night and dark outside as I imagine the sight would have had my neighbours calling both the police and exorcist-performing priests.
Because I was very happy to hear that Metroid Prime is back in the spotlight, and it's additionally important to tell you, the reader, that I have extremely strong feelings for this Gamecube gem. After all, Samus Aran's 3D debut is, in my opinion, one of the best games of all time and it's really only Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that I think tops this masterpiece among all the hundreds of adventures I've played over the years.
In other words, I love Metroid Prime, and having now spent a lot of time with Metroid Prime Remastered, there's nothing that's made me want to change that opinion at all. Because this is still a ridiculously good adventure game 20 years later, and everything that made the original so brilliant in the early 2000s is intact in this re-release while the visuals have been polished to make the experience come to life even more. No, we're certainly not talking about an outright remake here in the same vein as Resident Evil 2 or Final Fantasy VII, but somehow that doesn't matter too much as the source material is still of such incredibly high quality today.
For example, I played through the Gamecube version a few years ago, and what has always made Prime so immortal in my opinion is that it has always stood on a solid foundation of outstanding and timeless design in both the aesthetic and the gameplay mechanics. Because the levels and pacing are almost perfect from start to finish, and you're always allowed to blaze your own trail while the developers slowly guide you as a player towards your main goal. Add in the hard-hitting atmosphere and the creeping sense of being alone (without feeling weak and vulnerable for that matter) on an alien planet and there's no better three-dimensional Metroidvania adventure if I do say so myself, and Retro Studio's maiden effort is in many ways still the industry leader in this genre despite being two decades past its time by now.
But if the original is still so insanely good, why would you be interested in a remaster?
It's a legitimate question to ask when you're required to fork out £35, and in all honesty I still think you can pick up your old Gamecube console and play through the original without missing any of the overall brilliance. That said, Metroid Prime Remastered is a phenomenal re-release of an already masterful game, and it's also undoubtedly the best way to experience this masterpiece today. The most obvious upgrade then, of course, is the visuals, and here Retro has really done an amazing job of making the old Gamecube models feel alive and modern again.
To the untrained eye, of course, the changes may seem trivial, but to those who have played through this classic countless times, the tweaks really stand out with extra clarity, and everywhere there are new little details to discover. Just something like the fact that you can now see clear inscriptions along the walls of Chozo Ruins, or that all the scrap metal inside the space station actually looks like individual objects instead of blocky squares, adds an incredible amount to the experience. The beefed-up textures in everything from environments to enemies and fauna also make you stop several times to take a closer look, and I don't know how many times I've let a monster grab my virtual self just because I wanted to examine its anatomy a little closer.
The lighting has also been given a major update, and once again these small refined details brighten up the whole experience in an excellent way. Watching the beams of light wind their way through the columns inside the aforementioned Chozo Temple is a feast for the eyes, and it's just as pleasant when you first set foot among the rain-soaked cliffs of Tallon IV or feel the heat of the lava inside Magmoor Caverns.
Performance-wise, in addition, the adventure flows very well at 60 frames per second, and while I experienced the occasional dip during the busiest battles, overall it's a very well-polished game we're offered for the Nintendo Switch. When playing in handheld mode, incidentally, everything from models to textures looks slightly sharper thanks to the smaller screen, but even when displayed on a larger TV screen Retro Studios manages to force enough power out of the old Switch console to make Tallon IV feel neat and stylish, at least while considering that this is still a rehashed Gamecube game we're talking about here.
You can't talk about Metroid Prime without mentioning the fabulous music, and the original soundtrack is just as masterful in 2023 as it was in 2003. I have no factual evidence for my next statement, but it does feel like the music and sounds are delivered with even more "oomph" in this version than how it has sounded in the past. Because like the graphics, the soundscape feels more crisp and clear, and the first time I took the elevator down to the Magmoor Caverns I was really struck by how grandly the doomsday choirs vibrated out of the speakers in true God of War fashion. No matter how you spin it, Kenji Yamamoto's soundtrack sounds better than ever, and coupled with the awesome soundscape in everything from effects to the space suit's emotionally charged informational voice, this epic space adventure comes to life just as it did in the early 2000s.
On the plus side, we're also offered several new control options this time around, and in addition to the classic control schemes from the Gamecube days, we also find motion control options, hybrid versions and a more standard FPS suite where you control the aim with the right stick. The controls from the original are probably the biggest drawback for many who have tried to pick up the game afterwards, and it's nice to see that they cater to both the nostalgic purists looking for maximum reconnection to their beloved memories while giving new players an easier gateway to master. Two thumbs up!
If I were to judge Metroid Prime Remastered solely on the additions it has added and how extremely respectfully it has approached the source material, I'd probably throw out a top rating without hesitation. Metroid Prime is, as mentioned, a masterpiece, and with the updated graphics and lighting, as well as improved controls, this is the ultimate version of one of the world's best action adventures. There's a catch, though.
Because no matter how brilliant the game may be, and no matter how good the updates are, at the end of the day it's a 20 year old game at heart. We're not talking about a remake, as I said, where everything has been rebuilt from scratch, but the overall experience is, for better or worse, the same as the one we enjoyed on Nintendo's purple gaming cube in the early 2000s. To then demand £35 to partake of these novelties, especially when most of us already own the game in question, puts a small crack in the armour. It's certainly not a rip-off by any means, and £35 for a masterpiece can certainly be seen as a gift to many, but when you also consider that you only get access to part one of a trilogy, it's hard not to feel a bit stingy after all.
Metroid Prime is certainly by far the best game when compared to the runner-up Echoes and the concluding installment Corruption, but a complete package where all three titles received the same love and care would obviously have been preferable, and a similar collection to the one we got for the Wii in 2007 (Metroid Prime Trilogy) would have justified a higher price tag (and even a hefty full price) in a much more acceptable way.
However, if you're not put off by throwing out an extra few pounds when it comes to the purchase, this is an absolute MUST for your gaming collection. Because even if, like me, you've been playing Metroid Prime to pieces for the past twenty years, Remastered does enough new stuff to make the adventure feel fresh again.
If, then, you're one of those who've never experienced this gem, this really is an excellent opportunity to hit the ground running. Because Metroid Prime is still one of the best games in the world, and you really owe it to yourself to experience it at its very best in Metroid Prime Remastered.