First released on 17 November 2002 in North America, Retro Studios' Metroid Prime is one of those games that seemed to arrive fully formed. The Metroid series remains the the black sheep among Nintendo's popular brands, which are almost all more family-friendly in setting in theme, and the technological leap to 3D — for this particular series — meant that the N64 never saw its own entry.
This reflected hesitation on Nintendo's part. Both Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time had ended up triumphant, but don't really share much — they have distinct styles of 3D play. Metroid would need its own 3D identity, but what? It would take not just another hardware generation to find the answer, but the brave step of looking at its own development culture. Retro Studios is a Nintendo-founded American development studio, and it was created to create games like this.
But enough from me. On this happy anniversary, it just so happens that you've landed on the site with the most Metroid Prime love in the galaxy. Over recent years we've covered the game with various in-depth articles, as well as cooing over the first boss being recreated in Lego.
Stephen Totilo reviewed Metroid Prime last year (as he says, better late than never!) —
Few other games accomplish this epiphany-based design inside a 3D world. It has few imitators, even now. The subsequent games in the trilogy built on its concepts, but few other games do. I consider the recent first-person puzzle game The Witness a worthy if unintentional successor. That game is too frequently compared to Myst even though it better resembles Prime’s great progression of self-empowerment in a beautiful, vexing world through the upgrading of the player’s ability to understand the language of its puzzles.
Mr Totilo is a serious fan of the game, and if you are too then I'd recommend his chats with Kirk Hamilton, who was experiencing the game for the first time — there are two because, after the first, Stephen sets a challenge.
Stephen: The game wasn't originally designed for twitchy pointer controls. It was single-analogue. You used the GameCube controller's c-stick to change weapons; you could only do free-looking if you stood still and pressed a button. The action was very much about locking onto an enemy and shooting it, strafing it as you locked on. That first mini-boss was likely a way to teach you how to lock on effectively. Because, really, the game wasn't a test of your physical reflexes; it was a test of your mental agility—your ability to figure out which weapons, items and visors to use and how to eventually get everything out of each of the game's rooms.
Have you noticed buzzing sounds or low hums in a lot of the rooms you're in? They represent hidden things in the rooms, and you really have only finished a room once you've pretty much quieted the room down. What they're doing is asking you to pay attention, to look at everything, listen to everything and then act.
Kirk: Metroid Prime is certainly a pleasurable game to play. But that pleasure, for me, isn't derived from a sense of overcoming adversity. It's from watching it all come together, that sense of discovery and wonder. This game makes me feel like I'm solving a mystery as I progress, but it's the mystery itself that I'm attracted to, not the solution. The feeling of becoming more powerful is appealing, but it's secondary, at least for me.
Now, this one is for the real maniacs. The Spectacular Story of Metroid, One of Gaming's Greatest Universes. Metroid fan Mama Robotnik writes about the storyline of Metroid, the themes, and much more. If you think you know everything there is to know about Samus, think again.
Samus Aran had seemingly succeeded in her mission. The surviving Space Pirates abandoned their devastated facilities and hastily evacuated the planet. With the defeat of Metroid Prime, the Phazon contagion was slowly stopping its spread. The tormented Chozo spirits that had been bound to the planet were finally able to achieve their rest. Leaving the world to recover from its devastation, Samus Aran headed back to the stars.
There is a Metroid Prime game incoming for Switch, the fourth in the series, and given the re-release of the original trilogy on Wii — well, you'd kind of hope that ends up getting the HD treatment. That's the thing about Nintendo though, and especially Metroid and one-of-a-kind games like Prime. You just never know what you're gonna get.