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I started this game about a week ago and I'm digging it. The things I like about it are pretty much the same things everybody else likes it for: the sense of atmosphere, the impressive graphics and music, the successful conversion of 2D to 3D.
Actually, let me touch on that last point. My biggest problem with this game is how monotonous backtracking has become. Since the map doesn't show exactly how specific areas connect, it can be cumbersome finding out how to get where you want to go. And since 3D movement is inherently slower and more time consuming, getting from point A to point B takes way longer in Metroid Prime than it did in Zero Mission or Fusion. And the load times on elevators and through some doors put a damper on experimentation. This makes me less likely to explore the world to the fullest.
One particularly disheartening scenario was when I found the sunken frigate, but reached a roadblock because I needed the gravity suit, so I had to retrace the steps I just took. I later came back with the suit and made some more progress, only to hit another roadblock where I need the plasma whip and (presumably) the plasma beam. This gives progress a somewhat stuttered nature, where you make some progress, only to be forced to immediately turn around and retrace your steps. It feels very clunky and punishes exploration. I don't see why there couldn't have been an obstacle where you need the gravity suit at the start of the sunken frigate, rather than the middle. Similarly, the plasma beam could have been placed the mines like the plasma whip was. I understand that they're trying to go for the rewarding sensation of revisiting a familiar area with new tools that allow you to more thoroughly exploring, but that sensation loses its luster thanks to the arduous task of backtracking through an area you just explored. This wasn't so much of a problem in 2D Metroid because you can get across the map much more quickly and it is easier to just run past enemies.
When progress does not take this form, the game plays very smoothly and feels great. Which, thankfully, is most of the time. Plenty of items and rewards are placed in ways that reward the player for being observant and going out of their way to revisit areas without forcing them to trek too far back into familiar territory. When you going from room to room exploring new areas the game is a delight. It's only when you have to immediately double back on where you've just been or travel across the world that things become problematic. Because the machine of Metroid Prime's level design usually runs so smoothly, that makes the moments when the gears begin to grind all the more noticeable and troubling. Most of what's there is great, but what isn't ends up sticking out.
I mean it is only one of the best games ever made.
I am in a serious mood for another playthrough. Last I played it was whenever the MPT released. I got stuck halfway through MP2 and never got to start my full second game of MP3. What a bitch.
The state of gaming today especially makes me want to go through these deep games with varied everything all throughout. Stuff like Zelda TP for example feels like a breath of fresh air for me. It feels like these sort of games don't even exist anymore.
I still remember the infamous backtracking in Metroid Prime 2. You're chugging through the bog (I think) and suddenly you have to go to some obscure corner of the first area (I think) to find the item you need.
I still haven't played much of 3. When I got the trilogy I played 1 and 2, then got burnt out pretty early in 3.
Don't get me wrong; I'm enjoying Metroid Prime. It's just that the hassles of backtracking caught me off guard since I've never seen them come up in discussions of the game. I'm not opposed to backtracking, it can just become unpleasant in some cases due to my aforementioned issues.
I think the 2D games generally get around this in a couple ways. The first, like you said, is that it's simply a lot faster to traverse a 2D Metroid than most other open-ended adventure games.
The second comes down to level design itself. In Super Metroid and Zero Mission, there are "mini-hubs" within several of the areas, usually in the form of a large vertical corridor that branches out to smaller hallways. The benefit of this is that you can have these branches be available at different times; let's say there are six doors in a corridor--2 can be accessed immediately, 2 can be opened but quickly introduce a barrier that you need to overcome with a later item, and 2 can't even be opened with your current equips. This sort of gives players a lead on where to come back to when they're just doing some exploration later, and portions out rewards at regular intervals without making players have to backtrack through every room in the game (for instance, the 2 hallways that can be accessed immediately).
Examples of this in Super Metroid include the first tall shaft in Brinstar, the glowing "red" shaft in lower Brinstar, the bubbly/egg room in Norfair, and the initial couple of shafts in Crateria. Zero Mission has the Brinstar and Norfair shafts.
This is a pretty standard 2D Metroid design and it's not quite as common in 3D Metroid. There are still mini-hubs smartly portioned out with multiple doors that you can enter at various points, but it feels like there's quite a bit more of a singular style of approach in the multitude of hallways outside of that. Magmoor Caverns, which is essentially a long, linear tunnel, is a good example of this.
Regardless, I still think MP is a masterpiece and does almost everything extremely well, which is impressive for a genre that people were extremely hesitant about initially.
That perfectly describes the difference. Are later Prime games better about this?
Prime 2 is honestly pretty convoluted in its backtracking. If you didn't like it in Prime 1, its made worse here. That said, I think the game is still worth playing and has a lot of good points.
Prime 3 is my second-favorite of the Prime games behind the original. It gets pretty streamlined--moreso than 1 and far more than 2--although some people feel it's a bit too linear and setpiece-y. I think it works in the game's favor as a fun sort of "victory lap" after the intensity of 2.
I'm not sure if I'd recommend you play the three Primes in order or try out some other Metroids first though.