This is a very old review. I wrote it back when the game came out, and then modified it a bit a couple of years back. And now I am posting it for your reading enjoyment. (Also because Anandxxx asked me to since he loves the game so much.) Enjoy!
Awhile back, Nintendo made the announcement that we had been waiting years for; a Metroid sequel was finally coming to their home console, the first since Super Metroid on the Snes. Suffice to say, we were all psyched. But then came another announcement, one that filled us with fear. The new Metroid would be in first person shooter form, and handled by a start-up developer, Retro Studios. It was almost certain to be a letdown, if not totally suck. Yet we were proven wrong. Retro decided to blow away all expectations and make a faithful, polished, and utterly amazing Metroid game, which converted even the most diehard dissenters.
If you're looking for a traditional 1st person shooting game, let me warn you right now: Metroid Prime is not that game. The dual analog "free look" found in most FPS games is gone, replaced with a more platform-centric control scheme. The game focuses as much on platforming and exploration as shooting, so the controls work well.
You start off exploring a fairly linear space station that may be a bit reminiscent of a typical FPS, but after that stage is finished, you are thrown into the middle of a planet, and the exploration truly begins. The design of the planet is one of the most amazing things I have seen. The game has five main areas, which are huge and complex, and cannot simply be made through, but have multiple branching paths, hidden areas, secrets that must be passed by and come back to later with new power-ups, etc., and all are interconnected to each other, often in unexpected ways. Even from the first landing on the planet you will see countless areas you cannot yet get to; a ledge just a bit too high to jump to, a door you cannot open yet, a small hole beneath a jutting rock. The joy of finally accessing the areas you have been teased with through large portions of the game is unbeatable. And us usual, there are various missile, bomb, and energy tank expansions hidden throughout the world.
Metroid fans know that a good portion of the coolness of the franchise comes from the various kick-ass power-ups, and in this respect Prime does not disappoint. There are beam weapon, visor, suit, missile, morph ball and other various upgrades. Perhaps the coolest new upgrade is the "spider ball", which lets Samus attach to various spider tracks in morph ball form and roll up them to previously unreachable areas.
The combat is handled with a lock-on function much like the Ocarina of Time. Enemies generally cannot be simply locked-on and blown away though; many have specific areas that need to be targeted, or other tricks to defeating them. Generally scanning an enemy with your scan visor will give some hints, but often you will just have to try things out until you figure out what works. Boss battles are especially impressive, huge and epic (and often very difficult!) battles with various techniques required, they are definitely some of the most memorable battles out there.
Metroid Prime is by far the most amazing graphical feat on the Gamecube. Every single room is packed with detail: huge knotted trees with intertwining roots and moss, crumbling ruins with sand pouring out holes, ice covered lands with crystals hanging about, enemy bases with huge complex technology everywhere, it is absolutely beautiful. And the game blends the natural and technological styles together for one perfectly coherent and inventive style. Most importantly, the attention to detail leaves every room truly having its own feel, so you never feel lost in mazes of repetitive design. The musical score of Metroid Prime is excellent as well. Lush, beautiful, and incredibly atmospheric music plays throughout the game; bold at times, discrete when it needs to be, it comes together as one of the best overall sound experiences on the Gamecube.
Simply put, Metroid Prime is the best Gamecube game to date, and one of the best video games ever made. It's really that good. A perfect blend of classic Metroid gameplay with all the new elements a vast 3D world and first person perspective bring along with it. Don't expect a first person shooter, this is so much more. Don't expect anything, actually, because I can guarantee you that your expectations will be off. It simply has to be experienced to be understood.
And every sentence here still holds truth today. Ground-breaking thy name is Metroid Prime. In fact, this series has taken a lot of innovate steps beginning with the original on the NES to the upcoming Other M on Wii. Awesome, thy name is Metroid.
Nah, I'd say even Super Metroid and ALttP got surpassed by Metroid Prime and Ocarina of Time, but that's just me. :) OK...maybe not the last one because OoT had no beam sword weapon like ALttP did, BUT OTHER THAN THAT...yeah. :p
I agree. Any game that can not be improved should get a 10. Also, if there's a more perfect game in the series I think that game should get a 10 and the sequel might deserve something real close to that.
I'd also give Prime a 9.8 or 9.9. The only reason I don't think it deserves that 10 is because of some choice music tracks I thought were dissapointing, and it could have used an escape sequence at the end of the game ala Super Metroid.
So you suscribe to the rating philosophy that 0.1 pt is actually significant?
Yes. A 9.9 says "this is about as good as it gets... until you get to Super Metroid / Link to the Past".
But that's kind of silly, no? Once you've decided it's basically one of the top three games of all time, you might as well give it a 10/10, no? Heck, the top 20 games of all time would probably deserve a 10/10. What's the real difference between a 9.9 or 9.8? It seems so arbitrary to me.
Not top 3, Super Mario Brothers 3 is top 3. Prime is 4. Well. No wait, it's probably top 3. I can't make up my mind!
All scores are arbitrary, I don't see the point in getting worked up over a scoring scale if you accept the already semi-backwards notion of trying to put a score on a game to begin with. I've always preferred the 100 point scoring scale myself, though as Anand aptly stated, it's generally a 20 point scoring scale... or 30. Probably the furthest I've ever gone down for a score is a 7.0 or so, but then again, I try to avoid games that look like pure trash.
Oh, I'm not getting worked up, I just find the 100 point scoring scale (or 20 point, as anand remarked) kind of silly. What's wrong with giving it either a 9 or a 10? People get the general idea that you're giving a game the highest possible recommendation, or are very strongly recommending it. I don't know what a 8.9 is supposed to mean, though.
Well, some people use scores as a ranking system, both for themselves and others, such that an accurate list of their favorite games of all time could be created with a simple sort. Like, I recommend these games in this specific order. Without that granularity (and assuming that most gamers will dismiss anything below 4 Stars (or 8/10)), it's hard to distinguish the level of enjoyment.
It all depends what you're trying to communicate with your review scores, which varies from person to person. Maybe you don't even want to communicate anything, and are, instead, just trying to sort out your feelings and precisely quantify your opinions.
It might be interesting to have standard review criteria and a standard 'average' score, but I think Zero would rather everyone just followed their own heart. Plus, I doubt everyone would follow those criteria.
As to opinions about the specific granularity of the review scale, though - that's like the definition of everyone drawing their own line in the sand. Just like morality.
The obvious problem when using scores as a ranking system is you have to fit every new game you play in that system. If you were to like some new game a whole lot more than some game you gave a 10 to, then what?
It makes way more sense to rank games in a "best of" list. Ranking them with scores is just a mess.
I mean, how can you ever fairly evaluate older titles, from a modern perspective? If you really care about the overall context and timelessness of your review scores, you can just keep updating them over time.
It really depends why you're reviewing games. When I put all of my scores into this site, I was mostly doing it for personal reasons. Mental book-keeping. And it was interesting to reflect on my thoughts on each game with the context of a lifetime of gaming. Like, "Hmm... do I really, truly enjoy Clu Clu Land more than Metroid Prime?"
If I'm reviewing a game for others, I don't use a score at all. I just give my impressions and recommend it (or curse it to oblivion) with text. Then again, my audience is just a few people on a message board (who look beyond scores). Different strokes, and all that.