Metroid Prime Remastered review: the definitive version of a timeless masterpiece
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Featured Image Credit: Nintendo
Being a Nintendo fan in a school full of kids with PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles wasn’t easy.
Everything released for the GameCube was apparently too ‘kiddy’, so on the day I triumphantly showed some of my closest friends my copy of Metroid Prime in action, I assumed I’d win them over. A gritty sci-fi adventure set on a decaying planet where every plant, animal, and strange pool of shimmering liquid wants to kill you? How could they not love it?
“This is just a shit Halo ripoff,” came the response.
You might be wondering why I have been unable to let go of this one throwaway comment from a childhood friend for over 20 years. Partly it’s because I have serious issues that need addressing. Mostly, though, it’s because I knew in my heart back then that Metroid Prime was one of the greatest video games ever made. And now that I’ve replayed the remastered version on Nintendo Switch, all these years later? I’m as certain as I ever was. Metroid Prime Remastered is the definitive way to experience a timeless masterpiece.
Developer Retro Studios did the unthinkable back in 2002, translating the 2D labyrinths of Super Metroid into a vast, interconnected 3D world of ancient ruins, rain-soaked jungles, and treacherous caverns. Angry gamers, a group famed for their ability to be on the right side of history, said it could never work. How wrong they were.
Metroid Prime may have looked like a first-person shooter on the surface, but much like the mysterious planet that Samus finds herself marooned on, there’s so much more at work underneath it all. Metroid Prime is, at its core, a game about exploration. About slowly peeling back the world’s mysteries piece by piece, each new item or suit upgrade giving formerly inaccessible passageways and chambers new context. It’s perfectly paced, with new tools and abilities being handed out so frequently that it’s hard to ever really feel stuck for too long. You also blast lots of alien monsters in the face with your massive arm cannon, which is always fun, but for the most part you’re a curious explorer documenting and understanding your surroundings.
The world itself, Tallon IV, was a work of genius, too. Thanks to a series of clever tricks, players could explore this massive planet without ever seeing a single loading screen - an incredible feat for a GameCube game. There was a truly organic feel to the world: Travelling from an alien mining rig to a cavern filled with lava to a frozen tundra always felt completely natural. It never, ever felt like we were simply walking between levels. The game’s unsettling, pervasive score and incredible visuals - visuals which still hold up today - only added to the intoxicatingly immersive quality of the adventure.
Everything that made Metroid Prime so special remains as important as ever in this essential Switch remaster (for which Nintendo smartly reenlisted Retro). Aside from some much-needed updates to the original game’s relatively clunky controls (although the GameCube control scheme remains available via the options menu if you hate yourself) and overhauled visuals, this is the exact same game it was 21 years ago. Because why would you mess with perfection?
Nintendo probably could have just thrown a relatively straight port our way and Metroid fans, starved as we are for content, would have eaten it up, but Retro has really gone the extra mile. The improved textures, lighting, and reworked character models go far beyond anything I’d have expected from a simple remaster. While the game’s iconic opening level blew me away on my OLED Switch, it wasn’t until I docked the console and saw Tallon IV on my TV that I audibly gasped. I can’t remember the last time a Nintendo game did that to me.
The little touches that made Metroid Prime so astonishing back in the day are just as impressive as they were in 2002. Samus’ visor fogs up with condensation when she runs through steam, and rain trickles down her arm cannon as she stares up at the sky. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best looking game on Switch. After games like Pokémon Scarlet and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 showed us the hardware is getting on, it’s really refreshing to see Retro use Metroid to show us that the little console can still absolutely stop us in our tracks.
The controls - arguably the only area where the original game shows its age - have also been vastly improved. On the GameCube Samus would have to stop in her tracks to aim freely, instead making use of a lock-on system to shoot targets while moving. Metroid Prime was never really a run-and-gun shooter, so this hardly mattered, but the remaster’s new dual-stick system is a revelation. Suddenly, Metroid Prime controls like any other modern FPS, giving Samus the ability to aim and look around as she moves. It’s a change I never knew I needed - one that makes random encounters, backtracking, and general exploration feel smoother than ever before.
Purists can choose to go back to the intended control scheme if they wish, although I’m not sure I ever could. There’s also the option to play with motion controls, which feel far more precise than they did back when Metroid Prime was re-released for the Wii.
Metroid Prime Remastered is the Nintendo Switch game I’ve been waiting for since the console launched back in 2017, and the surprise release has somehow only managed to exceed every expectation I had for it. This is the perfect version of one of the few truly perfect video games. I only hope that everyone who wrote it off as a clunky fps or Nintendo’s answer to Halo way back when will give it another chance, and discover just how good it really is.
Pros: It’s aged brilliantly, new visual updates go above and beyond, control options are excellent
Cons: Backtracking may not be for everyone
For fans of: Outer Wilds, Metroid Dread, Hollow Knight
Metroid Prime Remastered is available now for Nintendo Switch. Code for review was supplied by the publisher.
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Topics: Nintendo, Nintendo Switch