If I ever get a chance to return to the past circa 2007 and give my past-self on the cusp of adulthood some advice, aside from the obvious financial and romantic counsel, I would emphatically convince him to get an Xbox 360 and not a Wii. I'm not saying there are no good games for the Wii, I'm just saying I would have preferred to waste time with a wider variety of better games on a different system. The one saving grace of Nintendo's fading console is its backwards-compatibility. I've been able to revisit a lot of my old favorite Gamecube titles and pick up some classics that I missed the first time around, such as METROID PRIME.
If you know me at all, you'll know that I am quite a fan of Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series. I'm still reeling from the disappointment I experienced from the last entry in the series, Twilight Princess, and only now can I properly explain why: It was not enough like Metroid Prime.
In Metroid Prime, you play a battle-hardened space warrior who has been executing a galaxy-wide vendetta against an organization known as the Space Pirates. They killed your parents or something. Your hunt brings you to the largely-unexplored planet Tallon IV. Using your meager arsenal, you have to explore the planet for clues as to the whereabouts of the space pirates, the location of objects that will repair your space suit, and information regarding the now-extinct race that used to inhabit Tallon IV.
The set-up should be familiar to anyone who's played some kind of exploration game: as you acquire new abilities, you gain access to new locations or new parts of places you only thought you'd properly scoured. Nobody does this better than Metroid Prime. I've been playing on and off for two weeks now and I still can't get over how well-designed this game is. Unlike The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo's other flagship exploration series, you never acquire an ability that is totally useless or destined for obsolescence and forces you to read often-oblique clues or do some heavy-duty exploration in order to find the next step in your goal. The game never holds your hand and the way save points are implemented few and far between makes for a challenging, yet rewarding experience. With the help of a first-person perspective, you really feel like you are alone on an unfamiliar and hostile (mostly hostile) planet.
If I could change anything about the design, it would be the way it handles different locations on the planet. The way the game presents it, you land in a lush forest and immediately transition to a barren desert ruin. From there, you enter some lava-filled caves which open up to an icy mountain landscape. I don't expect an entire planet to have one ecosystem, but it would be nice to see some logic or some originality. After all these years, you start to get pretty sick of going through areas with clear-cut Forest, Desert, Fire, and Ice themes. However, I can't complain too loudly, since I haven't seen all the areas that the game has to offer.
Another thing I like about the game is how they handle the main character's gender, which is to say, they don't reference it at all, except in the final cutscene, where Samus removes her helmet . This is a direct subversion of the cheesecake treatment most video game females receive, a subversion that was unfortunately too good to last.
Later entries into the Metroid series would end with Samus taking off more and more clothing, resulting in montages like this
. Sigh. I'm not saying that Samus should always be a totally sexless robot killer all the time, but I find the idea that you get increasingly "sexier" ending photos based on faster or more complete runthroughs of the game highly problematic.