It hasn’t been very long since we last discussed the Metroid Prime franchise on this site, but Nintendo’s been mum on the series for a while. First announced in 2017, they’ve said nothing of Metroid Prime 4’s development since Nintendo said they were restarting from scratch in January 2019. It’s been a very long four years since then, even with Metroid Dread sweetening the deal in fall of 2021. Rumors spread for years of a remaster of the best seller GameCube classic, but many like myself were reluctant to believe it. However, not only does this remaster exist, it looks better than ever before (and it already looked pretty darn good).
Now that the original 2002 Metroid Prime is available to play with an HD remaster at this very moment, I’ve scrambled to tell any of my friends how desperately I need them to play this game over its 20 year old life and the remaster is a perfect occasion to start my push all over again. To convince them and you, I’ve collected all the little details I’ve loved about this spooky little adventure on Tallon IV over the last two decades so as you play, you can appreciate them too.
The remaster of Metroid Prime has four play modes! (Technically five if you plug a GameCube control in and remap to be close to accurate to that console’s control scheme). Not only are there ways for weird die-hards like me to go back and experiment with the old tank controls, the default makes the game feel like any other twin stick shooter for the first time ever! Even though I enjoyed the pointer controls on Wii, the second I touched Metroid Prime Remastered’s Twin Stick settings, it felt like the definitive way to play immediately. The game also allows for functional remapping, which is great because my muscle memory recalls the missile launcher being adjacent to the morph ball trigger.
Metroid Prime famously has beams that you can swap between: Power, Wave, Ice and Plasma. Where in past Metroid games these stacked as abilities, these elemental powerhouses on Samus’ arm cannon each solve different scenarios and have distinct character to them. They open respectively colored doors, sure, but they also each solve their own unique set of puzzles that unlock new areas and reward you with optional upgrades to add to your fat stack of missiles. There’s also some stunning visual details that were in the original but not in the Wii Trilogy collection, and have made a return here in Metroid Prime Remastered.
As you hold down the fire button to charge a beam, the arm cannon would expand, contract and glow to deliver different elemental powers burgeoning from the seams. The wave beam crackles with electricity, the plasma beam shows molton rock and heat and the ice beam literally freezes over Samus’ whole arm. When you unlock the x-ray visor, you can also see Samus’ hand inside of the arm cannon. Players with keen eyes can also notice she holds her fingers in different configurations that somewhat match the logo for said beam, swapping between them with some kind of Chozo sign language. The only downside is the removal of light casting as your fired shots travel across the room, but it’s truly only noticeable if you look for it.
Metroid Prime’s GameCube version was such an optimized powerhouse that you could see ripples in the water when shooting it with your weapons. While that was a very contentious exclusion for the Wii Trilogy, fans will be thrilled to see the physics feature back. The rain in Tallon IV’s overworld is as majestic as ever, with water droplets tapping on Samus’ visor when players look above into the overcast sky, and now droplets are even visible on the arm cannon as well.
Famously, Magmoor Caverns is packed full of steam filled corridors, so any players with glasses will feel right at home in Samus’ visor. Going ballistic with Samus’ canon leaves distinct smoke and steam behind, leaving a sense of heat. Another detail I love is the cloudiness of the water, limiting Samus’ visibility when submerged, but once players acquire the Gravity Suit, not only can they move freely as though it were air, the visor adjusts to make the water crystal clear to navigate through.
Inside The Helmet
While the famous mirror in Chozo Ruins has been replaced, the game is still packed to the brim with reminders of the human Samus Aran behind the helmet. Bright blasts kick back at Samus, and her eyes and bridge of her nose reflect in the glass of the visor. The angle of the Heads Up Display contorting in the shape of the viewing window, and it is packed with information. We get damage detectors, radars, health and missile counters, and of course the famous scan visor, which literally pulls up some amazing concept art and logs that can be read in real time. Retro really pulled off the “Iron Man” feel long before Marvel put that view in a film.
To start, the main canonical villain consistent in the game is Ridley, and he looks better than ever with a bit of recoloring and detail added to make him look closer to his design from Metroid: Samus Returns, the remake of Metroid II that takes place after the Prime Trilogy. If you’re wondering why Ridley keeps coming back, he follows Godzilla villain logic so don’t worry about it. The rest of the bestiary has gotten some lovingly accurate recreation, and their little animations and quirks make them feel like the planet is alive and chock full of strange bugs and monsters scuttling underground.
The aforementioned concept art in the HUD is incredible as well as Retro shows they thought through the anatomy of these creatures, as well as details on how best to justify their presence in the environment, tying those details into game tips, and making things consistent with animations like boss’ attacks, tells and stun phases. There’s also a whole menu of extras where you can look at the original and the remaster concept art as well as a gallery of the game renders on each creature.
Stories In The Biomes
Metroid is famous for its environmental storytelling, and while many applaud Fromsoft’s Dark Souls and it’s contemporaries for using item descriptions and optional text to piece together stories with their architectural design, Metroid Prime did it even earlier for 3D action games. The Chozo Ruins and Phendrana Drifts feel like a dusty crypt of their civilization, and the way that the Space Pirates build their science labs and defense towers throughout the world seamlessly gel the two opposing styles together. Both respective groups leave information behind for Samus to scan into her data logs.
]The Chozo leave their prophetic call to action for Samus as their hero and charting their downfall of how experimenting with the Phazon material in the plant’s earth corrupted their souls, leaving behind some antagonistic ghosts. Meanwhile the Space Pirates double down on their experimenting efforts with Phazon, following the crash landing of Frigate Orpheon. One of the game’s most iconic sequences is revisiting the Space Pirate Frigate you destroyed in the tutorial, now its own ruin submerged underwater. While Metroid Prime Remastered runs in the games original code and engine, geometry has been redone, lighting remade to boost ambient occlusion and everything retextured and reanimated to make the game feel like it could stand tall alongside any modern release.
The remaster gives a nice high fidelity boost to Clark Wen and Lawrene Schwelder’s (and Tommy Tallarico’s *ahem*) sound designs and effects work, with the way creatures roar, the ruins scuttle, machines lurch, and Samus’ abilities each presenting a unique sound, even the visors emitting their own audible frequencies. The shining star of Metroid Prime’s soundscape is Kenji Yamamoto’s soundtrack. While it revisits some iconic tracks from Super Metroid, a lot of these tracks were original for the time, and really leaned into the dance electronic sound of the era.
Phendrana Drifts conveys an echoing chime of ice shelves shifting, while tracks like the title screen and Phazon Mines sound like machines and test tubes syncing in rhythm to make alarming, yet catchy tracks. Each of the main biomes also have a fullly reenergized remix that could be in a DJ collection on their own. The work here feels reminiscent of industrial music like 80’s British new wave era bands. Ironically, it would have been harder to create that kind of music for video games in the early 2000s as tracks were developed in HEX code to be compatible on the game disc.
The Retro Quality
Metroid Prime just wasn’t a good looking game, it was the high watermark of graphical design on the Nintendo GameCube, was outrageously optimized in innovative ways for its time, and despite all of its rooms and biomes being separated by clever color coded doors, it achieves an immersive open world feeling that incentivizes you to keep exploring. The texture and detail work of that original game stand out among the greatest sci fi games of the 2000s.
Despite the fact most of that original team left the studio by now, its heartening to see the newest talent (most of whom worked on another beloved reboot series in Donkey Kong Country Returns and DKC Tropical Freeze) continue to uphold that mark of quality. While it runs at 900p resolution (pretty standard) it is still rare for a game of our modern era to lock 60 frames per second when it is packed with this amount of visual detail. Bravo Retro Studios, you made a lot of fans feel like kids again with this one.