Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gameday Sunday: Memories of Metroid Part III

And here's week 3 of Frank Warden's retrospective on the Metroid franchise. Check back next week for the final installment! - Azure

2002 marked a unique year for the Metroid franchise as not one—but two—new games were released. Metroid Prime would go on to become one the most popular and best-selling titles on the Nintendo GameCube. 

Developed by Retro Studios in Austin, Texas, Metroid Prime was the fist game in the series to adopt a 3D perspective. What had long been a side-scrolling franchise had now become a first-person shooter, allowing the player to literally see through Samus’ helmet. Nintendo was adamant in downsizing the ‘shooter’ aspect and referred to the game as a first-person adventure.

Chronologically, Metroid Prime takes place after the events of the original Metroid game. Samus receives a distress call from the space pirate frigate Orpheon, where she finds most of the crew dead and parasitic creatures running loose. A series of events lead to the destruction of the frigate and Samus ends up on Tallon IV, a dangerous planet contaminated by Phazon, a volatile substance born from a crashed meteorite.

While Samus has her share of enemies to dispatch in the game, the main focus of Prime is exploration which often has the player ‘scanning’ objects to learn about the background of various creatures and the history of Tallon IV.

It was a controversial move to turn Metroid into a first-person adventure, but it was a decision that paid off and converted many of the naysayers who were wary of the change. Even so, those who desired a more familiar gameplay style were treated to Metroid Fusion for Nintendo’s then-current handheld console, the Game Boy Advance.

Returning to format of 2D side-scroller, Fusion had Samus returning to planet SR388 where she is infected by a dangerous virus known as the X-Parasite. Unlike the previous games, Fusion had a far more linear story with direct mission objectives instead of lengthy free roaming. The Game Boy Advance would again play host to Samus’ further exploits in 2004. Metroid: Zero Mission was marketed as an enhanced remake of the original 1986 Metroid game, but included new power-ups, weapons, and an additional ending.

While the Game Boy Advance Metroid titles earned favor among gamers, it was Prime that had lured in the largest crowd – and profits. In 2004 Metroid Prime 2: Echoes arrived on the GameCube. Once again utilizing the third-person perspective, Echoes found Samus investigating the disappearance of a team of Galactic Federation marines. Traveling to the planet Aether, where they were last heard from, Samus finds this alien world is split into two dimensions – one light and one dark. Aside from a variety of unfriendly creatures called the Ing, Samus must contend with an evil version of herself – Dark Samus.

By 2004 Nintendo’s latest handheld, the Nintendo DS, was hitting shelves across the country. A year later Metroid Prime: Pinball made its debut on the portable console. Possibly the most unusual addition to the series, the title was a straightforward pinball game, loosely covering the events of the first Metroid Prime. Since Samus’ armor has the ability to morph her body into the shape of a ball—referred to as the Morph Ball—this form stood in as the ‘pinball’.

In 2006 Metroid Prime Hunters was the second and final game in the series to make it onto the Nintendo DS. Once again implementing the first-person adventure format, Hunters called on Samus to track a strange message that speaks of an ultimate power in the Alimbic system. Her mission is further aggravated by the presence of six rival bounty hunters who are also determined to uncover the secrets of this ‘power’. Hunters was the first and, as of now, only game in the franchise to utilize online multiplayer gaming.

Check back next week for the fourth and final installment of Memories of Metroid...

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