North American box art
|Developer(s)||Retro Studios, Nintendo|
Metroid Prime is a video game developed by Retro Studios and Nintendo for the GameCube, released in North America on November 17, 2002 and in Japan and Europe the following year. It is the first 3D game in the Metroid series and the fifth main installment, and is classified by Nintendo as a first-person adventure rather than a first-person shooter, due to the large exploration component of the game and its precedence over combat. Metroid Prime, along with the Game Boy Advance game Metroid Fusion, that was released alongside it on the same day in North America, marked the return of the Metroid series after eight years – the last game in the franchise had been 1994's Super Metroid.
Metroid Prime is the first of the three-part Prime storyline, which takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. Like previous games in the series, Metroid Prime has a science fiction setting, in which players control the bounty hunter Samus Aran. The story follows Samus as she battles the Space Pirates and their biological experiments on the planet Tallon IV.
The game was a collaborative effort between Retro's staff in Austin, Texas and Japanese Nintendo employees, including producer Shigeru Miyamoto, who was the one who suggested the project after visiting Retro's headquarters in 2000. Despite initial backlash from fans due to the first-person perspective, the game was released to both universal acclaim and commercial success, selling more than a million units in North America alone. It not only won a number of Game of the Year awards, but it is also considered by many critics and gamers to be one of the greatest video games ever made and remains one of the highest-rated games on Metacritic. In 2009, an enhanced version was released for Wii as a standalone game in Japan and as part of Metroid Prime: Trilogy internationally.
As in previous Metroid games, Prime takes place in a large, open-ended world with different regions connected by elevators. Each region has a set of rooms separated by doors that can be opened with a shot from the correct beam. The gameplay revolves around solving puzzles to reveal secrets, platform jumping, and shooting foes with the help of a "lock-on" mechanism that allows circle strafing while staying aimed on the enemy. The game is the first in the Metroid series to use a first-person view as opposed to side scrolling, except in Morph Ball mode, when Samus's suit transforms into an armored ball and the game uses a third-person camera.
The protagonist, Samus Aran, must travel through the world of Tallon IV, searching for twelve Chozo Artifacts that will open the path to the Phazon meteor impact crater, while collecting power-ups that enable the player to reach previously inaccessible areas; the Varia Suit, for example, protects Samus' armor against dangerously high temperatures, allowing her to enter volcanic regions. Some of the items are obtained after boss and mini-boss fights, encountered in all regions except Magmoor Caverns. The most important feature about the power-up system in Prime is the necessity to collect items in a specific order, so that the player may progress. For example, players cannot access certain areas until they find a certain Beam to open doors, or discover new ordnance to beat bosses with. This is similar to most other games in the series, but is taken to a level previously unseen, in which the player must return to areas already explored, often several times, to retrieve items previously inaccessible due to the lack of other items providing access.
The heads-up display simulates the inside of Samus's helmet, featuring a radar, a map, ammunition for missiles, a health meter, a danger meter for hazardous landscape or materials, and a health bar for bosses along with the boss name. The display can be altered by exchanging visors, including one using thermal imaging, another with x-ray vision, and a scanner that searches for enemy weaknesses, and interfaces with certain mechanisms such as force fields and elevators, allowing the player to operate them. Prime also introduces a hint system that provides the player with a general idea of where to go next.
Throughout the game, players must find and collect items that improve Samus's arsenal and suit, including weapons, armor upgrades for Samus's Power Suit and items that grant abilities. Among these are the Morph Ball, which allows Samus to roll into narrow passages and drop energy bombs, and the Grapple Beam, which works similarly to a grappling hook by latching onto special hooks, called grapple points, and allowing Samus to swing from them across gaps. As a difference from the original games, the "Beam weapons" Samus collects no longer have the "stacking" ability, where the traits of each beam merge with each other. Instead the player has to cycle among the four, and there are "Charge combos" for each, with radically different effects.
Items from previous Metroid games appear, with altered functions. Art galleries and different endings are unlockable if a player obtains a high percentage of collected items and Scan Visor logs. Prime is one of the first Metroid games to address the reason Samus does not start with power-ups attained in previous games; she begins the game with certain upgrades, including the Varia Suit, Missiles and Grapple Beam, but during an explosion on the Space Pirate Frigate Orpheon, they are all lost. The producers stated that starting with some power-ups was a way to give the player "different things to do", and to learn the function of these items, before settling into the core gameplay.
Players of the game can gain two features by connecting Prime with Metroid Fusion using a Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable: use of the Fusion Suit that Samus wears in Fusion and the ability to play the original Metroid.
Background and setting
Metroid Prime is the first of the three-part Prime storyline. Retro Studios wrote an extensive storyline for Metroid Prime, which was considered a major difference from previous Metroid games. Short cutscenes appear before important battles, and the Scan Visor can be used to read records from the Chozo and the Space Pirates. The Prime trilogy is set between Metroid and Metroid II, but sources such as Gradiente, Brazil's former distributor of Nintendo, and the Nintendo Power comics adaptation of Metroid Prime, set the games as occurring after Super Metroid. This is further supported as some of the log entries in Metroid Prime refer to the destruction of Zebes at the hands of "a hunter clad in metal." The Brazilian publicity even states that the Phazon meteor is a piece of Zebes, destroyed after Super Metroid. In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, however, it was confirmed that the meteor was a "Leviathan" from the planet Phaaze.
The game takes place on planet Tallon IV, inhabited by the Chozo race. Five decades before the game's events, the Chozo civilization fell after a meteor collided into Tallon IV. The said meteor contaminated the planet with a corrupting substance later determined to be known as "Phazon", and also brought with it a creature known to the Chozo as "The Worm". A large containment field emitter of the "Artifact Temple" in the Tallon Overworld area was designed as a seal to the meteor's energies and influence within the crater where it landed, which the Space Pirates disable in order to gain better access in order to extract the Phazon. The containment field is controlled by twelve Chozo artifacts that are scattered around the planet. The player assumes the role of the bounty hunter Samus Aran, who receives a distress signal from Space Pirate Frigate Orpheon and travels to Tallon IV to stop the Space Pirates from exploiting Phazon.
Metroid Prime begins as Samus intercepts a distress signal from the Space Pirate Frigate Orpheon, whose crew has been slaughtered by the Pirates' own genetically modified experimental subjects. Upon arriving at the ship's core, she battles with the Parasite Queen, a giant version of the tiny enemies occasionally seen in the ship. Having been defeated, the Parasite Queen falls into the ship's reactor core, setting off the destruction of the ship. While Samus is escaping from the doomed frigate, she encounters a cybernetic version of Ridley called Meta Ridley. Through her escape, an electrical surge and explosion destroys all of her suit upgrades, forcing her to revert to her original Power Suit. Samus escapes the frigate, and chases her nemesis in her gunship, flying towards the nearby planet Tallon IV.
Samus initially lands at a location on the planet referred to as "Tallon Overworld" in-game, a rainforest-like area. After a brief period of exploring she discovers the Chozo Ruins, the remains of the Chozo civilization on Tallon IV. After investigating more, Samus learns that the planet had been struck by a meteor many years ago. The meteor carried with it a substance the Chozo and Space Pirates call Phazon, and also contained a creature called "The Worm". The Chozo built the Artifact Temple over the crater to contain "The Worm" and to stop the spread of Phazon over the planet. Its sealed entrance is controlled by twelve Chozo artifacts, which must be found in order to gain any access to the crater. After obtaining the Varia Suit in the ruins, Samus finds her way to the Magmoor Caverns, a series of magma-filled underground tunnels. The Caverns are used by the Space Pirates as a source of geothermal power, and connect all of the game's other areas together. Following the tunnels, Samus journeys to the Phendrana Drifts, a cold, mountainous location which is home to an ancient Chozo ruin and to Space Pirate research labs used to study Metroids, as well as various ice caves and valleys home to electrical and ice-based creatures. After obtaining the Gravity Suit in Phendrana, Samus explores the interior of the crashed Orpheon, and then infiltrates the Phazon Mines, the mining and research complex which is the center of the Space Pirates' Tallon IV operations. Here, she battles Phazon-enhanced Space Pirates and obtains the Phazon Suit after she defeats the monstrous Phazon-mutated Omega Pirate.
During her exploration of Tallon IV, Samus finds the twelve keys to the Artifact Temple, and lore recorded by both the Chozo and the Space Pirates, providing more insight about the history of the planet and the two races' colonization of it and other activities. As she puts the last of the keys in place, Meta Ridley appears and attacks her, but is defeated by Samus with some aid from the temple's defensive artillery. The Chozo Artifacts and Phazon Suit allow Samus to enter the Impact Crater, where she finds a Phazon-mutated beast called Metroid Prime, the source of the Phazon on Tallon IV. After she defeats it, all the Phazon on Tallon IV disappears, but Metroid Prime absorbs Samus's Phazon Suit in a last-ditch effort to survive, reverting her armor to the Gravity Suit. Samus then escapes the collapsing Impact Crater and leaves Tallon IV in her ship. In a post-credits scene only able to be seen if the player has collected 100 percent of the items, Metroid Prime uses the Phazon Suit to reconstruct its body, becoming the entity known as Dark Samus, the antagonist of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
After Super Metroid, Metroid fans eagerly awaited a sequel. It was supposedly slated for the Nintendo 64 or its ill-fated accessory, the 64DD, but while the game was mentioned, it never entered production. Producer Shigeru Miyamoto explained that it was because Nintendo "couldn't come out with any concrete ideas". Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto declared that he considered creating a new installment for the Nintendo 64, but was uninterested in being part of its development, particularly because of the console's controller – "I just couldn't imagine how it could be used to move Samus around". Sakamoto also said Nintendo approached another company to make an N64 Metroid, but the offer was declined as the developer felt they could not make a game that could be up to Super Metroid's standards.
Metroid Prime was developed as a collaboration between Retro Studios and important Nintendo EAD and R&D1 members. The only part of the game created outside Retro was the music. Retro Studios was created in 1998, by an alliance between Nintendo and former Iguana Entertainment founder Jeff Spangenberg, where the studio would create games for the forthcoming Nintendo GameCube targeted at an older demographic. After establishing its offices in Austin, Texas in 1999, Retro started working on four different GameCube projects. When producer Shigeru Miyamoto visited Retro in 2000, he did not like the games being produced, but suggested the development of a new Metroid game, considering the studio could deal well with the license after seeing the prototype of a first-person shooter engine they created. In 2000 and early 2001, three games were cancelled at Retro, and in July 2001, an RPG called Raven Blade was terminated so that Prime would be the only game in development. During the last nine months of development Retro's staff worked 80 to 100-hour weeks to reach the deadline imposed by Nintendo.
The Japanese crew, which included producers Miyamoto, Kensuke Tanabe and Kenji Miki, as well as game designer and Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto, communicated with the Texas-based studio through emails, monthly phone conferences and personal gatherings. The game was originally envisioned as having third-person perspective gameplay, but this was changed to a first-person perspective after Miyamoto intervened, causing almost everything already developed to be scrapped. Among the reasons for leaving the third-person perspective were Rare's trouble with the camera in Jet Force Gemini, shooting in third-person "not being very intuitive" and exploration being easier using first-person. Miyamoto has also professed a fondness for games to be in the first person perspective in an interview with Satoru Iwata. He then said he even wanted The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to take place in the first person perspective. Lead designer Mark Pacini said that after picking that perspective, the crew decided not to make a traditional first-person shooter, as "We weren't trying to fit in that genre. We had to break down the stereotypes of what a first-person game is and make a fun Metroid game.
Pacini stated that Retro tried to make the game so that the only difficult parts would be boss battles, so players would not be "afraid to explore", because "the challenge of the game was finding your way around". Senior designer Mike Wikan also declared that the focus on exploration led to development team spent much time making the platform jumping "approachable to the player", and that the resulting gameplay had "shooting [as] a very important, though secondary, consideration". Retro Studios developed the storyline of Metroid Prime under the supervision of Yoshio Sakamoto who verified the plot ideas to be consistent with the lore of the series' earlier entries. Kraid, a boss from Metroid and Super Metroid, was intended to make an appearance in Prime, and designer Gene Kohler modeled and skinned him for that purpose. However, time constraints prevented him from being included in the final version of the game. The development team also considered implementing the Speed Booster power-up from Super Metroid but ended up being discarded as they considered that it would not work well due to the first-person perspective and the "limitations imposed by the scale of our environment".
The first public appearance of the game was a ten second video at SpaceWorld 2000. In November of the same year, Retro Studios confirmed its involvement with the game in the "job application" part of its website. In February 2001, the game was confirmed by Nintendo, who also announced that despite the first-person perspective, it would be more of a first-person adventure than a first-person shooter due to emphasis on exploration. On May, the game was showcased at E3 2001, with its name confirmed as Metroid Prime. The first news of the game had mixed reactions from fans, due to the change from 2D side scrolling to 3D first-person.
Kenji Yamamoto, assisted by Kouichi Kyuuma, composed the music for Prime. The soundtrack contains remixes of tracks from previous games in the series, because Yamamoto wanted "to satisfy old Metroid fans. It's like a present for them". The initial Tallon Overworld theme is a remix of Metroid's Brinstar theme, the music in Magmoor Caverns is a remix of Super Metroid's Lower Norfair area, and the music during the fight with Meta Ridley is a remix of the Ridley boss music first featured in Super Metroid, which has been remixed and featured in most Metroid games since. Tommy Tallarico Studios initially provided sound effects for the game, though Shigeru Miyamoto thought they were not good enough yet for an extended presentation at SpaceWorld 2001. The game supports Dolby Pro Logic II setups, which allows it to be played in surround sound. There was an official soundtrack released for the game called Metroid Prime and Fusion Original Soundtracks which was supervised by Yamamoto himself.
Prime was released for the GameCube in five versions. The original North American and Japanese (NTSC) versions and the second North American version, which contained minor changes, all used a loader that sometimes caused the game to crash in certain specific rooms. The European (PAL) version contained resolved glitches and altered elements of the gameplay to prevent sequence breaking, a slower loader that prevented the occasional crashes, slightly different story details, and a narrator in the opening and closing scenes. Some of these changes were carried over from the PAL version to the the NTSC region's Player's Choice re-release, along with additional changes not in other releases. This version, which was bundled with a silver GameCube, also contained a special second disc, featuring both a preview trailer and a demo for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, a timeline of Metroid games, and an art gallery.
Metroid Prime was re-released in Japan in 2009 for Wii as part of the New Play Control! series. It has revamped controls that use the Wii Remote's pointing functionality, similar to those of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The credit system from Corruption is also included to unlock the original bonus content, as well as the ability to take snapshots of gameplay. Internationally, the Wii version was released in Metroid Prime: Trilogy, a single-disc compilation featuring Prime, Echoes, and Corruption.
Metroid Prime became one of the best-selling games on the GameCube. It was the second best-selling game of November 2002 in North America, behind Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and 250,000 units were sold in one week of its release. The game had since been sold with more than 1.49 million copies in America alone, with earnings more than $50 million in revenue. It was also the eighth best-selling GameCube game in Australia, more than 78,000 copies were sold in Japan, and the game entered the Player's Choice line in the PAL region.
Prime was critically acclaimed. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game a perfect review score. It was awarded with numerous Game of the Year awards. It was also praised for its detailed graphics, special effects, varied environments, moody soundtrack and sound effects, level design, immersive atmosphere and innovative gameplay centered on exploring as opposed to the action of games such as Halo while staying faithful to the Metroid formula. Criticisms included the unusual control scheme, which Game Informer considered awkward, lack of focus on the story, making Entertainment Weekly compare the game to a "1990s arcade game, filled with over the top battle sequences, spectacular visual effects - and a pretty weak plot", and repetitive backtracking, which GamePro stated that inexperienced players "might find it exhausting to keep revisiting the same old places over and over and over".
On GameRankings, Prime is the 11th highest rated game ever reviewed, with an average score of 96.35% (as of October 2013), making it the second-highest reviewed game of the sixth generation, below Soulcalibur for the Sega Dreamcast, which is the 1st. The video game countdown show Filter named Prime as having the Best Graphics of all time.
Prime was also chosen for some lists of best games: 23rd in IGN's Top 100, 29th in a 100 game list chosen by GameFAQs users, and 10th in Nintendo Power's "Top 200 Nintendo Games Ever". IGN named Prime the best GameCube title of all time, while GameSpy ranked it third in a similar list, behind The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Resident Evil 4, while Nintendo Power also ranked it as the sixth best game of the 2000s. Wired included the game in its list of "The 15 Most Influential Games of the Decade" at #10, for popularizing "exploration, puzzle-solving, platforming and story" among first-person shooters, concluding that the game is "breaking the genre free from the clutches of Doom. This GameCube title took one massive stride forward for first-person games." Metroid Prime also became popular among players for speedrunning, with specialized communities being formed to share these speedruns.
Three other Metroid games in the same first-person style were released after Prime, as well as a pinball spin-off. The first was the sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, released in November 2004 for the GameCube, in which Samus travels to planet Aether and discovers that a Phazon meteor crashed on the planet creating an alternate reality, while fighting a mysterious enemy called Dark Samus. It was followed by Metroid Prime Pinball, a spin-off game developed by Fuse Games and released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS. Prime Pinball is a virtual pinball game that features the locations and bosses of Prime.
The next game released was Metroid Prime Hunters for the Nintendo DS, with a storyline that takes place between the events of Prime and Echoes. A demo of the game, titled Metroid Prime Hunters — First Hunt, was released with purchase of a Nintendo DS, and the full game was released on March 20, 2006 in North America, and May 5, 2006 in Europe. The storyline follows Samus trying to discover an "ultimate power", while facing six rival bounty hunters. Hunters was not developed by Retro Studios, but by Nintendo's Redmond-based subsidiary Nintendo Software Technology. The game is more centered on first-person shooter aspects than Prime and Echoes, with removal of assisted aiming, more action-oriented gameplay, and various multiplayer modes.
Prime's second full sequel is Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which closes the Prime series. It was released on August 27, 2007 for Nintendo's Wii. In Corruption's story, Samus is corrupted by Phazon after being attacked by Dark Samus, who has become the leader of a Space Pirate group and is sending Phazon Seeds (called "Leviathans") to corrupt planets. Corruption makes changes in gameplay from Prime and Echoes, such as trading the assisted aiming for free aiming with the Wii Remote, and changing the interchangeable beams for a stackable upgrade system.
Elements of Metroid Prime have appeared in other games, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where the Frigate Orpheon is a playable stage, featuring the Parasite Queen in the background and several tracks from the game for background music. Metroid Prime's style of gameplay and HUDs also led to influence and comparison in later first-person shooters, such as Geist and Star Wars: Republic Commando.
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- Retro Studios (2007-08-27). Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Wii. Nintendo. "Logbook - "Tallon IV Incident": Planet Tallon IV, formerly a Chozo colony, was struck by a stellar object 50 years ago. The object was later determined to contain large quantities of Phazon. The Chozo were able to stave off the spread of Phazon, at the cost of many Chozo lives. The survivors abandoned the planet, fleeing to an unknown location. Decades later, Hunter Samus Aran responded to a distress call in the sector and discovered a Space Pirate Phazon Mining Station there. Aran eliminated both the pirate and Phazon threat from the planet, though not without cost."
- Retro Studios (2002-11-17). Metroid Prime. GameCube. "Chozo Lore - "Meteor Strike": A meteor came, casting a dark shadow of debris over the land with the violence of its impact. Though we perceived this from beyond space and time, it was but a curiosity: a brief flare in the universe. But the meteor brought with it corruption. A Great Poison burst forth into the land, clawing at life with such violence that we were ripped from our peaceful state and find ourselves wandering as shadows of the mortal forms we left behind, searching for why we are here."
- Retro Studios (2002-11-17). Metroid Prime. GameCube. "Chozo Lore - "Worm": The prophecies tell of the coming of the Worm. Born from parasites, nurtured in a poisoned womb, the Worm grows, devouring from within, until the world begins to rot. The words of the seers have come to pass, for there, in the depths of the world, the ravenous Worm lurks and feeds. From the stars it came, blighting Tallon with its Great Poison."
- Retro Studios (2002-11-17). Metroid Prime. GameCube. "Chozo Lore - "Contain": And so, before it is too late, we now make our last stand. We have begun to build a temple to contain this darkness: at its heart we will place a Cipher, a mystical lock powered by twelve Artifacts and filled with as much power as we Chozo can harness in our ethereal states. Even when we are done, it may be too late."
- Retro Studios (2002-11-17). Metroid Prime. GameCube. "Pirate Data - "Artifact Temple": Field team reports are in on an aged structure of alien design built on the surface of Tallon IV. Studies show this structure projects a containment field. This field bars access to a prime source of energy within a deep crater. Science Team believes the field is powered by a number of strange Chozo Artifacts. We have found some of these relics and studies on them have begun. As this field could hinder future energy production operations on Tallon IV, we must dismantle it as soon as possible. If this means the destruction of the Chozo Artifacts, it will be done."
- Retro Studios (2002-11-17). Metroid Prime. GameCube. "Chozo Lore - "Binding": The congregation of Artifacts that hold the Great Poison at bay still hold strong. Fearful of the potential within the Artifact Temple, the invaders known as Space Pirates tried to destroy it, only to fail in every attempt. We scattered the Artifacts across the planet for their protection, and only a few have fallen into invader hands. Failing to understand them, they now seek to unmake them. Again, they fail. They are right to fear these things. Great power sleeps inside them. Prophecy calls for their union, come the day that the unholy Worm is met by the great Defender. We can only hope the Artifacts are not destroyed by the invader, for then all will be lost. So, we do what we can to preserve the Artifacts, and to guide the Newborn to them."
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