North American box art
Metroid Prime is a video game developed by Retro Studios and Nintendo for the GameCube console. It was released in North America on November 17, 2002, and in Japan and Europe the following year. Metroid Prime is the fifth main installment and the first 3D game in the Metroid series. Because exploration takes precedence over combat, Nintendo classifies Metroid Prime as a first-person adventure rather than a first-person shooter. On the same day as its North American release, Nintendo also released the Game Boy Advance game Metroid Fusion, marking the return of the Metroid series after an eight-year hiatus following Super Metroid (1994). In 2009, an enhanced version was released for Wii as a standalone game in Japan and as part of Metroid Prime: Trilogy internationally.
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 collaboration between Retro's staff in Austin, Texas, and Japanese Nintendo employees, including producer Shigeru Miyamoto, who suggested the project after visiting Retro's headquarters in 2000. Despite initial backlash against the game's first-person perspective, the game garnered critical praise and commercial success, selling more than a million units in North America alone. It won a number of Game of the Year awards, and it is considered by many critics and gamers to be one of the greatest video games ever made, remaining one of the highest-rated games on Metacritic.
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 a scanner in the heads-up display extracts backstory-related information from objects.
The Prime trilogy is set between the events of Metroid and Metroid II, but according to some sources, including Gradiente—Brazil's former Nintendo distributor— and the Nintendo Power comics adaptation of Metroid Prime, the events in the Prime games occur after Super Metroid. The Brazilian publicity states that the Phazon meteor is a piece of Zebes, which was 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, formerly 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 that the Space Pirates named "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 attempt to disable or bypass 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 investigate and stop the Space Pirate activity she found. Her investigation leads her to stop the Space Pirates from exploiting Phazon and stop the spread of Phazon on Tallon IV.
Samus intercepts a distress signal from the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon, whose crew have been slaughtered by the Pirates' own genetically modified, experimental subjects. At the ship's core, she battles with the Parasite Queen—a giant version of the tiny parasites aboard the ship. The Parasite Queen is defeated and falls into the ship's reactor core, initiating the destruction of the ship. While Samus is escaping from the doomed frigate, she encounters a cybernetic version of Ridley called Meta Ridley. During her escape, an electrical surge and explosion destroys her suit upgrades, forcing her to revert to her original Power Suit. Samus escapes the frigate and chases her nemesis in her gunship towards the nearby planet Tallon IV.
Samus initially lands on Tallon IV at a rainforest location referred to as "Tallon Overworld". After a brief period of exploring, she discovers the Chozo Ruins, the remains of the Chozo civilization. After further investigation, Samus learns that many years ago, the planet was struck by a meteor, which carried with it a substance the Chozo and Space Pirates call Phazon. The meteor also contained a creature called "The Worm". The Chozo built an Artifact Temple over the crater to contain "The Worm" and to stop the Phazon from spreading over the planet. The temple's sealed entrance is controlled by twelve Chozo artifacts, which must be found to gain 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, which are used by the Space Pirates as a source of geothermal power and connect the game's areas together. Following the tunnels, Samus travels to the Phendrana Drifts, a cold, mountainous location which is home to an ancient Chozo ruin and Space Pirate research labs used to study Metroids, as well as ice caves and valleys home to electrical and ice-creatures. After obtaining the Gravity Suit in Phendrana, Samus explores the interior of the crashed Orpheon, 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 defeating 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 the Chozo and the Space Pirates, providing insight into the history of the planet and the two races' colonization of it. As Samus puts the final key in place, Meta Ridley appears and attacks her. Samus defeats it with help from the temple's defensive artillery. The Chozo Artifacts and Phazon Suit allow Samus to enter the Impact Crater, where she finds the so-called "Worm": the Metroid Prime, the source of the Phazon on Tallon IV. After she defeats it, all the Phazon on Tallon IV disappears, but the Metroid Prime absorbs Samus's Phazon Suit in a final effort to survive, reverting her armor to the Gravity Suit. Samus escapes the collapsing crater and leaves Tallon IV in her ship. In a post-credits scene, only viewable if the player has collected all of the items, Metroid Prime uses the Phazon Suit to reconstruct its body, becoming the entity known as Dark Samus—one of the antagonists of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and the main antagonist of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
As in previous Metroid games, Metroid Prime takes place in a large, open-ended world in which regions are 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 involves 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 at the enemy. Metroid Prime is the first game in the Metroid series to use a first-person view instead of side-scrolling, except in Morph Ball mode, when Samus' 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, which are encountered in all regions except Magmoor Caverns. Items must be collected 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 with which to beat bosses. Like the rest of the series, players are incentivized to explore the open world to find upgrades such as ammunition packs and extra health.
The heads-up display, which simulates the inside of Samus' helmet, features a radar display, a map, ammunition for missiles, a health meter, a danger meter for negotiating hazardous landscape or materials, and a health bar and name display for bosses. The display can be altered by exchanging visors; one uses thermal imaging, another has x-ray vision, and another features a scanner that searches for enemy weaknesses and interfaces with mechanisms such as force fields and elevators. Metroid Prime introduces a hint system that provides the player with clues about ways to progress through the game.
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—including the Morph Ball which allows Samus to roll into narrow passages and drop energy bombs, and the Grapple Beam which works by latching onto special hooks called grapple points, allowing Samus to swing across gaps. Unlike those in earlier games in the series, the beam weapons in Metroid Prime have no stacking ability, in which the traits of each beam merge. Instead, the player must cycle the four beam weapons; there are charge combos with radically different effects for each.
Items from previous Metroid games appear with altered functions. Art galleries and different endings are unlockable if the player collects a high percentage of items and Scan Visor logs. Prime is one of the first Metroid games to address the reason Samus does not start with power-ups acquired in previous games; she begins the game with some upgrades, including the Varia Suit, Missiles and Grapple Beam, but they are lost during an explosion on the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon. The producers stated that starting with some power-ups was a way to give the player "different things to do" and to learn the functions of these items before settling into the core gameplay.
Players can gain two features by connecting Prime with Metroid Fusion using a Nintendo GameCube – Game Boy Advance link cable: use of the Fusion Suit that Samus wears in Fusion and the ability to play the original Metroid.
After Super Metroid, fans of the series eagerly awaited a sequel. It was allegedly due for release for the Nintendo 64, but while the game was mentioned several times, it never entered production. Producer Shigeru Miyamoto said this was because Nintendo "couldn't come out with any concrete ideas". Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto said that he considered creating a new installment for the Nintendo 64, but was not interested in being part of its development, mainly because of the console's controller. He said, "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 because the developers thought they could not make a game that could equal Super Metroid's standards.
Metroid Prime was a collaboration between Retro Studios and important Nintendo EAD and R&D1 members. The overall game design was a collaborative effort, while the art and engineering was done entirely at Retro, and the music was fully handled in Japan. Retro Studios was created in 1998 by an alliance between Nintendo and Iguana Entertainment founder Jeff Spangenberg. The studio would create games for the forthcoming GameCube targeted at a mature 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 suggested the development of a new Metroid game after seeing the prototype of a first-person shooter engine they created. In 2000 and early 2001, three games in development at Retro were canceled, and in July 2001, an RPG called Raven Blade was terminated, leaving Prime as the only game in development there. 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, Kenji Miki and game designer and Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto, communicated with the Texas-based studio through e-mails, telephone conferences and personal gatherings. The game was originally planned as having third-person perspective gameplay, but after Miyamoto intervened this was changed to first-person perspective and almost everything already developed was scrapped. The change from third-person perspective was prompted by camera problems experienced by Rare Ltd., which was developing Jet Force Gemini. According to game director Mark Pacini, Miyamoto "felt that shooting in third person was not very intuitive"; Pacini also said that exploration is easier using first-person. Pacini said that after picking that perspective, the crew decided not to make a traditional first-person shooter. He said, "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 design the game so that the only difficult parts would be boss battles and players would not be afraid to explore because "the challenge of the game was finding your way around". Senior designer Mike Wikan also said that the focus on exploration led the development team to spend much time making the platform jumping "approachable to the player", and to ensure 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 that the plot ideas were consistent with the lore of the series' earlier games. The developers intended that Kraid, a boss from Metroid and Super Metroid, would appear in Prime; designer Gene Kohler modeled and skinned him for that purpose. However, time constraints prevented Kraid from being included in the final version of the game. The development team considered implementing the Speed Booster power-up from Super Metroid but concluded it would not work well because of the first-person perspective and "limitations imposed by the scale of our environment", and discarded it.
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, which also announced that because of its emphasis on exploration and despite the first-person perspective, Metroid Prime would be a first-person adventure rather than a first-person shooter. In May 2001, the game was showcased at E3 2001 , with its name confirmed as Metroid Prime. The first views of the game drew a mixed reactions from fans because of the change from 2D side-scrolling to 3D first-person navigation.
Kenji Yamamoto, assisted by Kouichi Kyuma, composed the music for Prime. The soundtrack contains arrangements of tracks from previous games in the series because Yamamoto wanted "to satisfy old Metroid fans. It's like a present for them", he said. The initial Tallon Overworld theme is a reinterpretation of Metroid's Brinstar theme, the music heard in Magmoor Caverns is a new version of the music from Super Metroid's Lower Norfair area, and the music heard during the fight with Meta Ridley is a fast-paced reimagining of the Ridley boss music first featured in Super Metroid—which has reappeared in most Metroid games since. Tommy Tallarico Studios initially provided sound effects for the game, but Shigeru Miyamoto thought they were not yet good enough for an extended presentation at SpaceWorld 2001. The game supports Dolby Pro Logic II setups and can be played in surround sound. The official soundtrack to the game was released on an album called Metroid Prime & Fusion Original Soundtracks, which was published by Scitron on June 18, 2003.
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 specific rooms. The European PAL version resolved these glitches and contained altered elements of the gameplay to prevent sequence breaking, a slower loader that prevented the occasional crashes, slightly different story details, and narration in the opening and closing scenes. Some of these changes were carried over from the PAL version to the NTSC region's Player's Choice re-release, along with additional changes not made in other releases. This version, which was bundled with a silver GameCube, also contained a second disc featuring 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 improved controls that use the Wii Remote's pointing functionality. The credit system from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is also included to unlock the original bonus content and the ability to take snapshots of gameplay. Internationally, the Wii version was released in Metroid Prime: Trilogy, a single-disc compilation containing Prime, Echoes, and Corruption for Wii. On January 29, 2015, the compilation became available for download from the Wii U's Nintendo eShop.
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; 250,000 units were sold in the first week of its release. As of July 2006[update], the game had sold more than 1.49 million copies in the U.S. alone, and had earned more than US$50 million. It was also the eighth best-selling GameCube game in Australia. More than 78,000 copies were sold in Japan, and Nintendo added the game to its Player's Choice line in the PAL region.
Metroid Prime was met with universal acclaim. Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded the game a perfect review score. It won numerous Game of the Year awards and was praised for its detailed graphics, special effects, varied environments, moody soundtrack and sound effects, level design, immersive atmosphere and innovative gameplay centered on exploration in contrast with action games such as Halo, while staying faithful to the Metroid formula. Criticisms included the unusual control scheme, lack of focus on the story, and repetitive backtracking. Game Informer considered the control scheme awkward, Entertainment Weekly compared the game to a "1990s arcade game, filled with over the top battle sequences, spectacular visual effects—and a pretty weak plot", and GamePro stated that inexperienced players "might find it exhausting to keep revisiting the same old places over and over and over".
On GameRankings, Metroid Prime is the 11th-highest rated game ever reviewed, with an average score of 96.35% as of April 2014, making it the second-highest reviewed game of the sixth generation after Soulcalibur for the Sega Dreamcast. The video game countdown show Filter said Metroid Prime had the best graphics of all time.
Metroid Prime appeared on several lists of best games; it was ranked 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 Metroid 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. Nintendo Power also ranked Metroid Prime as the sixth-best game of the 2000s. Wired ranked the game 10th in its list of "The 15 Most Influential Games of the Decade" for popularizing "exploration, puzzle-solving, platforming and story" among first-person shooters, saying that the game was "breaking the genre free from the clutches of Doom". Wired's writer continued; "This GameCube title took one massive stride forward for first-person games." Metroid Prime also became popular among players for speedrunning; specialized communities were formed to share these speedruns.
After Metroid Prime, three more games in the first-person perspective and a pinball spin-off were released. The sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes—in which Samus travels to planet Aether and discovers that a Phazon meteor crashed there, creating an alternate reality and Samus fights a mysterious enemy called Dark Samus—was released in November 2004 for the GameCube. It was followed by Metroid Prime Pinball, a spin-off game featuring the locations and bosses of Metroid Prime, developed by Fuse Games and released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS.
The next game released was Metroid Prime Hunters for the Nintendo DS; its storyline takes place between the events of Prime and Echoes. A demo of the game, titled Metroid Prime Hunters—First Hunt, was bundled with the Nintendo DS, and the full game was released on March 20, 2006, in North America and May 5, 2006, in Europe. In its narrative, Samus tries 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 contains more first-person shooter aspects than Prime and Echoes, with removal of assisted aiming, more action-oriented gameplay, and various multiplayer modes.
Metroid 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 console. 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 to corrupt planets. Corruption's gameplay differs from that of Prime and Echoes; the assisted aiming is replaced with free aiming with the Wii Remote, and the interchangeable beams is replaced with a stackable upgrade system.
Elements of Metroid Prime have appeared in other games, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl in which the frigate Orpheon is a playable stage, featuring the Parasite Queen in the background and several music tracks from Metroid Prime as background music. Metroid Prime's style of gameplay and HUDs also influenced and was compared to later first-person shooters, such as Geist and Star Wars: Republic Commando.
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Logbook - "Leviathan Infant": Leviathans are the children of Phaaze. They are bioforms that begin life deep within the planet, inside the base of a serpentine organ that serves as a womb. The Leviathan will remain in here, feeding on an endless supply of Phazon, until it has developed its Phazon core. (...) As time passes and the older ones are launched into space, the Leviathan will slowly make its way to the planet's surface. It is here the Leviathan will reach full maturity. Once Phaaze has located a planetary target to corrupt, it will launch the Leviathan into space. (...) Instinctively, it homes in on its planetary target. Shortly after impact, the bioform dies, leaving its armored shell to protect the Phazon core. Before it dies, the bioform often attracts and enthralls a large local predator. After mutating it through intense Phazon exposure, it compels the creature to protect the core. The core then begins to seep into the planet, replacing the local ecosystem with one based on Phazon.
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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.
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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.
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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 (November 17, 2002). Metroid Prime. GameCube. Level/area: Tallon Overworld - Artifact Temple.
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 (November 17, 2002). Metroid Prime. GameCube. Level/area: Tallon Overworld - Temple Security Station.
Pirate Data - "Artifact Site": 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.
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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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