Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Still haven't picked up Metroid Prime 2? Shame on you! Here's one more look at the game that explains why Echoes is an absolute must-have.
Despite all odds, Metroid Prime was a complete success in transferring the classic Metroid formula to 3D. It really, really shouldn't have worked. It was a new 3D update of a near-on ten year-old classic side-scrolling shooter, now changed to a first person perspective under a rookie first-game developer whose workforce was being laid off in droves, with allegedly unimpressive projects rapidly getting canned. But it worked, and then some.
Prime is still one of the greatest games of this generation, and it saddens me that every time I hear about someone buying it they always play it for an hour and then never go near it again. Games have changed, gamers have changed. Metroid Prime so perfectly transferred the original game's play style of progression, backtracking and item collecting, that it has a certain appeal that doesn't click at all with gamers who barely remember the SNES. The fact that it's an action/adventure game disguised as a first-person shooter doesn't help.
I guess I'll just address this review to players of the first game, who didn't get around to snapping up Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, probably blaming certain other big titles that popped up towards the end of last year. Our hero Samus is on a mission on the planet Aether to locate and assist a group of federation troopers, but she later discovers there is much amiss on Aether. The planet has been struck by a phazon meteor and has been ripped into two dimensions, a dark and light world. Samus is drawn into an age-old struggle between the all-but-defeated planet natives the Luminoth, and the new evil inhabitants of the darkworld, the Ing. Throw an evil Phazon-enthused Dark Samus into the mix and you've got a solid story on which to spend 20-odd hours with.
Some of you at first glance may think Prime 2 is little more than a rehash of the first game with a dodgy multiplayer mode tacked on. Admittedly the first few hours don't help to convince you much otherwise; it's the usual affair of scanning, exploring every area, morphball puzzles and massive bosses hiding all your lovely power-ups. At about the halfway mark however, the game drastically picks up pace as you gain more power-ups to explore with and new areas become accessible to you.
The controls are still the same controversial affair, which in my opinion are absolutely perfect. Dual-stick FPS style is nowhere to be seen, and Retro has opted again for the more simple but effective method of locking on with the left shoulder button leaving you to strafe and dodge to your heart's desire. A few camera problems when looking vertically aside the control scheme is perfect for the game and I wouldn't change a thing.
Echoes' game world, as with the original Metroid Prime, is extremely open-ended. You're basically left to yourself to explore the game's huge world, often with little idea of where to go next. This approach is quite appealing as you get completely entangled in Metroid's world, scanning every object, reading pages of information about creatures and plants and stumbling into the odd secret or two. This world set-up - if a bit tedious - can at times give you a strong desire to progress, explore a little more and learn about Aether and its inhabitants.
If you found one world difficult to explore in the first Metroid Prime you're going to love the chaos created by the second dark world, which is basically an evil parallel of the existing light Aether. This parallel world approach to the story adds some Zelda-like gameplay, activating portals and hopping between the two worlds, changing stuff around in order to access new areas and get new items.
Retro has also dug some retro-style game difficulty out of the grave with the resurrection of the Metroid series: Echoes is hard as rock. The game doesn't hold your hand, you're not told what to do, and you're going to have some very tough boss fights to contend with. Gamers have become lazy, and like the first game if you're not up to scratch, you wont get passed the first hour.
The sheer amount of time and imagination that has gone into Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is amazing. There's never a moment in the game where I thought I was doing something I had already done before. The huge number of varied power ups - including the spiderball, dark and light beams, the grapple beam, seeker missiles, various visors and the spectacular screw attack - add so much fresh appeal to the puzzles and gameplay Retro could have doubled the game's already hefty length once you collect all the power-ups. Enough words cannot be said about how satisfying, fun and downright cool it is to wall-jump up huge towers and see sound with the Echoe Visor.
Retro has thought up some very imaginative creations, while staying true to the previous games in the series. The art and sound of echoes are again second-to-none. Aether's world don't look like they were designed in a dark room in Texas - they look like they were organically grown. The art is, in a word, stunning, and the sound isn't far off either, the catchy tunes that the Metroid series is famous for are certainly present, even if a little weaker than the music of the original Metroid Prime.
Multiplayer. We said it wouldn't work, at E3 I was forced to play it on the show floor in front of everyone and I still said it didn't work. It doesn't work. The development team said it was included because of huge demand, but I don't see how the single player mechanics could ever work in a multiplayer game and after playing it extensively it really isn't that great. There are two modes: Deathmatch and Bounty Mode.
Deathmatch is your basic all-on-all killing spree, while Bounty Mode has you dropping coins whenever you get hit so the player with the most coins at the end of the match wins. Players are reduced to shooting at each other for a minute straight, until eventually the person with the best button-mashing wins, running away from each other in morphball mode, and all franticly trying to get the best weapon in order to win. It's OK but nothing groundbreaking, especially compared to the close-to-perfect multiplayer experiences available elsewhere.
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Metroid Prime 2 Echoes
E3 2004: Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
Metroid Prime 2 Echoes
E3 2004: Trailer from conference (640x480, 1Mbps)
Metroid Prime 2 Echoes
E3 2004: Showfloor gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
Metroid Prime 2 Echoes
The first ever footage of Prime 2, as shown at E3 2003.