Wow. That’s the reaction that came to mind when we all first learned of Nintendo’s plans to relaunch its now-classic Trilogy on a single Wii disc (complete with revamped control schemes)… and now that I’ve spent a significant amount of time with the final game, it hasn’t changed. Whether you’re just considering the series for the first time or you’re a veteran back for another round, our review’s got you covered.
Rewind to 2002. With Metroid Prime on the horizon, gamers are flipping out over the concept of the sacred franchise (which had been dormant for eight years) presumably being dragged through the mud by a radical first-person design choice. Internet forum wars raged over the validity of the “first-person adventure” defense, which claimed that the game diverged significantly from the typical concept of FPS. Meanwhile, chaos seemed to rule at Retro Studios, the newly-formed powerhouse of a first-party developer that was as plagued by negative rumors as it was chocked full of industry talent.
To the surprise of many, however, the highly-anticipated launch of Metroid Prime in November of 2002 did, in fact, redefine the concept of a first-person “shooter” (or, perhaps more accurately, any first-person game where you’re staring through the eyes of the hero with a weapon sticking out in front of you). The game won accolades everywhere, including from our staff (at our old site), and solicited nearly universal praise among members of internet gaming communities. Somehow, against all odds, the creative talent at Nintendo and Retro managed to seamlessly translate the same sense of uncomfortable, alien isolation and unique element of exploratory progression and connectedness that defined the classic Metroid games to a 3-D design. It was a good day to be a Nintendo fan.
The two sequels that followed in the Prime subfranchise didn’t have nearly the impact that the first game did, but they were still quality titles easily hovering around the 9.0 scoring range according to most critics (warning: old-school defunct Wayback link of one of my old reviews here—please note our scoring scale was different then). What we have here, now, in Metroid Prime Trilogy, is all three games wrapped up into one package, all now featuring the fantastic controls of Prime 3, for the same price as a single game. How could you not love this?
A perfect testament to the superior art style and level design of the original, Metroid Prime truly still impresses both visually and sensationally seven years later. Its age is apparent, of course, but amazingly, the sense of awe and astonishing beauty of the rain pouring over the Tallon IV landing site and the first step onto the snowy plains of Phendrana still provide that same tinge of gaming magic. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Prime Trilogy now features a widescreen presentation, something that honestly puts the first two Prime titles on even graphical footing with even many Wii titles.
The first of the three titles is simply one of the most immersive and unique gaming experiences of the past decade. As touched upon earlier, the profundity of the experience is largely attributable to three factors: the massive world, its intricate interconnectedness, and the subtle fusion of awe and insecurity that defines the Metroid universe. It really isn’t a first-person shooter; retrospectively, the title is almost unanimously defined as an first-person adventure/action game with shooter elements—just like previous Metroid titles. In Myst-like fashion, Prime commands the player’s imagination with alien surroundings that exude a quality of having just recently been vacated. It’s hard to truly understand just how well the game pulls this off without sitting down and trekking through the Chozo Ruins for oneself.
The second and third Prime games aren’t quite as mystical and seamlessly-executed, but they’re still solid adventure titles with pretty firm rooting in the Metroid style. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is marginally larger and longer than the first adventure (and considerably more difficult), but that’s due in part to a Link to the Past-style dark/light dual-world design which is more of an artificial breed of extension (and which has staled as a gaming device over the years). The dark world is a bit excessive with its moody, dark-purple presentation, and its overuse eventually wears on the player… but beyond that, the game is nearly as cohesive as the first.
The third and final entry in the series, which fellow editor and sibling Greg Schardein judged back in 2007, is less Metroid and more Halo in some ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less great of a game. Its greatest flaw is the addition of a narrative and too-frequent cut scenes, rendering it more of a typical action/FPS than either of its predecessors (or any other Metroid title, for that matter). Consequently, it is tragically missing that same sense of quiet isolation and self-discovery that defines the core of the series—but it still manages to preserve the sci-fi weirdness, alien technology, and other required ingredients. It’s different, but in the scope of the completed trilogy, perhaps that isn’t a bad thing.
Regardless of the specifics, when you boil it all down, you’re getting three quality games—one which is a rare 10/10, and the other two 9/10—for the price of one. In terms of longevity, we’re talking 60–90 hours of gameplay for first-timers, depending on how quickly you work and how much stuff you collect (and as Metroid fans know, there are tons of secrets to be discovered). That’s one hell of a great deal no matter how you slice it.
Quantifiably, not much has changed with the games, but qualitatively, it’s a different story. As you’ve already read, the trilogy features the same fantastic (read: nearly flawless) Wii control scheme from Prime 3 retrofitted for all three titles—and boy, does it ever make a difference. There is a choice of sensitivity levels—also as with Prime 3—but Advanced is certainly the way to go. The HUD is also subtly (and suitably) refined to accommodate these new gameplay alterations. Finally, Prime 1 and 2 now offer difficulty selection (again along the lines of 3, though the Veteran setting honestly seems no more difficult than I recall the game previously being… or maybe I’m just that good). Likewise, the new widescreen presentation is great (and practically a requirement these days).
In addition to all of that, there’s now a slew of unlockable extra features that you uncover as you play through the adventures; these include artwork, songs from the games, and other such novelties. Like always, this isn’t enough of a bonus to warrant a purchase alone, but it still serves as a tasty icing on an already quite delicious cake. And, of course, you get a slick new menu and opening cinema, complete with nicely-done transitions and a stylish pointer-based interface.
But naturally, not many changes or additions are even necessary when we’re talking about a collection of three lengthy, unique, and well-constructed action/adventure games. Whether you’re a newcomer to the Prime series or you’re simply looking to experience the games once again with updated controls and widescreen presentation, it’s hard to see how you could go wrong with Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Full Disclosure: The editor had fully completed all three Metroid Prime titles (100%) prior to playing this trilogy collection. Nevertheless, he completed Prime 1 on the trilogy in its entirety to get a better feel for how the gameplay and presentational changes affected the overall experience of what he considers to be a recent masterpiece. He also completed 10% of Prime 2 and the very beginning of Prime 3 to verify that the same observations apply to them.