Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Top 10 Most Shocking Games in a Series - #10: Metroid Prime

Netto and the rest of us are almost done with our Top 10, so in the meantime before it's finally posted on GameFAQs, we thought we'd post them here too, in separate posts for each game. Starting off with one I wrote, Number 10: Metroid Prime.

In 1987 the NES game Metroid was released. A sidescrolling platformer where you play as Samus Aran, navigating the planet Zebes with upgrades to find such as the Morph Ball, which allows Samus to navigate small tunnels, Missiles, which damage enemies heavily and can open certain doors, the Ice Beam, which freezes enemies for a short time, and the Varia Suit, which is heat resistant and reduces damage taken, as well as Energy Tanks, which boost your maximum health. Samus must use the upgrades he finds as he shoots his way though the violent monsters of the alien atmospheres of the planet to defeat Kraid, Ridley, and their leader, Mother Brain, to stop them from using the parasitic organisms known as Metroids to eliminate all who oppose the Space Pirates. And at the end, after you've escaped from the self-destruct sequence of Tourian and saved space from the tyranny of the Space Pirates, it's revealed that... Samus is a girl?!

Metroid was extremely successful after its release, selling over 2 million copies. It was popular enough that it got a sequel, four years later we saw the release of Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Game Boy. This game was about Samus traveling to the alien planet SR388 to destroy the last remaining Metroids to ensure peace and safety. Metroid II was generally the same formula as the first one, introducing a few upgrades such as the Space Jump and Spider Ball, but it was much more linear, as the game denied you access to later areas until you'd hunted enough Metroids down. The screen size was also a bit of a problem as Samus' sprite was also made larger. Metroid II was generally received well, but most people preferred the original.

Still, after all this, the Metroid series was yet to see its definitive entry... that is, until 1994. Super Metroid was the third entry into the Metroid series. Released on April 18th, 1994, Super Metroid took everything that the first game established and polished it up VERY nicely, with a unique art style, an active and high-scale soundtrack and gameplay refined for more control while shooting, as well as more platforming ability with the several new upgrades, such as the Grappling Beam, the wall jump, and several new weapon upgrades such as the Spazer and Plasma Beam, and the ability to charge Samus' regular shots. Samus was now returning to the planet Zebes as Ridley had made a return, sabotaging a research station and kidnapping a baby Metroid. Despite the return to the planet, the world has changed a lot and you visit many places that you didn't in the first game, with a lot more atmosphere for a deep effect.

Super Metroid was pretty well received, but by this time Mario and Zelda were already rocking the market as Nintendo's go-to series. Not only that, but the game was being heavily overshadowed by the popularity of the Donkey Kong Country series, as well as the impending releases of the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. Metroid remained behind in popularity for a while after Super Metroid's release. A Nintendo 64 game had been planned, but they never started work on it, as they couldn't come up with any strong ideas. It wasn't until the Nintendo GameCube when Samus would get another adventure...

But first let's backtrack a bit. In 1998, Nintendo teamed up with the former founder of Iguana Entertainment, Jeff Spangenberg, to create Retro Studios. After their offices were established in 1999, Retro started working on a few GameCube games, but when Shigeru Miyamoto visited the studio in 2000, he didn't approve of any of the games being developed there. Instead, after seeing one of their projects, he suggested that they work on a Metroid title instead. Retro eventually cancelled all of  the games they had been working on, so that they could all focus on developing the next entry into the Metroid franchise.

So then came the big question, how would Metroid make the jump from 2D to 3D? Would it remain a sidescrolling platformer or would they revamp its genre completely? Well initially in development the game started as a third-person shooter, with an over the shoulder perspective. However, Miyamoto didn't like this, he suggested they instead make it a first person shooter, and so began the development of Metroid Prime.

Metroid Prime was released in 2002, and wasn't like anything Metroid had done before. Rather than a 2d platformer, Metroid Prime opted for a 3d first person perspective focused on combat and the world around you. The game first starts on the Space Pirate Frigate named Orpheon, in orbit around Tallon IV, as Samus arrives having intercepted a distress signal. She soon finds that the Space Pirates onboard had been slaughtered by their own mutated experiments. As Samus progresses through the frigate she eventually comes accross the dangerous Parasite Queen, and after killing it in combat, it falls into the ship's reactor core, setting off its destruction. As Samus escapes the frigate, she experiences an electrical surge that causes her to lose her suit upgrades and weapons, but despite this she succeeds in escaping. Seeing her old nemesis Ridley flying to the planet below, Samus gives chase in her ship to investigate.

At this point seeing a new Metroid title was a surprise in itself, let alone a practical reboot like Prime was. Metroid Prime was a drastic change for the series, if only because it was in 3D. The first person perspective was fresh and new for the series and the combat was unique itself, being very quick and seamless. The game was much more story based with its silent storytelling, providing a lot of backstory through Chozo inscriptions and Space Pirate logs. The game was also a bit more linear, as goals were usually straightforward for the first half of the game.

Metroid Prime was one of the few series-deviating GameCube games that was received well. It sold over 1 million copies in America alone and many people consider it to be the best game of the franchise.