I think it’s about time I brought back Top 10 Tuesdays! Yes, I’ve been furloughed, and yes, this lockdown has returned me to writing (or vice versa?). So I think it’s about time to draw up some more Top 10 lists!
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Metroid Prime 4. I’d completely forgotten about it until coming across an article that stated the whole project had been restarted. Nintendo weren’t too happy with the project, and now development has been shifted to Retro Studies, the makers of the original Prime trilogy. Why not give the project to Retro Studios in the first place? This, coupled with the current Covid-19 pandemic, probably means that we won’t see Metroid Prime 4 for a long time…if at all.
With that in mind, I thought about the Metroid franchise, and my favourite entries, and I soon came up with a Top 10 list! So, for your enjoyment, here it is… (oh, I’m only counting main entries in the franchise, so the Hunters spin-offs, pinball games, etc are excluded. Never bothered with them anyway!).
Metroid: The Other M
This much maligned Wii entry was radically different to the usual Metroid game (more akin to Metroid Fusion in its linear progression), but the accentuation of the combat really sucked me in. If this were a spin-off, perhaps, that would be acceptable. The second time I played through it…I hated every minute. Fusion was linear, but with opportunities to explore in the usual Metroid fashion. Here, you’re constrained at every opportunity. You’re told what power-up you can unlock, you’re told where to go…and the combat get incredibly repetitive after a while. And the story, the voice acting, the dialogue…just pathetic. Proof that Bandai-Namco should never have been let near the Metroid franchise.
Yes, the classic that started it all…that is barely playable nowadays. I’ve tried to play it several times, but given up each time. Thanks to the NES Classic and the quick save feature, I was able to slowly but surely get to the end…and it’s not something I’d do again. Everywhere looks the same, meaning it’s hard to create an imaginary map. Thanks to invisible holes in walls that are sometimes key to progression, you can spend ages looking for the next powerup. For a Nintendo-produced game, the controls are strangely awkward and stiff. Yes, play this if you really want to see the beginning of the franchise. If not, play Zero Mission instead.
Metroid: Samus Returns
I wrote about this remake at length (click here my blog about it). As a remake of Metroid II, it fails miserably. Much like Metroid – The Other M, this remake focuses heavily on action and a new counter-attack mechanic. You’ll be forced to use it as without it, enemies are almost invincible. Yes, the exploration is much better and easier than its inspiration, but with all the tweaks made to the game, it may as well have been a brand new entry in the franchise. It feels as if the developers are constrained by Metroid II, and are doing everything to ignore the atmosphere and themes of it. The original was about the morality of genocide. This is about glorifying in it.
Metroid Prime 3
Of course, being a Wii game, the last (or so we thought) entry in the Prime trilogy utilized irritating motion controls that added nothing to the gameplay. Along with the motion controls came a reduction in difficulty and hand-holding on a level perhaps never seen before in the franchise (with the exception of Fusion). Making Samus able to visit other planets sounds like a decent idea, but the whole point of a Metroid game is to be absorbed in the atmosphere. That’s impossible here, as you hope from planet to planet, often in pursuit of a powerup. A motley crew of characters add little to the gameplay, further detracting from the sense of isolation that every Metroid game should have. Not a disaster, but easily the worst entry in the Prime trilogy.
Metroid II – Return of Samus
This Game Boy sequel has aged a little better than the NES original Yes, it’s grainy, hard to navigate at times thanks to similarity of world design, and the sound can be very grating. But, more often than not, your pathway is clear: downwards, so until the latter parts of the game, it’s hard to get lost. The controls are a little stiff (and unreliable), but what this game has in buckets is atmosphere. As a child playing this game, I was scared more than a few times (especially at the end, where you hear the Queen Metroid scream after you kill all of her children). Also, it has something to say, as the purposeful anti-climax after you defeat the Queen Metroid allows you to think about what you’ve just done…you’ve basically committed genocide!
Click here for my in-depth review of Metroid II – Samus Returns
Metroid Prime 2
Retro Studios must have been pushed by Nintendo to push out a sequel to the unbelievably successful Metroid Prime, and it shows here. Split a game world into a Light half and a Dark half, and you have twice the game space for half the effort. For the first three areas of this game, in the Light World or the Dark World, everything looks grey and dingy. Metroid Prime’s areas all looked different, promising something unique in almost every room. Here, it’s just dull. The Light/Dark mechanic isn’t utilized as well as, say, Link To The Past, and some puzzles that require you to pass through both worlds are lazy. However, it contains one of the best bosses in any video game in the guise of Quadraxis, and the last area, the Sanctuary Fortress is a beauty to behold. A shame so much effort was put into the last third of the game, and not so much in the first two thirds.
It’s the two Game Boy Advance games I have difficulty ranking. They are so close in quality that it’s hard to decide…but the linearity of Fusion and the sometimes obsessive focus on telling rather than showing knocks it down, just a little bit. However, not only is this a direct sequel to Super Metroid, it also looks back to Metroid II for inspiration. The design and look of the game are fantastic. For me, the Metroid franchise is all about atmosphere. And Fusion has atmosphere in buckets. There’s a greater sense of fear and urgency than in previous entries as you are being chase by…Samus Ara, or at least a super-powerful clone of Samus Aran that will kill you on sight. This leads to some superbly tense situations. Oh, like Metroid Prime 2, it also has one of the best video game bosses of all time, in the guise of Nightmare.
Metroid: Zero Mission
In the best video game remakes of all time, Metroid: Zero Mission must be in the Top 5/Top 10 (another idea for a Top 10 list??!?). The original is almost unplayable today. Some may complain that this remake is too linear, but there’s plenty of leeway to explore (and half the time, you’ll be forced to find another way to your waypoint). This has the looks, the gameplay, and the atmosphere of Metroid Fusion…but without the annoying interludes where you’re told what’s happening, rather than being shown what’s happening. Also, there’s an unexpected and thrilling epilogue where you’re stripped of all your powers and have to stealthily navigate a Space Pirate spaceship. It feels like a natural addition (unlike the unexpected epilogue of Metroid – Samus Returns, which is excessive and stupid).
I can’t explain how excited I was for this game in 2002. I was so excited that I imported it from America, along with a Freeloader disc (to allow me to play it!). Much like Ocarina of Time is a 3D version of Link to the Past, Prime is a 3D version of Super Metroid…but there’s nothing wrong with that! Metroid Prime is a joy to play, perhaps the best game on the Gamecube. The first-person perspective caused you to feel a whole new level of atmosphere. The rain drops on your visor, seeing your reflection on your visor after an explosion…few games suck you in like Metroid Prime. It’s a game I come back to, every few years or so. Bloody brilliant.
‘The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.’ There can only be one choice, and this is the most obvious choice. I doubt any Metroid game (or any Metroidvania game, apart from Hollow Knight, maybe) will top this entry. There’s a reason why I (and many others) love Metroid Prime so much; it reminds them of Super Metroid. Sometimes, a game just does everything right. From gameplay, to graphics (which still look fantastic today), from world design, to atmosphere, to a story passed to the gamer by showing, not telling, Super Metroid is the zenith of game perfection. I seem to play this every year, finding something new each time. Pure gaming joy.
Agree or disagree? Any you’d take away or add? What is your Top 10?
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