The Metroid series is no stranger to extreme highs and lows. Fortunately, there is no better time to be a fan of the series (or become one), as the 2020s is seeing the start of a new Metroid renaissance. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption released in 2007 for the Wii, and people would experience a 10-year draught until the release of Metroid: Samus Returns on the Nintendo 3DS, with a couple of very divisive titles releasing in the meantime. This left players craving to step back into Samus Aran’s iconic power suit in a brand-new adventure, but it wouldn’t be until 2021’s Metroid Dread that the series would truly re-emerge from deep space. Finally, the long-rumored Metroid Prime Remastered is real and out, and it is arguably the most comprehensive, polished, and definitive way of experiencing a timeless classic. Not to mention, it is the perfect way to whet the appetite of the public ahead of Metroid Prime 4.
Metroid Prime Remastered is set between the events of Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid: Samus Returns, both remakes of Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. After the destruction of Zebes in Metroid: Zero Mission, Samus Aran sets out to pursue the remains of the Space Pirates she fought. She arrives at Tallon IV, a former Chozo colony that was hit long ago by a meteorite containing a dangerous and enigmatic substance called Phazon. During her mission, Samus discovers that the remaining Space Pirates are using Phazon to experiment on their soldiers and, with the titular Metroids, trying to create a dangerous army to conquer the galaxy and transcend life.
The game opens with a short cutscene of Samus Aran landing on a Space Pirate vessel. Some light exposition is available if the player enables the new narration setting, previously exclusive to the original Japanese and European GameCube release. Otherwise, the game throws you right into the action. Metroid Prime Remastered doesn’t offer much more in the way of motive, instead relying on the player choosing to explore the mystery of what happened in Tallon IV. You do this by using your scan visor and checking text entries, Space Pirate logs, and Chozo diaries. It really surprised me how dark and foreboding most of the entries, lore, and the overall narrative of the game are. It never reaches a point where it feels grim or gratuitous, but the writing doesn’t skirt around some gruesome details regarding the Space Pirates, how awful they are, and the way some of them meet their end.
The enhanced visuals are fantastic, and they help make Tallon IV feel like a real ghost planet where something terrible happened. I played halfway through the original game in the Wii, and while some of the art direction changed in the Remaster, it still manages to make you feel like everything stayed the same in the best way possible. Lightning and particles are particular standouts, with some rain effects reacting in real time to the position of the player. Everything in the visual department is a straight upgrade of a game that already looked great back in 2002. The soundtrack and sound design are fantastic, with some standout tracks like the “Chozo Ghost” battle music, and the “Talon Overworld” track. Sound effects feel punchy and offer great feedback during combat.
In terms of gameplay, Metroid Prime Remastered doesn’t hold players’ hands. To navigate the maze-like structure of Tallon IV, you need to acquire different traversal tools, along with Beam upgrades. These include the Wave Beam, Frost Beam, and Plasma Beam, each with a different missile special move, unique rate of fire, and damage values. As for visors, you start with you standard combat and scan visor, and you eventually acquire the thermal and X-ray visors. However, once you start to pile up these upgrades, it can be tremendously easy to forget where you’re supposed to go to use them. To avoid wandering aimlessly, I would recommend taking notes, or using the Switch’s screenshot feature to mark particular rooms and locations that you might want to revisit.
For instance, I initially missed the Charge Beam upgrade that you can get early on in the Chozo Ruins. I got distracted exploring and ended up having to backtrack to obtain it. This leads me to the hint system. If you deactivate this option in the settings menu, the game won’t ever tell you where to go. I was expecting the hints to feel cheap, and thought I would do well without them. But after just a few hours, I caved in and realized that the game is very disorienting if you’re not using it, especially if you’re not familiarized with the layout of Tallon IV.
Combat can be challenging at times, and some Game Overs are bound to happen. Most enemies only respawn after leaving a room and wandering for a bit, and resources can be scarce. In that way, it is not too different from a classic side-scrolling Metroid game. Early on, I lost two and a half hours of progress after some turrets annihilated me at Magmoor Caverns. Had I decided to backtrack and find a Save Station, instead of pushing forward, I could have avoided that from happening. However, Save Stations and elevators leading to other zones are out of the way most of the time, and backtracking through already cleared rooms can be very tedious.
Enemy variety is somewhat limited, with most enemies being alien creatures, or different types of space pirates and metroids. Later in the game, you will encounter some varieties space pirates and metroid that can only be damaged by a particular elemental beam, indicated by their color scheme. This makes each beam feel a bit samey, instead of their own weapon, and renders them simple keys to unlock doors and fight certain enemies. An interesting feature carried over from Metroid Prime Trilogy is the Morph Ball jump ability. The game doesn’t explain it once you obtain it. You can use it from the moment you obtain the Morph Ball bombs upgrade, and to use it all you need to do is press the X button while using the Morph Ball, or shake your Joy-Cons or Pro Controller if you have motion controls on.
Arguably the best quality of life addition to the game is the different control schemes. For the first time in the series, players can play with dualstick controls, but the game offers two other control settings, these being the classic GameCube scheme, and the scheme added to the Wii version. On top of that, gyro controls can be paired with dualstick controls. Players can also select a variety of settings for the lock on targeting, with options to lock on and keep the reticle in place, or move the reticle once locked on, either with the sticks or with motion controls. Players can mix and match as much as they want.
The original Metroid Prime was a great game 20 years ago, and Metroid Prime Remastered continues to be great game nowadays. Furthermore, it follows the “if it’s not broken, do not fix it” philosophy, much like other recent and excellent remasters. This simple approach to modernizing a game maintains everything that made the original work, while updating its control scheme, its visuals, and adding a few extras along the way. While this means that a few dated elements remain unchanged, the quality of the game is such that this is not enough to taint the overall excellent experience the game has to offer.
Metroid Prime Remastered is immediately available for the Nintendo Switch.