levSMETpos

Metroid Primarily Ruined

When I was but a lad, I was enthralled by a little game called Metroid. Actually, you might say I was in love – madly so at that. There was something about that game that captured me completely. The music was superb and intoxicatingly catchy, the creatures and characters were lovably memorable, and the style of it all was so surreal and bizarre; it was a beautiful medley of which I could never get enough.

Behold the strange blend of environments!

I had only limited contact with Metroid II, finding it maddeningly more difficult to navigate in my youth than its predecessor. But then, like a gift from the gods, comes Super Metroid for the SNES. It was brilliant. It was sheer and uncompromising brilliance. It wasn’t precisely the same as the much beloved original, but it was a stunning new masterpiece that I fell in love with all the same. Try as I might, I can’t properly express to you just how excited I was to explore the depths of planet Zebes again, delving into strange new areas and revisiting a few old favorites along the way.

The harrowing battle with Kraid and his potato shaped head.

The music may not have been the same, but it was still positively breathtaking. Most, if not all of the old and fantastic beasts that populated the planet were brought back and redesigned spectacularly – they retained the charming surrealism of both the enemies and the surrounding environments. It quickly became my favorite game; everybody knew how deeply I was obsessed with it. There’s no telling just how many times I’ve played through it, but I can tell you that I’ve explored the game enough to know it practically by heart.

The Metroid games were an important part of my childhood. They entertained me, comforted me, and inspired me. Never would I have guessed that it was all about to change. In fact, I don’t think I could have ever conceived the notion. But then along came Prime.

It had been a good few years since the release of Super Metroid and I was constantly hopeful for a new entry in the series. There were always faint rumblings and rumors about another sequel, but nothing was ever said definitively until Nintendo announced the coming of the Gamecube. While this should have been like the arrival of a long awaited messiah, the first images revealed from their concept work were less than thrilling. Actually, they were really quite ugly. The finished product wasn’t a great deal better.

Needless to say, I was horrified. My most beloved game was being resurrected, but as what I couldn’t tell. It was being handed off to an American company and remodeled with a first-person perspective. The protagonist, Samus Aran, had some minor tweaks made to her iconic suit of armor. While this may be considered a minor trifle by some, the result made her look just wrong. Hideously angular, awkwardly bulky, it was a mess. But it didn’t matter – I owed it to the series to try this new and troubling Metroid Prime as it had been dubbed.

I hope you like muted colors!

And so I did. And it was terrible.

What had they done? The hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, once rife with vibrant and lively colors, was replaced with a miserable splash of gray and brown. All of the fantastic designs of strange and wonderful creatures were transfigured into sharp looking woefully uninspired things. And the music, the intoxicating and breathtaking music, was nowhere to be heard. It was bland and tasteless, it was a disaster, and above all – it wasn’t Metroid.

The first-person perspective didn’t translate well at all. It made you feel slow and clunky, and did nothing but put you closer to the doldrums of poor art design. And to top it all off, was a painfully uninteresting storyline. This time around the space pirates, whose designs were butchered and justified by claiming it a sort of coalition of different species (something that never sat well with me), had been experimenting with an inane radioactive substance called Phazon. The result of this was a slew of mutated Metroid lifeforms with color-coded weaknesses, and of course the eponymous antagonist, Metroid Prime.

Yeah, we get it, Ridley. You're popular.

Before we address the titular Metroid Prime, let’s look at another of the game’s villains. That is, the infamous space dragon called Ridley. Ridley was one of the original bosses of the series, but he was the only one to make the cast of Metroid Prime, now sporting sleek cybernetic enhancements and renamed Meta-Ridley. I’ll confess that my kneejerk reaction to this was decidedly positive, until of course I learned that Metroid Prime took place between games one and two as a sort of interquel. The problem with this was simply that in Super Metroid, which takes place after Prime, Ridley is purely organic. I suppose it could be said that these lifesaving reconstructive cybernetics could have been removed once no longer necessary – but to be frank, that’s a load of crap.

Ridley received a lot of attention when Prime came along. Suddenly he was the top of the charts of Metroid villains – surpassing the once sovereign Mother Brain as the primary antagonist. He was becoming a gimmick, comparable to Final Fantasy 7’s Sephiroth. With Ridley hogging the limelight, none of the other classic bosses had room on the stage. Poor Kraid, Ridley’s partner of sorts in the original Metroid, was all but forgotten. In fact, Kraid almost made it into Prime, but almost doesn’t cut it – particularly when it was Ridley alone who made it into the Prime sequels. Yes. The Prime sequels. But before I address that abomination, let’s get back to the Prime series namesake.

Because take THAT Metroid evolution!

Metroid Prime was the final foe of the game, a hideously mutated beast that defied pre-established Metroid evolution. As a creature, it wasn’t a terrible design at all save for the inexplicably humanoid traits here and there. But the real trouble emerged, quite literally, from the corpse of Metroid Prime – which takes us to the sequel, and the agonizing cliché that was Dark Samus.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was soon released, again on the Nintendo Gamecube. The game kept the same failing format from the previous installment and did nothing to improve the faults. This time around, we were treated to a hackneyed Nintendo tradition of having both a dark and light world, à laThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. What was the cause of this dimensional schism? Why, it was Phazon of course. Speaking honestly, for how much I loathed Metroid Prime, I wouldn’t have minded it so much had it stayed a standalone entry. But instead, one of my least favorite things about the story was brought back into focus as the cause of the trouble in the sequel.

Oh boy. Dark Samus. Evil clones are still fresh, aye?

Worse yet, there was a new foe – or perhaps an old one – name of Dark Samus. This enemy was a Phazon forged doppelganger wrought from the dying body of Metroid Prime. So not only were we treated to the same intensely dull storyline and an entirely unoriginal concept of dichotomy, but the otherwise forgettable Metroid Prime had returned by the grace of a weak plot point. It offered nothing new or worthwhile neither to the gameplay nor the story. It, too, was a disaster. But perhaps the greatest tragedy of these games was the fact that I was all but alone in my distaste. These dreadful things were acclaimed both by critics and gamers. Many thought it was the next evolution of the Metroid series – all the while I vomited profusely in disgust.

There was a third in the series. There were even little side games on the Nintendo DS. Each new entry did nothing but further tarnish the Metroid name. All the Prime series accomplished was the introduction of asinine new characters and a shameless muddling of the timeline. But still, people swallowed them lovingly while other new releases in the series, such as the true sequel Metroid Fusion, were looked upon suspiciously. People claimed that the nonlinearity of Metroid Fusion was a slight to the series, all the while ignoring the innumerable slights against it that Metroid Prime committed.

But the icing on the cake arrived roughly a year ago with the release of Metroid: Other M for the Nintendo Wii. This game is something of a sore subject for many Metroid fans. Actually it’s more akin to Pandora’s Box. A lot of people despised the game with a passion that mirrors my hated for Metroid Prime. Mention Other M and it’ll be like loosing the armies of hell. That said, I didn’t despise it. I didn’t even hate it. In fact, I praised it.

Samus, just how I like her - surrounded by horrible insect monsters.

After careful consideration, I’ve decided not to attempt a justification for the questionable characterization of the game. No matter my feelings on the subject, it would be like attempting to justify the holocaust – a can of worms that no sane man should attempt. I will however say that Other M addressed and corrected quite a few problems from Metroid Prime. Most noticeably, the design and style of the game was once again a fantastic and colorful sight, complete with classic enemies looking better than ever. The music may not have been as memorable as it once was, but it was certainly an improvement over Prime’s dry soundtrack. And the story, beyond the aforementioned characterization, was dimensions better than all that rot about Phazon. I won’t go into details here for fear that I might spoil something for potential buyers, if there should be any left that is.

This likely goes without saying, but Ridley naturally returns, although this time he isn’t alone. It may not include Kraid, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. And that’s just what Other M was – a step in the right direction. By switching the perspective from the first person to the third, and reintroducing a few platforming elements to the game, Samus felt lithe and limber again. No longer did she feel clumsy and restricted as she did in Prime, but like her old somersaulting self. And despite the fact that this too was an interquel, the timeline was unharmed. In fact, Other M served to flawlessly explain certain affairs from Metroid Fusion, the game before which it takes place.

But regardless of these improvements, the game was widely reviled. Gamers felt that it portrayed Samus as an insufferably pitiful character, betraying the idea of her as a strong female warrior type. As I mentioned before, however, I’m not touching this subject. To be honest, I never bothered to wonder who she was beneath the armor – that never interested me as a lad. What interested me were the sights, the sounds, the creatures, the gameplay, all of which was fixed in Other M. I can’t help but wonder; if I’m forced to pretend that the sins of Metroid Prime never happened, why can’t people just pretend that Samus’ character was never fleshed out?

A young Samus gestures what most are thinking.

But given the intensity of the controversy that it caused, I’m inclined to think that Samus’ story never should have been told. Perhaps she should have been kept as a silent hero, the soul of which to be decided by the player. By keeping her ambiguous, the purity of her character could be preserved, no matter how one would choose to define that.

Metroid was something very dear to me, but it’s long since fallen from grace. The Prime trilogy cast a shadow upon the series, a blight from which it has yet to recover. It tainted people’s thoughts and opinions on the game, and became the standard upon which the series was judged. Other M did what it could to repair the damage, but did so at a heavy cost. No matter what happens now, the series will be forever colored by these tragedies – so, in fact, that to sit down and replay Super Metroid now feels more melancholic than comforting.

Had the series been left alone, a bittersweet ending at Super Metroid, then this foul stench would not be. My beloved series would remain as haunting and beautifully iconic as it was when I was but a child. I believe firmly that, had Metroid Prime not been released, then neither would any of the controversy that followed suit exist.

I rue the day Metroid Prime was brought to this Earth. I curse it viciously as the demon that killed Metroid. My once beloved Metroid.

Sayonara, space cadet.



There are 12 comments

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  1. Anon

    The Metroid Prime series was a fantastic addition to the Metroid universe. It’s not YOUR game or YOUR intellectual property. You have no reason to complain. They don’t HAVE to make ANY Metroid games you know. Be thankful for what you get and stop complaining.

    • Spock

      You do realize that, as a critic, he’s doing his job. That’s what critics do. They criticize. They keep Deicide off the Billboard charts. They prevent movie execs from casting The Rock as Frodo Baggins. And occasionally they keep a venerable franchise like Metroid from turning into a rehash of Doom.
      If you don’t approve, then maybe you should be reading Us Weekly?
      Or maybe you should start your own website, one with nothing but glowing praise for everything, even Duke Nukem and Blackwater.

  2. TheLiteraryNerd

    I read this article with an open mind, having never played the metroid games, but was interested in the negative evolution of the franchise. I think gamers definitely have a right to have expectations from all aspects of a franchise.

    However it’s particularly interesting to notice your dismissal of the exploration of the metroid character, and your distaste to any change from the original – you complained about the design, the story, the atmosphere, the gameplay.

    You’re so averse to change that you would complain about the 2.5D gameplay if the original was simply ported into 2.5D (LBP or SFIV style). Retcons are a natural part of the development of a character (for example 20 years of Spiderman stories were retconned out of existence). People may hate, and the writers may change something; thats how stories mature and develop.

    This article is reminiscient of the Star Trek 2009 haters- hating it for its flaws and missing the positive developments to the franchise. You’re one of THOSE noobs.

    • Zevallo

      I’m not averse to change, I’m averse to changes that I feel sour the spirit of something. You misread me completely – I would have loved a 2.5D Metroid game. I think that would have been a great next step. I didn’t abhor Prime because of the change of perspectives, I abhorred it because it was a mediocre game that was forcibly inserted into a franchise I loved in a way that felt wrong to me.

      And another aspect of this misreading; it isn’t that I ignored the good Prime brought, it’s that I truly believe that it brought nothing positive to speak of. I played through it, I beat it even. I didn’t like it and I felt it was a poor game. Just as so many people are allowed to voice their positive feelings of the game, so too am I allowed to voice my negative ones. And that’s what it boils down to, the allowance of opinions. Have I disallowed any to enjoy it? Have I decried any who do? Certainly not. All I’ve done is state my view, an unpopular one that I feel had just as much right to be heard as a popular one.

  3. Ron Hoffecker

    I gotta applaud a fellow Leviathyn writer for the nice article but I am a big fan of the direction Metroid has taken. It’s great to see a personality and backstory for a character I’ve followed since my childhood.

  4. ExigentContact

    Sorry, disagree on all accounts. Prime was fantastic and its sequels were a lot of fun too. Other M was horrid and has no place anywhere among the pack.

    This is coming from someone who has 100 percented all of the Metroid titles not including Pinball, which you can’t really do. I’d take another Prime over another Other M any day of the week.

    I’m sorry, but you really have a skewed view on things. Metroid Prime was slower, but it was also more immersive, and that’s really the biggest departure Prime made. It was still about exploration and power-ups. It was still about bizarre alien environments. Other M tried to take that focus away and it sadly, was a largely linear, overwrought mess. Other M felt like an akward, ungainly halfway point between the original games and Prime and it suffered because it never gained an identity of its own.

    In my opinion, your views on what make Metroid Metroid are so insular and defensive against Prime that you refuse to see any good in it. I hated Other M, but I will concede there were a few good ideas to it, just not many. I was happy to see a fleshing out of Samus, at least in concept. It was horribly done. Melding of Prime and the originals? Great idea. Horribly done.

    You’re alone in your opinion for good reason, I’m afraid.

    I wouldn’t really complain about Prime’s music either, since it was done by the composer of Super Metroid and was just as memorable at its forebear.

    • Zevallo

      You can’t tell me that I’ve a skewed perspective simply because it isn’t yours. Prime was slow and plodding and I didn’t care for that. Other M’s linearity didnt alter the fact that it fixed many things I didn’t like about Prime. You’re now presenting your opinion, which is just as inherently arbitrary as my own, like it is somehow above mine. I didn’t refuse to see any good in it – I gave it a full chance fom start to end. I didn’t like it at all. That is my stance and I’m allowed to keep it, just as yours is allowed to coexist with mine. Who are you to say I’m skewed because I’m different from you?

      And just because the original bloke scored Prime doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been bland. Even a master artist has off-compositions now and again. The sound of the music didn’t sit well with me, even if there were a lot of reused tracks. As remixes, I didn’t enjoy the new treatments they received.

      This is precisely why I wrote this article. It seems that when a person criticizes something well loved, they must be positively daft to hate it. That’s absurd. It is absolutely arrogant to assume your point of view higher than my own. We are both entitled to our opinions. Your opinion happens to be shared by a lot of people while mine is not. Thats why I wrote this article – because both sides of the con deserve to be heard.

  5. Anonymous

    The worst Metroid-related article I’ve ever read. Prime did everything right to make an almost perfect game and this guy shits on it because he can.

    • Zevallo

      That’s your opinion, this article was mine. I’m not defecating on anything for the sake of defecation. What you call perfect, I call a disaster. Everything is in the eye of the beholder. I have no problem if you disagree with me – I expect that, but you’re acting like a child by criticizing me for our differences.

  6. Colby McAloney

    The Prime Series in my opinion is very good. Fusion is when the Metroid Series began to decline. Other M ruined it almost completely because of Sakamoto stupid fucking decisions. He is slacking off! Come on Sakamoto! Now it might take forever to put the Metroid Series back on top because of… (I don’t wanna talk about it anymore)

  7. Some Guy

    I was around for the original games and I loved them, too. I felt like you when I saw what it was, but as soon as a played it I realized it was a masterpiece. Metroid Prime is, like it’s predecessor, one of the greatest video games ever made. There’s no question about it. I respect that you don’t like it, but there is no sound argument for it being bad.


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