Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Metroid Prime: I say this game is PERFECT!

There are two things I was thinking of when writing this post:
1. Metroid Prime is the best game of all the time, it's flawless whether we like it or not.
2. Other M will never reach the level of Metroid Prime, it's flawed whether we like it or not.

So yeah, it's an eight-year-old game but the close release of Metroid Other M makes it the perfect time for me to talk about Metroid Prime. Plus, any real gamer knows it's never too late to praise a game such as Prime, simply because it's a treasure that will forever shine no matter what happens after. That being said, then why didn't Prime gain such popularity that matches how great I claim it to be? But then again, quantity does not equal quality, right?

The quality of any game is affected by 2 main components, "challenge" and "experience". The greatest games keep these components in balance and perfect harmony. "Challenge" is original and rewarding. "Experience" is exceptional and mesmerizing. It sounds simple, but the problem lies next. The challenge part is relatively measurable, but people have different tastes depending on their own past experience. I'll focus on the experience part because I think it's the real issue here, challenge is the backbone of any game and more obvious when lacking.

In Metroid Prime, you are on a quest to explore [Tallon IV], a planet that was destroyed by a meteor crash, to investigate the truth behind the enclosed massacre of the Enemy's Space Pirate Frigate [Orpheon]. Humans fear the unknown, and they seek the familiar. So you're seeking what you fear, getting familiar with the unknown. You can see how extraordinary that can be, but you can also get why it appeals to few. You are all alone at the beginning, but then you start to get familiar with the "life" in the planet. And before you know it, you want to save that life from a disaster because you started seeing a "family" in it. This all occurs in utter isolation from the known world. Your only escort is the [Scan Visor], a device which analyzes and identifies whatever you choose of the surroundings and environments.

That strangely sounds eventful, don't you agree? So here is the thing, there is no discriminative events in Metroid Prime. This is the kind of silent story the game has. If you rely on what is served on a silver plate you'll get absolutely nothing from Prime, because you'll hardly find any "convenient" cut-scenes or whatever in there. Prime only rewards you by how much you work, thus offering gratification to these who carry on and mortification to those who slack off.

Everything lies in the gameplay then. And no question that Metroid Prime excelled in serving one of the best gaming experiences ever, dare I say the best. It is the 1st first-person-adventure, both in time and rank. Despite having a dislike of first-person-view at that time, the HUD & control layout felt completely natural the same moment I gabbed the GC controller to play. The gestures and movements were surreal. FPS players can't deny that camera view still feels awkward on consoles no matter what developers do to mask how unrealistically frozen it is. But due to the nature of how Prime works, more freedom was taken to set FPV on a different level from before as well as after. Like the Z-target in Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the revolution that third-person-games needed to evolve, I consider visor-lock-on to be the ignored revolution that first-person-games need as well, at least on consoles that is.

Having said that, I should remind you that Metroid Prime is not a pure first-person-game. By the click of a button, transforming into a [Morph Ball] shifts the screen to the third-person-view. That alone opens the door to farther gameplay mechanics, reaching as far as 2D experience and more. The least that can be said about that is classic!

Now let's face it, open ended areas and repeated patterns are scary common hybrid in 3D games. They let you lose your way without a map, and get bored of looking later on (both at environment & map!). Metroid Prime doesn't fail to impress yet again, as I don't remember a single area or pattern that was repeated in game. Heck, even save rooms looks different! Sure, you'll need to look at the 3D map from time to time to get where you are and where you're heading, but the design is brilliant. It makes sense when you get familiar with it and it's so easy to remember that you'll rarely need the map later on. I'm not kidding when I say that I memorize the routes in Tallon IV like I memorize the roads in Dammam, it's all there in my mind but the way I decide on is the only way being highlighted.

I'll throw a remark about the musical score because it deserves a mention here. We all know that soundtracks can either make or break the mood depending on how well they are played. Metroid Prime did an amazing job in this aspect, too. The music is calm when it needs to be, sad when it needs to be, creepy when it needs to be, and exciting when it needs to be. Plainly said, it's perfect.

I said what I said about Metroid Prime confidently after playing it many times during different periods since it was released. Even if you don't agree, you might not object when I say Metroid Prime is flawless. But how can I say Metroid Other M is flawed although it's not even released yet? It sounds absurd. Here I remind us about the "challenge" and "experience" I talked about at first. I can say nothing regarding the challenge which Other M might offer, and I'm planning to play it for that sole reason if nothing else. But experience is different, it is a dynamic component that modifies based on past experiences. Being exceptional let it avoid being judged based on something before, that was the case with Metroid Prime but it really isn't with Metroid Other M.

The moment [Galactic Federation Corps] were introduced as characters in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes the sense of isolation was broken, ruining part of the experience. They went even further in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption with introducing [Hunters] and [Voice Overs] which made it even laughable at times. Based on my experience, I'm confident in saying that drama and "convenient" story-telling are not suitable for a game like Metroid. You might consider yourself lucky if you didn't play Metroid Prime then, but sadly that's so untrue I might cry if I hear you say it. There is nothing original in experience of hearing a story or drama, so you'll be comparing that to what you love best if you liked it later on. What's planted deeper into your mind and soul will prevail, and we all know the newer similar experiences hardly take over the older more cherished ones.

While Metroid Other M might end up being a good game, it can't reach the summit where Metroid Prime is, simply because the "experience" component of the game is lacking the singularity Prime has. Period.

P.S. This post is a love letter for those who share my feelings toward Metroid Prime <3

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