Review: Metroid Prime Pinball (Nintendo DS)

Review: Metroid Prime Pinball
Developer: Fuse Games
Distributor: Nintendo
Genre: Pinball
Release Date: 10/25/05

So the first Metroid game on the Nintendo DS is not the long delayed Hunters, which had a freaking demo ship with originally with the DS, but instead we get a pinball game. For the love of all that is good and holy, why do you keep doing this to us Nintendo? We’re sick of what comes off as a bait and switch routine time and time again with your delays. If you’re going to announce a game from now on, have it at least 50% done so you can stop making a laughing stock out of yourself. I’m sick of being pissed off by you Nintendo, and the only thing that keeps me coming back to you is you can make a great game like Metroid Prime Pinball appear out of no where.


Modes

While one could make an argument that there is a story that mirrors the Metroid Prime story, there is no actual story told. The main mode in Metroid Prime Pinball is Multi Mission. In Multi Mission, you collect twelve artifacts on four different tables (two of which are boss battle tables) to go to the Artifact Temple and then the Impact Crater. In all there are six single player tables in Metroid Prime Pinball, 4 of which are boss battles. After beating the boss battle at Impact Crater, an expert difficulty unlocks. Beyond that, all of the tables can be played in Single Mission with the boss battles being time attacks. Finally, there is a multiplayer mode, 8 player pinball on Wireless Mission which has an additional table bumping the total tables up to seven.

The Wireless Mission is a blast. The way it works is players race to get to a certain score first. Points are deducted when a ball is lost. Additionally, each player can send metroids to their opponents by hitting a series of triggers. This is especially great when you realize only one cart is needed to play multiplayer for eight other people. It’s a great mode that is certainly enhanced by the need for just one cartridge.

As for the main mode, Multi Mission requires a degree of strategy to play. Some of the mini-games to win artifacts are more difficult then others and as the difficulty of these games increase after each run through, you’ll end up shooting for some games while avoiding others. The boss fights in Multi Mission are epic and utterly gorgeously put together. They are challenging, entertaining, and most of all, original. The six ball, yes six, multi-ball fight against Meta-Ridley is one of the most original things I’ve seen in a very long time.

There is a bit of criticism that can be offered against Metroid Prime Pinball though. There really needed to be another table or maybe another boss fight (an escape from the exploding ship table). This could have been remedied if the Wireless Mission table was unlockable in single play, but I’m really nitpicking. The six tables are enough to keep you entertained for hours. It would have been nice if the game’s in game mini games were playable outside of the pinball experience, but there isn’t much more you could ask for from the game.

The modes are excellent. The two main tables are varied and the four boss fights are much more complicated then anything we’ve seen in games like the Pokemon Pinball series. The eight player multiplayer is fantastic; especially considering it only needs one cart to be accessed. There is a lot of good going on with this game. Aside from minor gripes, this game offers a great selection of modes.

Score: 9 out of 10


Graphics

This is a very pretty game. While not pushing the DS to its hardware limits, Metroid Prime Pinball gives us a great looking game with lots of atmosphere. The graphics are moody. Furthermore, the game is never too busy as you lose track of the ball because of what’s going on in the screen. The game handles lots of enemies on the screen at the same time without any slowdown which is also somewhat impressive.

There is really nothing to find fault with in terms of the graphics. There’s a large variety of different textures on each table all of which scream Metroid Prime. Metroid Prime Pinball looks as close as any DS game I’ve seen to reaching Gamecube level graphics. There’s even a bit of FMV in the game.

This is a wonderful looking game. It’s easily one of the best, if not the best, looking game on the DS. In short, it is a beautiful game that is flawless graphically. This and Castlevania should be pretty much the mark of what DS games should look like.

Score: 10 out of 10


Sound


How kicking is the soundtrack to this game? Very very kicking. The remixed Metroid music is much closer to what you’ve heard in Super Smash Brothers Melee than in Metroid Prime. There is a great variety of music from all parts of Prime in Prime Pinball. There are so many great songs in this game that it is tough to think of a better soundtrack outside of Meteos and maybe Castlevania.

Sound effects are another shinning part of this game. There is a wide variety of them in Metroid Prime Pinball. All of the monsters, space pirates, and metroids sound just like they do in Metroid Prime. The pinball sounds blend nicely into the game. Bumpers, doors, and flippers don’t stand out from the rest of the game’s sounds.

There are few games that I’ve played that reach this level of aesthetic greatness. The music coupled with the graphics reach a very rare pinnacle. This game should not be measured against other DS titles. It should be measured against Bubble Bobble, Mega Man 2, Final Fantasy VI, Super Mario World, Phantasy Star 2, Resident Evil IV, Dead or Alive 2, and the other classic games with incredibly impressive sound and visuals. This is one of those rare combinations where everything in this game makes your ears and eyes shout with glee. This is an utterly fantastic sounding and looking game.

Score: 10 out of 10


Control and Gameplay

There are a few annoying control issues with Metroid Prime Pinball, but nothing makes this an unplayable game. The flaws are very slight here.

The biggest benefit that Metroid Prime Pinball has over Pokemon Pinball, Pinball of the Dead, and the sadly under known and underrated Sonic Pinball Party is the actual DS system itself. Because the DS is two screens, there are no more scrolling screens. Thank goodness for this as virtual pinball on portable systems finally, finally, finally feels right.

The other major credit that can be attributed to Metroid Prime Pinball is that while the objectives are challenging, they are never frustrating. The ball physics are very consistent, so much so that you’ll know exactly where to put the ball to get it where you need it to go after only about an hour of play.

The tables themselves are very balanced in that there is enough going on in them, but they aren’t overly busy. The pinball is never overwhelmed by the mini-games contained within the pinball. Additionally, Samus’ abilities (the power bomb, bombs, and missiles) really don’t change the flow of the gameplay unless you’re battling bosses or other enemies. It’s a pinball game first and a Metroid game second, which seems to be the flaw of most bad licensed pinball games.

There are some flaws with the controls though. To bump the table, you need to drag the stylus across the touch screen. This becomes a problem though as it’s easier to play the game with the left and B buttons then it is the triggers because of Samus’ abilities. The bump is pretty much worthless unless you’re playing with the triggers, and playing with the triggers is harder then not playing with them.

The other flaw with the gameplay comes during the mini games. Samus’ controls are not that great when you’re using her for the shooting mini games. They lack a bit of polish, and it’s easy to overturn her.

The biggest disappointment with Metroid Prime Pinball has to be the rumble pack though. Not only is the Rumble Pack a big drain on the battery, but it is also very weak. While there is a bit of a difference in rumble depending on how hard you hit the ball, it is pretty minimal. The rumbling itself is also very minimal. The Rumble Pack itself is very loud and will drown out the music unless it is on full volume. All things considered, the rumble pack is a waste here.

The controls are pretty much a success for Metroid Prime Pinball. While the Rumble Pack is a huge let down, the actual gameplay is solid outside of the bumping mechanics. The controls could have been a bit more solid, but there’s not too much to complain about.

Score: 7 out of 10


Replay Value

Here’s a conundrum for you. How do you rate a game where everything can be unlocked in under an hour for replay value? There isn’t much to keep you coming back outside of shooting for high scores. The fact that multiplayer is included and easy to access certainly is a plus. The simple fact is that Metroid Prime Pinball needed more unlockables even if it’s just a store where you can buy a different color ball or profiles for 100 million points.

The good is that Metroid Prime Pinball does give you lots of options to replay what you want, when you want. Once you get to the Impact Crater, you can go back and attempt a time attack on it whenever you want. Couple this with an additional difficulty mode for Multi Mission and there is some replay value added there.

Simply put, this game has really no reason to go back to it unless you want to challenge your high scores or best times on boss fights. Then again, this is a pinball game. Isn’t challenging your high score the point?

Score: 5 out of 10


Balance

This is a nicely balanced game. The early missions are easy enough and the boss fights become increasingly harder. This is the type of game you can pick up and play immediately, but it’ll take you some time to get into the 10,000 and 50,000 point realm. Metroid Prime Pinball may be a bit hard for some gamers to pick up though as it isn’t a cake walk if this is your first pinball game.

The addition of an expert difficulty also makes Metroid Prime Pinball a much more balanced game. It is twice as challenging when all of the missions start off at level 2 rather then level 1. Level 3 missions are absurdly hard. There is a nice progression of difficulty, although the jump between the first two boss fights and the last two is a bit dramatic.

Score: 8 out of 10


Originality

Once upon a time when a character crossed over into a new genre, it was news. Remember how big the original Mario Kart was? How about the first time Smash Brothers hit the market? Heck, even Sonic Spinball was news for alarm. Now though, this is about as common as a fatherless inexperienced hero in a Square-Enix game.

Sure, this may be Samus’ first solo cross over game, but honestly, who didn’t see this coming eventually? This does get a bit of credit as the first DS pinball title and hence the first pinball game to make use of the dual screens, but there isn’t too much that’s original about this game. Still, don’t ignore this game because it’s a cheap marketing ploy.

Score: 4 out of 10


Addictiveness

A good pinball game is like crack for a recovering addict. You’ll want to come back to it every once and a while. Metroid Prime Pinball is the perfect game to pick up and play every once and a while. It’s a great title to rediscover in your library over the months and eventually the years. I am positive that I will be playing this game long after the DS is a dead system.

The problem with the addictiveness is that after the initial enjoyment of it, this is the type of game that you won’t play for more then an hour or two. Because it’s so easy to earn everything, there really is no incentive to play it again other then the fact that it is a great game in occasional doses.

Score: 7 out of 10


Appeal Factor

On the one hand, it’s a pinball game… On the other hand, IT’S A PINBALL GAME!!! Despite Samus being in this game, that’s pretty much how the line will divide. There is some hope though. This game is good enough to win some converts, and who knows, maybe the Metroid license will be enough to draw people in. Here’s hoping it does because this is a fantastic game.

Score: 7 out of 10


Miscellaneous

The one thing that irked me about Metroid Prime Pinball is there is no in game save. There were times I was playing when I wanted to stop playing, but I couldn’t because I was working on a high score. This is pretty much the only gripe I can muster about this game. It is really a fantastic title that everyone should pick up if they have a DS. Ignore the fact that this comes off as a cheap replacement for Metroid Prime Hunters and love this game for all it is worth.

Score: 8 out of 10

The Score

Modes: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 10/10
Gameplay/Control: 7/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Balance: 8/10
Originality: 4/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10

Overall: 75 out of 100
Final Score: 7.5 (Very Good)