Review: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (Nintendo Gamecube)

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Genre: First Person Shooter/Action
Platform: Gamecube
Rating: T for Teen
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Retro Studios

There are some characters out there that define a generation, or a certain cause. When I think of female empowerment and pop culture characters there are only a handful that immediately spring to my mind. Xena, Buffy, Lina Inverse, and a few others are the ones that television and animation have given to us. However when it comes to video games there is only one originator of female empowerment, showing us all that women can kick ass just as easy as men can. Samus Aran is the original powersuit bad girl, predating the few other female leads in the video game industry that come to mind (ie: Lara Croft, etc.). Samus has done it all, coming from humble beginnings to one of Nintendoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s biggest power houses in their franchise stable. A bounty hunter that has always faced overwhelming odds, yet always comes out on top, this time we find Samus Aran starring in the sequel to the acclaimed Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for the Gamecube. Needless to say this is Nintendoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s biggest holiday release for the Gamecube, and if it wasnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t for the Nintendo DS this would be the main Nintendo release. In other words: itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a good time to be a Nintendo fan, and especially a Metroid fan since the DS obviously is getting some hot Samus loving as well. Ok, that sounded very wrong, but I stand by my statement. Nintendo has thrown its full weight behind this female video game icon and the results are here. Let’s go in-depth with this new Metroid title and see what we have got.

1. Story

Samus is once again on a mission, and in terms of story I really believe this is the richest and best story to date in the Metroid Universe. Working for the Galactic Federation Samus is assigned a new mission, this time to look into the mysterious disappearance of an entire troop squadron. Tracking their signal she is sent to the planet Aether. Upon landing the story begins as Samus is pulled into a civil war between two different races on Aether. The first is the Luminoth, the friendly butterfly/moth like creatures, and the other is the Ilg, a race from the dark alternate universe bizarro Aether. Not very simple when typed out I know, but what is going on is that the Ilg have the ability to appear in the normal or light version of Aether at will. Then they take over any living organism they can, making them a parasitic race. So needless to say your mission objective changes pretty damn quickly. Samus is now embroiled on a mission to defeat the Ilg and obliterate Dark Aether. The fun doesn’t stop their though kids. The Space Pirates are here (which is always a given) and their out for their own plans. But what is perhaps the coolest aspect of this game is the “Dark” Samus which ends up being your main super villain that you combat. While it does remind me a bit too much of Metroid Fusion where you also battled a copy of yourself, on the Cube it truly was amazing to fight. While this description is just scratching the surface of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (no need to spoil things), trust me when I say the story really is quite amazing for a Metroid game. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and it really is head and shoulders above its predecessor, which in its own right was an amazing game as well. Any diehard Samus fan will go nuts over it, but the beauty of it is that even if you’re completely new to the series you’ll still be completely engrossed in what’s going on.

Overall Story Rating: 9/10

2. Graphics

You know, normally, I don’t let graphics engross me in a game as much as other categories. But as soon as I began playing Metroid Prime 2: Echoes I was a lost cause. This game is just, without a doubt, the best graphical achievement to date for Nintendo on the Gamecube. What impressed me the most was the use of the light/dark world gimmick that is a time tested one in video games. Dark Aether is just a vision of graphical achievement. It’s creepy, violent, scary, and everything the developer’s could have dreamed of. Playing in Dark Aether is like taking a trip through some of your worst nightmares as it really is as hellish and battled scarred world as you could ever find. And while I could go on for pages about how much I truly loved Dark Aether, the entire game is a graphical vision. The enemies are very well designed and sleek, and the environments (including Dark Aether) are just beyond anything I have seen from the Metroid series. This game takes you to a place graphically that you can’t help but be amazed with once you’re there. The lines blurs between reality and the game once you really get into it. I would equate it with getting “lost” in a book, and then dazedly realizing four hours later that you still think its daylight out. I can’t really accurately convey how much I enjoyed the graphics of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. They are amazing in every sense of the word. Samus herself looks great, and the new light and dark suit gimmick just adds to her mystique. If Metroid Prime 2: Echoes hits one home run it’s right here. I truly don’t think they could have done a better job with the graphics even if they tried.

Overall Graphics Rating: 10/10

3. Sound

Very fitting is the terminology I would use here. While the soundtrack of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is not the end all of gaming music I do believe it does a great job of setting the proper mood for whatever stage you are at in your game play experience. Once again I harken back to Dark Aether. The music is really the final touch to completing the dark masterpiece that is that environment. It’s creepy and gets your fears going as you move from place to place. The music is simplistic yet effective. It won’t have you turning it down and playing something out of your own collection. There really is no bad aspect of the musical selection for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and for long time fans of the series you’ll find that is doesn’t disappoint you in terms of what you have come to expect from the series. The sound effects are what you would expect from any first person shooter/action game. All the right explosions and sounds of arms fire are here and they first in perfectly in war torn environments that feature alien races fighting a civil war between dimensions. What I think really defines the sound is that is fits in with the role that Samus has always played. She is a bounty hunter and a loner. This music will make you feel like you’re the last line of defense, and that you are all you have to rely upon. And since it does that, the developers can pat themselves on the back, because anything a game can achieve that with their music you know you have something special on your hands.

Overall Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control

Here was something I really liked about Metroid Prime 2: Echoes as a gamer who had already played the original. The control scheme remains very close to the already great system they had in place with Metroid Prime. All the great features remain, including locking on to your enemies, and the relatively easy transition between weapons with the various buttons on the Cube’s controller. What is cool about Prime 2 is that while it remains true to the roots of the original Cube game, it has added a lot more to the arsenal Samus has at her disposal while taking out some of the weapons we have come to expect from Metroid games. While sometimes change can be bad, this time it’s really damn refreshing to see Samus get tricked out with some new weapons and abilities. Among these new weapons is the “light” and “dark” beam, which obviously play off of the light/dark theme that is going on within the game itself. These weapons correspond to the enemies you fight within the game and whether or not they are light or dark, and with the new light and dark beams you can lay some serious smack on them. Later on you’ll also gain better, more powerful new weapons such as a combination of both light and dark beams. Aptly named the annihilator beam it is one of the most powerful weapons in the game. There are also new abilities to enjoy this time around while playing as Samus. Chief among them is the “visor” system featuring the dark and echo visors. Both of these visors are worked into puzzle solving within the game since the dark visor gives you better vision while in Dark Aether while the echo visor uses sound to locate certain items and other things. Also worth noting is that some of the secondary beams run on limited ammo which is a major departure from Metroid games and definitely requires more strategy then you may be used too. Overall though by keeping a very familiar control scheme, interface, and feel to Echoes while adding some great new content Retro Studios came through on all levels for any Metroid fan.

Overall Control Rating: 9/10

5. Balance

Some of the puzzles in Metroid Prime 2 can be frustrating. Of course that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the series. In terms of the series it has always been difficult to find everything and achieve perfection while playing, which of course lends itself to a very nice difficulty level. And of course you have to gain all your abilities as you progress through the game. A random note here is that if Samus were a real person wouldn’t she say by now, “Damn I have to find a way to NOT lose all my kick ass abilities at the beginning of every mission of mine.” And of course the charm of that remains with the fact that by gaining your weapons back you are able to explore further into the game, just like in every other Metroid game to date. Make no mistake about it, it can get very tough at times, and the average gamer is not going to have the easiest time figuring out the course of action to take in Prime 2. It helps for those gamers that there is a hint system within the game, but come on people, any self-respecting gamer would say the hell with that. In order to enjoy Metroid you need to get frustrated. You need to yell and say where the hell am I supposed to go. Because when you do figure it out it will be so much sweeter.

Overall Balance Rating: 8/10

6. Replayability

This is not your normal shooter people. If you’re rushing through it will STILL take you 20 hours to complete this game. But, my friends, anyone who knows anything about Metroid games knows that there is a lot to do within them, and Prime 2 delivers the goods as well. There are galleries to unlock, more items to find, harder difficulties to get, and a ton more of goodies thrown in there. True diehards will be compelled to find it all, and it will take you a LONG time. I’m roughly half way there kids after already one completion, but I still have hours ahead of me before I get it all. You will not run out of things to do in Prime 2. Adding to a great replayability factor is the inclusion of a multi-player mode this time around. It’s pretty standard, but it does allow you to have some friends over and partake in Metroid goodness together, which is something fans of the series have been clamoring over for quite some time (and of course the DS Metroid game will only expand upon that as well.) While the multi-player mode isn’t the best, it’s there for your use if you want it. Honestly the main game is enough for anyone as it is, and the multi-player mode is just a little side dish to add to an already great game.

Overall Replayability Rating: 8/10

7. Originality

While Prime 2 does add a ton of new features, it still is a game in an established series that builds upon previous titles to make sure it stays true to what fans have come to expect from Metroid titles. The control scheme is the same, and while the story is excellent it is still pretty much by the numbers for a Metroid title in terms of what Samus is doing. Yet while the originality factor of prime is low, I would still like to say that that is no reason for anyone to not own this game. There are new things here such as the weapons and the light/dark theme within the Metroid world, and they are certainly refreshing (boosting this rating considerably). The time-tested ideas hold up, and while they aren’t all original, theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re still the best out there. Retro Studios did a great job of staying true to what they had already done and to what others had done with Metroid games, while adding as much new content as they could, creating a unique experience.

Overall Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

If you’ve been reading to this point then you know what’s coming. I love this game. Love it like a drug addict needing a fix. It’s the best game for the Cube this year regardless of genre. It is the apex of what a Metroid game, and what ANY game, should aspire to be. This is the new standard for Gamecube games and first person shooters. While that might get me flack from the Halo camp, I stand by my statement. This game isn’t a Halo killer, because it was never intended to compete with it in a game of one-upmanship. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes stands out as a title that will be remembered twenty years from now as a game that was a standard setter for Nintendo and its shooters, as well as the series itself. If you buy this game you will love it, and you will donate generous portions of your time to playing the hell out of it. The world of Aether is a great place to get lost in, and that’s just what happened to me. This game will be one you’ll pull out often and play even after it becomes “outdated”. I really do believe it is that good. It’s as addicting as it gets and no Gamecube owner should be without it.

Overall Addictiveness Rating: 9/10

9. Appeal

Metroid fans will love this game. They will salivate over it and hold it close to them as they sleep. That is not even in question. But what makes Metroid Prime 2 so special is that it will appeal to nearly all gamers, even those who may not be that into first person shooters. Nintendo has really put their weight behind this release, and the hype is definitely warranted. Metroid Prime 2 transcends molds and genres and just draws people in with its appeal and charm. Great graphics and sound are just the tip of the iceberg here. Everything about Prime 2 is worth checking out, and if you don’t find yourself loving this game you need to look at how you judge a great game. Retro Studios has made Metroid into one of the best 3-D transitions ever, taking a series that was traditionally always two dimensional and making it as alive as you could possibly want. Appeal is a synonym for this game, and as soon as you play it you’ll understand that analogy perfectly.

Overall Appeal Rating: 9/10

10. Miscellaneous

I don’t know what else I can say or do to accurately describe how good this game is. Up till this point Astro Boy: Omega Factor was my pick for overall game of the year, but that all changed with Prime 2. This is a great addition to anyone’s library and a game that will stand the test of time. It stays true to its roots and adds some new things that are very refreshing. This is the Gamecube’s bread and butter for this holiday season and Nintendo couldn’t have asked for more.

Overall Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

Story Rating: 9/10
Graphics Rating: 10/10
Sound Rating: 8/10
Control Rating: 9/10
Balance Rating: 8/10
Replayability Rating: 8/10
Originality Rating: 5/10
Addictiveness Rating: 9/10
Appeal Rating: 9/10
Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

Final Score: 8.5