Nintendo recently announced the hotly anticipated Metroid Prime 4 is set for a massive delay. The dev team took the project down the wrong path, so the Japanese gaming giant handed the project back to America’s Retro Studios. And with good reason. It’s behind one of the finest FPS games in history.
Although many non-gamers associate Nintendo with games like Super Mario, it also makes many more serious series such as this.
And Metroid is right at the top of the list, with a roster of masterpieces including the likes of Super Metroid (1994). One of the best SNES games and one of the greatest games of all time.
So when Nintendo handed little known American developer Retro Studios – who essentially took on the mantle Rare left behind when the British studio was bought out by Microsoft – no one quite new that what lay ahead was a masterpiece. Which is exactly what we got in 2002.
Mark Pacini directed the game (he’s since moved to a different studio), with Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto overseeing the project as producer.
“Shigsy” visited the American studio in 2000. Nintendo hadn’t released a much-anticipated Nintendo 64 outing for the series due to a lack of ideas.
After his Retro Studios trip, he was impressed enough to hand it the project. With Nintendo’s R&D 1 and EAD (Entertainment Analysis & Development) departments for additional support, Retro’s staff was still left battling 80-100 hour weeks to finish the title to Nintendo’s deadline (something former stalwart Rare would regularly miss).
After two years stressful years – that saw Retro abandon various other projects to focus entirely on Metroid Prime – gamers were treated to this.
Metroid Prime is genius, simply put. It advances the brilliance of Super Metroid in exactly the fashion you would expect, but also adds in a labyrinth world of astonishing detail and atmospherics.
And the reviews at the time acknowledged its brilliance. It was generally a flat-out 10/10 across the board – arguably the best game of 2002 (also potentially the best ever FPS at that point in time, even if Half-Life 2 was looming on the horizon).
You star as Samus Aran (who, famously, in the first game reveals at the end she’s… a woman!), who’s a bounty hunter and ex-soldier.
She intercepts a distress beacon on an abandoned ship and finds a horde of plagued alien monsters, along with genetically modified specimens. She defeats some of these – including a parasitical Queen – and must escape the facility.
She encounters the robotic dragon Ripley – a nod to Ridley Scott’s Alien – and her powersuit is damaged. She must now restore order and get herself back together.
The soundtrack plays a big part in that, as it does for every Metroid game. But the big overhaul for this title was the trip into the world of 3D – a first for the series.
And whilst Super Metroid remains a total masterpiece, the step into a 3D world is what makes Metroid Prime something a bit special. It was the chance to open up new aspects to Samus Aran’s world.
Along with the superior Half-Life 2, here we have a FPS that – in a massively over saturated genre – stands high above most modern releases.
It’s often all about the little things, such as the astonishing attention to detail. With Samus you can scan almost everything you come across and read extensive data logs – you become fully absorbed in the world.
The atmospherics are incredible, too, with all such of quirky sound effects dragging the player on in.
But it’s just so rewarding. As Samus you power-up in that famous way the Metroidvania genre has so brilliantly utilised.
And you blast your way to glory, but with intricate and clever puzzles-based concepts and a far-reaching sci-fi concept that leaves Metroid Prime as one of the greatest video games of its era.
As with Nintendo’s other famous game soundtracks, advances in technology by the time of the GameCube led to a total realisation of the series’ themes.
There’s an orchestral and ethereal quality to the work. It was a joint work between Kenji Yamamoto and Kouichi Kyuma. The former led the project, with the latter assisting.
The old themes from previous games are there to satisfy fans of the series, with Tallon Overworld taking the music from Metroid’s Brinstar section.
Super Metroid’s Lower Norfair theme is also overhauled. But the whole game is also brimming with new and rather enthralling compositions.
Industry legend Tommy Tallarico also helped with the game’s many and varied sound effects (check out our Ode to Video Game Sound Effects for more information there).
The end result? All rather glorious in its delivery – an other worldly way to drag the player into that eerie world.
Metroid Prime 4
Nintendo announced the above a while ago, but surprised fans with a recent update that the game required a total overhaul.
Nintendo has taken the project away from the previous developers (it’s unclear who was working on it) and handed the project to Retro Studios. As they keep working wonders, that’s great news (even if much of the original 2002 team has moved on).
As the project is starting from scratch, it does mean we’ll be waiting many years for the Metroid Prime 4. But it’ll be worth the wait, we’re sure – Nintendo knows fans expect total genius with this one.
And Retro Studios is more than capable of delivering the goods.