The way Nintendo stealth-bombed us with Metroid Prime Remastered reminded me of how excited I felt when ten years ago, My Bloody Valentine suddenly released an unexpected, and warmly received album after decades of inactivity. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was amazing. Just like hearing Kevin Shields unleash that familiar wall of ethereal guitar sounds again, getting to play Retro Studios’ astonishing Samus adventure afresh is a treat for the soul.
For the uninitiated, Metroid Prime did a remarkable job of transferring the exploratory platforming of the two-dimensional Metroid titles into a fully 3D world. Balancing combat, drip feeding abilities and encouraging returning to hitherto locked areas is a difficult enough concept to get right in two dimensions.
Prior to the 2002 Gamecube release, only a handful of titles had come close to achieving a decent shot at this style of game, and then even those aren’t fully functioning first person shooters. You had slept-on PlayStation title The Divide: Enemies Within, perhaps the rough and ready spooky N64 Castlevanias, but not much else. Metroid Prime was quite rightly hailed as an instant classic, and for many is regarded as one of the finest games ever made for a Nintendo console.
Thanks to the excellence of the new default control scheme, impressive new graphical touches, and bundled in extras, Metroid Prime Remastered is the best way to play what remains an instantly arresting, compulsive, and expertly designed game.
Like a fair few other GameCube titles (damn, I loved that console), the original was pretty swish in the aesthetics department to begin with. But just how my brain needed a side by side comparison to compute just how ace the remastered cel-shaded glory of Wind Waker looked, it is only when you see the pair running together that you take in all of the textures, particle effects, lighting and many other graphical tricks that have been shoehorned onto the Switch version.
Metroid Prime Remastered also has the coveted full 60fps, if that sort of thing gets you hot under the collar. Prime not only looks technically lush, but the actual design and environments that were ahead of their time to begin with are equally impressive to behold more than twenty years down the line.
The intuitive first-person gameplay puts you right inside the HUD display of Samus’s headgear as you explore a succession of mysterious alien biomes, encounter all manner of grotesque enemies, and use the abilities you acquire to edge your way onwards, with a fair bit of classic Metroidvania backtracking. I don’t need to bang on too much about how well it plays. Everything lands perfectly – be it the satisfying, lock-on and strafe-based shooting, the sheer joy of having a roll about as Morph ball Samus in 3D, the majesty of the bosses, and the moreish scanning mechanic which becomes compulsive as you learn more about the strange terrain and the menagerie of flora and fauna therein.
Included are galleries of glorious concept art that cover the content from the Wii version, but also a 3D model viewer, so you can rotate and gawk at your favourite mutant space critters to your hearts content. Also included is an audio gallery, which is an excellent way to spend time taking in the gold-standard atmospherics of Kenji Yamamoto’s ridiculous soundtrack.
I loved the GameCube controller at the time, but put one in my hands now after several years of handling more conventional takes on joypads and I would shudder with discomfort. Old school purists can map the controls to a GameCube style controller, but the way the twin analogue sticks are employed like most modern titles of this ilk work really well. You can also play with the motion capabilities of the Joy-Cons mimicking the Wii version, however they don’t work as well as the infrared Wiimotes did, rendering this method a cumbersome and inaccurate way to play.
This is easily the best remaster on Switch to date by some margin. It says a lot that my retro-cynical ten-year-old son, who was a mere twinkle in my eye at the time of original release, was astonished at the age of the game, graphical overhaul or not, given its sheer quality. It instantly becomes an utterly essential purchase if you own a Switch, and will have fans clamouring for Retro to do the same to the sequels. Throw in the fact that the much-vaunted Metroid Prime 4 is currently still very much in gestation and the future is bright for our favourite galactic heroine.
One of the best games of all time
Looks even better
Nice extra features and choices of controls
Gamecube control scheme has aged badly
Metroid Prime Remastered is the best remaster on Switch to date by some margin, which is saying a lot. Still essential after all these years.