Nintendo of America
The original Metroid Prime, released for the GameCube in 2002, feels like a concept that honestly wouldn’t be made by a modern Nintendo. At that time, the Japanese company was emerging from its first major defeat in the console wars when the Nintendo 64 was outbid by Sony’s PlayStation by a margin of 3-1. Despite some of the world’s most iconic characters and titles, there was cause for concern when the Big N first came into this new generation as an underdog, a position they would cyclically fall back into from that point forward.
But as an underdog, the famously innovative brand has seen some of the biggest twists and turns in its history, from Zelda’s transformation into a cartoon pirate to Luigi being a ghostbuster, and Metroid Prime was one of its definite knockouts. Prime, the fifth entry in the series that began in 1986, took all of the franchise’s hallmarks – the isolating sci-fi horror atmosphere, labyrinthine world design, and exploration/puzzle-based looping gameplay – and not just brought them to life in stunning ways Life 3D but in first person perspective. It was a landmark release that set a high standard not just for the series but for the entire GameCube era. Metroid Prime Remastered from 2023 is exactly the same game now on Nintendo Switch, only better. And that’s kind of the problem.
Metroid Prime Remastered is visually arresting from the start.
[Captured on Nintendo Switch]
Metroid Prime Remastered is exactly the concept modern Nintendo would make. Though beautifully rendered, with jazzed up widescreen presentation, modernized controls, and very welcome accessibility options, it’s still very much the kind of artificial scarcity and weaponized nostalgia that makes Nintendo the Disney of the video game world. Instead of having the original widely distributed through reverse capacity on Switch – or even a digital reboot of the entire Metroid Prime trilogy that made its way to the Wii – we instead get a simultaneous announcement and release (tactically straight out of the ’90s) that feels like a $40 excuse for Metroid Prime 4 being MIA for six years.
[Captured on Nintendo Switch]
This game, announced in 2017, fell completely off the grid before Nintendo announced in 2019 that they would be starting it from scratch with new developers. It remains unseen to this day.
Few first-person games have ever been as immersive as Prime, with its in-visor HUD.
Hand wrestling aside, there’s a lot to celebrate with this iteration of Prime. The 2002 version brought the world of Metroid to life in spectacular fashion, and this remaster improves on it in every way imaginable. Visually and mechanically, it does what’s so fashionable these days: looking and playing like you remember the original, not the way it was. And what a beautifully facsimile memory it is. After booting up the game for the first time in 20 years, I was able to break through the first quarter in a trance-like haze, acting almost entirely on muscle memory. It felt like speeding up a game I didn’t know I knew so well; I was suddenly like Jason Bourne, an amnesiac scholar of gambling. It took me a while to realize that it was the result of a mechanical overhaul that added dual-stick shooter controls that all modern gamers are familiar with (and ironically from that game’s direct competitor, Halo from 2001, were introduced). I briefly switched back to the “purist” version, a clunky single-stick system based almost entirely on lock-on targets like the game did in 2002. I preferred to be Jason Bourne.
Visually, too, everything seemed to be the pink reminder of the original. Prime was famously a great game – after all, it was being developed for the GameCube at a time when Nintendo was competing in the market for technical fidelity rather than relying on unpowered hardware and bold charm – but this remaster is honestly one of the best Turning looking games on the market. Shocking at times, to the point where seeing a YouTube clip of the original was horrifying. The level of shading and texture here makes the 2002 iteration look like mud. It’s also surprisingly stable, especially compared to the numerous recent first- and second-party Nintendo titles that have struggled to run on the aging Switch hardware. Only 2021’s 2D-oriented Metroid Dread comes to mind as a game that looked this good on Switch. It’s best summed up by a single recurring detail: whenever an explosion occurs too close to the player’s visor, they can see a beautifully rendered reflection of their own face, or rather that of the heroine Samus Aran. It’s the kind of detail that 99 percent of first-person games have somehow missed and that makes Metroid Prime Remastered feel so vital, even as it’s being remastered.
[Captured on Nintendo Switch]
Speaking of Samus, it’s good to see that she’s gotten her due in recent years. For newcomers, the Metroid series may feel a bit familiar. Heavily “inspired” by Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, it places a strong female lead in an isolated horror space surrounded by creatures. Her nemesis’ name is literally “Ridley” — it’s not subtle. The series began as a fusion of Nintendo design philosophies – the precise platforming of Super Mario Bros. meets the item-based exploration of The Legend of Zelda. Blend these in a blender, add a stoic mercenary whose only personality trait is badass, and you have Metroid. Gameplay boils down to exploring the terrain until you’re blocked, then finding the right tool to unlock the path, backtrack, repeat. It stood the test, and although Nintendo put the franchise on the fridge for the best part of a decade after 2010’s abysmal Metroid: Other M, the subgenre has become popular with indie developers (like Hollow Knights Team Cherry), and for good Ground. Trending
“Here we go again.”
So while you can’t quite say “they don’t make them like that anymore,” a cynic might point to Metroid Prime Remastered as just another handout re-imagined to swamp fans until Metroid Prime 4 becomes more-than-vaporware. In a world where Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario 3D World are still bestsellers despite porting, there’s little reason to expect more. But if you’re new to the series or looking for a Metroid fix, until this generation’s innovative equivalent of Metroid Prime arrives, this is it. Metroid Prime Remastered is now available digitally for Nintendo Switch. The physical edition will be released on February 22nd.