When I was a kid, video games weren’t always marketed to women, especially those of us with limited financial resources. When I first got into video games, I had a Nintendo DS, which boasted a ton of so-called girly games that I had a hard time getting into the more gender-neutral or stereotypically male titles on my Xbox 360, such as Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed.
Due to this unease, I found myself longing for the Metroid games, which aren’t specifically aimed at female gamers but, as I recently discovered to my astonishment, center on the blasé female bounty hunter Samus Aran.
With these thoughts in mind, I booted up Metroid Prime Remastered for the GameCube in the hopes of experiencing some of what I had missed as a 4-year-old (the game’s original release date) when it was first published, back in 2002, when I still didn’t know what made a person a female. It’s effective.
Tallon IV Remastered maintains the original game’s story while updating the visuals and audio to a higher standard. Tallon IV, once home to the birdlike Chozo race before it was wiped out by a meteor spewing the poisonous element Phazon, can be traversed in around 13 hours.
Even though Space Pirates have taken over the planet, Tallon IV still has many remnants of the Chozo, such as crumbling stone temples and lush rainforests. Samus, who you only see when she’s riding an elevator in the third person and stares out her helmet glass in shock, or when her reflection appears in a dazzling beam blast through your first-person vision, must destroy them.
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With the help of her hovering, heavily armed, and armored body, I am able to retrieve relics, scan environments, and the terrible animals within them to record as field notes, and blow through enemies.
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It didn’t take me more than a couple of seconds to destroy these guys in the game’s normal setting. There is a memorable menagerie of them, including aliens resembling porcupines with spindly legs, gassy globes that look like the novel coronavirus, and muscled, reptilian Space Pirates who pop out of dark corners to take you down.
The game’s easygoing nature is apparent even in the brief instructional mission of this shooter. As soon as I step foot aboard the Pirates’ Orpheon spaceship, with copper-colored Tallon IV resembling a glittering penny in the distance, I am urged to fire my Pulse Beam against the planet’s inhabitants. Boom. This time its curtains for the pirates.
When I use the game’s most forgiving lock-on setting, which further simplifies the already stripped-down firing controls, I am instructed to press B in order to avoid incoming fire. Boom. Green slime is spewed at me by a swarm of monsters. The creatures splash and slide off my visor, but I dispatch them fast.
With such a tame introduction, Metroid Prime immediately distinguishes itself as an adventure game in the vein of Lara Croft rather than a shooter. Tense times, like just after slaying a boss or falling into a pit of molten magma, serve as pinches to motivate me to keep moving forward, to grab the next piece of equipment, to venture down another secret tunnel, and to add more history of Chozo to my logbook.
Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch) available at GameStop ($39.99) https://t.co/8hgejKSiJc #ad
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Improved version of the same game
The fact that it looks so…remastered is certainly a plus for this Remastered edition. As I play, I get increasingly enamored with the game’s adorable, cartoonish visuals and forget that it was first launched on GameCube in 2002.
Samus’s immaculate rainbow eyebrows are reflected in her helmet and are the color of bark. The hapless foes are brightly hued like gummy bears; some have ice covers on their backs like turtle shells, while others crackle with painful white lines of electricity and the Space Pirates have lengthy legs and jet packs.
Nonetheless, Remastered does not disregard its roots. In addition to the default dual-stick for modern, dual-stick control, the game provides a wide variety of controller settings, such as “classic,” based on the GameCube controller, “pointer,” which functions “similar to Metroid Prime: Trilogy for Wii,” and “hybrid,” which combines dual-stick and classic. Most of the time I use dual-stick controls, but hybrid is a pleasant limitation thanks to its sticky up-and-down control, which helps alleviate my motion sickness.
I value that as well. My video game-induced motion nausea is exacerbated by first-person games, but I haven’t experienced any ill effects from playing Metroid Prime. The graphics are equally sharp on both my huge TV and the little Nintendo Switch OLED screen, which is a huge convenience.
The music is constantly evocative, with touches of stardust piano here and groovy drum machine there; it sounds fantastic on my stereo speakers and through my Switch, with the latter taking on a delightfully tinny feel, like cookies rattling around in their box.
Like when I played the Dead Space remake, the only thing I really missed while playing this game was the feeling of familiarity. It made it harder to sugarcoat occasional annoyances without it.
As I make my way through the game, I am able to upgrade my health and Power Suit with new features, such as a thermal visor, moon-landing boots, and purple-light missile launchers. This means that the relative ease with which I encounter the various foes that populate the various places I explore, hunt in, pillage, and return to remains mostly unchanged. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me too much because I enjoy the game more when I can rapidly dispatch my foes and move on.
The bosses, however, either have tricks to them (a light beam you need to modify the position of, some rocks you need to carefully smash), or they demand boringly little talent, making the repetitive and simple gameplay less enjoyable (hold B to avoid an attack, shoot until they die). During the sixth boss fight, I’m more irritated than excited, just wanting to get it over with so I can avoid having to go back to the last save point.
While I see why purists would prefer the save station, the health recharging checkpoints are spread out throughout each new area, and the game’s main focus is on exploration. You do realize that this is an exciting opportunity, right? But, I no longer feel challenged, but rather frustrated, as I stumble into magma and have to backtrack ten minutes’ worth of my progress, killing the weak opponents that light that way again. The game’s central mechanic, exploration, becomes a tedious job.
I struggle to empathize with Samus’s obscure objective at the game’s slower, more unpleasant moments. Unlike the groundbreaking science fiction horror film that was an inspiration for the Metroid games, Alien, Remastered doesn’t provide me a compelling cause to cheer for the female protagonist. Not only am I not emotionally invested in the fate of the Chozo, but the game also doesn’t rely heavily enough on mystery to make me care. Everything has a clear villain and is about mutants being bad.
I was all set to just enjoy Metroid Prime Remastered without needing to write about it but content doesn't sleep etc https://t.co/BRmzMh9fj4
— Alan Wen (@DaMisanthrope) February 17, 2023
Around halfway through, I activate the full narration options so that the game’s original European and Japanese voiceover would play in the background as I played. Disappointment sets in when I learn that those familiar voices appear only in the game’s prologue and epilogue, as well as in the translation of place names like Ice Valley (Phendrana Drifts).
The character of Samus Aran continues to exist
Even though Metroid Prime recycles a lot of ideas, I’m more intrigued by the meticulous attention to detail it employs to make up for that (it is a 2002 game, after all). Water runs down Samus’ visor like she’s a stone in a river; the white-blue snowdrifts of the Phendrana region.
Samus, austere and uncommunicative as she may be, has won my heart with her responses. Samus, like Ripley from Alien, is shown in a delightfully non-gendered way, with her suit including big armored biceps and a bit of flat orange metal around her waist that is too defensive to allow for curves.
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The visuals in Remastered are excellent, and while the game still translates well as an open, fun shooter, what really stands out to me is how Samus is treated as a person in this version of the game. Not a woman with her problems, objectified and thrown away like a sex worker in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City from the same year, and not a woman confined to the sidelines like the female protagonists in Dead Space from 2023.
Instead of dwelling on Samus’s anxiety, Metroid Prime has her travel Tallon IV with a casual disregard for her surroundings, an attitude that is rarely advocated for women when they are out and about on their own. Yet, Samus has no reason to rush because she is always protected by Metroid Prime.
Metroid Prime Remastered is the best way to play one of the best games ever made and earns a rare perfect score in my @PCMag review https://t.co/x6oOf6i8Bt
— Jordan Minor (@JordanWMinor) February 17, 2023
Her immediate access to existence is not contingent on her gender. I don’t give a hoot about Samus’s sexuality or appearance unless I catch a glimpse of her helmet and her black-mascara-fluttering eyes.
And for that I am grateful. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve seen the video game business expand far beyond the realm of so-called female games and have had the opportunity to participate in this phenomenon myself. When it first came out over 20 years ago, Metroid Prime seemed flawless. It’s been far too long ago for that to still be true. But, it has mastered the art of letting a woman live.
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Frequently asked questions
What resolution is Metroid Prime remastered?
Metroid Prime Remastered is playable at a consistent framerate of 900p/60fps when docked and 612p/60fps when in handheld mode.
Who made Metroid Prime remastered?
Retro Studios led development of the remaster with help from other studios like Iron Galaxy Studios. There are new graphics, revised control schemes (including a dual-stick option), and unlockable artwork in the remaster. Metroid Prime Remastered was met with "universal acclaim," as rated by review aggregator Metacritic.
Is Metroid Prime remastered good?
Overall, Metroid Prime Remastered does a fantastic job at recreating the feel of the original game. It's a near-identical recreation, both visually and mechanically, to the original game.