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Metroid Prime is still one the best 3D debuts of any series

Metroid Prime Remastered is one of the best recent Switch games, and looks amazing
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It’s been more than 20 years since Metroid Prime first released, and with a few minor control updates, it still manages to impress in 2023. Metroid Prime Remastered has breathed new life into the decaying ruins of Tallon IV, and the world feels more hostile and believable than ever before.

I profess to be a bit of a Nintendo fanboy – I’d take a new Mario or Zelda game over a Western triple-A release any day of the week – but despite that, I’ve never actually finished Metroid Prime before. You’ll have to forgive me because I was 11 years old when it launched. As a youngster, I adored the thick atmosphere, and I was able to appreciate it, unlike when I got terrified of Resident Evil’s undead monsters. But I would spend hours, which turned to weeks, trying to find the next area I was supposed to go to.

Metroid Prime remastered

Samus has never looked better.

I was a dumb kid, okay? I couldn’t quite decipher the wireframe 3D map, and I’d get lost any time I attempted to search for a morph ball passage or a specific type of door I’d seen days before. Well, I’m 31 years old now, and despite my aged and addled mind, I am now able to fully appreciate everything Retro Studios managed to achieve.

Metroid has always been obtuse, and I can’t blame anyone that played Super Metroid and didn’t realize that some doors require five missiles in a row to unlock, or posted “y can’t Metroid crawl?” on Miiverse. But Prime does a lot to streamline the experience, while keeping a firm grip on the series’ signature mystique.

The Scan Visor does so much to explain the world, while also keeping it under wraps. Retro Studios was confident it was developing a first-person action game, but Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe explained to the team that Nintendo saw it as a game about the environment.

The Scan Visor explains the world to you in fragments.

The Scan Visor explains the world to you in fragments.

 As Metroid Prime director Mark Pacini explained in a 2016 interview with Game Informer: “It seemed like such a silly idea, Nintendo's thing was like, 'This is going to be about the scan visor. This game is about scanning the environment.'

“And we're like, 'Okay, but this is an action game, this is a shooting game'. But as the brilliance of them, and it was Tanabe-san who had an idea of, 'Well what if we did this, and you get information, this is how we do the tutorials, and this is how you give the players instruction, and we could do all these things with the scan visor?’”

Instead of an intrusive pop-up interrupting Metroid’s carefully paced flow of gameplay, the player themselves can take a moment to pull up the scan visor, examine the environment, and find clues to either piece together the story via fragmentary passages – Dark Souls before its time, in more ways than one – or solve puzzles in the environment. Some things you can scan will basically explain the puzzle outright, but it feels natural thanks to the assumedly high-tech gear Samus has in her suit.

Meta Ridley is still the big boss enemy.

Meta Ridley is still the big boss enemy.

The game still won’t explain to you the exact paths you must take, even with the Hint system – which will ping the next location you should visit on your map whenever you feel lost – turned on. Sounds easy, but Prime’s labyrinthine biomes will still hold secrets, like hidden morph ball paths that require bombs to open, or an impossible jump you’ll need to attempt once you get a new power-up.

Compared to modern sci-fi shooters, it’s not tough to despatch enemies in Metroid Prime, so it’s a good thing it retains the puzzle-exploration mechanics of the original 2D games, and the new focus on scanning detailed 3D environments. It’s an authentic, layered, complex Metroidvania game (duh), and the first 3D attempt that nailed it in every respect.

All of that is enhanced in Metroid Prime Remastered. The controls have been adapted for players that are used to modern dual-stick set ups, yet still work perfectly for anyone nostalgic for the original, and it even includes gyro controls for those that grew up with the Metroid Prime Trilogy on the Wii. The visuals are the standout feature though: environments are dense with detail, effects have been overhauled, and it manages to feel like an authentic, modern game, unlike most remasters of 20-year-old titles.

Yes, there are Metroids present, too.

Yes, there are Metroids present, too.

Metroid Prime, even with the updates, shouldn’t hold up in 2023 as one of the best Nintendo Switch games in recent memory, but it does, and it is. Metroid Prime Remastered is a fantastic return to a game that wrote the book on 3D Metroidvania games, even if it took nearly a decade for a certain cryptic swords-and-sorcery series to kindle the flame.