A little less than a year ago, I made a promise to myself to beat Metroid Prime, a game that had long been shamefully lingering in my backlog. At first, it was “All Systems GO!” I conquered the Pirate Frigate and the Parasite Queen. I bravely explored the Chozo Ruins and put an end to Flaahgra. I beat the heat of Magmoor Caverns and found solace in the Phenandra Drifts. I had a terribly rocky time with Thardus but came out on top. I found the crashed frigate and carefully crept through the Phazon Mines. The Omega Pirate was nearly my undoing, but once I remember the difference between the X-Ray Visor and the Thermal Visor, the Omega Pirate was no match. I rambled through the Impact Crater and met Meta Ridley undaunted.
The time I spent with the game, though fragmented, was filled with purpose. But by the time I finally faced off with the Metroid Prime this past February, I was tired, and I was tired of continually losing to this formidable foe. I then questioned my future with the game, and put it on the backburner for awhile.
Recently I found myself with some rare free time for gaming and decided to forgo my current ventures (namely Dragon Age: Inquisition and Xenoblade Chronicles) in favor of giving Metroid Prime another whirl. And…well, there really is no story to tell, because I just wasn’t feeling it. Just having to make my way up the Impact Crater to the Prime’s location cast a shadow over my mood and determination. And in the couple instances that I met the monster, only once did I make it to its final battle stage. I spent a good couple hours with the game, taking suitable breaks so as to not go full hulk in frustration, but it was all for naught. I decided that my time with the game as some sort of mission was at an end.
This is not to say that I will never beat Metroid Prime. It’s simply no longer something that’s going to weigh in my mind, because I’m good now with where I stand with the game. Though I was once worried that I wouldn’t be able to move on to Metroid Prime 2: Echoes without having fully completely the first game in the series, that no longer bothers me. I’m not ready to play Echoes, or even Metroid Prime 3: Corruption yet. But when the right time comes, I’ll be prepared.
So what, then, of my experience with Metroid Prime? Well…it was very, very mixed. And it’s not without hesitation that I type those words, for I know how beloved the game is to many. I know that it sits on an extremely high pedestal as far as first-person, action-adventure games go. I know of its praise and that so few find fault with it. Given my personal history with the game, if I hadn’t played it in fits and starts, maybe my opinion would be different. If I hadn’t gotten so stupidly frustrated with it some thirteen years ago, maybe I’d be singing a different tune. But as it stands today, here’s my Metroid Prime song, which is peppered by plenty of personal shortcomings that affect my gaming generally.
Metroid Prime and I were perfectly in sync when I was left to my own devices in exploring mode. Those times after enemies were quieted and obstacles were overcome were my absolute favorite – when I could simply go into a space and explore what it had to offer without worry. And the game had so…much…space! The world of Metroid Prime felt vast, like I would never see the end of it. And in those moments when I truly had a handle on the controls, I was unstoppable.
On the downside, managing the first-person view even in the most docile of spaces caverns mostly made me angry. I often couldn’t see the difference between ledges and non-ledges. I was terrible at aiming the grapple beam and differentiating between the visors. Honestly, the times when I actually “had a handle on the controls” were few and far between. It wasn’t too long into the game that I resented to lack of save spaces. Yes, this made the game feel intense, but I’m way past that era where I can readily deal with intensity in games.
Speaking of which, let’s chat for a bit about the game’s boss battles, which far and away brought out the worst in me. (Just thinking about each battle makes my insides churn with dread and fury.) The only battle that I found even remotely likable was the one with Meta Ridley because from its start, it felt like I had a chance of winning. With all the previous battles – from the Parasite Queen to the Omega Pirate – strategizing each battle was a stressful endeavor. Each battle was more fierce than the previous one; and each time I lost and tried again, the next attempts felt like they got harder and harder. In those moments, I hated the game.
The one thing that really kept me going despite the battles was the game’s story, which was told in about as perfect a way as a could be. (This keeping in tune with Metroid games, generally.) Rather than thrusting Samus’s many dilemmas down your throat with walls of text and ten minute cutscenes, you scanned for information. You scanned enemies to find out more about them. You scanned computer terminals to find out just what has been happening on Tallon IV, the game’s setting. But, you didn’t have to scan everything. In fact, you could skip all the scan points in an area (and the whole game!) if you wanted to. But I wanted to piece together Samus’s story, which turned out to be nearly the only impetus that kept me engaged in the game.
I don’t regret a single hour I spent with Metroid Prime, and I don’t regret that it remains unbeaten. I also don’t regret that my gaming life has led me in a direction away from the likes of Metroid Prime. It may be your game, but it isn’t mine. Maybe the tides will have turned for me once I get around to Echoes andCorruption. I don’t doubt that I will enjoy them in some manner, but it probably won’t be in all manners.