How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. It’s Metroid but in first person. It’s that first person part that may be a sticking point for some.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~13 hours
Review Info: This game was played via the eshop release of the Metroid Prime Trilogy on a Niintendo Wii U console
Buy Metroid Prime 2: Echoes if you like…
- First Person Perspective
- Observational Exploration
- Scavenger Hunting
- Visceral Atmosphere
- 3D Zelda Style Puzzles
▼ Review continues below ▼
I missed Metroid Prime 2: Echoes when it originally came out, not having a Gamecube of my own and having moved away from where I could easily hijack my brother’s system to play it. Even back in the early 2000s I was somewhat lukewarm on Metroid Prime 1, so I didn’t feel a pressing need to go out of my way to play it.
I really should have though, because it’s pretty amazing.
There are parts about it that I definitely think can be improved, but Metroid Prime 2’s Metroidvania-style exploration contends with the best in the genre in my opinion, and the pure fun that comes from that aspect outweighs any weaknesses it has for me. Before I talk about that though, I figure I should address the two main gripes I had about the first game and how the second game tries to improve upon them.
I complained that in Metroid Prime 1 the combat was too simple, with its main “challenge” coming from color matching your laser to the enemy’s armor, or switching your visor to be able to even hit the thing. In Metroid Prime 2, most enemies still stand out in the open and spray bullets in your direction in uninteresting ways, but there’s a greater emphasis on “Puzzle” style combat since the variety of how to dispatch enemies has increased. Just as one example, there are these weird two-legged bug enemies that attach to the ceiling. They are impervious to most damage, and if you fire a missile at one of their legs they stay attached with their other leg. The trick to their defeat is to use your spread missile to hit both legs at once. There are many enemies that are like this – with one enemy you have to dash behind them, another you have to blow their top off with a missile first, and like in the first game some enemies require you to match your laser to whatever shield they have. The trouble with this approach to combat though is once you’ve figured out the “puzzle” repeating it ninety-five times as you walk through the same areas over and over stops being fun and interesting pretty quick. Enemies also take a long time to kill (even on Normal mode) unless you use your special weapons – but if you want to conserve ammo and still kill things you’re kind of stuck. Thankfully killing things nets no reward except ammo and health refills, and usuually the doors are unlocked in whatever room you’re in – so most of the time you can just ignore all the things.
Bosses also have more interesting variety overall when it comes to their Zelda-like puzzle solutions – almost to the point where a blind fight with them can be downright confusing. However, Samus comes with a built in strategy guide if you take a moment to scan the enemy, and the hints the scans give are vague enough that you still feel like you are figuring it out when you do find the solution. Occasionally the game introduces a new mechanic with these puzzles though, which can feel a little unfair, especially in one fight where you have to use the new mechanic on a time limit. In general though, the bosses might not be too challenging once you figure them out, but they’re almost all at least interesting.
My other complaint about Metroid Prime 1 was that it felt bogged down by uninteresting simple puzzles with every new room you encountered, when the game’s true strength was exploring and finding power-ups. Well, Retro Studios must have heard me complaining through a time warp or something, because Metroid Prime 2 does not have that problem at all. There are still a few puzzles I can do without, but the “scan 3 objects to open a door” nonsense is rare, and what puzzles remain actually can be some great headscratchers. But the best change is that thanks to the game’s formulaic design of requiring you to find three keys in each zone in order to access the zone’s boss, the game’s focus is right where it needs to be; on the exploration.
Now that my goal wasn’t just to get to the end of an area to move on, but rather to find three things within the area, I found myself discovering more Missile packs, Energy Tanks, and Bullet Expansions in the process – sort of organically powering up without having to put the brakes on the main quest to do so. If you didn’t like the Artifact Collecting Quest at the end of the first game, you’ll probably hate the direction that Metroid Prime 2 took here, since it basically has you searching for artifacts throughout the game (and you do an additional “artifact quest” to top it all off before the ending.) But for me, the exploration-focused design really helped me develop the feeling that the world of Aether was a place, and let me become fully immersed within its world. The game still has the Rube Goldberg machines – where you basically sit and watch Samus get shuffled through weird sci-fi equipment designed to accept human sized exploding ball objects – but they feel less like padding and more like world building. It’s like you’re in an actual alien machine working through its parts as you try to get from point A to point B.
The presentation overall is excellent. The game opens up with a mystery as you control the Legendary Bounty Hunter investigating a distress call. You gradually unfold the reason the Pirates are on the planet, and exactly what is causing all of the troubles and trials on the planet, each event building on the last and whetting my appetite for more to come. Eventually, you cross over into another world in this quest of discovery, and find yourself in a strange almost lovecraftian dark world where the air is so oppressive your health gradually drains while within it. This story presentation does a great job providing that hook to drive the player forward, but at a certain point it just kind of plateaus. I kept expecting another twist along the way, like the obvious “The Luminoths were the aggressors all along!”, but the game plays it pretty straight once all of its secrets are revealed and you get into the meat of the game. This is fine, but it’s still a long ways away from the emotional payoff that the Metroid series had previously provided beginning with the ending of Metroid 2 and ending with Super Metroid.
I absolutely loved the Dark World in Metroid Prime 2. I’ve read on forums here and there that some people didn’t like that you lost health gradually while within it – and I can completely understand that. The argument could be made that for all of the progress Metroid Prime 2 has made toward making Exploration a focus, it’s stunted by how this health drain discourages going off the beaten path while in Dark Aether. It is also annoying at first when you have little health that it’s so tempting to just stay in the healing bubbles until you’re healed to max, and no one likes just waiting in video games. With that said though, getting 100 energy with each health upgrade has been something Metroid has to struggle with balancing in every game, and I think “Health is Fuel” is a fine design option to make finding those energy tanks more meaningful. You feel even more powerful as you find the upgrades you need to overcome the oppressive darkness and finally get to explore to your hearts content. Most of all, I think the feel and the atmosphere of the Dark World is totally worth it. I also think from a game development standpoint, the Dark World concept in general allowed Retro Studios to place the emphasis on exploration without taking too many resources in an increasingly expensive AAA industry. They could reuse costly level geography, but still make the experience different enough that it doesn’t feel like repetition. In short, I think the Dark World was a genius move.
I don’t think Metroid Prime 2 is “the best game ever” by any means, but it is a standout in gaming history, and really solidifies the viability of the Metroidvania in a 3D space for me. I still think the “3D Metroiidvania” genre has a lot that it can improve on, particularly with the combat, but when it comes to exploration I think Metroid Prime 2 has set a standard that I’ll likely be comparing any future 3D MVs that I play against. If you can get a hold of a means of playing it, I definitely recommend you check it out.
Some of the same issues with the first game still exist, but added variety and ability to skip most enemies helps a lot
Thoughtful level design and new powers add extra depth to the first person platforming. Some spider ball sections feel like 2D platforming
With the introduction of Dark Temple Keys as a primary focus, Exploration is at its best in this game
While many of them are only optional, there are some good headscratching puzzles to solve - with a few duds here and there as well
The presentation allows the story to be a main driving point for progression, although the story itself is pretty straightforward
A lot more stylized features give Metroid Prime 2 a timelessness that supersedes the aged technology that made it. Although, Samus' face looks weird.
In spite of the music being produced by really dated MIDI music, there are a lot of catchy tunes that set up the atmosphere perfectly
More difficulty modes could provide more replay value, but they don't come particularly recommended.