Review: Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch)

A classic reborn with spectacular enhanced visuals and new control schemes!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/15/2023 08:49 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Visuals are easily some of the best, if not the best, on Switch; exploration-based gameplay is as taught and engaging as ever; tons of lore to pluck through while scanning everything in the environment; Tallon IV is incredibly immersive and interesting as a setting
Poison Mushroom for...
The blurring of environment when viewed through the Thermal Visor makes combat and exploration overly difficult and even somewhat nauseating; targeting reticle when Samus is at rest when using the Classic control setup is too high

Metroid Prime launched on GameCube back in 2002. For many it was their first introduction to developer Retro Studios, who came in at a time when there was a sense of angst over the sale of Rare to Microsoft. Who could possibly fill the void left by such a, at the time, stalwart developer? As it so happens, Retro was more than able to pick up the slack, albeit with far less output than Rare was capable of in its heyday. Metroid Prime represented many challenges for Retro. It was to be the first game in the series in eight years; it was the series’ transition into 3D; it was to be played from a first-person perspective. On every one of these points Retro was successful, capturing the spirit of the Metroid games that preceded Prime while propelling it into a more modern era of game design and gameplay. Now, 21 years later, Metroid Prime Remastered has been released, and it is safe to say that this classic remains a masterpiece that deserves your time and enthusiasm.

Although the original Metroid Prime came out over two decades ago, this isn’t the first time that the game has been remastered and re-released. That honor goes to Metroid Prime Trilogy on Nintendo Wii in 2009. That game provided widescreen support and motion controls for Prime, something that is carried over here into Metroid Prime Remastered. However, unlike Metroid Prime Trilogy, the visuals here are presented in gorgeous HD. What’s more, the clear love that has been poured into updating every single asset to look better than ever is evident from the outset. One of the best examples of this is Samus’s visor, which picks up droplets of water when looking skyward into rainfall, as well as fills with condensation when blasted with bursts of steam. These small details were mindblowing in 2002 and remain impressive in 2023. Everything from Samus’s armor to trees and water have been given a slick coat of fresh paint, making this easily one of the best looking games on Nintendo Switch to date.

It isn’t just the graphics that make Metroid Prime Remastered so beautiful, but also the expert world and character design. It’s amazing to think that a game produced in 2002 could look so completely contemporary as it does. The intertwining corridors that fill the world of Tallon IV are easy to navigate and distinct from region to region. From Phendrana Drifts to the Phazon Mines, there are so many clever details interspersed throughout that will keep the player’s eyes rolling over the screen. Enormous trees bursting from the ground into the sky, Chozo statues with outstretched hands encased in ice, and more such sights keep every minute of exploration engaging.

Although it doesn’t fit the definition exactly, the use of environmental storytelling in Metroid Prime Remastered is another integral part of the experience. Sprinkled throughout Tallon IV are numerous points that Samus can use her Scan Visor to pull information from. This information can be purely tactical (an enemy’s weaknesses, for instance), but they can also be story based. There are two sets of lore to find throughout Tallon IV: Space Pirate and Chozo. The former gives insight into the band of space thieves’ machinations to pull Phazon from the planet and use it to experiment on everything from its own troops to Metroids. The latter explains the origins of Phazon on the Tallon IV and their reaction to it. Although none of these entries is particularly long, they are numerous and, when read as a whole, paint a vivid picture of what has happened to Tallon IV and Samus’s place within the narrative. It also allows players who want more story from the game to get it, while those who just want to dig into exploring and blasting bad guys to do so with little impediment.

Given that Nintendo Switch is capable of both motion and traditional controls, it was wise of Retro (and the various other studios that pitched in to produce this remaster) to incorporate both styles of play into Remastered. The motion controls here are arguably inferior to what was available on Wii, sadly. The level of customization to pointer sensitivity and speed that was available in Metroid Prime Trilogy is absent here, and for some it will be a major letdown. That said, the traditional button controls that Prime was designed with are the superior way to play. For those playing Remastered with no previous experience with the original Prime, I would say that the default Dual Stick control option is the way to go. It will feel the most natural as it’s very similar to how modern shooters handle.

For longtime fans, switching things over to Classic is a better option. In this setup players navigate and shoot using only the left control stick, while switching beam weapons is handled with the right stick. For newbies this setup could possibly feel restrictive, but this is the control scheme that the game was designed with and is still perfectly workable now—give it a shot!  Arguably, the best way to play is with an original GameCube controller hooked up using the Switch’s GameCube controller adapter. There are also replica pads like the ones Power A makes that work just fine and have the Home and Share buttons included. Keep in mind that if you do connect a GameCube pad that the Morph Ball and missile controls are swapped by default in the game’s settings. This is okay if you’re using a modern controller (Joy-Con, Pro Controller, etc.) because the placement of the X and Y buttons makes it necessary (shooting Super Missiles is very awkward otherwise). On a GameCube controller, though, I found my muscle reflexes totally thrown off by the change—thankfully, Remastered lets you swap these actions back to their original setup.

What remains the standout of Prime here in Remastered is how immersive an experience this is. Tallon IV is so packed with secrets and sights that it will take the average player many hours to find and see everything. All of the lore and data to scan makes players feel like this is a real place, one where the stakes are real and truly pressing. It’s a testament to the creativity of Retro Studios that Tallon IV is so fleshed out that it instantly endears itself to players. It isn’t often that a game so readily sucks players in, but Prime does exactly that.

I’ve been gushing, but there are a couple of tiny issues that I noticed during my playthrough that I would like to point out here before I wrap up. First, I’m convinced that the targeting reticle resting position when playing with the Classic control option is set too high. It should be slightly lower on the screen so that the beam is naturally aimed very close to the center of the doorways as Samus walks around the game world. To be honest, I don’t know for certain that this has been changed from the original games (once I hook my GameCube back up and check, I’ll update this review and let you all know for sure). Even if it’s a quirk from the original that I’m forgetting, it’s a mildly irritating one that has Samus perpetually looking upward a tad more than she should be, which can become distracting when traversing Tallon IV. Another offputting alteration comes via the Thermal Visor, which now looks like vaseline has been smeared across Samus’s faceplate when peering through it. The visuals were nowhere near this hazy on GameCube nor Wii and, along with the height of the targeting reticle, are screaming for some TLC in a future patch. The visor in particular had me feeling nauseous as I looked through it.

It’s hard to imagine, but twice now Metroid Prime has proven itself to be a timeless work of art. First in 2009 when updated for Wii, and now in 2023 with Remastered on Switch. The storytelling, design work, and tight gameplay are as good as anything else produced in the last five years. This reworking is a glorious love letter to the original and the perfect way for contemporary and returning players to enjoy Metroid Prime. Now it’s just a question of whether or not Metroid Prime 4 can live up to this gem, and if we’ll eventually get Metroid Prime 2 and 3 Remastered. Go download this. Treat yourself. It is Valentine’s Day, after all. This is a game that’s easy to love.

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