'Metroid Prime Remastered' Is Simply Fantastic

Screenshot from "Metroid Prime Remastered."
Screenshot from "Metroid Prime Remastered." (Nintendo of America/TNS)

When "Metroid Prime" first arrived on the Nintendo GameCube 21 years ago, it was a kind-of, sort-of first-person shooter. Consoles were still figuring out ideal shooter mechanics, tank controls were all over the place, and naturally, Nintendo wanted to do things their own way. The result was fun but clunky.

Now that the game’s been remastered, it’s just ... plain ... fun. With "Metroid Prime Remastered" on the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo doesn’t simply rehash one of the seminal titles in all of gaming (more on that later). It delivers a fully modern take on "Metroid Prime" – without ever touching the core game. You get stunningly remastered visuals and a fresh control scheme, along with a terrific story and setting that uniquely holds up more than two decades later.

You play as Samus Aran, the space bounty-hunter star of all the "Metroid" games, in the game that helped transform the franchise – and help us rethink first-person shooters too. Until "Metroid Prime," the "Metroid" franchise had been your classic 2D platform-and-shooting exploration game, as you went from room to room, killing aliens, gradually beefing up Samus, and discovering a gaming world.

"Metroid Prime" dared to reimagine that, while still keeping the heart of Metroid’s exploratory roots. The resulting title was unique among “shooters,” so much so that at the time it wasn’t really labeled a shooter. In an era of "Goldeneye" and the original "Halo," games that pushed into cinematic storytelling and multiplayer, "Prime" was uniquely old-school. There is no multiplayer in this experience, and really, it’s only you in the game. There are no audio files to discover or voices communicating with you once you land on Tallon IV, the planet where "Prime" takes place.

It’s just you and the gaming world. This is an explorer’s shooter, less about killing and spectacle and more about uncovering the secrets of Tallon IV. And the experience is uniquely wonderful even today. There’s a sense of discovery in this title. In most modern shooters, a blend of narration or exposition or sheer gunfire instantly lets you know what’s going on, or propels you forward before you can figure out what’s going on. "Prime"’s rhythm is different: You’ll go from area to area, sometimes never firing a shot, sometimes handling a puzzle, sometimes taking on baddies.

The game retains the familiar "Metroid" structure but effectively transplants it to its first-person shooter format. There’s a mix of third-person view in here too, whenever Samus transforms into a Morph ball (which you’ll do frequently to traverse hidden tunnels and activate panels in certain rooms – or to become more elusive to your enemies, too).

You’ll go through the entire game without ever speaking to anyone else, and yet you’ll still learn about the world. That’s because Samus’ HUD will relay valuable information about dead enemies and various plant life on the planet. It’s gameplay unlike your typical shooter – but it’s terrifically satisfying and stands out against the 2023 backdrop of battle royale shooters.

Despite this throwback feel, "Metroid Prime Remastered" manages to feel as modern as it needs to, courtesy of its controls and visuals. The original "Prime" seemed unsure of how it wanted to control, trying to utilize every single tool on the weird GameCube controller of its era, maybe trying to feel a bit tanky in its controls too. You had to stand still, then look around a room to fire. This remaster comes with standard FPS controls, and they work swimmingly, making this the game "Metroid Prime" was supposed to be.

If you played the original "Prime," you’ll notice battles feel a bit more manageable here because of your newfound agility. But this remains a challenging game in the "Metroid" tradition, especially during boss battles. The bullet sponges of today’s era are absent, replaced by adversaries who require strategy and force you to discern their weak points.

Add in the fresh visuals, and you have a stunning game. "Metroid Prime" was always good-looking, but the remaster pushes things to a new level without destroying the integrity of the original. Every texture looks to have been overhauled, and little lighting touches abound. Tallon IV comes to life because of this, as does Samus.

The end result is a fantastic shooter that today’s games could learn plenty from. In truth, a host of games from the GameCube era were terrifically inventive like "Metroid Prime," rethinking gameplay conventions of their day in thoughtful, creative ways. Several of those games still have a place today.

None more than "Metroid Prime."



5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

Available on Nintendo Switch

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