9 / 10 Banzai!s
When Nintendo announced that Retro Studios was making Metroid Prime, the first 3D entry in the series, people were skeptical about how it would work. Skeptics were proven wrong, and Super Metroid was practically reborn in 3D to create one of the best games on the Gamecube.
Two years later, nearly lost in the PS2 shadow of GTA San Andreas and Xbox‘s Halo 2, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (or more appropriately, Dark Echoes, the Japanese name) was released.
14 years later, Nintendo has announced Metroid Prime 4, and I’m doing another in my series of 31 Days, so I decided playing Metroid Prime 2 is long overdue.
Retro Studios knocked another one out of the park.
You start off with little information other than a distress call from Federation forces on the planet Aether. As you fly through the atmosphere, Samus’ ship is damaged by a purple haze, and begins repairing itself as you set off to explore the source of the distress call.
It’s not long before you encounter troopers and creatures that are possessed by more purple haze, which turns out to be a race of creatures known as the Ing. You are then–briefly–transported to another dimension, where you get beat down, lose most of your technology, and see your doppelganger Dark Samus from the bonus scene at the end of the previous game.
Later on, you learn that this race has all but destroyed the Luminoth, a highly advanced race who inhabited the planet ages ago. The Ing came when a phazon meteorite struck the planet, creating a dark world, and have been battling the Luminoth and stealing their energy to the point where if the Great Temple falls, Aether will disappear.
And that’s where you come in, exploring the desert-like Agon Wastes, the lush Torvus Bog, and the amazingly futuristic Sanctuary Fortress. Of course, they have their dark world counterparts, and you must traverse both to solve puzzles and pick up the items you need to return the stolen energy from dark temples to the energy collectors on Aether.
The game controls exactly like Metroid Prime, which is a good thing as they were fluid and easy to use. However, playing this in 2018 shows that the old FPS model of having a look button is extremely outdated. Somehow, it works surprisingly well with this game, but of course you can’t aim and move at the same time if you’re holding down the button.
But the on-the-fly weapon swap that made Metroid Prime so great requires the c-stick to be used, so I can’t think of a controller scheme that can implement both (the d-pad switches between visors, also like the previous game.)
While Prime pulled the weapons from previous Metroid games, Prime 2 gives you the Dark Beam, Light Beam, and, much later, the Annihilator Beam. Both of the main beams are used to open portals to the other world, defeat creatures of the opposite type, and of course open doors. The Annihilator Beam combines the two to really mess with enemies with the added bonus of homing in on most targets.
The change I feared the most going in was the addition of ammunition for said beams, but it was actually rarely an issue. There are a few ammo stations located throughout the game, and you can pick up upgrades to obtain a maximum of 250 of each type. I rarely ran out of ammo. If you do, however, you can still charge the weapon to use it (if you need to open doors, for example.)
The story you pick up from scanning the lore, the combat, and the items are all great. So much so that at times I wondered if this game isn’t actually better than Super Metroid or Metroid Prime, two games I consider to be some of the best (if not the best) games in their respective genres.
There are a few things that force me to take a good hard look at the game before I decide whether or not it’s the best Metroid game ever.
The difficulty isn’t too bad (not that I’m interested in playing it again on hard mode,) but I can see how some players could feel like it’s a kick in the nuts at times.
I died on practically every boss, including the first one, which made me wonder if starting was a bad idea, but I persevered. The main problem was the Boost Guardian, the upgraded Warrior Ing who stole Samus’ boost ball at the beginning of the game.
What makes this fight unfair is that it’s early in the game, so you have little health (I believe you can have five energy tanks at that point in the game, and I had four during my run,) there is constant health degeneration thanks to the atmosphere on Dark Aether, and very few opportunities to regain health during the fight. The longer this fight drags on, the more likely you are to lose. On top of that, you can only damage it when it’s in Ing form, not when it’s the puddle oozing around the room, and not when it’s racing around the room as a morph ball dealing massive damage with its speed and your lack of cover.
Later on, you come across the Spider Guardian, and it’s another difficulty spike you just aren’t prepared for.
The morph ball simply isn’t designed for combat. Sure, you come across the occasional bomb jump puzzles in all games, but it’s always been a means of transport or problem solving, never true combat.
Until this game.
You have to bomb this creature until it turns green, and then you need to race around the maze to get to a bomb slot, which directs the boss into a barrier to actually damage it, and opens up a path to the next area.
The second and third areas feature half-pipes that you have to boost up to get to the bomb slots, and then the fourth has three! of them, requiring quick reflexes, precise positioning on mounds that are extremely easy to roll off of,) and a LOT of skill with bomb jumping.
Did I mention that the save point before this boss is at least 10-15 minutes prior, with a cut scene that cannot be skipped?
Add all that up, and that’s your reason why they toned the starting difficulty way down for the Wii port. It also has motion controls, including free aim and a morph ball jump.
Once you get the spider jump, the game goes crazy with the morph ball puzzles. Whether it’s picking up items, or simply advancing through the game, Retro Studios requires you to ball, and ball a lot.
The map system shows its age, and it’s hard to figure out where you are or where you need to go as you rotate the map. It’s OK when there’s just one floor, but when areas have two or three floors it can really get ugly. It doesn’t even tell you if there is an item (collected or not) in the room, as many other Metroid games have done.
The music, while good, does a lot of borrowing from Metroid Prime (which itself borrowed from Super Metroid,) but doesn’t offer anything nearly as memorable as the two. Then again, there isn’t much time to listen to it if you’re running and gunning.
Finally there is SO MUCH backtracking. After two or three passes through the same areas, going through to collect remaining items becomes tedious. The game even forces you to make yet another trip to collect Dark Temple keys at the end of the game, which seems a forced way to make you spend more time playing the game. Thankfully at this point you probably have access to the elevators between each of the three regions, as well as the Light Suit which gives you access to a teleportation system between the four temples.
At the end of the day, however, if you can scan 100% of the creatures, mechanisms and lore, collect 100% of the items, and beat the final bosses, it is SO SATISFYING to have beaten a challenging game.
If you can get passed not having dual analog sticks in a FPS, this game complements the first Prime game wonderfully and brings new elements to the table for Metroid veterans. It does everything that Prime does, and does it better, which is why I’m having such a hard time deciding which I like more.
Kudos to Retro Studios for being daring, changing the formula and giving us a part of the Metroid Universe not centered around Space Pirates and Metroids.
Story: 9.5 Replay Value: 5 (You’ll get enough tours with one playthrough, and only the most hardcore players will attempt hard mode.)
Graphics 8 (They hold up fairly well for a 14 year-old game; if this were 2004 the rating would be a 9)
written by Ben Adkins