Why Metroid Prime Means So Much To Me

Yesterday was the 25th Anniversary of Metroid being released on the NES. So, with that in mind, I felt it was appropriate to repost this piece, a look at one of my favourite games of all time - Metroid Prime. Very few games affected me to the same level as Metroid Prime, so consider this love letter an early (and late) birthday present Samus!

Culture shock: A feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

When I arrived in Japan, I was 21 years old. I knew no-one. I had gone without planning, on a complete whim; not from any latent love of Japanese culture or a lifelong desire to travel - more like the end result of a series of coincidences I barely had control over. Luck, you might call it. I went for the hell of it. My only real connection was that I loved video games, and some of the games I loved came from Japan.

To begin with, I struggled. Majorly. I spent most of my early days lying face-first on my couch in a weird malaise, reading books I didn't care about; wandering around listlessly, trying to use chopsticks.

I soon got bored and with my first paycheck I bought a GameCube - and immediately sent an email to my brother, demanding that he post me some games. In English. I was too stubborn to admit it, but I wanted something that reminded me of home.

The first game to arrive was Metroid Prime.

Bewildering. Metroid Prime existed in and of itself - like it was developed in a vacuum, as if it had been buried in a time capsule in some strange alternate history and I had just dug it up from another dimension. Why didn't it have dual analogue controls like every other first person shooter? Why did it look so clean? Why did I have to lock on to shoot for God's sake? I felt completely lost.

And where was my direction - why wasn't I being told what to do or where to go? I wandered around listlessly in a weird malaise. The controller felt like a set of chopsticks in my hands. I wanted my knife and fork.

If I was at home, surrounded by my game collection and my copy of Halo, I might have tossed the disc and never looked back - but I wasn't, and I didn’t. Out of a bizarre need to disappear into something, I continued to play Metroid Prime - determined to fall in love with something foreign.

Then at some point, after this punishing initiation period, it almost felt as though the game decided to reveal itself to me, as if my fingers suddenly became literate. The game made perfect sense and, as I continued to explore, my crawl stumbled into a stroll, then confident strides. Before I knew it I was sprinting through a universe seamlessly crafted to my abilities. As they evolved so did the world I was interacting with, like I was moving in tandem with something without ever really knowing it.

Almost immediately I was brimming with confidence in my ability to adapt to something that initially seemed impenetrable.

Culture Shock is strange process, and it works in waves. Anyone who has ever lived alone in a foreign country understands the instinctive need to cling to something familiar. They understand the pang of homesickness and how easily you can succumb to things that distract you from that hollow feeling. I began playing Metroid Prime as a way to escape from the foreign but, bizarrely, it was an experience that helped me confront my fears.

Metroid Prime - a game that plays with the unfamiliar. A game that feels like it was developed on a different planet, in a language we can barely grasp. A game that feels like trying to order food in a Japanese restaurant for the first time or making friends with people you've never met before. It was so difficult at first, but endlessly rewarding in the end.

I'm not saying that Metroid Prime taught me to overcome Culture Shock and assimilate into a culture I didn't understand.

But it certainly gave me a push. Just a little push.


Comments

    Metroid Prime is one of those games to me that will never feel old and will always amaze me. I got it a few months after it came out and I spent an absurd amount of time on it. A game I'll never forget and always love.

    I wish I had been able to play Metroid Prime all the way through. I had to give up at the eleventh hour. Due to rage. Did anyone even playtest the goddamn dragon boss?

      yeah agreed the second last boss (meta-ridley) was stupidly hard, and after a while i just gave up. luckily hes right near the end of the game so it didnt bother me too much.

      metroid prime is definately in my top 10, probably even top 5 games ive ever played

    That game for me would have to be Jet Set Radio future. Growing up, I was always one generation behind in consoles. I was still rocking a SNES when the Gamecube came out, so two gens behind at one stage.

    Then, one xmas, I got an Xbox. It came bundled with Halo, JSRF and Sega GT. I played all 3 games almost all the time, but I always found myself coming back to JSRF, because it was a challenge to get my head around. It was as if I was playing Mario, in 3 dimensions and considerably less friction. But I managed, fell in love with the music, art and the loose plot tying it altogether.

    All this was around the time I was having trouble fitting in at school, so the game became my safe house, of sorts. Very very attached to that game, and it's still one of my favourites (if not my all time favourite)

      Amen. I had the exact same thing. After discussing with my folks the merits of getting a console, I was finally able to get one. An Xbox. And I wasn't all that young- I just didn't have a job. I'd been around for several console generations, but my folks didn't want me to get a job...

      Anyway- JSRF was a game that stuck with me. Me and my friends bonded over it. I loved the art style and the music- my Dad hated it. So I had to get the soundtrack!!

        The sound track is awesome! It even has Beastie Boys (the scrappy).

        Loved the Prime series from the first to Echoes, Corruption, Hunters and even Pinball haha. The hours I have put into them are countless, one of my favourite series ever (second to only Halo), and thank Retro studios for such an astounding piece of work.

    I have both metroid prime 1 + 2 on gamecube, and recently picked up the trilogy on wii

    I played through a bit of 1 and got quite stuck so moved on to something else, but i enjoyed what i HAD played quite a lot.

    I'm looking forward to starting over again using the trilogy disc and playing through them all :)

      Yeah I picked up this game for the Cube a few years back but after trying to beat the second boss about 20 times and each time getting busted back to the start of the level - well I give up - the checkpoints are way too punishing.

    This is one of the most shameful games sitting in my pile of shame. I loved playing it on my Gamecube, and have very fond memories of it. But I never finished it...

    "Ever loved a game in a strange, weird, completely unsociable way?!"

    Me with Rogue Squadron (N64) and later with its sequelon GCN. Holy shit those games. Plus Lylat Wars (N64)

    Tony Hawk 1 & 2 on PS1... I sank a ridiculous amount of time into those games... never felt old.

    Also the THQ WCW/WWF games on N64 still motivate me to plug the old beast back into the TV.

    Arcanum for me. I got completely sucked into its world. All the things in it were so perfectly balanced against each other, and for a 2d game the settings look amazing. Im still waiting for someone to make a sequel to it. Hint hint

    I absolutely adore the soundtrack to Metroid Prime. It added so much to the atmosphere of the game.

    Lol, I read the first part about arriving in Japan, and I thought it was Ashcraft writing.

    My first couple of minutes with Prime were exactly the same as Mark's - complete bewilderment. I, also, has only ever played an FPS with two analogue sticks, and initially Prime just made absolutely no sense. A friend had brought his copy around and simply said "play this", and although I was aware of the hype in the leadup to the games' release, I had no idea of what to expect.
    But I had one of the "moments" we all talk about when I scanned a random monitor and it told me what the phazon levels (or some such thing) were in another part of the facility. Scanning the one next to it had completely different (and equally incomprehensible) information about something else. I realised Retro had done something special in creating this cohesive, logical, and utterly engrossing world to get lost in, and when my friend left with his disc I left with him, to go and buy my own copy.
    I didn't nail the controls until about five hours in, maybe, but once I did I didn't notice the lack of strafe, or needing to stop and pull a trigger to look up. Everything about that game is designed with those controls in mind and the game ROCKS because of it. I have a theory that it was to keep the game feeling 2D - in a way - because once you lock on to a foe you only really have four directions to move in, just like in a traditional 2D Metroid. I reckon it was not only to differentiate it from the Halos and Timesplitters, but to keep it feeling like the old Metroids used to.
    Absolutely in my top five of all time, and on par with Mario 64 and OoT as a textbook example of how to bring something out of the second plane and into the third.

      Huh, good call, on the decision to design the combat controls this way, as a callback to the 2D.

      I'd never played Super Metroid (still haven't played much past Crocomire) before playing this. But from what I've seen, the game's way with obvious but inaccessible vertical exploration and branching paths, and the cheeky, conspicuous scan data are all pretty reminiscent of what I've seen in Super Metroid. Sort of a re-imagining of the whole "Hey! A door! All the way up there! Wonder what's through it!"

    The Prime series was great. If anything, im glad it introduced more people to the universe. Metroid is hands down, my favorite series of all time. Been playing it since I was like 8!

    Prime 1 was epic in every way... Last 2 bosses are pretty freaking hard but the satisfaction of killing them is great. 2 and 3 have great points compared to no.1, but no.1 is still the best of the lot.

    If Retro ever get to do another Metroid like this, I really hope they combine all the elements of 1 + 3. But honestly, I think if they worked hard on the Other M gameplay, id be just as happy with another like that too.

    Super Metroid is still a game that I can come back to at any point and enjoy from start to finish. My love for it spurred me on to buy a Gamecube just for Prime......and what I got was easily the most impressive and fluent conversion of a 2d series into 3d space ever made IMHO. There's not many games out there that took all the hallmarks of the original 2d blue-print and brought it into the modern world of 3d gaming so successfully than Metroid Prime.....truly brilliant and one of favorite games ever! Too much good stuff to say about that game and I have to get back to work. Massive shout to Retro for their inspired work and Miyamoto for the no doubt invaluable direction that helped them bring this game to life.

    Not sure I have a game that fits the "easing-personal-alienation" bill. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time would be close, but that just sort of reignited my love of gaming, and opened my eyes to the wealth of culture behind this incredible medium.

    Metroid Prime though, I friggin' loved Metroid Prime! From the moment I picked up the controller and explored that ruined frigate! From there I absolutely fell in love with all the detail that Retro crafted into that devastated world. Loved how exploration and puzzle-solving worked, discovering the context of the situation at your own pace.

    As someone who eschews most shooters, the controls for this game worked fantastically for me and as a result I never felt frustrated at any of the puzzles, enemy encounters or bosses.

    Also the music. Holy hell the music! Absolutely incredible electronic arrangements!

    The artistic direction, game mechanics and design, narrative setup, music, etc. all cements this in my Top 5 favourite games of all time.

    I played Metroid Prime and loved it (although like most here, never finished it). About 6 months later I played Halo and I hated it.
    I couldn't help but to compare the two constantly - from the lack of various enemies to the constant repetition of environments.
    It still annoys me that Metroid Prime doesn't get the same sort of recognition. It was a far superior game.

      I think it's definitely up there with the best games of last generation. Maybe up there with the best games ever made.

    The funny thing about this to me, is how many gamers are looking for another iteration of the same experience.

    Personally, that's the opposite of why I love games. They are interesting little windows to other potential worlds with amazing abstract mechanics. To familiarize yourself with a single set of rules and replay those same rules ceaselessly is the opposite of the purpose of digital entertainment.

    Then again, it's always been frustrating to me how many game developers think they need to keep ahead of technology shifts. If Capcom announced Mega Man 11 tomorrow, I wouldn't be part of the usual team of moaners, whining that someone wasn't making another "bleeding edge" (unoriginal hollywood tripe) FPS for them to dally with. I'd be psyched for another game in a series that, IMO, never needed a change in mechanics. So maybe I can sympathize.

    I feel you on the whole culture-shock thing, Mark. Moving here to Australia, and especially to WA, was a huge blow and an important lesson in adjustment. Nothing even smelled similar to home. About the only thing that kept me here long enough to learn to tolerate the differences was my wife.

    When I was adjusting to life in France, I spent a lot of time playing Lumines because it reminded me of home. In fact, playing any kind of video game was helpful because while I found France itself foreign, games were not - I understood the way video games work, I understood the rules, the controls, and how to respond to them. It was as though no matter how different each game was, each still communicated to me via the language of video games: a language I was more than familiar with.

    So while the French were being French and confusing the hell out of me by being French (everything is closed on a Sunday? Banks/post offices/ALL offices close for two hours for lunch? Mochas don't exist? WHAT?!?!), I found comfort in games. And I truly believe that playing games and allowing myself to just relax and not over-worry helped me deal with the stress of being in a foreign country a lot better.

    I once found myself in the Papua New Guinean highlands (remote/isolated as hell) playing Ace Attorney on my DS.

    Then there was the time I played Pokemon in China.

    Or when I was playing Arcanum and Baldur's Gate 2 on PC in Pakistan.

    And Bloody Roar 2 in the Philippines.

    Games follow me everywhere. It's just to kill the downtime between experiencing new places.

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