What's new? What's the same? Hands-on impressions of today's Japanese Wii release reveals all.
Metroid Prime was one of the biggest video games of 2002. With a daring new first person perspective, incredible graphics, and huge expectations to live up to, Retro Studios' first title was a bold title that was wholly satisfying. Based on my first few hours with this Play it on Wii rerelease, I can confidently say it is the perfect excuse to revisit the original Metroid Prime. And if you've never played it before, this is definitely the version to pick up.
The updates to the game are few but notable. Most significantly, the controls, which use the Remote and Nunchuk, are nearly identical to those found in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. You jump with B and fire with A (assignments reversible) and shoot missiles by pushing down on the D-pad. The C button activates the morph ball, and Z allows you to strafe and lock on. Since there is no Hyper Mode in Metroid Prime (well, save for during the final boss battle), beams are selected the same way as visors: by holding down the plus or minus button and dragging from the center to the top, bottom-left, or bottom-right of the screen. You can even flick the Remote to jump when in your morph ball! There is no GameCube controller support, but there's really no reason for it: the retrofitted controls feel completely natural and not at all tacked on.
The other major addition is widescreen support. Just as in Corruption, a few of the visor overlays and menu graphics are stretched in this mode, but the action itself is all in proper 16:9. There is also a nice visual upgrade for the Scan Visor, which is functionally identical to Corruption's. In the original release, the scan visor darkened most of the screen and highlighted a rectangular area in the center of the screen. The Wii port maintains a similar aesthetic using a circular (ovular in widescreen) highlight around where you are aiming with the pointer. So far I have not perceived any increased load times.
It's too early for me to tell how much the new control scheme affects the difficulty balance, but those looking for more of a challenge can hop straight into Hard Mode, now available from the start to accommodate veterans of the series. Retro has also brought over a version of the achievement system from Corruption, and while it isn't as complex with only two types of tokens, the sound test is a welcome addition. I can confirm the Fusion suit, originally unlocked by linking Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime, is unlockable; there is no sign of Metroid (NES) so far, and its inclusion is unlikely given its availability for a fee on Virtual Console. There also seems to be at least a little additional voice acting. My memory may be failing me, but I don't recall a narrator stating your location when you load a save file on the GameCube.
The hint system, visual cues, and several online guides make this release very import-friendly, even if you've never played the original. However, The Homebrew Channel users should know it includes a new Japanese firmware update that may or may not cause problems.
I'm really enjoying playing through Metroid Prime again on Wii. While its graphics aren't as technically advanced as the second and third entries, the art direction remains fantastic, and it (arguably) has the most carefully crafted and Metroid-like world of the three. If you skipped the original because you couldn't get over the lack of dual analog back in the day, you no longer have any excuses for missing out on this fantastic game.