Category: Retrospectives


Take Me Back to Mossflower

Well, I was going to write a review about Dead Space today, but the last act of the game is literally dismembering me like an overzealous inquisitor so, instead you’ll have to make do with this little post about a bit of sad news. Today, I was distressed to discover that beloved children’s book author Brian Jacques has died.

1939-2011: A life well-lived.

Brian Jacques has nothing to do with video games. He’s never made one and I doubt he’s ever even played one. Brian Jacques wrote books, a whole lot of books, books about an idyllic little wood called Mossflower and a sturdy, aged abbey called Redwall. And these books changed my life. I was first introduced to the Redwall series by one of my earliest, bestest teachers, a woman by the name of Bickford, who was at the time the head of my elementary school’s Talented and Gifted Program. She showed me the cover of the book, I said it looked really boring, and she insisted that I would really like it. I snorted and rolled my eyes. Whatever–a book with a mouse on the cover? What do I care about the adventures of mice, besides An American Tale? Nevertheless, at some point I did pick up the book and open it with a reserved sigh…and everything changed.

Brian Jacques wrote stories of high adventure, of song and dance and food and revelry, of friendship and bravery, sadness and fear, wars and warriors. Collected in each and every book in the ever-expanding Redwall series was a saga that sucked me in and refused to let go. He crafted a world vivid, yet simple, a fantastical yet instantly relate-able landscape that you recognized immediately, despite it being populated by questionably talking woodland creatures. It had the simple black/white morality of Star Wars combined with the elegance and sophistication of any great folk tale, of any work by Chaucer or Spenser. These books introduced me to things I’d never thought existed. Boooks could be…not just good. Good books are plentiful enough, and I understood quite well what a good book was. But these books were more than good. To my young mind, still supple and naive, these books were captivating. They blossomed in my imagination, the characters and locations taking root like some magical tree, growing and growing and growing until the branches threatened to break out of my skull.

Jacques fed my love of reading and not only that, he also gave me a lust for storytelling. I never felt more convinced that I wanted to tell stories until I put down perhaps my fifth Redwall book and thought “I want to write a book that Brian Jacques would like”. I was enthralled by his love for the craft and though the more modern books in the series lacked some of the charm and sophistication of earlier entries, Jacques passion for the story and the world never seemed to flicker. He showed me that a children’s story didn’t have to be childish or immature, that death and sadness go hand-in-hand with joy and triumph, and that even the littlest, meekest of mice can rise to be a true hero.

His stories had everything I can to want from a book–intrigue, mystery, romance, adventure, action–and these stories were almost interactive in the way the narrative fit your brain. There were riddles to solve, songs to learn, mysteries to ponder, and with an endless stream of colorful characters and amazing vistas, my imagination wanted for nothing, yet longed for everything.

I wonder what Jacques legacy will be. To me, he will always be one of the first authors who really inspired me, who really made me yearn to write and read. He showed me just how real fiction can be, how meaningful it can be. I don’t know what I’d be doing had I never opened that first book. I certainly learned that there’s more to a book than a cover, and I learned that even as stubborn as I am, my mind can always be changed. These are timeless stories–modern classics that I hope will be passed down from generation to generation. I can think of no finer series of books to whet a young child’s literary teeth on, no more fantastic and wonderful tales to be told to audiences young and old. There’s something in these books for everyone, and Jacques illuminated the world in a way only he could. His death has left my world a little more empty, and we’ve lost a visionary and gained a legacy.

I’ll miss you Brian. I’ll miss Redwall and Mossflower and the towering mountain of Salamandastrom, the hares of the Long Patrol, the wild and tribal shrews, the incomprehensible moles and voles and the seasonal feasts at the great table in the main hall. I’ll miss the tapestry of Martin the Warrior and all the tales its tattered fibers held, the rich songs and wonderful verses. I’ll miss the coarse sea rats, the vile serpents and scheming foxes, the titanic badgers who carved through battlefields like furry tanks. I’ll miss the quarry, the rivers, the patches of ruin and wonder hidden deep in the many forests of Mossflower. I’ll miss the maps that I’d pore over for hours, following the journies of the many characters with my finger late into the night when I should’ve been sleeping. But that’s the wonderful thing about books, isn’t it? They remain, long after the author has passed on, and I know that no matter how sad it is, Redwall hasn’t died with its creator. It lives on in the memories and hearts of all those who read and loved these books as I did. I know that it isn’t the end of these adventures–they’re just a page away, and they’ll be there forever.

Now, if you excuse me, I need to comfort my weeping inner child. I think a nice book will help him–and I think I know just the one…

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When I’m watching recent trailers for games like Deus Ex 3 or Dead Space 2 I am both impressed by the visuals and the cinematics, yet somewhat put off by one simple thing: these trailers don’t make me think of a video game. They could be trailers for a movie or TV show–they utilize the same tricks of the trade, the same juxtaposition of brooding monologues or music against a rapidly changing series of scenes, edited together. They often don’t show gameplay. They often use non-game music, or maybe a particularly grandiose track from the game’s score. But they don’t make me think of a video game–as I imagine video games to be.

Gaming has become much more cinematic as technology has evolved, and more power to it. Games look better now, certainly, and there are many truly amazing spectacle moments, such as the Stage Fight in Alan Wake or scaling the destroyed train in Uncharted 2, and these are examples of a great blending of beautiful graphics and Hollywood-esque dramatic flair with engrossing and hard-hitting gameplay. It lets you feel as though you really are doing whatever it is you are doing on screen. But a part of me is victim to that crippling industry curse of nostalgia, and so I wonder at times if games have lost a bit of their identity.

Look at Anamanaguchi.

THAT is the sound of games. Something you could never imagine seeing in a movie or any other medium. An artistic blend of primitive sounds for primitive visuals, yet stellar gameplay. When I hear bands like Crystal Castles, I think of games–when I listen to the soundtrack for Alan Wake, I don’t. Music in games has always been important, but there’s more to a game soundtrack than it just sounding good. When games were stuck in the 16-bit era, games had an identity–every pixel and animation was unique, imitating nothing but previous games, while at the same time invoking unique art styles or cartoons or even attempting to replicate real life. Pixels were a paint all of their own, and talented artists who had no histories to draw upon instead had to craft something truly different, using tools untested and unproven, and the result was a collection of some of the most, if not THE most memorable games of all time.

Look at Megaman. Megaman is one of the oldest and most enduring (if maybe the most overplayed and oversold) franchises in gaming history. Anamanaguchi takes great inspiration from the stage themes for these games, the strange, off-kilter, synthesized Midi tracks that were all they could fit into the cartridges. You take one look at Megaman, any old Megaman, and you know it is a game. You immediately recognize everything a game has: a life bar, side-scrolling, pixel art, Midi music, enemies and power-ups. It’s the absolute quintessential game experience–a test of a gamer’s skill and reflexes as he or she must win against insurmountable odds and forge the adventure forward. The plot relies on the gamer completing the levels–whether the story ends happily is entirely in the hands of the player, and all that transpires on-screen is because of your actions.

This is a video game.

Modern games are not bad, and I don’t want you to think that this is a criticism of modern games in anything more than maybe aesthetics. This is really just me being  nostalgic for a time when games had their own identity–when the medium was unique and vibrant, more than just a simulator or pastiche.

Compare. What tells you this is a game, despite the CG model?

The above screenshot might as well be an actual gameplay shot. Or how about this:

Take away the ammo counter and the nametags, and what is this?

Games have only gotten better over the years. Yes, there’s tons of derivative games on the market and, yes, many would say that the market stifles innovation, but games play better, look better, and generally have better stories and writing. But I can’t help but wonder if the term “video game” really means much nowadays. I wonder if games have an identity anymore. 3-D models are now the norm, but 3-D models don’t invoke the same degree of…I want to say charm, but perhaps the better term is “uniqueness”. Old 3-D graphics, like Silent Hill 1, look horrible in today’s day and age, whereas old NES graphics, like Megaman up above, still hold up, despite their age and the jutting pixels. 2-D has aged incredibly well, all things considered, and it’s nice to see it isn’t completely dead and that pixel art can still be seen even in modern games like Call of Duty: Black Ops. Back in the day, games simply had a look that was wholly and completely their own. Now, that’s less the case.

There are many games that have a distinctive appearance, of course. Many modern Nintendo franchises retain something of their 8 and 16-bit sensibilities even in their more modern offerings–probably because the Wii might as well be a 16-bit console (no no, I kid, Wii games look very nice for 5 years ago). Sonic as well, though god forbid they’ve done everything they can to  make Sonic as anime as possible. For a realistic-looking game, Assassin’s Creed also has a rather distinct visual style, integrated into the story as well by the Animus and the means through which you are actually viewing the past. It’s actually a sterling example of explaining gameplay mechanics in a way that furthers the story and immersion, rather than requiring gamers to ignore it in favor thereof. But the traditional trappings of games are falling by the wayside. Scores are gone from everything but arcade titles or those trying to BE arcade styles, health bars are being replaced by red screens and blood spatters, and music is becoming traditional, utilizing orchestras or heavy guitars and all that business. And it is good, yes.

But a part of me can’t help but sigh a little, as nostalgia creeps into my cynical mind, when I listen to the Scott Pilgrim Videogame soundtrack and I remember how games looked, and how games sounded. I still think it’s good. I still think these older titles hold up in aesthetics and sound, and while I’m not one who goes on about  how older games are much better than current ones (They aren’t, for the most part) I do feel that older games were more…game-like. They had a feel,a  voice, a look all of their own, and of all the casualties of innovation that we’ve shed a tear for, this may be the only one that really strikes me. I don’t want a return to health bars and three lives, score counters or anything like that. I don’t feel the trappings are as necessary to a game’s identity moreso than the feel of the experience is.

Gaming is going through a tough adolescence. It was a prodigal child, ambitious and impressive, full of attitude and vigor, and underneath the corporate manufacturing process, the demographic-fueled imitation industry that grips game development like an infant with a rattle, I feel that there remains a potent lust to make games their own again. Give gaming back its identity, its sense of self. How can we do this without sacrificing variety or innovation? That I don’t know. How can we do this while still pushing graphics engines as far as they can go? I don’t know. What I do know is, there must be a way. Maybe someone can tell me. Maybe someone will make a game that shows me.

For now, I’ll toast my nostalgia and listen to my midi soundtracks and let out a single wistful sigh. Then I’ll plug in Bioshock 2 and see how many Splicers I can get in one Electro-bolt chain.

Hey kids, let’s talk about Pokemon!

No no, not that Pokemon. While the original TV show remains a nostalgic guilty pleasure that most of us would rather forget, we’re talking about the actual games that started this whole lunatic craze. Pokemon has and probably always will hold a special place in my heart, if only because unlike so many of the big Nintendo franchises–Mario, Zelda, Metroid–Pokemon started and got big during my gaming life–in fact, right at the start. I was 6 years old when Pikachu first reared his adorably marketable head upon the world stage, creating a media sensation on par with Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo, and–if you ask me–formally starting the invasion of all things Japan into the Western (and especially American) media world.

Looking back, it’s kind of funny how insane us kids went over anything and everything Pokemon. We ate up the trading cards, the action figures, the insipid-yet-strangely-entertaining cartoon, the whole nine yards. Pokemon became the status symbol of the elementary school social circles, and if you weren’t in, you weren’t anybody. But putting aside the possible social, psychological and emotional impact these games had on us, let’s actually talk about the games.

Pika Pika

This is the culmination of centuries upon centuries of successful marketing

Pokemon Versions Red and Blue hit the states in 1998, a full two years after Japan had been growing increasingly obsessed with them. They established the formula that has unerringly continued to this day–you, a young boy (or, in later versions, girl) wake up one morning in your sleepy small town, visit the local scientist, and end up getting sent out on a quest to catalog each and every one of these strange, pseudo-sentient creatures called Pokemon. To do this, you must find and capture them, and then train them to battle other Pokemon, either in the wild or under the commands of rival trainers. Eventually, you end up taking the “Pokemon League Challenge”, where you must prove yourself by beating 8 tough trainers in 8 “gyms” across the land, then challenge the ultimate Pokemon masters at the end. Thus, you have basically two goals–become the Pokemon Champion, and…well…catch ’em all.

The first game had 150 different Pokemon, requiring both versions to get all them. Now, 14 years later, there are about 507, and more on the way, as Pokemon Black and White has been announced, which will expand the Pokedex even further. Pokemon games remain incredibly popular and incredibly successful, though the fervor in the West has died somewhat. Now, as gamers who once played the games when they were six hit adulthood, they have to find more fulfilling reasons to invest their time in these games than they used to.

Nowadays, you check any message board about Pokemon where the average poster is older than 15, and you’ll find that Pokemon has become less a game about catching cute critters and battling with them, and more an absurd mathematical experiment in number crunching as it correlates to the growth of digital monsters. Pokemon’s all about numbers now–you got your IVs, EVs, DVs and STDS. You have websites dedicated to the refining of these values, to the development of perfect movesets catered to each and every Pokemon, and a healthy online battling circuit, complete with tournaments. Pokemon has completely warped an entire generation, and that generation continues to play these games even now, despite–or maybe because–the fact that these games haven’t changed in 14 goddamned years!

I’ve been playing the latest Pokemon remakes, Heart Gold and Soul Silver, and while I am aware that they are shamelessly cashing in on my childhood nostalgia in order to drum up revenue, I cannot deny that Pokemon games remain engaging. The monster-collector genre (or subgenre, if you prefer) is never better represented nor refined than in Pokemon games, with each and every genre taking the basic formula and improving upon it in subtle ways. Fans of the game will take great pains to illustrate to you just how different Pokemon games are from generation to generation, and while they aren’t technically wrong, they are just as full of it as you might think.

Generation 1

Generation 2

Generation 3

Generation 4

Just…just look! Besides the spritework being cleaned up and improved upon, more detail and more effects put in, the games all look alike. There’s common visual style at work, sure…but it remains true that no essential or important aspect of the Pokemon franchise has changed since the series’ inception. Even on a handheld that can easily produce very good-looking 3-D models, Pokemon remains 2-D, handheld and turn-based.

I’ve played every major Pokemon release and some of the spin-off games too (more on those in a sec) and I can tell you what–nothing essential about the experience has changed for me since the beginning. Yes, the games play a lot better now–battles are more streamlined, the options and customization of your various mons have never been broader or deeper, there’s more to the games’ storylines than “catch ’em all and be the best” and the music/graphics have all improved considerably. But the essentially experience of playing a Pokemon game? Unchanged–much like every other Nintendo franchise, Pokemon seems content to do what it does and simply perfect upon it.

It works. It may not be the best use of technology or innovation, but this approach…it works.

Now, whether it works for the best? Well, that’s arguable. Pokemon games sell 50% on nostalgia. The only reason any adult or close-enough-to gamer is picking these games up is because they still remember how much fun they had with them when they were a kid. They want that experience again, and hey–if there’s a bunch of new monsters, new challenges, and if the system is improved, why not go down that memory lane again? Sure, you’re essentially buying the same game over and over again, but if it’s fun, why complain? I mean, eventually the well will run dry, but by then a new generation of kids will be hooked on the mons, and Nintendo will continue to reap the profits.

I admit, Pokemon games don’t enchant me nearly as much as they used to. I still enjoy them–I think my love for the Pokemon universe, the various creatures and their colorful, elaborate designs will never fully fade away. The main Pokemon games retain a child-like innocence in tone and an inviting, relaxing atmosphere that I can just sit down with whatever the latest game is and let all my troubles fade away. I can engross myself in finding new monsters whom I’ve never trained before, leveling them up and discovering their untapped secrets and potential–but with every generation, I love it less and less. I mean, how many times can you play the same game before you get bored of it? Pokemon will probably be the test of that.

There is some hope though–or at least, an alternative. The Pokemon franchise has grown so big that not even a single game series is enough for it. There’s a variety of Pokemon spin-off games, ranging from bland (The various Stadium games) to entertaining, but shallow (Pokemon Colosseum) to surprisingly inventive (The Pokemon Ranger games). There’s even a Pokemon rogue-like dungeon crawler series that’s supposed to be pretty good, though I’ve never tried it. The more I see the Pokemon franchise expand, the more I realize that its growth and development seems isolated to only these spin-off franchises. None of the innovation–be it good or ill–is vested into the main generation games. They remain untouchable, and I think that’s not healthy for the franchise as a whole.

Yeeeeeeeaaaaah!

Seriously, check out the Ranger series. It's childish, but surprisingly fun.

Games have a sad tendency to get stuck in ruts. Due to the high costs of making games, and the fickle nature of the market, most developers will play it safe in order to ensure making ends meet. Pokemon is one franchise that could absolutely get away with experimentation, has a system that lends itself well to branching off and exploring all manners of gameplay and story progression, and has the financial capital of gaming giant Nintendo backing them up, but refuses to do so. Brand loyalty is one thing, but seeing how creative the spin-off games can be, and how much potential remains untapped within the Pokemon world, it comes across as less loyalty and more laziness.

I’d love to see Pokemon shrug off its turn-based shackles and boldly try something new. Even Dragon Quest, a franchise that literally advertises itself as old-school and unchanging, decided to discard series traditions with Dragon Quest IX. Pokemon is just as established and arguably even more popular. Pokemon had such an impact on my childhood because it was something radically different. Yes, monster-raising sims existed before Pikachu was even a twinkle in his Raichu daddy’s eye, but none were so accessible and so mainstream. As times have changed, Pokemon hasn’t, and what is accessible and mainstream today is nothing like what it was when I was young.

If Pokemon wants to regain its former glory, retake the gaming throne once again, it needs to step up and become relevant once again. Challenge us, excite us, give us something we’ve never seen before.

Of course, this is Nintendo we’re talking about. I’m wasting my time, I’m sure. Still…it’s nice to dream, eh? Now, if you excuse me, I’ve got one last Gym Leader to clobber…

Grade-A Metroid Prime

You step carefully through a mist-laden corridor. The ship is in disarray–something has torn through it, something  big. Sparks leap off torn piping, steam hisses from the vents. An alien corpse lays in the corner, its body littered with dozens of tiny holes. Your emerald visor begins to glow as you scan a still-functioning computer. An airlock hisses, air rushes into the narrow corridor, and the doors slide open, revealing a gutted laboratory awash with flame.

This is one of the first sights you encounter when playing Metroid Prime. Developed by then-unknown developer Retro Studios and released November 17, 2002, Metroid Prime was the first title in Nintendo’s popular “Metroid” franchise to be in 3-D. Released amidst a metric ton of controversy, most of which reserved for the fact that the side-scrolling franchise had been transformed into a first person shooter, the game received incredibly high marks from reviewers and gamers alike, and remains to this day one of the most beloved and well-known games of its era.

First Person Metroid

The HUD familiar to Prime players. The first person viewpoint was controversial at the time.

Metroid Prime eventually got two sequels, all of which are now familiarly known as the Metroid Prime Trilogy. As a new Metroid looms, developed by a new studio, I felt it only fitting that we should take a look at this trilogy. I admit, I was inspired to reexamine these games thanks to a rather entertaining Let’s Play of the Prime trilogy currently underway on the Something Awful Forums.

For those unfamiliar, Metroid was an NES title produced by the late Gunpei Yokoi and designed by Makoto Kanoh. At a time when games were still in their infancy, and sidescrollers tended to be Mario-style platformers or else run and gun shooting games, Metroid bucked the trend by presenting a massive world with an emphasis on exploration. You no longer just ran to the right in order to beat the game–Metroid introduced vertical exploration and non-linear progression, allowing gamers to discover the myriad power ups and bonuses hidden throughout the game in whatever order they could manage to reach them.

Metroid spawned a successful franchise that seemed to grind to a halt after its seminal 16-bit successor, Super Metroid. The Nintendo 64 came and went, and outside of a few screens and teaser trailers, a 3-D Metroid seemed to be mere vaporware. That is, until Metroid Prime was announced for the Nintendo Gamecube.

And the rest is history. Gamers’ reservations over the first person perspective persisted up until the game was launched, but those reservations were swiftly put aside when they realized that Metroid Prime is an incredible game. It was one of the very few games to net a perfect score from Electronic Gaming Monthly and it quickly became a must-have for the system. But enough history lesson–let’s discuss the game itself.

Gameplay in Prime retained the basic Metroid formula–find power ups to unlock new areas whilst solving puzzles and dropping bombs to blow up rocks to find more power-ups. The game looked and felt like a Metroid game, with classic enemies and bosses showing up to challenge the player, remixes of familiar music tracks, and tons and tons of items hidden all over the lushly detailed planet.

The biggest innovation to gameplay was the utilization of a “Scan Visor”–a somewhat  gimmicky powerup first featured in Super Metroid–to interact with the environment. In fact, the entire plot of the game is learned through this visor. There’s no dialogue and the only impetus for the events of the game come from wordless cutscenes and a single paragraph at the beginning of the game. Prime managed to retain what I consider the most important element of a Metroid game–its atmosphere–by giving you a sense of isolation and wonderment at the harsh, yet beautiful alien landscape you find yourself exploring. Visors play an important role in all the Prime games, altering the way you see the world in order to expose enemy weaknesses or reveal hidden paths and platforms.

The game isn’t without its flaws. For one, it’s almost insultingly easy, with only boss fights and a few single enemies providing anything resembling a challenge. The game’s myriad glitches, while not impacting a regular playthrough, provided sequence-breakers ample opportunities to take advantage of room geometry and get various power ups much earlier than intended. The game also features a lot of backtracking and rather basic puzzles and–most infamously–a late game-padding fetch quest where you have to collect 12 MacGuffins in order to unlock the final boss. Sure, it kept with the theme of exploration and item collection, but frankly, with only vague riddles to tell you where to go, this final fetch quest was the biggest reason many people were unable to beat the game.

Still, Metroid Prime was a big hit, and thanks to its great atmosphere and amazing music, a sequel was quickly green-lit: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Echoes retained the first-person perspective whilst tightening up the graphics on level 3 and ratcheting up the difficulty by leaps and bounds. Perhaps by too much–among the many criticisms the game received, its harsh difficulty is one of the most-cited.

Echoes is a flawed game, and time has been less-kind to its legacy than it has been to Prime’s. Like Prime, it features a MacGuffin fetch-quest. Unlike Prime, this fetch quest is reiterated over and over throughout the game, as every major location requires you to find three keys to unlock the boss fight, and the final location requires nine. Well, that’s not too bad–except that all of these keys are hidden in an alternate dimension that wants to kill you.

Yep, Echoes’ big selling point was the time-honored Nintendo standard: A “Light” and “Dark” World. Hopping between dimensions via portals, the player now has to solve puzzles in two worlds at once to advance. The Dark World is nightmarish–just being in it causes you to quickly take damage unless you take shelter in various “safe zones” scattered throughout the level. Combine this with strong, fast enemies who take three times the amount of punishment that any Prime 1 enemy did, and you have a recipe for frustration. But the frustration gets an added kick of pepper when you realize that all of these MacGuffins are hidden within this Dark World, meaning that in order to beat the game, you must explore a world that actively discourages you from exploring it.

Well, luckily, Metroid isn’t really a series about exploring, is…oh.

Echoes gets a bad rep nowadays, and for many deserved reasons–in addition to the frustrating fetch quests and dark world shenanigans, the game’s objectives are murky at best, and you’ll find yourself running around in circles, shooting and scanning everything you can until the game helpfully calls you an idiot and points out exactly on your map where you have to go, but doesn’t tell you what to do when you get there.

That said, Echoes improves a lot of things over Prime 1. Item collection and puzzle solving has been refined and enhanced, to the point where even the most basic collectible requires you to go through elaborate mazes, solve intricate puzzles, or negotiate tricky platforms. It’s really quite fun, and once the game opens up to you, there’s a lot of fantastic puzzles to solve and mazes to explore. There’s an emphasis on the Morph Ball in Echoes that Prime can’t even begin to touch.

Check out this video–you might want to skip to the 6:15 mark, that’s when he gets to the room with the puzzle.

He messes up a few times, but it’s a good example of how complicated and elaborate these morph ball puzzles are. Considering that the Morph Ball is one of the most iconic elements of Metroid, Echoes’ shining moments all utilize it in some capacity, including an entire boss fight fought entirely in ball form.

For all its flaws, I consider Echoes a better game than Prime. It expands upon the original, refines the gameplay, and raises the challenge. That said, I like playing Prime better. It shows its age nowadays, but the atmosphere, the music, and the nostalgia just fit better for me. I admit, its an easier game, but that makes it all the more fun to play, and at least I don’t have to hop across dimensional rifts just to unlock a friggin’ door!

Now, the third game in the Prime Trilogy, Metroid Prime Corruption…I haven’t played. I know, terrible–I’m doing a retrospective on a trilogy I’ve only experienced 2/3rds of. I don’t own a Nintendo Wii, which Corruption was released on, and thus haven’t had an opportunity to play it. I can say that, from what I’ve heard and what I’ve read and seen, it appears to be the happy medium between Prime and Echoes. Incorporating an innovative control scheme that utilizes the Wii’s motion controls to aim and fire, as well as a heavy emphasis on story, Corruption seems like the natural apex for the trilogy to reach.

It attracted some controversy from die-hard Metroid fans due to its voice acting and general dialogue, but every review I’ve ever read seemed to indicate that the gameplay far superseded these concerns. Better yet, both Prime and Echoes have been re-released and repackaged along with Corruption, all of which now taking advantage of the Wii’s unique controls–and all three games for just $40. Or, at least, they were. According to Amazon, the Metroid Prime Trilogy can run you about $71 new, but I’ve seen copies in game stores for its original price, so a diligent consumer can search them out.

This article has gone on long enough, and frankly, I’ve only touched the very surface of what these games have to offer. Maybe in the future I’ll do an in-depth analysis of each individual game, but in conclusion, I’ll say this:

Metroid Prime and its sequels remain, in my mind, some of the finest video games ever produced. Integrating both gameplay and story, where your actions have an impact on the world around you and the outcome of the narrative, and combining intense action and intricate puzzle solving, the Prime games remain solid titles. Yes, their flaws are many, and I can imagine most people would have a lot of trouble getting into Echoes in this day and age, considering how unforgiving it is, and the flaws in its level design, but I feel it good points outweigh the bad.

Now, of course, we have Metroid: Other M, which looks to be taking the series in another new direction. I’ll miss our first person adventures–exploring the galaxy through Samus Aran’s visor holds a lot of fond memories and fun times for me. From a technical standpoint, the games were revolutionary when they came out, managing to incorporate platforming into a first person game without it being an exercise in frustration. In fact, Prime 1 single-handidly created the “First Person Adventure” genre, which has since spawned games like Mirror’s Edge, where platforming is more important than shooting. The Prime trilogy’s legacy is assured, and well-deserved as well.

If you haven’t had the opportunity, and own either a Wii or Gamecube, you owe it to yourself to at least play the original Metroid Prime. Few games have moved me as deeply as that one has, and it represents, in my mind, the absolute core Metroid experience.

Wandering a dark, desolate spaceship, steam gushing from broken vents. You hear something crawling in the darkness. You know you should avoid it…but you never know what kind of treasure you’ll find through that vent. You prime your cannon and take a bold step forward…