This game fucking rocks.
Well well well, who could have seen this coming? The game of the moment, in the year of our Lord 2023, is a remaster of a twenty-one year old game that sold less than three million units and was released on a console that was the laughing stock of a generation. Nintendo’s worst performing home console at the time, anyone could be forgiven for thinking it would be consigned to the annals of history once its successor, the Wii, hit store shelves.
Yet here we are. Who could have seen this coming? Well, all those who played the game when it came out of course. All those who were there. All those people who know that, since Metroid Prime released, practically nothing has matched it in terms of atmosphere, game design and for pushing that feeling of exploration. Other games have lifted similar aspects from it- heck, some have even done certain aspects better- but none have delivered as satisfying of a whole experience. It’s why we’re all here frothing at the mouth for it today.
But what about Metroid Prime 2? As amazing as this game’s reception also was at the time, it just doesn’t seem to match the same critical heights of the first game. And this is such a shame because, for me, Metroid Prime 2 is by far the superior game.
How could everybody be so wrong?
No don’t get me wrong, both Prime 1 and 2 are fantastic games in their own right. But I am very interested to see, now that Metroid’s stock is at fever pitch, how people will take to Samus’ sophomore 3D effort. And this is because, since the heyday of 2002, another game series has risen up and taken the world by storm- a series directly influenced by Metroid itself. I am talking, of course, about Dark Souls.
A lot changes in twenty years. The boundaries of videogames have been pushed in every direction. Metroid Prime was one such boundary pusher back in its day. But, let’s be honest, it wasn’t a difficult game. For a short while, ‘difficult’ was a dirty word in videogame development. Publishers wanted to sell as many games as possible, and the thinking was that players weren’t going to spend $60 on a game that they wouldn’t be able to finish. ‘Hardcore gamers’, those who had propped up the entire videogames industry in the first place, felt left in the cold. I remember clearly the ‘games are so easy now’, memes. Difficult games still existed, but the prevailing ideology was that people wanted easy, breezy experiences that they could complete without much hassle and without much consequence or stakes.
Then along came Dark Souls. A game that pushed the boundaries right off a cliff. The Souls games held up a middle finger to the notion that games had to be easy to sell. The Souls games were esoteric, opaque and sometimes crushingly difficult. But at the same time they were also fair, tightly designed and extremely rewarding to master. There are many aspects of the Souls games’ design that we can praise, but its biggest achievement in my eyes is how it unequivocally changed the gaming public’s-and developers’- appreciation of challenge and difficulty.
You can only buy this shirt if you've visited Shaded Woods.
New memes proliferated that replaced the old. ‘Games are too easy now’, was usurped by ‘git gud, srcub’, and the gaming landscape is all the richer for it. Want to relax with a simple, easy game? There are plenty to choose from. Want to get your butt handed to you for four hours until you learn exactly how to beat a boss? You’re spoiled for choice!
So why bring up Dark Souls when talking about Prime 2? To put it bluntly, Metroid Prime 2 is HARD. Far and away the most difficult Metroid game. It doesn’t coddle you. It doesn’t pity you. If you mess up then Metroid Prime 2 it will fucking kill you and it will hurt. The baddies hit hard, save points are few and far between. Checkpoints? Non-existent. In half of the game even the air tries to kill you.
Get used to this.
I feel like, when it was released, Metroid Prime 2’s difficulty was seen as a knock against it. The developers at Retro Studios stated at the time that they wanted to make Prime 2 a more difficult game than its predecessor but, unfortunately for them, I just don’t think the world was ready for a game that wasn’t scared to not let you pass. I also think that its difficulty was not well communicated to fans at the time.
I think a big turn off for many people for Prime 2 is that they were expecting the same kind of introspective, immersive and breezy adventure they had the first time around. Whilst Prime 2 certainly is introspective and immersive, it also made you work damn hard for it. But in the same way that difficulty can be frustrating and stressful, so too is the immense reward you get when you overcome MP2’s challenge.
For me, the difficulty of Prime 2 is to its merit. It’s my favourite game of the Prime trilogy because it wants me to play it well. Subsequent playthroughs feel better and better as I acquire mastery over its mechanics and each time I play it I discover something new.
Where to even begin!?
These days, people are more keenly aware of difficulty in games, and are more willing to buy into an experience if their expectations of it are clear and correct.
And it must be said, everything that shines in Prime 1 shines just as brightly here, if not even more so. Sanctuary Fortress has hands down the best art direction of any zone in the Metroid Prime series. The morph ball puzzles are put the first game’s to shame and are all over the place. The bosses? Metroid Prime 2 has some of the best bosses of ALL TIME. Those who’ve beaten them know what I’m talking about. You can thank Metroid Prime 2 for skyscraper-size bosses like Ceasless Dishcarge.
Metroid Prime 2 got such a hard shake when it released, and I am sad to say that I too was someone who did not appreciate it all those years ago. It is only with subsequent playthroughs that I know believe it to be the best in the series and one of the best games of all time. However, I really feel like the world is now ready to approach Prime 2 on its own terms. If Nintendo give Prime 2 and 3 the same treatment as the original (and God I hope they do), then I can’t wait to see the discourse that arises from it and if people finally accept the game for the masterpiece it truly is.
People up and down the internet are calling Metroid Prime 1 one of the greatest games of all time. If they are so keen to pin such a label on Prime 1, then its sequel absolutely deserving of the accolade as well.
And when you finally get the Light Suit... you know you've earned it.
All being said, It might not be a bad idea to put in a casual mode like they did with Prime 1, it would be a shame if people didn’t get to experience this whole game because their skills weren’t up to snuff.
Also, if there is one tweak I might make to the base game, I would add a save room somewhere close to the Boost Guardian, trudging for miles only to get brutally mauled time and again does get genuinely disheartening :P