When Metroid Prime released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, it seemed like an improbable success story. The Metroid series had been dormant for eight years, and the last thing fans wanted was a first-person game from an untested western developer. Against all odds, Retro Studios delivered an experience that captured the magic of previous Metroid titles, while bringing the franchise firmly into the modern era. The game was nothing short of a masterpiece, and now, Metroid Prime Remastered is on Nintendo Switch following the game's 20th anniversary.
Taking place after the events of the original Metroid, Metroid Prime sees Samus Aran pursuing the Space Pirates to a planet called Tallon IV. There, she discovers that her opponents have been experimenting on the planet's wildlife with a substance known as Phazon. Phazon has made these creatures more powerful and more aggressive, and it's up to Samus to prevent the villains from unleashing it on the rest of the galaxy. While the game does feature some brief cutscenes, the story is mostly told through Samus' Scan Visor. One of Retro's biggest contributions to the franchise, the Scan Visor allows players to gain information on just about every single element of the game. Players can limit their use of the tool if they want, but there's a mindblowing amount of detail and lore to be taken in just by scanning.
For the most part, Metroid Prime Remastered is incredibly faithful to the original GameCube version, but there are a couple of notable changes. For starters, players have a handful of control options to choose from including the original controls, motion controls based on the Wii version, and a dual-stick option. After playing with the dual-stick option, I don't know how I ever played Metroid Prime without it. The graphics have also received a very nice upgrade. Metroid Prime was a showpiece for the GameCube hardware when it launched, and two decades later, the game looks stunning on Switch, particularly on the OLED. Retro Studios added just enough polish to the graphics to take advantage of the hardware jump, and it really looks amazing. Locations like Phendrana Drifts and Magmoor Caverns look fantastic, and the vibrant colors absolutely pop off the screen on the OLED hardware.
The environments look great, but sometimes it's the small details that really immerse you in the experience. When Samus looks up into a rainy sky, drips gently collect on her visor. When she emerges from a body of water, we can watch the water splashing off. Metroid Prime Remastered doesn't just look good, it also sounds good. The music and sounds greatly contribute to the overall presentation, and there are some excellent earworms to be found within. My personal favorite has always been the Phendrana Drifts theme, but there are so many other effective tracks.
No matter how good Metroid Prime looks and sounds, it wouldn't have mattered if the game didn't feel like a Metroid experience. Games like Super Metroid and (more recently) Metroid Dread excel in the way they establish a sense of isolation; the series has never been a horror franchise, but it's always been horror-adjacent. Metroid Prime builds isolation in a way that's different from 2D series entries, but no less effective. Brief moments where Samus' reflection appears across the interior of her visor serve as a reminder that she's all alone on this hostile planet, and a handful of nerve-wracking moments build on that.
While Metroid Prime feels near flawless on Switch, there are a couple of elements that haven't aged as gracefully. The save points can be a little less forgiving than players might be used to in the modern era, and there were times that I did have to re-play 15-20 minutes of progress that I lost as a result. The game does a pretty good job of pointing players in the direction that they have to go, but it can also be easy to get lost. Some fast travel options would help to alleviate this (and were brought in with Metroid Prime 3). Thankfully, these small quibbles do little to hurt the overall experience.
It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since the release of Metroid Prime, but revisiting the game felt like getting reacquainted with an old friend. I've been singing the game's praises for two decades, and yet Metroid Prime Remastered still managed to surprise me. Sometimes you don't know how an old game is going to hold up, and whether it will be able to evoke the same sense of wonder it once did. Metroid Prime Remastered is not a bold reimagining; it offers just a few slight tweaks to take advantage of the Switch hardware, and lets the game speak for itself. There's a reason Metroid Prime has been so well-regarded over the years, and the Nintendo Switch now offers the quintessential way to play it. If you're a series newcomer that started with Metroid Dread, or a longtime fan like myself, Metroid Prime Remastered is a must-own game on Nintendo Switch.
Rating: 5 out of 5