In this review I'm going to be telling you what you've probably already heard, that Metroid Prime is a great game. The one question I hope to answer then is whether Metroid Prime is the 'killer app' for the GameCube. Is it a game that, on its own, warrants buying the hardware just to be able to play it? Is it a Golden Eye? Is it a Halo? Is it a GTA3? It is not. Believe the hype though, it is still a remarkably good game.
The game takes place on a planet called Talon IV. Centuries before a great meteor crashed on Tallon IV and spread a mysterious form of energy called Phazon that has poisoned and mutated the indigenous life forms. An advanced bird like race, called the Chozo, who inhabited the planet attempted at the time to control this energy but were unsuccessful. In the end all they could do was to build a temple on top of the crater to seal off the Phazon core. Only carved accounts remain of the Chozo's time there, waiting to be found by a prophesied saviour. You take the role of Samus Aran, a female warrior who was raised as an orphan by the Chozo. Samus has been infused with Chozo blood and equipped with a powerful suit to aid her in her fight against the nomadic space pirates who destroyed her home world and killed her parents. This fight has led her to Tallon IV. By the time she arrives the space pirates have already set up research facilities on the planer and are in orbit to exploit the phazon energy for their own deeds. You initially land on the orbital research station which also acts as a brief and exciting training level. On this station you will be introduced to some of the skills that Samus has at her disposal. She has a trusty laser cannon that can also fire missiles. A grapple hook that can latch on to certain fixtures allowing her to swing across large distances. If she needs to squeeze through smaller openings she can morph into a ball and roll around. She also has various vision modes that let her scan the surrounding area to activate switches, read computer terminals, find hidden power sources and decode alien artifacts.
As you wander around the space station these skills will be introduced to you and before long they will become second nature. You will soon get used to switching to your scan mode as you enter new areas to check for any important information. To move around you use the thumb stick, as you might expect, but you can't sidestep. Before you panic about not being able to strafe when you encounter an enemy you lock onto them by squeezing the left trigger at which point left and right movement changes to sidestepping in a circular motion, letting you orbit any enemy as you shoot them as dead as a European common foreign policy. Should you need to aim up and down you simply hold in the right trigger which roots you in place and the thumb stick now changes your view. All of this can take a little while to get used to, but the system is an excellent compromise for the Nintendo controller and I much preferred it to using a dual analogue controller. By the time you have picked up the controls you'll have already defeated the first boss and destroyed the space station causing you to land on the planet below, this is where the real portion of the game is.