Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Take a look in the mirror and think about what you see. A mirror allows us to look at an image of our surroundings, and ourselves and to observe and make judgments about our physical well-being. We can see our characteristics in their full, flawed glory. All our hopes, dreams, and delusions about our lives are tossed asunder as we look at our reflections. Sometimes it can be hard to accept and recognize that face staring back at you. But are you so sure that you’re really looking back at yourself? Does that mirror truly reflect what we perceive as reality? Maybe you’re merely the reflection, staring back at the real you on the other side. Or maybe somebody is looking back at you from the other side, with only a solid pane of glass stopping him or her from reaching out and taking you by the hand. And if such a sanity-shattering event should happen, what would you do?
The calm before the storm.
The inhabitants of Aether know a few things about such a phenomenon. The Luminoth, nomadic race of interstellar beings, set up shop on the large planet, hoping to increase their life expectancy and procreate. However, these peaceful people were sent a wakeup call in the form of a massive meteor colliding with their beloved new home. The impact not only ravaged the planet, but it opened up dimensional rifts that revealed an alternate planet on the other side. While the Luminoth’s Aether was bright and lively, the other side was dark and foreboding. And though the two realities looked different, the basic lay of the land remained the same. In truth, this strange place was a poisoned mirror image of the place that the Luminoth loved so dear. And like blood from a freshly made wound, beings from the Dark Aether came pouring out of the rifts, wreaking havoc on everything in sight. These creatures made up the Ing Horde, and swept away the Luminoth’s way of life like a swarm of Locusts. Thus the two sides have waged war for years, leaving the planet a desolate shell of its former self. It’s this same planet of Aether that Samus Aran, bounty hunter extraordinaire, has come to explore.
When you begin the game, Samus will land in the middle of Aether following a distress beacon from a lost ship. However, she’ll find much more than what she expected to find. Aether is a massive world with varied landscape riddled post-apocalyptic side effects. Parts of the land have been razed and reformed, creating craggy outcroppings, jumbled terrain, and incredibly dangerous animals. However, this little shred of heaven is just the tip of the iceberg. The trusty bounty hunter will learn of the Luminoth’s failed war against the Ing and will take up the fight again, exploring what’s left of the planet. She’ll not only spend time wandering around the ruins of the lost Luminoth civilization, but she’ll also walk through the still-active dimensional rifts to take the fight back to the Ing and wipe them out once and for all. She may not be able to complete some objectives without exploring the Dark Aether, and vie versa. She’ll wander throughout both versions of the world, solving puzzles, acquiring items, and come closer to avenging the Luminoth with each mechanized step.
Purple is a very alien colour, don’t you think?
Unfortunately, meandering back and forth between dimensions is no easy task. While the Light side of Aether is a magnificent and exotic locale, its mirror image is a little less savory. The Dark side of Aether is a harsh, strange environment fraught with horribly mutated beings. The very atmosphere of the place is a poison, draining Samus’ energy by the second. Samus can only stay exposed to this atmosphere for a few seconds if she has any hope of taking down the Ing Horde. However, there is some hope for the wayward bounty hunter. While the bulk of Luminoth war effort was long been decimated, they left all their handy anti-Ing tools behind. Knowing the devastating effects of Dark Aether’s atmosphere, they’ve left a massive amount of light deacons strewn throughout the dank terrain. These tiny shards of flashy lights serve more than just interior decorating. They also create a bubble of energy that can protect Samus from being damaged. Not only that, but it can restore whatever energy she’s lost, albeit at an annoyingly slow pace. Thus Samus must venture deeper into the dark heart of the planet, discovering its hidden secrets and surprises.
However, all this extra help doesn’t mean that Samus isn’t totally helpless. Being the badass bounty hunter that she is, Miss Aran arrives on the scene packing some seriously heavy artillery…at least, until she loses all her fancy weapons to the Ing. She’ll have to earn back her arsenal the hard way, taking the fight to Ing and reclaiming what’s rightfully hers. She’ll be able to acquire old favorites like the Morph Ball, Super Missiles, Screw Attack, and Grapple Beam. Adding to this standard lineup are a bunch of Luminoth technology upgrades, ranging from Light and Dark Beams, a sonar-emitting Echo Visor, Seeker Missiles, and a few suit alterations to see her through the adventure. Not only are these awesome new weapons fun to toy with, but they also serve a vital purpose in your progression throughout the game. The Morph Ball can squeeze into tiny spaces, some locks need to be destroyed with Missiles, some platforms can only be reached with the Grapple Beam…The list of your weapons’ uses goes on and on. As with all Metroid games, certain areas can only be accessible once you have the appropriate item, thus leaving you to explore the planet until you’ve found something to help you discover yet another of Aether’s secrets.
And there will be plenty of secrets waiting for you. You’ll spend much of your time wandering the forgotten halls of old, taking in every little detail as you go. There are hidden doors and passageways in several areas, practically forcing gamers to have keen eyes if they want to find anything intriguing. You can go through the same room a few dozen times and not even notice a small crawlspace or area. There are all sorts of hidden rooms strewn throughout the game offering save stations, shortcuts, and powerups. Many routes intertwine and link unexpectedly, offering plenty of different ways to explore the terrain. The same holds true about traveling between dimensions. What you do on one side of reality could have an effect on the other, allowing you to unlock and discover otherwise unreachable areas. The Scan Visor is your best bet, allowing you to scan and record data and information about your surroundings. You can use it to discover boss weaknesses, false walls, ancient Luminoth lore, and tons of other surprises. You’ll be using such a feature frequently, as Aether’s massive landscape will require tons of exploration, backtracking, and discovery.
Samus can turn into a ball, a bit like in Super Monkey Ball, kind of.
It’s this kind of emphasis on exploration that lends so much to the game’s amazing presentation. Metroid Prime 2 immerses the game into a planet made up of desolate wasteland and forgotten heroes. The game starts in the middle of a rocky valley, covered with grass, weeds, trees, and everything else that you’d expected in a science fiction-styled nature walk. When you get out into the open, you’ll be treated to gorgeous vistas as far as the eye can see, ranging from rough rock jutting from the ground to dense jungle. You can practically feel the moss growing out of the cracked rocks, and see the water dripping off out Samus’ visor every time she goes for a swim. Aether’s evil mirror image is equally vivid, treating gamers to a stark and mysterious landscape drowned in a purple haze and neon lights. Both sides of this massive world are amazing in their own respects, allowing the gamer to appreciate both sides with satisfaction. Samus is equally absorbing in her own way, a realistic figure in an unrealistic world. You can see the ripple effect trailing from Samus’ Power beam, or the way that her Morph Ball glows with interior lighting when it moves. You can hear the dull hum of her shiny and metallic Power Suit, or the way that she grunts every time she gets walloped by some Ing baddies. The haunting sound effects and theme music add even more atmosphere to the setting.
Not only that, but the game makes wonderful use of the laws of physics to add even more realism to the game. Sure, traveling between dimensions is a far cry from modern scientific understanding, but that doesn’t mean her adventure is total fantasy. When Samus rolls up into the Morph Ball, the angle of the incline will affect the speed of your progress. If it’s a flat surface, you won’t have any trouble managing the terrain. But if you’re trying to climb a hill and can’t push the Control Stick hard enough to pick up momentum, you’ll go rolling back down to the starting point. If you happen to shoot a door or enemy with the wrong weapon, the beam will come bouncing back at different angles, depending on your shooting position. Being underwater can initially slow you momentum, and long falls will make you suffer damage. All these little overlooked things make the game seem so much more real and absorbing. It’s this kind of presentation that puts the Gamecube’s abilities to the test, only to have it pass with flying, nearly perfected colors.
It’s usually better to shoot the aliens before they get this close.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is an awesome game. It takes everything fans loved about the previous installment, and amplified it ten fold to create another vivid adventure for one of Nintendo’s most celebrated characters. This game has the story, the epic and realistic presentation, and adds plenty of new twists to keep even veteran Metroid gamers scratching their heads in wonder. Some people will love wandering through Aether and its dark reflection, and others will despise it wholeheartedly. It’s certainly a departure for traditional Metroid gameplay. But no matter how weird and off the wall it may occasionally seem, the game retains those key aspects of explorative gameplay that ring true for any Metroid game. Not only does it let you explore two strange and beautiful worlds, but it also allows you to visit them with incredibly realistic and impressive style. So the next time you’re looking in the mirror, take a minute to wonder what you’re really staring at.
Eight out of ten