2 Decades After the Original Release, Metroid Prime Remastered Shines on the Nintendo Switch

always look forward to Nintendo Directs, Nintendo's special 40-minute presentations full of trailers and gameplay showcasing new and upcoming titles, but this year, there was one announcement in particular that got everyone talking.

No, it wasn't the latest teaser for the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (as hyped as people are for that game), but the trailer for the unannounced Metroid Prime Remastered on the Nintendo Switch—along with the news it had dropped that very day. It's a title fans have been wanting for years, especially as they've waited years for updates on the previously announced Metroid Prime 4, and the trailer footage looked phenomenal.

I couldn't wait to get my hands on the game for a few reasons, and I didn't have to for long, because within a few hours, a rep from Nintendo had sent me a review key. I got it downloaded and began my Metroid Prime journey that very night, eventually completing a mission I started over two decades ago.

My History With Metroid Prime

The original Metroid Prime came out on the GameCube all the way back in 2002, just a few weeks shy of my 12th birthday. As someone who didn't grow up with the series, I only know bounty hunter Samus Aran from the Super Smash Bros. games, but I was definitely curious. After all, she was a powerful, space-faring heroine in a time when games still mostly starred dudes.

But it wasn't too long before I encountered some hurdles. Between the scanning of objects to learn about the environment, the newer aiming system and the slightly disorienting first-person movement, things went a bit over my 11-year-old head. I remember getting past the opening tutorial area, feeling frustrated that Samus had been stripped of her powers and doing a tiny bit of exploration of the game's planet, Tallon IV, and the Chozo Ruins before I started feeling pretty lost and a bout of motion sickness kicked in.

I don't think I picked the game back up after that. Instead, I got quite invested in Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance, which was released the same day and had a more classic 2D style that was much easier for me to grasp. I wound up skipping the other two games in the Metroid Prime trilogy as well—and when the three games were remastered for the Wii in 2009, I missed them again. Since then, I've gone back and completed all of the 2D Metroid titles, but the Prime games eluded me, and so this release on the Nintendo Switch felt like the perfect opportunity to finally go back and finish what I started all that time ago.

Metroid Prime remastered: closeup of samus aran

(Metroid Prime Remastered via Nintendo Switch)


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Returning to Tallon IV

I tried not to set my expectations too high as I settled into Metroid Prime Remastered, but the game made that a big challenge. I remember when the original game's graphics were groundbreaking on the underpowered GameCube, and the remaster's visuals fully brought back that feeling of awe. It's less a technical feat than a design marvel, using crisp, clean imagery that feels like the perfect way to bring the game into the modern era.

Before I really hopped in, though, I had to make sure that the control scheme was to my liking. There are options to play with traditional dual stick controls, to use a Joy-Con to point at the screen similar to the Wii ports (or a hybrid between those two versions) or to use controls similar to the slightly bizarre original GameCube version. I opted for the dual stick controls, except with gyro aiming turned on to help me fine-tune my shooting, and soon got it feeling just right.

Metroid Prime remastered: camera options

(Metroid Prime Remastered via Nintendo Switch)

And so the adventure began, refamiliarizing me with the controls as Samus investigated a Space Pirate frigate. I was shocked at how good the movement felt, and while first-person platforming can be a mess in other games, it feels precise and intuitive here (with the exception of brief but annoying underwater sections where movement is limited). Everything felt seamless as the game taught me how to lock onto targets and shoot beams, as well as roll up into a spherical Morph Ball to navigate small spaces and scan points of interest to learn about the world, as well as access different types of tech.

That's one thing that's pretty fascinating about the game—there's no dialogue in it whatsoever. Besides the events you witness yourself, everything you learn about the world you're exploring comes in the form of scans, with the most relevant data on things like enemy types, Space Pirates and lore being stored in a Log Book for you to access later, if needed. Scanning creatures can give you insights into how to defeat them, while scanning obstacles or objects that look out of place can give you clues on how to navigate the area safely. Most scans are also optional, so if lore isn't your thing, you don't have to waste your time there. Over the course of the game, the fact that Samus doesn't utter a single word, or even hear anyone else speak, also gives the game a great sense of isolation and eeriness that suits the vibe of the game extremely well.

Metroid Prime remastered: space pirate scan

(Metroid Prime Remastered via Nintendo Switch)

And speaking of the vibe, this game's atmosphere is fantastic. Its start is ingenious, showing players the ropes on the very artificial, sci-fi Space Pirate ship before stripping Samus of most of her abilities and sending her to follow her nemesis, Meta Ridley, to Tallon IV. There, the organic greenery and natural formations of the planet contrast starkly with crumbling ruins, showing players vastly different environments in the span of minutes, each complete with their own otherworldly, atmospheric music and sound design. From the croaking and rumbling of underground bug creatures to the bang of beam shots and Samus's feet clanging against metal floors, every element felt incredibly immersive, pulling me into the world.


Unlocking the World

Of course, the world presented in Metroid Prime Remastered is about a lot more than pretty visuals and evocative music. Somehow, the game also manages to perfectly translate the satisfying progression of the 2D Metroid titles into an expansive 3D space. Even though the same is more than two decades old at this point, it still feels like a massive technical accomplishment, with a feel that's so sleek and modern that if I didn't know it was a retro game, I'd assume it was a brand-new title.

The franchise really nailed the formula with Super Metroid, creating a big map that rewards characters who pay attention by slowly granting new abilities that give more access to the world piece by piece. If something is inaccessible now, you just have to be patient, because you're only one special Chozo upgrade away from getting through that door or accessing that item. The fact that the game starts you off with more moves also clues you into what you'll be able to access later, from missiles to the Morph Ball.

Metroid Prime remastered: model of planetary system

(Metroid Prime Remastered via Nintendo Switch)

While it could be frustrating to have my progress thwarted, I also loved the thrill of discovering something I couldn't yet solve and wondering what lied beyond it. How in the world would I open up these doors with white rims? When would I finally get the item I needed to swing across those Grapple Points? How long would it be before I got the power up to finally access the magnetic tracks I'd been seeing everywhere, and where in the world did they go?

Over the course of the game, I probably made a hundred mental notes of where to come back when I finally got the items I needed, and it always felt amazing to do so when the time game. There are even entire areas locked off by flesh-melting heat and destructive radioactivity, also made safe with the right items. I also appreciated that, while there were lots of walls and ornaments and blocks that could be blown up, scanning them would often let me know what materials they were made from, cluing me in on what kind of upgrade might be required to do the trick. Using the right track at the right time and knowing where to look is the key to increasing your missile and bomb counts, as well as how much energy you can hold, which becomes more and more important as the game gets tougher.

Metroid Prime remastered: morph ball puzzle

(Metroid Prime Remastered via Nintendo Switch)

Put that all together, and you get a game that engages you while incentivizing exploration. Even with quite a bit of back-tracking, it remains exciting and fast-paced, and it simply feels good to move around, whether you're on foot or rolled up into a ball. First-person platforming can be a mess in other games, but it feels mostly fluid and intuitive in Metroid Prime Remastered. If there's anything that can take a little getting used to, it's holding X and using the directional buttons to swap between beams—but it's a big upgrade over the motion-controlled swapping in the Wii games, and much more intuitive than changing beams with the C-stick on the GameCube.


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A Challenging Adventure

Metroid Prime Remastered is also legitimately challenging, and while I played on the Normal difficulty, there's zero shame in playing on the Casual mode if you need to. Casual mode means you take less damage, allowing players to focus on the puzzling and adventure of the story, rather than worrying about losing chunks of progress because of tough enemy encounters.

While enemies aren't too strong early on, the difficulty can ramp up quickly. Space Pirates will kick your butt if you don't use dodges and cover strategically, and turrets will deal major damage if you don't quickly dispatch them with missiles. There are also a number of big sections of the game where you have to make substantial progress, battling a lot of enemies and navigating tricky areas and boss fights, between saves. It's an old-school game without auto-saves, so nothing you do counts unless you save the game, which can mean losing the results of a lot of time and effort and being forced to redo big sections if you don't encounter a save station in between.

The game also has some truly epic boss encounters, with massive, terrifying enemies with abilities that will keep you on your toes, and besting them will require both quick thinking and fast reflexes. There's a good chance that at least a few of them will have you dying a few times before you get the chance to fully learn and master their movements. Understanding the bosses is crucial, because unless you can dodge their heavy hits and counter appropriately (and with the right weapons), you're not going to last long. One mega-sized boss in particular had be trying again and again, with a slightly tedious walk from the save room, because I kept dodging backward into hazardous goo while struggling to avoid his painful blows. If you can get through him, then the end-game bosses shouldn't give you too much trouble.

Metroid Prime remastered: fighting against flaahgra boss

(Metroid Prime Remastered via Nintendo Switch)


The Hunt

There's one thing that truly surprised me about the Metroid Prime experience, and while I don't want to give too much away, I will say that a massive treasure hunt that I thought was optional or bonus content actually wound up being mandatory for getting to the end of the game. I tend to be pretty thorough in games like these, so I already had four of the 12 pieces of the puzzle I needed before I figured this out, but I was quite impressed that this deep and obscure exploration of the game was the only way to complete it.

Lucky for players, the game does give clues for where each of these pieces is hidden, and you'll really need to use every word of the hint (and every tool in your arsenal) to track them each down. I loved the way it really makes players think and understand the rich systems of the game at a level most games would never ask of the average player. I can actually see this as being an obstacle for players who feel like they've fully made their way through the world, only to be asked to backtrack and find various easter egg-style items, but for me, this was one of the most thrilling parts of the game.


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The Hurdles

Of course, there were parts of Metroid Prime Remastered that I didn't love—and a couple of them weren't even the fault of the game. First off, the motion sickness the game gave me as a kid came back in full swing as I returned to the title, and at first, I couldn't play for more than a couple of hours at a time without needing a break (and a nap) to reset. The fact that I love gyro aiming and the world was sometimes spinning all around me probably didn't help.

But on the third night I played, I took a Dramamine a half hour beforehand to counter those effects, and I didn't run into any problems after that—not just that night, but every subsequent playthrough. Maybe my brain and my eyes just had to sync up better to get me acclimated? If you also experience similar issues with some 3D games, I recommend starting with short play sessions and seeing how it goes from there.

Second, I am not great at maps. The 3D map system in Metroid Prime is actually quite innovative and intuitive, helping players understand what's going on in a three-dimensional space, but that didn't stop me from getting lost, and often. That resulted in a lot of extra backtracking, which could sometimes be long and tedious, and really didn't help with my motion sickness when that was an issue. At the same time, being forced to retread the same ground again and again, often with new power-ups at my disposal, also encouraged me to explore each and every area thoroughly, finding a lot of hidden treasures along the way. While part of me wishes there were a fast travel system to prevent some of the unnecessary travel up and down elevator shafts into different areas, the other part is glad I wasn't able to take the easy way out and skip these segments and the gameplay hidden within them.

The rest of my issues with the game are nitpicky, and possibly more to do with my skill than an actual issue with the game. For example, there are certain color-coded enemies that can only be defeated with specific beams, and when it's a matter of life and death, quickly swapping between your various beams doesn't always work out as intended. The low storage capacity for Power Bombs, paired with the scarcity of their drops, also made it so that I often ran out of them using trial and error to find all of the game's little secrets.

But none of that could ruin my enjoyment of this incredible game, with gameplay more than holds up after being out for more than 20 years. In fact, if I didn't have any prior knowledge, you could have me convinced that this was a new game, thanks to its incredible polish and tight, modern feel. It took me 19 hours and 12 minutes of playing to finally finish the game at 82% completion—and even now, I'm tempted to go back and explore every last nook and cranny to discover that final 18%.


Metroid Prime Remastered is available now on the Nintendo Switch for $39.99.


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