On Wednesday evening I sat at my desk, watching the livestream of the Nintendo Direct. And for the first half hour or so, I was shaking my head, saying to myself, “This Direct is just as bad as the one in September.”
Until I saw the announcement for Metroid Prime Remastered. I paid much more attention to the stream. The graphics looked amazing! It was hard to believe that attention to detail could be running a full 60 FPS on a chipset that’s nearly ten years old.
Then I watched carefully when Nintendo was going to release it. Just an hour or two after the stream.
I nearly fell off my seat.
My childhood game, faithfully remade with modern graphics. The game that helps me get through the difficult patches in life. And it was already playable. I guess the rumors of a remaster were actually real! In the meantime, however, I guess Nintendo gave a middle finger to all the fan projects – such as the unofficial remaster – that aimed to recreate the game in HD. After all, Nintendo does hate their fanbase very much.
If you’ve never heard of the Metroid series before, I recommend checking out Modern Vintage Gamer’s overview of the remaster; he explains the history of the series.
As implied by the game title, Metroid Prime was given an HD overhaul. Datamining has suggested it’s using the same RUDE (Retro Universal Design Engine) engine that powered the same game 20 years ago. Meaning you can spam missles just like in the original by closing Samus’ arm cannon as soon as one fires. Or speedrun through the final boss by attacking Metroid Prime’s core once every second or so rather than just spitting phazon constantly. However, because the remaster is based on the PAL edition, a lot of speedrunning tactics have been removed. For example, Samus can’t dash to the side with her scan visor on, meaning she can’t get the space jump boots early on. On the other hand, the soundtrack that plays when facing Flaahgra is “greatly expanded.” You can check The Cutting Room Floor wiki for a full list of differences between the US/Europe/Japanese releases.
Besides that, here’s some other changes from the original:
- updated lighting system, textures, models, post-processing effects, and increased resolution (900p/610p in docked and handheld modes respectively, versus the 480p on the original)
- new control options, including classic, dual stick, dual stick with gyro, hybrid, etc. with adjustable gyro and aiming sensitivity
- new Casual difficulty option
- some cutscenes have narration; this can be turned on or off
- 2x mutlisample anti-aliasing (MSAA) that makes the game look like it’s running at 1080p, even though it’s 900p
- lighting is still baked but is a “huge leap” from the original, with every single room getting a visible update. Outdoor areas look more “life-like”
- music is apparently upsampled to 48 KHz
- subtle improvements like the glow from the heat in Samus’ arm cannon
- charging the arm cannon doesn’t glow the area right in front of Samus, unlike the original
Although it’s a bit rare, I have seen some animations that have been updated as well, such as when Samus jumps to the next level when she’s fighting the first phase of Metroid Prime. Otherwise, most of the original animations remain intact.
One of the original developers of Metroid Prime criticized the game’s doors. Not because of loading times, but because of the oversaturation of the alpha channel (in other words, it’s “too blue”). During my playthrough I didn’t really notice this to be honest; to me it’s just a door. On the other hand, this developer said they spent “months” working on them, so I don’t really blame him when he says the doors should get fixed. Who knows, maybe the game will get an update later on to address this.
To be honest, I was kind of relieved when I learned that it wasn’t just Retro Studios that worked on the remaster. Iron Galaxy Studios and several other companies worked on it as well. I’m relieved because, well, imagine being crunched, working 100 hours a week on a game 20 years ago. Imagine the shouting matches that ensued, how tired you might have been. Getting four hours of sleep in the office every three days or so. Now imagine being reminded of that 20 years later, working on the same game.
Metacritic score for Metroid Prime Remastered currently stands at a rating of 95. I don’t disagree with that rating. But I also understand why it’s missing the remaining five points. And for this, here’s my complaints.
For starters, the constant back-and-forth between different levels. That remains here. This is just as cumbersome as it was in the original. Towards the end of the game, when you’re scrounging for the last remaining bits of the Chozo Artifacts, this is especially painful. Why couldn’t they have added a fast-travel option after getting all the essential upgrades? Nope, that’s not here. You’re forced to use the elevator between two different worlds just to get that last artifact.
What if you finish the game without getting all of the pickups? You won’t get any hints as to where the remaining items are. The first time I finished the game, I got 98% completion. I was only missing one missle expansion. I was forced to look up a YouTube video for “Metroid Prime missle expansion locations” and make a mental checklist of which ones that I got and which one I didn’t. “Yup, got that one. Check.” Press the right-arrow key to skip ahead by five seconds. “Yup, got that one.” Skip. “Uh, I don’t think I got that one.” Go to that location in the game. “Oh, I actually got that one.” Keep playing the video. The cycle repeated until I finally got to the one I didn’t get. Talk about frustrating.
What about skippable cutscenes and no tutorial text? When you finish the game for the first time, you can skip some cutscenes. But I wish it was skippable right on the first run. Look, I get that first 10-minute cutscene at the beginning of the game is breathtaking. And no doubt a ton of effort was put into that. But when you see that scene for the umpteenth time, it gets repetitive. Also, I want to see all cutscenes skippable. Not just a few. And also get rid of the tutorial text that pops up when playing through the game for the second time. And entirely skip the text that appears when collecting a pickup. Some small quality-of-life improvements like that would go a long way.
Image credit: Nintendo
I don’t know if it’s just me, but the effects for charging the ice beam seem a little…lazy. It doesn’t look as good as it does in the original. Also, charging the beams require taking a few shots before the beam actually charges. While this is extremely nitpicky, I found it a bit annoying. In the original, Samus would just fire one shot before charging her beam.
Image credit: In Between Drafts
Finally, saves are still manual. You could progress a few hours into the game, defeat a boss, get a nice upgrade, but get a game over before saving, and now you have to replay that same boss. Talk about another frustrating issue that could have been addressed. They could have implemented a checkpoint system at least. So if you defeat a boss but get a game over later on, you’ll pick up from after defeating the boss rather than having to fight it again. Be sure to save the game at every opportunity that you get!
The randomizer actually addresses a few of these flaws. It makes cutscenes skippable from the get-go, gets rid of the cutscene that plays every time a pickup is collected, and even shows uncollected pickups on the map with a dot. I’m seriously hoping the randomizer will get updated to support the remaster so that some of these issues can be addressed. Either that or wait for an update from Nintendo/Retro.
So at the end of the day, I’d like to see these improvements:
- incorporate a fast-travel system towards the end of the game when finding the Chozo Artifacts
- show a hint as to where remaining pickups are located if you don’t finish the game with 100% completion
- all cutscenes skippable, and available to skip on the first run
- skip cutscene when picking up an item
- add a checkpoint or auto-save feature
You can check my Steam Deck report for more info, but basically, both Ryujinx and Yuzu play the game very well. I’d recommend using Ryujinx for stability purposes; the game will crash far less often, and the audio doesn’t crackle. Yuzu performs a little better and gives longer battery life, but the game suffers from random crashing (and make sure the game is emulating in Docked mode – just hold the Start button on the Deck and press Up on the D-pad). The music can also be sped up randomly or shut off entirely. Also, when the thermal visor is equipped, the game slows to around 30-40 FPS. Ryujinx has the upper hand in this regard.
With Ryujinx, I recommend using a custom scaling filter of 0.75x. Then you can disable SMT with PowerTools, set the TDP to around 8 W, set GPU clock speed to around 600-700 MHz. Slow downs here and there, but again, more stable than Yuzu. You can use these same power settings with Yuzu, but you can also make use of the FSR filter and set the resolution scale to 0.5x. Set the sharpness scale to around 85% (I believe it’s set to 88% by default).
And, before anyone goes accusing me of being a pirate – as demonstrated by some of the comments on my videos – here’s my proof of purchase:
I then dumped the game after downloading it on my jailbroken Switch with NXDumpTool.
Still Worth It⌗
Despite the small quality-of-life improvements that could have been made with the remaster, I still love the game all the way through. As Modern Vintage Gamer put it, this is a “remaster done right.” The graphics, as amazing as they were in the GameCube/Wii days, look even better. I’m amazed the game runs 60 FPS on the Switch’s aging hardware.
The $40 price tag? Not bad at all. Hell, I would have paid $100 for this if I had to. A game that relives nostalgia for the Metroid series, a game that is as much of a stress-reliever as this, is totally worth it.
Image credit: Nintendo Life
Oh, and when you’re playing the game the second time through, I recommend disabling the HUD. Makes the game look more cinematic while playing.
What about Prime 2 and 3? Will we see those remastered as well? If so, will they be priced separately at $40 a slice, kind of like what Square Enix is doing with the Final Fantasy VII Remake? We haven’t heard anything from Nintendo about that. But I’d still pay for them.
In the meantime, Metroid Prime Remastered gives us a taste of what Metroid Prime 4 will look like. Very much looking forward to that game.
- faithfully remade in HD, while retaining smooth 60 FPS gameplay
- updated lighting looks great
- plenty of control options
- flaws from the original were not addressed, such as the needless traversal, unskippable cutscenes, manual saves, etc.
If you’d like to see some more Metroid-related articles from me, I have them listed below:
- Metroid Prime retrospective
- emulating Metroid Prime Remastered on Deck
- interview with devs/artists from the unofficial remaster
Cover image credit: Nintendo