Controversial title, right? I can imagine there are a fair few people only reading this entry now out of disbelief and yelling "are you insane!?" at their screens, but allow me to explain my thoughts. Much observation over the past number of years has brought me to the conclusion that the Metroid fanbase is split into two main camps of views (with alternative opinions being in a small minority). There are those who think Metroid Prime is one of the best games of all time, that Prime3 is pretty good, and Prime2 is average/poor. And there are those (like myself) who see Prime2 are the best installment, followed by Prime and Prime3 coming last. You'll still find people who like Prime3 the most, but not that many when you look at the big picture.



To understand why Prime2 is better than Prime you have to understand how it is feasible for sequels to be better than originals. Taking graphics out of the equation, a lot of folks will claim that a first game in a new series / sub-series will always be superior to its descendants, mainly because if it wasn't for that first effort, the sequels wouldn't even exist. There are plenty of people on the web who hate (and I mean hate) Super Mario Galaxy 2 because it's "too similar" to the original Galaxy, which I can't help but feel is a bit bogus. If a sequel uses the same foundations such as gameplay and control, why should it branded as unoriginal? Sequels don't need to reinvent the wheel; they just need to add to the experience that it's inspiration founded, as well as resolve any glaring flaws. Link to the Past isn't just better than The Legend of Zelda just because it has better graphics for example.

So how can one of the best games ever made have any flaws I hear you cry? Prime was considered a masterpiece when it was originally released for good reason, but gamers do need to keep an open mind that it's possible to take an idea and drive it further, without damaging the ideals of the original material or your fond memories of it. If you still feel Prime is a far better game than Prime2 then that’s fine and you won’t get any disrespect from this blogger – but here is why I honestly believe this sequel has surpassed its original.



All three Metroid Prime games have been criticised for backtracking. Prime probably got the most that criticism when it was first released, although in a lot of cases it was just from people trying to find one reason if any why this game wasn't THE greatest of all time. Years on, and Prime2 gets the most flack for backtracking, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

The best example of bad backtracking in Metroid Prime is when you receive the Ice Beam. You are given the ability to open White Doors, which is all well and good, but the White Door that will allow you to progress to the next part of the game is about 30 minutes+ of playtime away through areas you've already explored multiple times. Sure you can pick up a couple of Missile Expansions on the way if you keep an eye out, but the hindrance is pretty devastating.



In Prime2 the most backtracking you need to do through areas you've already fully explored will take 5 or so minutes tops. In the vast majority of cases, when you find a new item it will open a passage right next to you containing an elevator or something that will take you to the room where you need that item to progress to the next section of the game (the Power Bomb for example). The only reason why I think Prime gets away with it is people suffering from bad nostalgia that will cause them to oversee the faults of something that brought them such joy. That's all well and good, and I'm not going to criticise people for things very close to their heart, but the backtracking in Prime is incredibly inconvenient at the worst of times, whilst Prime2's isn't that noticeable in the grand scheme of things. Both games suffer from an annoying fetchquest near the end, but one doesn't require any more pointless scavenging over the other.

Prime2 also managed to reimagine one of the more perplexing elements of the Metroid franchise in point perfect fashion; collecting upgrade items. In Prime, equipment you've lost such as the Morph Ball is just lying around waiting to be re-collected, with an occasional mini boss standing in the way. Why are these creatures even guarding your suit parts at all and how did they even get there in the first place? Prime2 starts off in the same fashion as Prime whereby you lose all your suit parts, and have to spend the game collecting them. But this time the enemies use them against you.



It was a genuinely genius move to have the Ing creatures of Dark Aether use your own weapons against you, and result in a game that contains triple the number of bosses of Prime (if not more) and a lot of which were incredibly challenging. There was something quite exciting about a creature that would normally be killed with a single Morph Ball bomb, suddenly given the Spider Ball ability and resulting in one of the most difficult boss fights in the game. In that case the Spider Ball Guardian boss fight was actually made easier in the Metroid Prime Trilogy set for Wii by allowing you to jump in Morph Ball mode with an instant flick of the WiiMote, rather than press a button and wait 3 seconds for the jump to work. Any upgrade items that weren't used against you by a boss were new ones that weren't included in Prime.



The bosses in Prime were fine as they were, but the bosses in Prime2 were bigger and better, with the Quadraxis boss fight being an absolutely glorious showdown. A lot of Nintendo games get shtick these days but being too easy, so it's good to not be contradictory by knocking just how hard some of the bosses in Prime2 are. Sure, the Boost Guardian is guaranteed to make me throw the controller at the screen during every replay, but I still appreciate the extra challenge I am being given.

Dark Aether's world is a polarizing matter of taste. "Too purple" is a popular opinion. "Too unoriginal and similar to Light Aether" is another. The first statement is fair but the latter certainly shouldn't be. Dark Aether is crawling with very alien nature at every turn, from florescent plant-life to ominous eye-ball like things attached to walls, leaving a very spooky atmosphere as you step out into this land where hidden creatures could jump out of the shadows at any moment, and where your exploration will slowly eat into your health bar like a slow disease. Everyone knows that the best thing about Metroid games is the feeling of solitude - that you're alone in an extremely dangerous land, and Prime2 achieved this ideal perfectly with Dark Aether in my opinion. That's not to say Prime didn't have that atmosphere, because it did mostly thanks to the Chozo Ghosts (a lot more atmosphere than Prime3 anyway, which lost almost all of that crucial factor thanks to being able to pop into your spaceship and leave the planet if you feel like it, or getting assistance from Space Federation troopers if the situation allows it).



I also think the ammo system in Prime2 changed things in such a way to add enough new challenge to the formula without altering things too drastically. Similar to how Majora's Mask wasn't simply an Ocarina of Time clone thanks to the time system, the ammo for your Dark and Light Beams in Prime2 just make you have to think about how you're going to tackle a problem for that split second longer, rather than just going crazy with the fire button. Keeping the Power Beam with unlimited ammo was a crucial and correct choice as it doesn't force you to rely on the limitations of your new weaponry, creating a gameplay change that stays true to the original while adding this slight tweak to add a new dimension. It took me a long time to adjust to how the Hyper Mode in Prime3 was forced upon you to defeat a huge majority of enemies you encountered despite the fact it decimated your health bar. The Light and Dark Beams in Prime2 don't punish you for using them too much despite having ammo limitations as you end up using the Power Beam far more. Taking that risk for Prime2 was a brave choice, and it was interesting enough to make me think it would have made Prime better if it was included there with its additional beams.

There are a couple of other points to my opinion as well. The worlds of Prime2 didn't have to suffer from "Super Mario syndrome" by having a fire world, ice world etc which Prime had already used. The Sanctuary Fortress is my favourite world of all the Prime games. Then there are the Dark and Light suits that Samus wears; stunning redesigns that put to shame the suit upgrades from the original Prime where Samus simply changed colour.



I admit it is a fact that Prime2 wouldn't have been anywhere near as good, or even exist at all, if it weren't for Prime being such a revelation of awesome first-person adventure gameplay. But it's not fair for that to be the be all and end all. A lot of movie sequels suck compared to their original because they bring nothing new to the franchise, and are simply there are money making opportunities trying to do the same thing the original did and in the same fashion. The same is not true for Metroid Prime 2 which is a game that resolves and improves the unfortunate elements that Metroid Prime couldn't succeed in, while adding enough excitement and intrigue with its new features to add to the original experience without ruining it or taking things too far. Yes, it is possible for sequels to be better than their original, and that is why I am in no doubt that Metroid Prime 2 is better than Metroid Prime.

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As most of you Nintenfags out there will know, the most recent Nintendo Direct presentation was jam packed with surprise announcements, but perhaps none more so than the revelation of the 2003 Gamecube classic The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker getting the HD treatment and being ported to the Wii U this Fall. We were also teased that the game will receive some gameplay tweaks as well, such as interaction with the GamePad controller. But how far will these tweaks take us? Time to speculate!


Graphics:



The handful of screenshots we were provided with were no less than jaw-dropping. It's actually quite admirable of Nintendo to take the decision to completely upgrade all the graphics, rather than just make the original look "HD", as is the case with all the PS3's HD ports of classic PS2 games. Even if Nintendo had used the quicky-HD method, no doubt the game would still look beautiful, as Wind Waker has aged by far the best out of all of the 3D Zelda games, and it still looks lovely today thanks to it's unique cel-shading.

Not everyone is united in the appreciation of the new graphics however. I've seen plenty of people on Neoseeker or IGN etc feeling unimpressed. So let's do a comparison between the Reborn's screenshots and ones from the original. The remake may have lost some of that "living cartoon" look at first glance, but that's not necessarily a terrible direction. It's easy to simply assume Nintendo just chose this style as a tester experiment for the next brand new Zelda Wii U game (but that's a story for another blog entry) but the lighting compliments the character designs really well, which remain at their heart as cartoonish as the original that fans fell in love with.

Something to keep in mind was that Wind Waker received massive criticism for it's non-realistic graphic style up until it's launch. The problem is that no matter how pretty the screenshots were it was a totally different ballgame seeing the game in motion before your very eyes, destroying all the naysayer opinions, and that is exactly what is going to happen here. Sure, there'll still be people who'll prefer the look of the original, and their intitled to that opinion, but I appreciate this evolution. This is the kind of look Nintendo fans have been dying to see for years so it shouldn't just be a step back because it's been applied to the already gorgeous Wind Waker. I for one cannot wait to explore all the nooks and crannys of the remake and I keep imagining just how stunning everything is gonna look - from the Moblins, to the Great Deku Tree, to the glorious final boss battle. Is your body ready?


GamePad:

I don't know about you guys, but I often struggle to imagine how the GamePad will revolutionise some of Nintendo's biggest franchises - while it was easy to see how the WiiMote would evolve Metroid and Zelda. So what can we hope to see from Reborn other than just a boring map and inventory screen?



Conducting the wind should be the immediate thought. With the Gamecube controller of course you would simply press the analogue stick in the direction you want to conduct, as you play the song. Replacing this method with the WiiMote seems like a genious thought (seriously, imagine conducting the wind with your WiiMote!) but I don't see the developers taking that step. Using the WiiMote would mean using a control method other than the GamePad, which would certainly be a wasted opportunity for this next-gen console. Not only that but it has been confirmed that Reborn will be completely playable on the GamePad's screen without use of the TV, so you wouldn't be able to use the WiiMote in that mode anyway.

I predict that when you activate the Wind Waker, the GamePad screen will change in such a way that you can drag your finger in a wavey line to conduct the song in that fashion. Keeping your finger on the screen for the duration of the song, you would swipe your finger up, then left, and finally to the right to play the Wind's Requiem song.



Then there's the Tingle Tuner (does anyone even remember that?). A rather redundant item in the game, it's purpose was you to connect your GameBoy Advance to the Gamecube using a special cable, and then use the GBA's screen to control Tingle, dropping bombs to reveal secret Ruppee locations. I bought that cable specifically to get the most out of Wind Waker, but the Tingle Tuner was a pretty pointless addition that didn't add anything exciting to the gameplay or offer anything essential.

This could all change with the GamePad. If the Tingle Tuner had been used to reveal secret enemies areas, items, or even mini-dungeons, the original game would have been hit with so much criticism for effectively forcing the player to own a GameBoy Advance and special connecting link cable to see everything in the game. For Reborn however, the GamePad can act as your GBA and connector, making the features of the Tingle Tuner accessable to everybody playing the remake. Therefore, I hope Nintendo decide to include some of those possibilities I mentioned like secret areas etc that require the Tingle Tuner, because on this occasion there will be no player missing out from the experience.



Lastly there's Link telescope, which is used a couple of times at the beginning of the game to give a zoom-in look at things far away to progress the story. It would be really cool to use the GamePad itself as your telescope while the TV screen remained a fully zoomed-out view of whatever you're looking at.


GamePlay:

So what gameplay tweaks in terms of the game itself? What will change? Well it is true that if something isn't broken it shouldn't be fixed, but there are a couple of things that would improve Wind Waker. The most popular element people across the Internet love to complain about in terms of Wind Waker's gameplay is the Great Sea. Setting out to sea and raising your sail, you would sit tight in your boat for about 5 minutes or so (depending on how far you're going) until you would reach your destination.



I am personally a fan of the Great Sea. The theme music was grand, there were occasional exploding barrels or enemy look-out posts to add challenge on the way, and I know for a fact I may not have discovered a lot of the game's secret islands if not being left to explore the Great Sea. For that reason I hope Nintendo don't try to bend to pressure from the loud fraction of the fanbase who hate the Great Sea by including some sort of option to "skip" the journey once it begins. I do however see them perhaps doubling the speed your boat travels at for example, as that should be enough to calm the haters while staying true to the original at the same time.

Finally, were you aware that Wind Waker was originally supposed to contain two extra dungeons? Maybe you did, as it's not a closely guarded secret, but it's not the most wide-known thing either. Due to a combination of time constraints and running out of space to fit everything on the 'lil Gamecube disc, two planned dungeons were scrapped. One of them was replaced with the fetchquest for the Triforce parts, sending you trawling across the sea to find them instead.

The other is a bit more obvious when you think about it. With Wind Waker you play a fire-type dungeon to get one mysterious fire red artifact (in this case Din's Pearl), then a forest-type dungeon to claim the grass green artifact in the form of Farore's Pearl, and then...you're just given the water blue artifact, Naryu's Pearl. Jabun the Water God just hands it over. Whut? Obviously a water-type dungeon was supposed to be included here.

So will Nintendo use this opportunity to include these two dungeons for Reborn? That's the question I most want an answer to, and there is certainly a possibility I may get that wish. Who knows if an addition of that much effort would actually be thrown into the mix, but it's an exciting thought nonetheless.

So do you agree with the points I've raised? I think all these additions/changes are possible, but if there is anything I may have overseen I would love to hear your opinions and comments. Reborn is certainly going to be an instant buy when it releases later this year, and I cannot wait to see the extent of it's evolution.

Finally I want to say thanks for reading! And stay tuned for more blog entries in different categories of speculation, opinion, and news concerning both upcoming and classic Nintendo titles.

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Dan Morrison

  • Southampton, England UK
  • Joined Jan 20, 2003
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