With the large number of high-caliber videogames hitting the shelves just in time for the holiday season, Nintendo is probably starving for publicity with their release of “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.”
Unfortunately for the company, “Prime 2” isn’t popcorn gaming like “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” Just like its predecessor, it is a rich, complex game that requires both patience and a sense of adventure, and it will probably slip under the radar this holiday season for those reasons.
But those who loved “Metroid Prime” for Gamecube will be pleased to find out that “Prime 2” delivers a similar experience: huge, continuous worlds that mesh each locale together and classic “Metroid” gameplay in which players must use new items to traverse old obstacles. The audio runs in the same vein as the original, and the graphics are only slightly upgraded. The congruence between the two titles might be a turnoff to some, but anyone who was addicted to the last installment will get those feelings back after they lock on and blow away a few alien zombies.
The big change in “Prime 2” is the use of parallel light and dark dimensions. The story behind this is that a strange object once landed on the planet Aether and split it into light and dark worlds, and the inhabitants of both are now at war. By opening portals scattered around both dimensions, the hero, Samus Aran, can, for example, unlock a door in the dark dimension and then travel that pathway into the light dimension. It’s not a groundbreaking idea, but it is neat to uncover new areas in the light world and then see how distorted they become in the evil, twisted dark world.
The concept of light and dark extends to other areas of the game as well. To better combat the foes of each dimension, Samus can collect light and dark cannons. If an enemy is “dark,” it is easily extinguished by the light beam and vice versa.
The only problem is that these two beams have limited ammunition. Not only is it a sin to make Samus have limited ammo on her beam weapons, but the reasoning behind it — forcing players to conserve ammo adds balance — is flawed. Fighting a dark foe with the light beam, for instance, is too easy because the developers have to compensate for the possibility of running out of ammo and using the regular power beam instead. The bosses, which were once a big part of the series are less interesting as a result. Often it’s a matter of hitting them with whatever works best rather than forcing players to devise tactics using their entire arsenal.
These drawbacks aside, “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” is still a solid extension of the last Gamecube title and a worthy addition to the series. However, gamers who haven’t played either installment should pick up the original first.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars