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Submitted by Chris Leyton on November 23 2004 - 16:57

As an adventure title there's few that can touch the overall quality of Metroid Prime 2, regardless of format...

Coming quickly after Retro Studios first gave its take on console first-person-shooters and the Metroid franchise in the brilliant Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes treads a familiar path to that laid down by its predecessor, which given itâ??s overall quality is certainly not a bad thing.

Despite not pleasing everybody with its interpretation of control and targeting in a first-person-shooter, there can be no denying that it was perhaps the most authentic way to translate the legendary series into 3D without just blatantly copying what every other FPS has done since Doom first appeared on our screen. Whether or not you liked it is down to a question of personal taste, however its lock-on features coupled with dashing manoeuvres ensured that the game maintained a quick pace and worked without fault.

More importantly the game captured that feeling of exploration and piecing together the pieces of the storyline that has become synonymous with the series brilliantly, resulting in a game that was worthy of its heritage and certainly put the sceptics in their place.

Thankfully MP2 continues this success, although the inclusion of an unnecessary multiplayer feature is somewhat questionable, the overall experience is once again a worthy addition to the legendary series and remains one of the most impressive 3D adaptations of a much revered 2D series.

The story begins with Samus Arran following a routine Galactic Federation order to investigate the disappearance of a squad of GF troopers; however it wonâ??t surprise many to learn that events are far more then what they transpire, as Samus becomes embroiled in a struggle between Light and Dark on the planet Aether.

A cataclysmic meteor crash has created a dimensional rift that splits Aether into two â?“ a world of light that is populated by the peaceful Luminoth and a Dark mirror image where the shadowy Ing lurk, a race of creatures that absorb any living being. Stepping into save the Luminoth in a battle that threatens to destroy the very existence of Aether, Samus soon discovers that she too has a darker doppelganger running around the planet, whilst her sworn enemy the Space Pirates arenâ??t too far behind â?“ Samus certainly has her hands full this time around.

Once again, the concept of deducting what has happened from scanning the environment and the various fallen creatures provides a fantastic experience that completely enthrals the player. This type of story progression is arguably one of the gameâ??s strongest aspects, and certainly suckers in the player more so then just presenting all the facts via cut-scenes or narrative. Despite the presence of many characters within the Metroid Prime 2 storyline, the game once again imposes a sense of isolation to the player, youâ??ll rarely interact with friendly characters and it really does feel that Samus is alone in her fight to bring salvation to the planet of Aether.

However itâ??s the replication of a world torn between light and dark that is without doubt Echoes strongest aspect; we take our hats off to Retro Studios for creating such a varied gameworld that captures this concept perfectly. The light side of the planet is an organic composition that encompasses many rich and varied landscapes, whilst the Dark Aether is an altogether twisted mirror-image of the Light Aether, which shares many similarities between the two. Samus travels between the two dimensions via the various portals scattered throughout the landscape, with actions in one often having specific effects within the other â?“ parallels to a certain other Nintendo masterpiece have been drawn, and weâ??d be inclined to agree.

The level designers at Retro Studios have worked wonders at creating scenarios that make the best use of this two-dimension concept, and youâ??ll be hurtling through them both so many times during the game that youâ??ll often find yourself slightly confused and questioning exactly what youâ??re doing; however this is exactly what the whole concept is about and in that respect the times when youâ??re pondering what to do next and suddenly the solution becomes clear are often the best moments from the game.

As we said previously, fundamentally the game has changed very little since Metroid Prime, so fans will quickly become accustomed to switching between the various visors that Samus has access to and the variety of weapons at her disposal. Despite Metroid Prime hitting the GameCube over two years ago, we still find ourselves amazed by just how well the HUD system works within the game and just how much this brings to the overall experience.

Fans may be a little surprised to learn that both the X-Ray and Thermal visors have been removed, as have a small selection of weapons including the Ice and Wave beams. Although few can have complaints, as Retro Studios have introduced a variety of new weapons designed to capitalise on the Light and Dark concept that the game is set upon. The theory is very simple, use the Light Beam against opponents in the Dark Aether and the Dark Beam against those within the Light Aether, and youâ??ll benefit from attacks that cause far greater damage. However as youâ??d expect from the Metroid franchise, these weapons are involved is some brilliantly devised puzzles throughout the game, that require players to think carefully about the correct solution.

The game also introduces two new visors to replace those removed, in the shape of Dark and Echo visor. The Dark visor allows the player to see more clearly in the twisted Dark Aether and also highlights dimensional objects and enemies in red, whilst the title defining Echo visor allows Samus to literally see sound. Again these are used throughout the game in a variety of puzzles, with the Sound visor allowing Samus to interact with such items as sonic locking mechanisms.

Samus standard repertoire of missiles and bombs return, along with the trademark morph-ball ability, however this time around Samus also has a seeking missile that allows players to select five points for a spectacular attack. Fans will be happy to know that favourites such as the Grapple Beam return, along with the Spider-Ball ability and a new attack that allows you to perform multiple flips in the air to damage enemies and cross large distances. In keeping with tradition, it comes as no surprise to learn that shortly into the game, Samus finds herself loosing virtually all of these weapons and abilities and must discover them as you progress through the game, which in-turn often open up new areas of the environment to explore â?“ itâ??s this level of respect towards previous games in the series that will have fans hopping in their seats.

Naturally the boss-encounters are a major aspect of the series, and in this respect Echoes doesnâ??t disappoint. A number of the epic confrontations require the player to think about attacking the enemy, instead of just laying down as much fire as possible; one particular example requires players to make exclusive use of the morph-ball to defeat them with perfectly placed bombs. As with the gameâ??s various puzzles, itâ??s that precise instance when you work out the correct strategy and the buzz of satisfaction gained from this, that provides many of the gameâ??s most enjoyable moments; certainly games in the past always used to rely on this method, and we miss this level of thinking instead of just ploughing them full with the biggest weapon in your inventory.

Bizarrely the game comes equipped with a multiplayer mode of sorts, which seems a little strange given that the image of Samusâ?? solitary adventures has been built up to such great impact over the years. This mode features two basic game-types for gamers to try out, with a standard deathmatch mode complimented by the Bounty mode, which sees players having to collect a certain amount of coins from players that are wounded and are literally bleeding coins. Thereâ??s nothing particularly wrong with it, and the camera/targeting system works surprisingly well, however the fact remains that the game would stand alone on itself without the mode and itâ??s unlikely youâ??ll be playing this for months to come in the same way as Halo 2 on Live!

Thankfully after the disappointingly short single-player campaign in Halo 2, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes throws up a significantly stiffer challenge that will tax most players in excess of 20 hours, whilst ensuring youâ??ve collected and scanned everything the game has to offer will raise this considerably further.

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  • Graphics: 94%
     
  • Sound: 89%
     
  • Gameplay: 94%
     
  • Originality: 87%
     
  • Longevity: 91%
     
Overall Score: 9/10
Fans of Metroid Prime will find everything in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes to give them the ultimate GameCube experience for Christmas, however those that didn’t like the camera/targeting system or the relatively slow, methodical pace won’t find anything to change their opinion.

Whilst it may not be better then Metroid Prime, it quite capably sits alongside it as a worthy sequel; whether or not they’re both better then the likes of Super Metroid IV we’ll leave for you to discuss. However there can be no doubting that as an adventure game with elements of action and puzzle, and a storyline that requires the player to work at and deduct as you progress through the game, there’s very little to touch it on any format.

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