Metroid Prime 2 Echoes – Restoring the Balance

Metroid Prime 2 Echoes (Gamecube)

The Mission – Shortly after the events of Metroid Prime, Samus is deployed to the planet Aether in order to discover the whereabouts of a Galactic Federation Marine vessel that had given its last report around the planet before disappearing.  Upon arrival, Samus’ ship is damaged by the extreme weather surrounding the atmosphere of Aether and is forced to land.  She stumbles upon the corpses of the Marines, and scattered among them are bodies of her nemesis, the Space Pirates.  However, this isn’t as clear cut a mission as it first seems.  Aether is in the middle of a power struggle between two beings inhabiting two different dimensions on the planet.  The Ing, sinister blob-like beings who seek to plunge Aether into darkness, are overwhelming the diminishing population of the Luminoth, the guardians of “Light” Aether.  The Ing are capable of reanimating the dead or forcefully taking over the living a la parasitic domination, and this trait has made the balance swing dangerously in their court.  Another menace is the doppelganger Dark Samus, who stalked Samus to Aether and intends on absorbing her completely into her psyche.  Dark Samus shows Samus the path to the “dark” half of Aether, the one where the Ing are fully in power and are at their strongest.  She is overwhelmed but left alive, minus her best gear, and realizes quickly that her standard Power Suit and weapons were not up to the task of fighting either threat – fortunately, the few Luminoth who remain are willing to work with Samus and enable her to incorporate their technology into her suit, giving her new abilities that will grant her a chance at conquering these two antagonistic powers roaming about in Dark Aether.

In the end, the Emperor Ing is crushed, the light of Aether fully restored, and Dark Samus is defeated…for now.  Its role in the Prime series has not reached its conclusion, and it will haunt Samus in the last game in the Prime trilogy, Corruption.

The Game – Retro Studios returned to develop Prime’s sequel, and decided to tweak the Metroid formula, for better or worse, with Echoes.  The major shakeup revolves around the Light and Dark aspect of Aether, and this is embodied in many different ways.  Samus has an evil twin to conquer, the planet has two dimensions to explore, and the dark and light forces have distinct stylistic traits that help symbolize this battle between these two adversaries.  The Ing are simple and organic, using their parasitic capabilities to consume the living and the dead to build their ranks.  The Luminoth are advanced technological beings, with complicated architecture, weapons and devices.  The Ing are not stupid, though – they know what key treasures of the Luminoth to capture and defend, and Samus notes in her encounters with these guardians that they are able to utilize the Chozo and Luminoth technology they protect into their very bodies.  The Boost guardian, for example, is quite adapt at using that skill to punish Samus in that fight.

The issue with having two dimensions to roam around with is that it can become very confusing to the player.  Retro did an admirable job trying to minimize problems with the help system, limiting the Dark parts of the map to smaller chunks, and by throwing in several gates to be able to jump back and forth between dimensions, but on the whole the Dark half is not that fun to wander around in.  That’s partly due to its volatile nature – extended stays in Dark Aether will whittle Samus’ energy down over time unless you step in a Light Barrier.  Naturally, most battles will occur in vast stretches of darkness, and you need to blast the scattered Barriers to enable them, so combat is not as free-feeling as it was in Prime (or in the Light sections of the game, for that matter).  Most of the boss fights take place in Dark Aether as well, so a dwindling life bar is something else you have to keep tabs on while you fight.  If you like extra pressure, then this probably won’t be an issue.

The addition of an ammo system might, though.  Unarguably the biggest complaint with Echoes was that Samus couldn’t barrage opponents with a constant stream of beam shots – the Dark and Light beams required ammo to fire, and this could be a major thorn if you happen to run out.  Ammo is somewhat plentiful in the scenery’s pods and barrels, but when the beams are required to get out of a room or return to the other dimension, it can be a little annoying to see you’re out of “bullets”.  Retro aborted the concept for Corruption, but I wish that it didn’t see the light of day for Echoes, too.

To wrap up, Echoes expects players to have experienced Prime, because it’s much harder than its predecessor was.  Definitely play Prime first!

Samus Aran – Samus herself saw new suits added to her arsenal, plus some new beams and visors.  The Dark and Light suits were radical departures from the Chozo-styled suit we’ve seen in the past, and are solid designs that helped build upon the new technology premise Retro was gunning for.  The Light and Dark beams, plus their successor the Annihilator Beam, played off of the standards set by Prime, but were novel changes.  She also had access to a Dark and Echo Visor, which helped Samus in her encounters with the Ing and Dark Samus.  The Screw Attack came back for Echoes after being benched for Prime, although it functions more like a wall jump here than an enemy slayer in the 2D Metroids (although it does have that capability, it’s just really unwieldy).

After Prime made such valiant attempts to get Samus out of the “skimpy clothing reveal” line of ending reward, Echoes is the first game to use the Zero Suit as a reward for completion.  It doesn’t serve much of a purpose stripping Samus of her Varia Suit to stand in front of her ship and look back at the player (with DEAD EYES AH), but one could argue it’s a little less demeaning than her Justin Bailey outfits.

Curios – Ridley sat out of this one, making it one of two games he made no formal appearance in (the other is Metroid 2: Return of Samus).

- Echoes featured a somewhat lackluster multiplayer mode.  My opinion was obviously not impressed by it.

- Oddly enough, Warioware: Smooth Moves borrowed a scene from Echoes for a microgame.

- The game was used to demonstrate the Wii controller back when it was known as the Revolution.

Availability - Echoes did fairly well for the ‘Cube, and shouldn’t be too hard to find.  It’s also on the Wii trilogy.

My Thoughts – Echoes is a fine sequel that made some design flaws, but it’s definitely worth some playtime if you enjoyed Prime.  I’m happy to have it.

Data Files:

Wildcat’s Ten Favorite Gamecube Games (Updated 8/22/2012)

I loved my ‘Cube. It delivered a surprising amount of quality gaming to me, and I treasure it as one of my favorite systems. Despite the actual console biting it a long time ago, I do have a Wii that can play these wonders, so it’s not a huge loss for me to not have it anymore. Several essentials of mine are on this console, including three on my Absolute list and two on my Contender list!

Skies of Arcadia Legends (Sega/Overworks)

What more could I say about Skies that I already haven’t? Not too much, methinks. While I’ve formatted my favorite games list to remove the tiers, I still consider Skies to be an incredible experience I won’t forget.

Resident Evil 4 (Capcom)

Capcom did an amazing job with the revitalization of the Resident Evil franchise here, making a game that would deeply influence the industry for years to come. A marvelous treat, although I must say that the Wii version is the definitive version.

Beyond Good & Evil (UBI Soft)

UBI Soft’s Michel Ancel and his team created a wondrous game that I like to go on and on about on this site. So, for the sake of not parroting myself further, I’ll just say that I love this game so much.

Metroid Prime (Nintendo/Retro Studios)

This was a controversial resurrection of Samus Aran, but luckily, it turned out extremely well and is one of the few first person view games I adore. Kudos, Retro!

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo)

While Wind Waker left me a little uncertain of the future of Zelda, Twilight Princess swung things back into the right for me. It feels a little unfinished at times, but I really enjoyed my playthrough of the game and especially meeting Midna, the best character the franchise has yet produced.

Tales of Symphonia (Namco Bandai)

This more action-based JRPG is the best original title of that particular genre on the ‘Cube, with a fun battle engine, likable characters and tons of things to do. Definitely worth a look.

Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (Sierra/Radical Ent.)

Sheer chaotic fun, this one. Running around and rampaging as the Hulk is a riot to control, and the game takes its sandbox concepts to astoundingly good heights. One of the best superhero games ever made.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (UBI Soft)

UBI Soft’s first stab at this classic franchise remains the best to me. The ambiance is wonderful, and the platforming is a major highlight, with some of the best 3D has yet produced. Combat is a bit wonky and irritating, but the overall quality of the rest of the game overpowers it.

Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO (Capcom)

Most pick Soul Calibur II as the ‘Cube’s fighter of choice, but that game really does pale in comparison to its predecessor, Link or no Link. Meanwhile, Capcom released the finest cross-up between their rival SNK and themselves for the ‘Cube, and it’s my easy pick for the console’s best representation of the genre.

Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (Nintendo)

I really liked Four Swords Adventures. It takes a unique concept of four Links that can be arranged into formations, throws them into self-contained levels, but manages to maintain the Zelda 2D vibe beautifully.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Nintendo/Intelligent Systems)

The sequel to the N64 Paper Mario improves the battle system, throws incredible spritework at you, and ups the kookiness factor to new heights (which its sequel may have overdone).  In my book, this is the Mario game you want to invest in for the ‘Cube.

Contenders:

Second Sight (Codemasters/Free Radical)

SSX 3 (EA)

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (Nintendo/Camelot)

Animal Crossing (Nintendo)

Metroid Prime 2 Echoes (Nintendo/Retro Studios)

Metroid Prime – A New Threat is Born

METROID PRIME (Gamecube)

The Mission – Set between the events of Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus, Samus Aran is sent off to the new world of Tallon IV, a former Chozo planet, to uncover the whereabouts of the Space Pirate’s recent invasion of the planet and why they’ve taken a foothold there. Landing on a nearby Space Station, Samus is stunned to find a variety of corpses littering the ship, and is even more surprised to see Ridley make a triumphant resurrection from his apparent demise in Metroid. Following the demon to Tallon IV, she sets out to track down the Pirates and eradicate their presence from this world. Along the way she discovers that the Pirates are reproducing Metroids on Tallon IV and are experimenting with a dangerous substance called Phazon, which is producing strange but potentially promising effects on the test subjects for use as weapons. With these two projects the Space Pirates could become even more threatening to the safety of the universe, so Samus commits herself to sabotaging their efforts as best as she can (which comprises the plots for the next two Prime games Echoes and Corruption). Unfortunately, Samus becomes a victim to Phazon’s influence, being coated in a Suit overwrought with the material. While it didn’t cause her any immediate harm, the Suit would later merge with the defeated husk of the Pirate’s breeding achievement, Metroid Prime, creating a foe potentially more sinister than even the Space Pirates – Dark Samus. All this is unbeknownst to Samus, who left the planet following the defeat of Meta Ridley and Metroid Prime, losing the Phazon Suit, and then escaping the chaotic self-destruct sequence, but she would come face to face with this new terror in the near future. (more…)

Song Highlights – The Music of Metroid


Over the years Metroid has seen some of the most amazing music in all of gaming.  As part of the series celebrating 20 years this year, I want to spotlight several of my favorite tracks from the entire catalog.  Ten tracks in total will be featured here, which is arguably too little for me to fully give it the attention it deserves, but I think this will make a solid stepping stone for those curious for more.

Metroid – Creteria (NES, Hirokazu Tanaka)

The iconic Creteria theme sets the mood for Metroid pretty quickly – Tanaka’s composition didn’t immediately resonate with me, but I think it takes its time to attach itself to you.  A brilliant piece to start of the game. (more…)

Looking Back: My Favorite Game of 2002

Has it really been three months since I last did this feature?  Yikes.

2002 was a good year for me.  I began feeling more comfortable at college, and was quickly realizing that high school was a whole heap of bullshit served for a four year duration.  College was so liberating – I finally was feeling like I was not a target for insults, and that I could be accepted for who I was without sacrificing crucial elements of myself to do so.  I made some great friends, had a wonderful time with the drama program, and treasure those days to this very day.  They were very good times, times that were long in coming.

Beyond school, I had gotten my first pair of glasses.  In high school I had denied that my eyes were slowly deteriorating even as I had to sit upfront to read a white board – I think this was in part of a “hey, who wants ANOTHER reason to be made fun of?” line of thinking that I had latched onto while languishing, but I will never forget the moments after getting my glasses and putting them on.  It sounds really dumb to anyone who has 20/20 vision, but I had completely forgotten that trees had texture – individual leaves and branches that didn’t blur together to make a mass of green.  The clarity stunned me and made me realize how foolish I was to allow myself to let my vision suffer all because I was afraid of being teased a little more.  But, sometimes the fear of piling on more attention, positive or negative, can make one’s mind do weird and irrational things.

It was around this time that I had decided that I wanted to get into anime.  I bought Princess Mononoke first, and well…I’ve explained why that movie is so important to me elsewhere, so I’ll refrain from further comments here.  I relished the new medium, and picked arguably the best time to get into the craze, as it was right in its glorious golden age in America where product was readily available and was about to burst forth a plethora of merch on top of the DVD’s.  I discovered Trigun, Outlaw Star, Tenchi Muyo and Gundam Wing in this exciting time, and would soon be floored by such legendary pieces of anime like Cowboy Bebop, Spirited Away, Rurouni Kenshin, FLCL and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.  Alas, the balloon on American anime saturation would burst early, and my enthusiasm would go along it.  I still like anime, but it’s no longer an essential part of my daily life like it once was.  That is not to say that I have shunned it or anything – I have enjoyed some more modern shows like Ouran High School Host Club, Fruits Basket, and Le Chevalier D’eon.  But it’s just not something that compels me like it had.

I got a Game Boy Advance in 2002, if my memory’s not mistaken, and I had a fair amount of good times with my first portable.  I had a chance to explore Fire Emblem, becoming quite enamored with its strategic gameplay and excellent characters (who could die if I was careless, never to return).  Experiencing my first Metroid-inspired Castlevanias, Harmony of Dissonance (so-so) and Aria of Sorrow (spectacular).  Getting my hands on a true Treasure action title with Astro Boy: Omega Factor.  Not understanding what people see in Advance Wars. :p  I still have my Classic NES model and it sees a lot of action these days, as I am quite addicted to the GBA Street Fighter Alpha 3 for no inexplicable reason other than it’s fun to waste time with.

I also got my Super NES this year, thanks to my college friend Seth.  I had missed out on the 16-bit wars, so I’ve had a thrill trying out a ton of games I missed out on when I was a kid.  Super Metroid and Chrono Trigger left the largest imprints so far, but I’ve got a heap of games to still try out.  I got pretty lucky to snag some of the rarer cartridges, like Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, Earthbound, and Lufia II, but I need to actually play them to truly appreciate them. XD

Next year is a big year in terms of memories, so I’m looking forward to…um…looking back. :p

Shortlist:


The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, Bethesda)

Morrowind drops the player into a huge, open-ended world where the player’s imagination can truly run wild.  Fighters, mages, thieves and archers, or crosses and blends of those basic classes provide an infinite amount of replay and exploration.  A fantastic example of Western RPG design at its finest.


Age of Mythology (PC, Microsoft/Ensemble Software)

Age of Mythology has the best gameplay mechanics in the Age of… series if you ask me, with excellent diversity in the three powers you get to control.  It also helps that the game itself is a joy to partake.


Metroid Prime (GC, Nintendo/Retro Studios)

Samus’ first adventure under the direction of Retro Studios is among the best in the franchise’s storied history – Retro managed to recapture the discovery, awe and isolation the series does so well, and does it quite handily.  The first-person perspective does little to erase the pleasure – in fact, it brings a whole new side to the mythos of Metroid via the scan visor and precise gameplay.

 

In my opinion, the best game of 2002 was…


The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, Bethesda)

Morrowind is a game I yearned to play for years and years before I had the opportunity to.  My old PC wasn’t up to the task.  Grace (somehow or another) had it on her laptop, and after we got together I had a chance to try it out, but the laptop’s touch pad was too persnickety for me to appreciate the gameplay (and the mouse didn’t seemingly work on her laptop, either), so I didn’t get to give it a proper runthrough until 2007 with the arrival of our current desktop.  It ran faster, controlled beautifully, and looked as good as it could get.  I set out with Chadwick (who is now named Delton in my Black Blood project), a paladin who wanted to subdue political corruption and free the poor slaves scattered throughout Vvardenfell.  My imagination took Chadwick on his own unique quest, crushing evil as he encountered it and ending the life of the dastardly sinister Orvas Dren, one of the seedier characters populating Morrowind.  After his death, Chadwick took over the estate and proclaimed it his own, populating its rooms with books, weapons, treasures and artifacts found along his travels.  Chadwick took on Dagoth Ur the correct, scripted way, ending that tyrant’s vain attempts to dominate the world.  Armed with his fiery blade and the sacred shield, Chadwick’s journey obviously left a strong imprint on me.  I relished wandering around Morrowind’s vast continent of Vvardenfell, interacting with its denizens, combating its enemies, and uncovering its secrets.  Chadwick’s quest was in turn my quest, my personal exploration into a game I had been dying to try, and now found myself quite attached to.

Further adventures have followed.  Karah, a necromancer in Black Blood, blossomed into a vengeful woman out to destroy the Redoran for slaughtering her family as she was young.  She rose to the top of the Telvanni, mastered many magical spells (especially in Conjuration and Destruction), crafted a wicked soul-rending short sword, and she too led me on a unique and rewarding journey.  Karah’s motives were darker and more bloody than Chadwick’s, and her focus on magic over brute strength changed the way I experienced the world of Morrowind significantly.  She also got a custom fortress thanks to my tinkering with the Construction Set, although I have inadvertently caused a bug to happen, so I’ll probably need to rebuild it down the road.  Kryst, the rogue you’ve seen in So..this Webcomic and Black Blood, had a short-lived quest of stealing the tons of treasure inside Vivec’s vaults, and became quite the wanted fugitive for it.  Not being able to talk to the majority of the game’s characters due to her enormous bounty has made that particular attempt somewhat unfun, though.  Nicole, an archer, developed her own unique quest with the expansions, ending Almalexia’s reign over Mournhold and conquering Bloodmoon’s werewolves.

In short, Morrowind has been a magical game for me, as it allows me to live out my own imagination in physical form.  I can take these concepts and give them a new lease on life beyond sketches and words.  And the gameplay is just about perfect.  The combat is choppy, but on the whole it’s only one piece of the grander puzzle.  I adore Morrowind, and it’s just shy of being an absolute of mine.  Definitely one of the best games I’ve played, and I felt that sharing my personal time and investments within its borders with my avatars would make a stronger argument than breaking it down gameplay-wise (which, hey, I’ve already done!).

Some personal anecdotes:

I will admit that yes, I use God Mode to play Morrowind.  Some may find that a sin, but personally, I’ve gotten so much out of the game that I don’t mind never truly dying.  Some of the strategy may disappear, but I’m not delving into it so deeply for the combat side of things – I’m doing it more to develop my characters and getting them closer to their goals that I’ve put in place for them.

The great thing about Morrowind is that it’s pretty difficult to be able to say “I’ve seen everything it has to offer”.  It’s such a huge game that each playthrough has opened up some new element or location I hadn’t been to before, and that’s part of the joy for me.

The expansions are fun additions, but lack the creative level design of the original game.  Dungeons in particular use less unique tiles and repeat a lot of the same map types over and over again, which Oblivion continued in greater severity.  That said, it’s nice to have two more areas to wade through, and the new enemies and gear make up for the lack of variety underground.

Grace has beaten the game without God Mode, and I applaud her for that.  That is a feat, if I may say so.

So stoked about Skyrim right now I can’t even tell you.

Do hate Cliff Racers, though.

Age of Mythology

Bomberman Jetters (video game)

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Golden Sun: The Lost Age

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Heroes of Might and Magic IV

Kingdom Hearts (video game)

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Mega Man Zero (video game)

Metal Slug 4

Metroid Fusion

Metroid Prime

Resident Evil (2002 video game)

Shinobi (2002 video game)

Soulcalibur II

Super Mario Sunshine

TimeSplitters 2

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

Wild Arms 3

Back to 2001Forward to 2003

Mogenar and Loopers – Atrocious Enemy Encounters

Cheap Boss that Sucks – Mogenar (Metroid Prime 3: Corruption)

Words may not be enough to express how much I hate Mogenar.  I will not attempt to play Corruption ever again because of it.  I despise the Wiimote setup for Corruption because of it.  He is annoying to fight, difficult to focus on and can regenerate his health way too easily.  Perhaps I’m not figuring out some special shortcut or something, but I’ve tried beating him three times.  Three long, dragged-out, irritating-as-hell times.  I’ve never enjoyed tangling with him.  He’s a bastard who ruined what was a fine enough expansion of the Prime universe to me, and I will forever mark him as a testament how NOT TO DESIGN BOSSES AND THEIR HIT ZONES.  Gah.  Just thinking about those damn red orbs flying back into his body is pissing the daylights out of me.  *need to move on…*

Vile Enemy from Hell – Loopers (Skies of Arcadia)

These may be one of the most pointless enemies I’ve encountered.  They look adorable, but that isn’t quite enough for me to change my mind.  Loopers are hard to hit, tend to cast decent spells, and run off 95% of the time.  Add in Skies’ high encounter rate, and they become quite the pain in the ass after a short while.  And it’s a rare occurrence to see merely one of these – no, it’s usually 4 to 5 of the buggers.  And then to have all of them run?  Grrr.  Enemies on this vein are unfortunately common in JRPG’s, but this was the first to get my nerves frustrated, so they get the honor of being one of my least favorite foes.  Definitely my only major issue towards my favorite game.

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