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.