Metroid Prime Remastered is a perfect reminder of this GameCube great

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Time and again on the N64, Nintendo and their partner game studios made making the jump from 2D to 3D look almost effortless. Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye 007 and more were pioneers of 3D graphics, but some of Nintendo’s main series took a little longer to make the jump. As acclaimed as it was on NES and SNES, Metroid skipped the N64 entirely, but with Metroid Prime on GameCube, it was absolutely worth the wait. Now we have Metroid Prime Remastered as a reminder of just how good Retro Studios’ debut was.

Developed by Retro Studios with assistance from developers including Iron Galaxy Studios, and then released alongside its announcement in this week’s Nintendo Direct, this is a fantastic remaster that perfectly straddles the line between the original game and modern expectations. It’s the kind of remaster that looks exactly like you remember the original seeming, but putting the different versions side by side reveals just how much time, effort and care went into improving the experience as a whole.

It really doesn’t matter where you look, the models, textures, lighting and effects have all been upgraded in one way or another. Sure, there’s plenty in the game that retains an angular feel to it, like the thrusters on Samus’ ship, but so many other areas like Samus’ suit have been refined and smoothed with the addition of more polygons. Once you get down to the planet’s surface, the environments have been lavished with new higher detail textures and new grass in place of the mottled green textures of the turn of the century.

Then there’s the lighting, which helps to accentuate all the other work. There’s a gorgeous bloom to light coming from the sun, the shadows it casts having softer edges, there’s the light cast from the doors that now glistens on rocky surroundings, and even the pulsing of Samus’ Power Beam has a light bloom to it.

It’s not native resolution on Switch because of this – it’s been counted at 612p in handheld and 900p when docked – but the game is a nigh on perfect 60fps lock, and it still looks fantastic on the Switch OLED screen.

One thing that is lost from the remaster is a certain degree of claustrophobia, which comes from two main changes – it’s basically the same story as the upcoming Resident Evil 4 Remake. With a 4:3 aspect ratio on GameCube, the Wii release broadened that to 16:9, though came with a closer feeling field of view. On Switch it really feels like the FOV has been widened, aided by a skinnier, higher resolution HUD overlaid on the action.

I remember it being slightly divisive at the time, but the HUD for Metroid Prime was fantastic in 2002, taking a further step or two from Halo: Combat Evolved the year before to really make it feel like an in-helmet display. The HUD curves like it’s being projected onto a helmet visor, there’s hard parts of the helmet at the top and bottom of the screen as well.

However, where Metroid Prime was still a step behind first person games like Halo was with the control scheme. Instead of having twin-stick FPS controls, the original controls only used one stick for movement, relying on locking on to shift into a mode for strafing. It was fine for the time, and certainly appropriate for the different genre, but not for 2023.

Metroid Prime Remastered defaults to a new controller layout that’s akin to a standard FPS, and it feels great. You’re still locking onto enemies, but in general, you can now be much more nimble in combat and when getting around the world. If you want, though, the original GameCube layout is available to you in Classic mode, and you can even use the Joy-Con for Wii-style pointing to revive the spirit of the Wii port.

All of which is to say that Metroid Prime Remastered is fantastic. We’re just a couple hours in, but it’s every bit as good as I remember it being, without the disappointment that can so often be felt from revisiting a childhood favourite.

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