Last February, Nintendo shadow dropped Metroid Prime Remastered on the Switch, and it was a delight to play this game again. The original Metroid Prime was released in 2002 on the GameCube and is widely regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time. Similar to Nintendo classics on the Nintendo 64 such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Metroid Prime was a 3D overhaul of the 2D Metroid series with a first-person perspective. The Remastered version keeps most of this game the same, meaning that the game has:
But beyond these specs, Metroid Prime Remastered brings much more as an immersive experience. In particular, I want to address three things: the feeling of true adventure that you experience, the immersive world-building and atmosphere of the game, and also that breathes the idea of Life.
So let’s begin with the idea of adventure. Early in the game, you land on the alien planet of Tallon IV. You know nothing of the place and as you have lost many of your abilities, you can do only so little. Using your Scan Visor, you gradually come to learn more and more about the planet and its ancient civilization – as well as what happened to it. Tallon IV is fully open, so you can explore the environment and planet non-linearly at your own pace and according to your own interestalthough you are limited by the initial abilities of your suit. This really encourages you to delve into the surroundings, learning more about the main storyline as well as getting acquainted with the flora and fauna of the planet. Scanning and interacting with the environment is a great way of storytelling. But it also gives you a sense of freedom that is unprecedented in video games to my mind, possibly only matched by Zelda: Breath of the Wild: you gradually get acquainted with this alien world through your own actions and interests. It therefore gives a true sense of adventure. Adventure originally means 'to arrive at something', and in Metroid Prime, you constantly have the feeling that you’re arriving in places because of your own skill, interest, and effort: that you’re achieving something because you have acquainted yourself bit by bit with the magical surroundings and initially alien places of Tallon IV, as explorers did when reaching foreign shores. Thus like pirating, the bounty hunting of Metroid Prime Remastered breathes true adventure.
Second is the element of immersion and atmosphere. Furthermore, the map is also fairly small, meaning that you will have to turn over every stone in the environment. And as you find and acquire more and more abilities throughout the game you will have to come back to previous environments, such as a room that you have been in already as you become able to reach new heights, or enter new spaces using your upgraded weapons and beams. Coming back to these same places is no punishment, as the environments and places are so detailed and have such great architecture. But more fundamentally, the philosophical point is that you really have to adapt to the details and hidden cues in the map of the game. That means that you also gradually come to 'know' the world in a deep sense: you increasingly feel that you know the inner logic and structure of the maps of the various main places (e.g. the 'tight' and claustrophobic Magmoor Caverns or hidden biotechnology laboratories of the otherwise spacious and mystical Phendrana Drifts). So although you land on a completely unknown planet, all alone and amidst foreign flora and fauna, you sublimate this alienation by adapting to the world. Phenomenologically, the world of Tallon IV still sticks in my mind, leaving an atmospherical imprint with all its magnificent architecture and creatures.
So the – initially often hostile – creatures and ambient but deserted rooms inspire a feeling of isolation and therefore invite exploration. Gradually, as you learn about the creatures, the environments, maps and the main storyline, the world comes to life. It is the atmosphere of adventure and immersion in the world of Tallon IV that is the main reason why it is one of my favorite games of all time: graphics, music, colors, architectures and design all blend into a fantastic immersive experience of you as an isolated bounty hunter entering a thick web of interconnected organisms in a deserted and foreign world. What’s more, throughout the game, nature and technology increasingly become entangled, as various 'Frankensteinish' biotechnological experiments show using the mysterious Phazon substance show, or how nature 'reclaims' the deserted places of the fallen Chozo civilization. This atmosphere is thus what sticks and enables you to experience overcoming your own alienation to the world and game, and let yourself immerse into the developing and unfolding world of Tallon IV.
This atmospherical quality refers to the last philosophical idea in the game: Metroid Prime breathes the idea of Life. The experience of overcoming your alienation through the immersive and atmospherical world of Tallov IV shows that we are not closed subjects: the rhythms and sphere of the world show that you as an individual can be moved by something that is beyond yourself. Certain external environments can induce specific subjective moods, e.g. visiting places of your youth or the 'sensory quality' of specific natural ecosystems, or how you can because attuned to certain places through their own rhythms. As such, the concept of 'atmosphere' shows how the purely subjective position, in terms of Metroid Prime the first-person perspective of Samus Aran, already moves to a intersubjective space of how subjects and objects, interior individuals and the external worlds, blend together. The regulating idea for this intersubjective space is the idea of Life.
The German idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Hegel defines Life as the 'immediate idea… And finally it is the Individuality of the body as infinite negativity–the dialectic of that bodily objectivity, with its parts lying out of one another, conveying them away from the semblance of independent subsistence back into subjectivity, so that all the members are reciprocally momentary means as well as momentary ends. Thus as life is the initial particularisation, so it results in the negative self-asserting unity: in the dialectic of its corporeity it only coalesces with itself. In this way life is essentially something alive, and in point of its immediacy this individual living thing.' (Hegel, Encyclopedia, Logic, §216).
What this means for Hegel is that in Life, things are only what they are in relation to their unity, which is a general moment shared by all. For example, a tree is only something when it is embedded in a natural surround from which it takes and to which it gives, e.g. it gives oxygen to the air and maintains a mycorrhizal network under the ground, while taking solar energy, water and nutrition. Similarly, the organisms on Tallon IV blend together as creatures but also with their environments, creating a thick web of interconnectedness which you have to penetrate first, but the game also forces you to adapt to and internalize the world of Tallon IV, e.g. by taking specific cues from the environment or adapting your visuals, controls and weapons to specific regions. As such, the atmosphere of the game breathes life into it, while it teaches you something about the idea of Life in which we all – bounty hunter or not – are embedded. Like the Avatar movies, I hope it brings awe and respect to the 'web of life' that nature provides: games like Metroid Prime can help to inspire 'real-world' respect for the greatness and majesty of nature and Life.