Thoughts on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

This could be titled “Updated Thoughts on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” since I have beaten this before. Though given it’s been many, many years since I’ve done so, I figure I’ll look at this from a fresh perspective. It’d benefit the game for me to do so, after all—my childhood impressions of this were less than thrilling.

Inspired by a streamer I follow, I recently replayed Metroid Prime for the umpteenth time and enjoyed it thoroughly. Unfortunately, I liked it a little less than the last time I played it (via linked review in previous sentence), though the damage was little less than a single energy tank’s worth. Replaying it also gave birth the desire to finally finish replay its sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, a title that I have historically been very iffy on for a variety of reasons.

(Disclaimer: The reasoning for the strikethrough of “finish” was because I started the second game about five years ago. Got about halfway through before never picking it back up again. That weighed on my mind during this current playthrough.)

My first contact with Metroid Prime 2, like with a few games within the mid-2000’s, came during a demo available at a kiosk at Toys ‘R’ Us. (They should seriously bring those back.) A few things about it stuck out: “Dark world? New space pirate designs? Another Samus???” It was enough to make my tweenage mind shift into hypus maximus. Admittedly, I don’t have the same fondness for this demo as, say, Soulcalibur II‘s, but it was enough to simply have a sequel to one of my favorite games ever (at that point, I had no opinion other than “game fun”).

Another Samus???

So as to not make this too long with the “before” instead of the “after,” I’ll nutshell my experience with the game as a child and say it was “underwhelming.” Several factors about the game made it a much more arduous experience than with the first game, including beam ammo (the big one), difficulty spikes, and light/dark world traversal. In time, I went back to the first game several times; the second was kind of abandoned. Even Metroid Prime 3: Corruption would end up being seen more favorably by me, which might be an unpopular opinion? I’m not sure.

Now that I am a big, smart adult, I was intrigued to see just how much of my past self would come through in playing the game again. Would I still find it too annoying to hold any value? Was my childhood self just a little baby who hated change? The answer to these questions, unsurprisingly, varied.

To set the stage for those not familiar, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes takes place directly after the first title in the Prime franchise. After receiving a distress signal from planet Aether, Samus crash-lands onto the surface due to a stormy atmosphere. Once on foot, Samus quickly uncovers the remains of a deserted Galactic Federation camp, who came face-to-face with the Ing, chaotic organisms that wish to take Aether as their own. Soon after, she encounters the Luminoth, the now-endangered species that attempted to thwart the Ings’ plight. Now Samus is tasked with saving the planet from a dark reign.

Luminoth seem like cool folk.

Metroid Prime is still the superior game to me. Frankly, it’s not really that close, either. Despite that, Metroid Prime 2 is by no means a bad game, nor is it just “fine.” Even with the complaints I will eventually voice, it’s a lot of the same explorative, shoot-y fun that the franchise is known for, and even does some things better than the first game.

First and foremost, let’s talk about beam ammo. This was the biggest complaint I had as a child, and a complaint I would hold as time endured. Beam ammo in a Metroid game? How dare they rob us of fun. How dare they go against the formula. It wasn’t until at one point in my recent playthrough when my brother commented that the ammunition was a means of balancing the game, as light enemies were highly exploitable to dark beam energy and vice-versa. Pondering that point (and experimenting with it), I’ve come to not only agree with that notion, but praise it.

Dark b-b-b-beam.

Really though, it also came down to just accepting it as a last resort. How else were they going to follow the theme of dueling light and dark energy and have it so one can easily rely on the opposite spectrum to deal with either situation? Ammo is the easy answer, ensuring that even with the advantage, players can’t just go gun-crazy. This adds a nice spice of challenge to the game that would otherwise make it perhaps too easy, too straightforward. So as an adult, I’m tearing off the “ammo bad” chains that had bound me since young—ammo is smart, actually!

Alas, that “spice of challenge” ends up being poured in like butter in a Paula Deen cooking show. Difficulty spikes remain a semi-consistent issue with the game; on this latest playthrough, I’ve realized it’s in more ways than one. You would think with a game of this type it’d be a specific boss or unfair enemies. These are true to some degree (Spider Guardian, Boost Guardian), but it’s less “difficulty” than it is simply convoluted means of advancement.

From light to dark.

Trying to shake up a perfect formula is always risky business. Sometimes it ends up innovating a game, other times it ruins the flow of an established rhythm. The difficulty spikes, and by extension convoluted methods of progression, end up being what I found most irritating by mission’s end. My childhood self couldn’t quite get the gist of what this means—my current self cannot stop finding things to groan about.

In order to gain ammo for one weapon, you need to destroy enemies or supply crates with the other weapon. Sometimes it will give you the ammo you want, sometimes it won’t. Some bosses aren’t defeated by only shooting it with a specific weapon at opportune times—bosses in this game require a couple, if not multiple steps. Power Bomb Guardian requires the player to traverse a wall of spider ball tracks while avoiding bombs being flung at them. Many major bosses have at least two forms. Hell, most enemies have two forms—a light and a dark variant. Metroid Prime 2 feels like the developers are trying really hard to top the previous game in every fashion.

This was a neat boss fight, though.

Combat is not the only aspect this applies to. Exploration ends up being more complex, as well. Item acquisition often ends up more cumbersome than in the previous game. Different sequences of opening things up, such as echolocation shenanigans, overlong spider-ball paths, and traveling to opposite versions of individual rooms, inflate the playtime to somewhat grating degrees. While I did eventually end my run with 230 missiles, sometimes I’ll go through a whole puzzle just to say “This better not be for just a missile.” Guess what it almost always ended up being?

Yet some experimentation did bear fruit. While watching seven-million transition screens from light to dark and dark to light worlds are always annoying, the essence of two mirror worlds is always an interesting direction. Like Metroid meets A Link to the Past. There’s also careful attention paid to making more use out of certain items. Particularly visors, Boost Ball, and the aforementioned Spider Ball have more precedence here and are more versatile than previously. Even if some bosses are more like setting up Ikea furniture, they are more memorable.

Pictured: not a boss.

Something I repeated to my brother while playing is the single criticism I have with this game: It’s Metroid Prime, but overcomplicated. That’s basically the whole review without the giant textdump of information. Metroid Prime 2 is Metroid Prime but overcomplicated. This moniker boils down to just about every aspect, from combat to puzzle-solving to exploration in general. If nothing else, that’s what one should take away from this review.

There are other things I could note on, but I think I got out most of what I wanted to note. Hopefully it makes sense to people who haven’t indulged in the franchise. Chances are high for those who are fond of the franchise that this will at least scratch the itch to similar effect. Had I made this a proper review, the final score would probably be roughly a 7/10. A solid adventure that both reaffirmed and flipped my prior opinion of the game. It was, as alluded to previously, my least favorite game in the trilogy. Now? Metroid Prime 3 will have to climb a steeper hill to remain in silver position.

All screenshots collected via Rubberduck645’s Metroid Prime 2 Longplay video.

For more reviews on this topic, be sure to check out the associated archive.

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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