Thoughts on Metroid Prime 2D (Demo 0.1.21.4.1A)

I was made aware of this project’s existence roughly two weeks ago. Seeing a gameplay video that chronicled the entirety of the demo’s length, I was immediately sold on the premise. Metroid Prime, only on a 2D plane, worked on by fans of the franchise who hope to innovate as much as replicate. Apparently, it’s been worked on since 2004(!!!), and the fruits of their labor comes in the form of a 20-30-minute demo. It took me a little while to get around to it, but I’m really glad I did. It ended up being a very encouraging (and very rough) appetizer.

The timeframe provided above is no exaggeration—playing through the entirety of the demo took me roughly twenty-one minutes. If one is going into this expecting there to be a lot of content, let this be your disclaimer now. All they’ve gotten up to is the very first boss, which, unlike the parent Metroid Prime, is not the Parasite Queen. One’s journey actually starts on Tallon IV, as opposed to going through the Space Pirate Frigate. Samus is equipped with the weaker Power Suit and has no extra abilities. Forget Metroid Prime, this is like Zero Mission.

What I think this demo ultimately aims to showcase is their ambition. Wow, what ambition it is. AM2R is genuinely rivaled here in terms of quality, down to the game mechanics and especially in the aesthetic. Pixel quality is downright gorgeous, with a lot of detail in animation, specifically. Samus has several running frames, and can contort her body in a variety of directions, dependent on where one’s mouse marker is. Seeing everything flow in motion is a serene sight that any Metroid fan is bound to find breathtaking.

You may read that last paragraph and interpret “mouse marker” as strange. Indeed, Metroid Prime 2D (or just Prime 2D) has no controller support; players will have to play with a keyboard and mouse, which the developers have attempted to acclimate them to. One has a marker on the screen that can be moved via the mouse, which can slightly adjust the camera and the angle at which Samus shoots. Think of it like using a DS stylus on a touch screen, only less annoying.

It may also be frustrating to know that there is very little input that one can do to change anything, at least not to my knowledge. The “Options” menu provides very little, such as having one choose between playing at full screen or in a windowed box of about 320x180px (that’s puny). The controls are as they determine, and if you can’t get adjusted, that’s your problem. I could see myself being able to suit myself to keyboard controls (though I’d still prefer a controller), though using the traditional WASD control scheme with the space bar as a jump button and having to handle a mouse can be finicky.

Samus is a finicky fellow.

Controls end up being my least favorite aspect of the “Done-before-you-know-it” snippet of gameplay. Having to adjust to keyboard and mouse controls is one thing, having to manually deal with three sets of buttons (WASD + Space + Mouse-clicks) is a mightier ask. Even by demo’s end, I found some struggle in getting Samus to control as I wanted her to, as well as some in-fighting with the mouse marker. Not nearly as seamless as the 2D Metroid titles typically are, though they also weren’t made for PCs.

This isn’t to say all that they implemented felt inferior. Scan visor in particular is not only integrated adequately, I would argue it’s more accessible than in the parent Prime. You hit a button (Q) and use the mouse marker to target something, than hold right-click to scan. What’s even better is the range is very far—you can scan things from clear across the room. No more floundering around for a particular orange square, ’cause the mouse marker is great at hunting those squares down in an instant. Easier, faster, and perfectly suited to 2D. It’s fantastic.

Pleasant UI, as well.

Writing was something I could tell was a work in progress, as well. There was a definitive air of “This is a fan project” based on the various descriptions and articles I scanned detailing creature data and Chozo lore. Such details are different, by the way—this isn’t a full-on copy/paste of the game that inspired it. They implement their own stories and data, only keeping true to species names and appearances. From what I found, though, it felt somewhat off, particularly with the Chozo lore. Hard to pin down what exactly, perhaps it didn’t have the air of spirituality as the original game had. The limited Pirate data also seemed comically vitriolic.

Let’s circle back to the graphical fidelity of this game, which is, again, gorgeous. Tallon IV is such a magnificent, varied planet, and the developers bring it to pixelated life beautifully. They even go as far as adding some little indicators of detail not present in the parent game. Giant, spiritual pillars that loom over Samus, signifying power. Chozo Ruins being cavernous and, on the outside (initially), containing dust storms that impair one’s vision. What was shown thus far is nothing short of a masterclass in world-building. I’m positively giddy about it.

Everything about this is wonderful.

Before wrapping this up, I’ll mention briefly that the musical score was also pretty nice, though admittedly better outside the context of the game. I remember watching the gameplay video beforehand and thinking, “Wow, this music is redone amazingly!” Then I played the game and I was not hit with that same excitement again. A shame, though they have plenty of time to work with it more.

In all, this has a lot of potential. With fourteen years of work, I would certainly hope the project would be significant. Prime 2D is an excellent start to what may be a fantastic adventure, assuming the Nintendo executives don’t murder it beforehand. What remains to be seen is if they’ll eventually settle for controller support, or at the very least key binding availability, so as to lessen the burden of wonky controls. Besides that, it’s beautiful, inventive, and a glorious callback to one of the greatest games of all time. Not that I have any bias or anything.

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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