THE DIVIDE: ENEMIES WITHIN / Viacom / Playstation
Do you think Metroid Prime was the first commercial attempt at doing Metroid in 3D? Well, it may have been the first officially licensed version, but Radical Entertainment's 1996 title The Divide: Enemies Within is clearly an attempt to get as close to a 3D Metroid as is possible without actually having Nintendo's permission or resources.
Not to suggest that being a knockoff makes it bad. Super Metroid was certainly well-liked back in 1996, but was not nearly the phenomenon (less people having Internets Tubes and all that) that it is now. So, to try to bring the game mechanics into 3D while also taking a swipe at replicating the unique atmosphere and immersive quality of that game was actually a rather noble effort.
The similarities are everywhere and readily evident - the design of the armored suits that the main character and his companion wear, the backtracking to pick up items such as a double jump to gain access to new areas, the power tanks and missiles and bombs, the samey status screen. Even the music has been emulated somewhat, going for the deep, ambient sort of vibe that Super Metroid had with rather similar instrument samples.
Unfortunately, The Divide is a 1996 3D console game, and it has all the associated weaknesses that go along with mid-90s 3D platformer sorts of games. Namely, it relies on a lot of timed jump sequences that are tough to line up properly because there's little in the way of adjusting the camera - generally speaking the perspective is always a little tough to deal with, made tougher by a lack of auto-aim and having to manually adjust the guns on your robo-suit up and down using L1 and R1 to hit a multitude of flying enemies that will come at you along with the creepie-crawlies. There's clipping issues aplenty, there's a lot of jaggy and ugly polygons. Some of this is unavoidable due to the weak Playstation hardware, but regardless of whose fault it is exactly, there it is - it's still a flaw.
The game is designed pretty well on the whole, and there's quite a bit to appreciate here, but man - I just can't take all that old-school blocky 3D jumping. So ultimately this was a game that, due to the concept and inspiration, I wanted to like a lot more than I actually did. There's also only roughly six hours of gameplay from start to finish, and only four major boss battles to break up the routine of 3D jumping and shooting. If you really dig 3D/Metroid/exploration games, you might want to give it a shot anyway, you may have a higher tolerance for the gameplay niggles than I did.
* Gameplay Video