METROID PRIME / Nintendo / Gamecube
Metroid Prime is quite the conundrum, in terms of rating. For the majority of the game, it's a AAA high-budget Nintendo title that actually delivers the goods - immersive, great play control, great map design, just fantastic intricate little detail in everything.
I've attempted to finish this game twice now, however, and each time I've quit well before the finish line and felt no desire to go back. Honestly, the first attempt was about 6 years ago now and I can't even remember how far I got or what the breaking point was then. This time? Over-long, over-difficult stretches that represent 20 to 30 minutes of annoying territory that has to be re-tread if you get killed combined with way too many game-freezing glitches for a AAA console game drove my patience over the edge, sending the game back to the shelf roughly at the 50% completion point.
First of all, though the game largely does not play like the typical FPS, you still need to be something of a twitch jockey to make it through this one. 90% of the game is not very difficult; every here and there, however, you get ambushed by some ridiculous boss, usually with a nice stream of ten minutes worth of high-powered common enemies tacked onto the "before" and "after" stretches as well before you get to hit up an energy refill and save point. So the average Joe will sink at least several hours into the game, thinking it's well within their capability, before running face-first into something like the Rock Monster or the "Elite Pirate-way the fuck too many Space Pirates-Invisible Dickhole Dynamo Boss-randomly generating electric maze that can generate in a way that's nearly impossible if you don't have at least 3 tanks of health left" marathon stretch that ultimately made me decide the game, for as great as so much of it was, needed to be retired and make way for the next game on the massive backlog pile.
This sort of design is fine for kiddies who had 100 free hours per week to devote to Gamecube twitch mastery. For working adults, watching 20 to 30 minutes of progress get wiped out in a snap because of either a shitty game-freeze glitch or getting ambushed by the "LOL CHECK OUT OUR XTREEEEME LEVEL DESIGN AMP IT UP TO 11 WITH THE BOSSES AND ENEMIES NEEEDLEYEEDOWEEEYOWWOWEEEOW (*cranks on electric guitar*)" design philosophy is just totally unacceptable when it keeps happening over, and over, and over, and over again.
I forget how far I got on my first attempt, as I mentioned, but I'm pretty sure it was farther than this attempt, because I do remember using the Grapple Beam, and you don't have that yet where I left off this time. I also remember the Omega Pirate though that might have been watching my roommate at the time fight him, I'm not sure. I watched the ending sequence and read about it online and it looks 10x worse than anything I had to go through this time. If I had soldiered through just to get kicked in the nuts by that at the tail end I might have literally smashed the game with a bat.
It's a goddamn shame because everything BUT the super-jaggy difficulty and uneven level design stretches is just about perfect here. It amazingly captures the atmosphere and feel of the 2D Metroid games. The sound work is phenomenal. The music is great. The graphical detail is astounding for a 2002 Gamecube game. Scanning walls and computers constantly and the slightly iffy jumping don't entirely work, but aren't nearly enough to wreck the rest of the experience. If it didn't have the unfortunate habit of dipping into Xtreme Retarted Mountain Dew Level Design Mode so often - and if they did something about the programming issues with failing to load new level segments fast enough and locking the game up on you so often - it'd be a no-brainer Medal winner. As such it still gets the Good for all the things it does right ... but really, you have to ask, of how much value is an otherwise great game that you can't ever be stuffed to actually finish?
* Gameplay Video