First released:Nintendo GameCube (2004) Now available on: Wii (2009)
Retro Studios achieved what many thought was impossible, transforming the side-scrolling Metroid series into a first-person adventure complete with what made the series so special, from its methodical exploration to its remarkable atmosphere. Where most franchises suffered from the jump between 2D and 3D Metroid Prime excelled, giving it stronger combat and fleshed-out worlds thanks to a new scanning mechanic, placing it up alongside SNES classic Super Metroid as a series favourite.
But where do you go next after creating one of the most critically-acclaimed games of all time? While the original's structure and themes were similar to Super Metroid in many regards, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes opted for a new template. It went with light and dark worlds, a tried and tested formula that Nintendo itself visited before in SNES adventure Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past.
The set-up provided a literal extra dimension to exploration, where players had to jump between two worlds at predetermined points to solve puzzles and progress further through areas. While each world shared the same general layout, the dark world presented new enemies and a toxic atmosphere, which players had to rush through to specific safe zones.
The structure allowed the adventure to step away from the obvious realms of fire and ice, instead offering boggy, vegetation-filled marshes and more industrial settings that became more twisted and warped. The game's highlight was the Sanctuary Fortress, a futuristic, digitally themed lair that oversaw a vast city, offering a respite from the decayed temples we were used to. The area also reintroduced one of Metroid's most revered abilities, the Screw Attack, allowing players to essentially fly across distances by spinning through the air.
While developer Retro Studio still had a knack for designing cleverly strung together passages that were crammed with secrets, the game suffered due to a sharp increase in difficulty. Boss battles increased in frequency and challenge, and factoring in a second world into puzzles meant simply navigating around the game made for an adventure that was harder to progress through.
Meanwhile, the fact that you had to essentially explore the same world twice in different guises, especially for those who wanted to do everything, eventually became an exhaustive and lengthy exercise. It also shared the original's frustrating trait of being able to miss some scannable objects entirely after certain story events, meaning players could easily miss the secret, post-credits ending.
It also offered multiplayer, allowing up to four friends to play locally in a traditional deathmatch scenario. While enjoyable in its own right, it was largely a throwaway feature, and could be regarded as one of the first games to shoehorn in multiplayer as a back-of-the-box attempt in replayability.
While Metroid Prime 2: Echoes' longer, tougher journey ultimately made it a weaker sequel, it still ranks as one of the GameCube's finest games, and can be commended for expanding on the original's strengths with a simple but effective theme. Along with its predecessor, it's well worth hunting down as part of the Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii, allowing you to revisit it with the aid of the Wii remote pointer.