Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004)

Echoes is the second game in the loved Metroid Prime trilogy, and it continues to build upon what is loved about the franchise. Echoes remained true to what the original Metroid Prime was, but at the same time it had plenty of new features and it created a memorable experience. Some of these new features and changes were welcome additions, but others did fall flat. Echoes was a fun game, but unfortunately there were many nagging issues that makes the game so much less enjoyable and inferior to the original Metroid Prime. That being said, there were plenty of enjoyable sections and pieces that make Echoes a game worth playing.

The basic concepts and gameplay of Echoes are the same as the original Metroid Prime. You explore an alien planet, collect upgrades, kill hostiles, defeat bosses, and learn what has been happening on that planet. There is an interesting twist though, the planet of Aether has been split into two forms: the Light Aether which is just the normal planet inhabited by alien Luminoth, and the Dark Aether which a dark and dangerous version of Aether inhabited by the Ing. The Luminoth and the Ing are at war and you must help the last few Luminoth by restoring energy to their temples and defeating the Ing. The split worlds concept was great;  I believe travelling in between these two worlds and seeing how different each room or area was was definitely interesting. I did have some issues with the Dark Aether though. Such a large chunk of the Echoes was spent in the Dark Aether, but it was all the same. Regardless of what part of the world I was in, everything was black and purple, and the same couple of enemies were reused ad nauseum. Another frustrating feature was how the air was toxic so you have to quickly move between protective bubbles. This is meant to show how hostile and dangerous the Dark Aether is, but unfortunately it just gets frustrating after awhile. In a series like Metroid players should not be punished for exploring the world, but the poisonous air does exactly that. Travelling between the Light Aether and Dark Aether was a good concept, as it did allow some extra depth when exploring the world, and it also allowed for some inter-dimensional puzzles; I just wish the Dark Aether was as well fleshed-out as the Light Aether was.

One of the biggest draws to the Metroid Prime series is the atmosphere and the environments that are created. Echoes continues this trend as it had some fantastically unique areas. The game really builds interesting landscapes such as the ruinous and hostile Agon Wastes, or the rainy and dreary Torvus Bog. Sanctuary Fortress is possibly one of my favorite video game areas ever, the autonomous citadel filled with robots and defense systems was really a joy to explore. The music and visuals created cohesive environments that I could just sit back and admire. The logbook entries, the enemies, and the bosses also matched up to what the environment was to further immerse the player in the experience. Seeing a giant broken down robot in the Light Aether become possessed and hostile in the Dark Aether is just an idea of the cohesiveness and how the two worlds were designed with each other in mind. Also, Aether actually feels like a war torn planet. There are dead Luminoth and Federation soldiers strewn across the world. Aether really feels like it is in ruins and you are the one to save it.

My biggest gripe with Echoes was the quality of the enemies. While the original Metroid Prime did have some enemies that were frustrating, they were not near as bad as some of the enemies in Echoes. Rezbits, Grenchlers, Hunter Ing, and the Boost Guardian were all particularly annoying. They had tons of health that took awhile to burn through, but they also frequently went invulnerable and just forced you to wait to shoot them. The worst offender of this however was the Dark Pirate Commandos. They are like the Chozo Ghosts from Metroid Prime but on steroids. They dash around the map, turn invisible, have tons of health, but the worst part is that they lock the doors so you are forced to fight them if you want to progress. In general, most of the enemies in this game just have too much health. Despite the frustrating enemies, I think most of the bosses were fantastic. They are a great mix of standard combat as well as puzzle solving.

With a new world, comes a new set of upgrades for Samus Aran. There a quite a few changes just at the start of the game. The Scanning Visor was made much easier to use, as now all scan-able objects are highlighted colors to show if they are used for progression or just informational, and if the object is green that means that it has been scanned previously. Samus also gets to keep a few things like the Charge Beam and the Morph Ball at the start of the game. I liked this as I had grown accustomed to using these features a lot throughout the first Metroid Prime, so I appreciated the fact that I did not have reacquire them. The new set of beams are the Dark Beam, Light Beam, and Annihilator. I did not get much use out of them as they unfortunately have limited ammo that you need to replenish. I really did not want to play around with them too much in fear that I would not have enough ammo for an enemy or door that required that specific beam.  The ammo system for the different beams was really frustrating as it discouraged using the beams unless it was necessary. The Annihilator was really fun to use but I barely got to use it as it comes at the very end of the game and it is extremely expensive to use.

All in all, I feel Echoes is a good sequel to Metroid Prime as it continues to use most of what made it such a standout game. There were a number of nagging issues that plagued the game like the bullet-sponge enemies, repetitiveness of the Dark Aether, and the restrictive beam ammo system. Despite that, the environments were certainly memorable and fun to explore. Most importantly, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes does attempt to try new things but manages to keep the spirit of the original. While a few of these new ideas did not work out, others worked great. Overall Echoes was a fun game, even if there were a a couple of frustrating issues.

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