Let?s start this review out with a clarification: I am a HUGE Metroid fan. My love affair started when I received the original NES game as one of my first three games for the system. I will continue to support Nintendo on any platform that a Metroid game appears. This being said, I was a little concerned when I learned that this hallowed franchise was branching out into a pinball game. I was afraid that Samus would be given the Mario treatment and a flood of games would hit the market potentially tarnishing some of the mystique surrounding the Chozo power suit wearer. Do not abandon all hope, fellow Metroid fans, as Metroid Prime Pinball takes an interesting approach in adapting some of the Metroid conventions for the game of the silver ball.
Metroid Prime Pinball (henceforth referred to as MPP) has three modes of play: Multimission, which follows aspects of the Gamecube game, Single Mission, where you play on one table, and Multiplayer. Multimission and Single Mission share almost all of the same conventions so I shall elaborate on them together. When you choose Multimission, you can select a starting table of either The Pirate Frigate or Tallon Overworld. Now, MPP does not provide the player with any exposition. Therefore, if you have not played Metroid Prime for the Gamecube, you will not recognize all of the points of association.
At its core, MPP is a simple pinball game. The touch screen shows the bottom of the table with the main paddles and the score, and the top screen shows the upper area of the table. The player controls the paddles and each stage is littered with bumpers, ramps, and those darned alleys that allow the ball to slip past despite one?s best efforts. In actuality though, the basic outline of Metroid Prime is incorporated to create an action game. The goal of the game is to travel across the various tables to retrieve the Chozo artifacts, unlock the doorway in the Artifact Temple, and defeat Metroid Prime in the Impact Crater. The way Samus collects the artifacts is through a variety of minigames on each table. Hitting certain areas of the table will activate particular minigames. These games range from destroying enemies within a particular time limit, scaling a column using the ever-cool wall jump, or even defeating one of the bosses from the Gamecube game. Successfully completing a minigame in Multimission will result in a Chozo Artifact dropping on the table. Herein lies one of the primary differences between Single and Multimission game types. In Single Mission, instead of Artifacts dropping, Samus receives a bonus points reward.
Other elements of the Metroid universe are incorporated into completing the minigames. Samus can drop morphball bombs. These bombs yield a small blast that will change her trajectory or damage enemies. Samus also has an energy meter. Carelessly running into a metroid or shriekbat or getting hit by Space Pirate weaponfire will hurt her. If Samus runs out of energy, she will lose a life or ?ball? just as falling below the paddles does. Enemies can drop purple energy dots to restore Samus?s health. Furthermore, for certain minigames, Samus can unmorph and enter Combat mode where she stands in the middle of the bottom screen and unleashes a stream of cannon fire. In this mode, Samus can only turn. She cannot advance across the table. By reaching various parts of the board, Samus can obtain missiles to use while in Combat mode as well as Power bombs to unleash in morphball form.
After achieving a certain number of Artifacts, Samus can hit a portion of the table and take an elevator to another area. She can pass from the Pirate Frigate through Tallon Overworld to the edge of the Phendrana Drifts and even the depths of the Phazon Mines. In these latter two tables, Samus must do battle against the bosses that she encountered in the Gamecube game. In Phendrana, she must defeat the stone creation Thardus and in the Phazon mines, her opponent is the Omega Pirate. Acquiring all twelve Chozo Artifacts will grant Samus entry to the Artifact Temple and a battle with Meta Ridley. If you can pass this challenge, the ultimate test awaits you in the Impact Crater, the lair of Metroid Prime.
To be successful in this game takes a fairly high degree of control. Sure you can play this game for the simple button mashing fun. The shoulder buttons provide the paddle controls. I have yet to use the touch screen. Its sole purpose is to simulate bumping the virtual pinball machine in a particular direction. But to advance through the game, you have to collect the artifacts. And to do so, you must activate the minigames. And after doing that, you must complete the minigame, which is not the easiest thing in the world. After doing THAT, you must hit the right part of the table to get the elevator. Repeat until you get to the Artifact Temple, where accuracy is very key. Playing this game is easy. Beating this game is hard. If you are fortunate enough to defeat Metroid Prime, you will unlock a higher difficulty.
The graphics in this game are nice, but they don?t really blow you away. Samus the ball flows seamlessly between the two screens. There aren?t a whole lot of light effects on the tables. Each table though is reminiscent of the respective stage in the Gamecube game. The enemies look good in their scaled down versions, especially the bosses. The graphics are smooth and serve the game well.
The music is very reminiscent of previous Metroid games as well. This fact is demonstrated the moment the game loads. The introductory theme from Metroid Prime greets you at the menu screen. Each stage has a musical theme that is very similar if not identical to the one in the Gamecube game. The one exception to this is the Pirate Frigate table, which uses a rock version of the Brinstar theme from the original Metroid. Of course, those with attuned ears will have noticed an atmospheric version of this theme when you first landed on Tallon IV in Metroid Prime. The enemies sound the same as well. When you hear a metroid chirp from off-screen, you know exactly what is about to occur.
MPP includes the rumble pak which fits into the GBA slot. The rumble pak itself looks like a GBA game. I did not think this accessory really added anything to the experience. It doesn?t rumble as much as rattle. You can feel the vibrations in the DS, but the main thing you notice is the noise from the pak. And while the noises are timed well with the events transpiring on screen, it just doesn?t change the gameplay experience as does the rumble pak in the Gamecube controller.
All in all, Metroid Prime Pinball is a fun addition to the Metroid series. You can enjoy the game for the simple pleasure of a button pushing pinball game, or you can buckle down and focus on the numerous action elements that require a high degree of placement skills. The game has some replay value with the second degree of difficulty. There is also DS to DS play on a special table: the Magmoor Caverns. Thus, the Chozo Ruins is really the only area of the Gamecube game that is missing. The multiplayer is of the single pak variety, but unfortunately this reviewer did not get a chance to try it out. In the end, you must head the advice which our dear bounty hunter has taken to heart, literally: BE THE BALL.