Trans Retrospective: Metroid Prime

I have a vivid memory of spending an entire day in my youth playing Metroid Prime.

Of course I took breaks, but the whole day was spent in front of the TV, GameCube controller in hand as a younger me explored the ruins of Tallon IV. I think this memory persists with me today because I can think of no other game from my youth that still captures my imagination the way Metroid Prime does, its dedication to the world it presents is something that few games to this day have managed to match, Metroid Prime presents a world that is seeped in history, history that directly relates to what the player does over the course of the game.

As Samus, your role is less storied bounty hunter and more inquisitive archaeologist, but despite the colonialist implications of that; Metroid Prime feels more like someone coming home after years, to reconnect with a culture and family they had long abandoned, a culture that is now being perverted and defiled by an invasive force of space pirates picking it apart like vultures. The game lets you act against the pirates with extreme prejudice, going so far as taking the fight directly to them in their base of operations that is bolted on to this once sacred planet in a grotesque manner. The game also goes to great lengths to chronicle the story of the pirates as well, mostly of their failures and their sheer terror at the mere idea of Samus Aran, it makes you feel truly powerful.

That’s another part of why I still think about Metroid Prime a lot. Metroid Prime is a first person shooter, the first in a series, traditionally, of 2D platformers. Prime does a commendable job of translating the core elements of the 2D platformers to not only an entirely new genre, but also an entirely new dimension. But the thing I think about to this day still is the care they took in rendering this world through Samus’ eyes, the effort taken to make the player feel like they are truly exploring this world in her place; through the way you see her face reflected in glare, you can see raindrops falling against the visor of her helmet, the way she brings up her hand to shield against bright light, the way the visor steams up in hot situations, the way the UI blinks and flickers when Samus takes a blow, it’s all incredibly effective at putting you in her shoes.

This is why I still think about Metroid Prime to this day.

Metroid Prime was released in Australia on April 3rd, 2003, I was 9 at the time, I was living under the belief that I was a boy, and despite some stray thoughts, bought into that belief. I cannot fathom what it felt like for younger me to be able to live vicariously through the eyes of a powerful woman like Samus, to feel as if her steps were my own, to feel that every shot she made at a vicious pirate was mine, to feel as if I was the one wearing the Varia Suit. It took me just over 20 hours to finish that first playthrough of Metroid Prime, all those years ago. That’s 20 hours spent in a world that recognised me as a powerful woman worth respecting, and worth fearing. The me who spent those 20 hours in Samus’ shoes, who spent that entire day playing Metroid Prime probably didn’t feel anything, if they did then it was working on a level unknown to them, but thinking back on it now, I see seeds being planted, I see connections being made, I see something that helped me break down those beliefs. Metroid Prime wasn’t the only thing or even first thing that gave me these thoughts, But I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the one that resonated the strongest.