Metriod Prime 2: Echoes (2004) – 94/100
– The Metroid franchise continued with the Prime Trilogy just two years after the first installment. Echoes begins like most games do for Samus: with her recieving a distress signal. She is sent to rescue Galactic Federation Marines whose ship has landed on the planet Aether, which is inhabited by a race known as the Luminoth. She discovers that the planet was struck by a large meteor that split the planet into two separate planets: Aether, which exists in the normal realm, and Dark Aether which exists in a dark dimension. She also discovers that the troopers were killed by a race known as the Ing, who are the inhabitants of Dark Aether. The Ing are trying to gain control of both Aethers so that the darkness will prevail. In order to prevent this and save what remains of the Luminoth race, Samus must go to three different temples located in the dark world to regain the stolen light, ensuring the destruction of the Ing and the return of power and energy for the Luminoth. Samus travels back and forth between the two planets through the use of portals. The game starts with Samus exploring the Temple Grounds area, allowing the player to get used to the controls and the extremely dark storyline. This area contains The Great Temple, where the final battle occurs. From there, Samus explores three other areas: The Agon Wastes (a desert area that contains a Space Pirates Fortress), The Torvus Bog (a forest/swamp area with a large underwater section underneath the temple of this area), and The Sanctuary Fortress (a large Fortress with robots who used to work for the Luminoth but have been corrupted). In each area, Samus must find three keys in the dark world to gain access to the dark temples (replicas of temples located on Aether) and fight the main boss of each area. Once Samus has done this, she must find 9 keyes located throughout Dark Aether (with the help of clues Samus finds along the way) to gain entrance to the Sky Temple (a dark replica of The Great Temple). There she faces the final boss: The Emperor Ing. Along the way, Samus also encounters Dark Samus, a replica of herself that was created when the Metroid Prime from the first game in the series attached itself to her after its defeat. Samus must fight her three times throughout the game, each time becoming more difficult than the previous time. The game play and weapons are similar to the first game. The use of portals to go back and forth gives this game an interesting dynamic. The air in Dark Aether is toxic, which means that Samus is constantly losing life if she is not protected by light shields that are scattered throughout the world. This makes fighting bosses in Dark Aether extremely difficult because Samus must always be aware of her life. Some interesting pick ups include the Light Beam (modeled after the plasma beam from Metroid Prime) and the Dark Beam (modeled after the ice beam from Metroid Prime). Another interesting feature is the Light Suit, which Samus acquires towards the end of the game, and allows her to not be affected by Dark Aether’s atmosphere and also allows her to travel through beams of light so that elevators are not necessary to go from area to area. Some boss fights are really unique in this game as certain ones require Samus to fight in morph ball mode, making bosses like the Power Bomb Guardian a personal favorite of mine. However, the game is overall more difficult and challenging than the first one. Not only because of the dark atmosphere, but also because of the lack of save stations, and because of bosses like the Spider Guardian and the Boost Guardian which are commonly agreed to be among the toughest in the franchise. Once you have beaten the game, there is also a hard mode, which makes the game even tougher (I have never beaten the final boss on hard mode). The challenging nature of the game makes it one of the Metroid games I play the least, but I still have a lot of respect for the amazing attention to detail and the incredibly interesting storyline. The game also is the first to feature a multiplayer mode with a mini game similar in style to 007: Goldeneye, where players try to defeat each other using weapons in arenas. This gives the game an attempt at more playability and I appreciate that. Overall, it is another unique addition to the franchise and to the trilogy. Not better than the first one, but there was a lot of effort and care in making it a whole new experience.