After being shadow-dropped at the last Nintendo Direct, Metroid Prime Remastered came out swinging. It’s being heralded as one of the best Switch ports (and one of the best Nintendo Switch games) of all time. Praise is piling up from its stable 60 FPS, the massively updated visuals, and the well-maintained and preserved gameplay: this is a smashing success for Metroid.
There’s plenty to love about this remaster, but it’s in the little details where a lot of the acclaim can be levelled. One such small feature is one of the most impressive bits of immersion and storytelling I’ve ever seen. One which doesn’t need exposition or explanation but still manages to pack a punch all the same. Perhaps what’s even more impressive is that this detail was in the original Metroid Prime and has only been improved upon in Metroid Prime Remaster. Even after 21 years, this little detail is still dropping jaws and turning heads.
When Samus shoots her arm cannon, the light will sometimes cause her face to reflect on her visor. This appears only for a brief moment and it’s never enough to draw you out of combat. Yet, it’s still such an arresting detail that didn’t need to be implemented. There are some other neat details to do with Samus’ visor, especially how it is affected by rainfall. But it’s the reflection that I want to focus on here. This Twitter post from @glaedrax shows the new visor animation in action.
They improved Samus' face reflection so much in this game 😭 pic.twitter.com/880UtSx8dW
— Glaedrax (@glaedrax) February 10, 2023
Whenever we think of Samus, it’s easy to just think of her as this one-woman machine. Whether it be Prime, Dread, Fusion or even Smash Brothers, she is stoic and capable. The Power Suit is one of the most recognisable things in video games, almost distractingly so. You can lose sight of Samus’ humanity sometimes when only thinking of her as the badass bounty hunter that she no doubt is.
A few games have tried to tackle this more human side of Samus to varying degrees of success. However, it’s here in Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime Remastered where it shines the brightest. Without needing to exposit or derail the combat, you’re reminded of who Samus is at that moment. It doesn’t make Samus lesser – she isn’t any weaker or less cool just because we can see the face behind the metal helm – but it manages to connect us even more to this character.
It is such an ingenious and incredible detail that I’m surprised we haven’t seen it elsewhere. Sure, the list of games that would actually benefit from this is relatively small. For those that can, though, it can only elevate them. Games that embrace this feature or something similar have an incredible opportunity for subtle storytelling.
Imagine a story-driven Halo game with something like this. Maybe not with Master Chief (as his character and identity revolve a lot more around not seeing his face) but with other Spartans, it could really work. It would create a feeling of intimacy not really felt in most Halo games. You’re playing this unstoppable high-trained warrior, a Spartan, fighting against those who threaten humanity. Then, at that moment, you could be reminded of what Spartans are: people who have had their lives taken from, trained to be killing machines.
Obviously, it wouldn’t work for every game. Doom’s push-forward combat philosophy doesn’t seem like it would mesh well with a moment of vulnerability like this (although it could maybe work, given the correct circumstance). However, games built with this kind of thing in mind have incredible potential. A horror game where you are reminded of how fragile you are through splashes of your character’s panicked face. Or a shooter themed after Spec Ops: The Line where your character’s reflection changes as the game progress, growing more dishevelled or more depending on your actions. There’s so much that could be applied with just this tiny touch to elevate a variety of genres.
How hard these details would be to pull off is another matter. But purely from its use in Metroid Prime, this is certainly something I want to see attempted in more titles.
Metroid Prime Remastered is available now exclusively on Nintendo Switch, with a physical edition releasing on February 22nd.