Fans of our major popular franchises such as Mario, Metroid and Zelda are frightened of one thing, change. Any time that we’ve gotten wind of a seemingly bizarre new concept for a great franchise, fear is immediately widespread. It happened with Super Mario Sunshine and Wind Waker. Now we have Metroid. When Metroid Prime was first announced, hardcore fans of the franchise cried out in fear as they somehow “knew” it wasn’t meant for a 3D environment. Metroid Prime Pinball does it again, but it takes the concept of “bizarre idea” one step further. Did it succeed?
It all depends really on how open minded you are. If you aren’t afraid of taking a chance and experiencing something totally different for a change, MPP will not disappoint. MPP does an absolute superb job of truly bringing the arcade pinball scene back to life. Most pinball fanatics you see will more than likely be at the local arcade with some movie themed machine in front of them. But really, the mind blowing interactivity with the pinball tables in MPP is something any fan or non-fan can easily enjoy.
If you’ve played Metroid Prime, you know pretty much everything about this game already. But that was pretty much intended by Fuse Games, as the gameplay is hardly predictable. MPP takes all the major worlds of Metroid Prime including Tallon Overworld, Phendrana Drifts and the Phazon Mines. The game literally takes each major area and translates it beautifully into a pinball table. Now granted the DS isn’t the most powerful current generation handheld in terms of graphics, but it does a darn good job of presenting what it does. It’s more or less a virtual pinball machine like the ones you can see on computers, but far better. All the trademark Metroid items and enemies are in this game and they all look fantastic. But they don’t look like perfect replicas of how they’re presented in Metroid Prime because of the isometric view. Nothing in the game is 3D, although there are times when you’re bound to think you’re seeing things that way. Whether it’s Samus’ Gunship, the Metroids, Space Pirates, Metroid Prime bosses or the very weapon expansions, they’re all here.
The dual screens of the DS are used very well for this game. Action takes place in both and you have an effect on what happens in them yourself. There are the conventional two flippers at the very bottom, but each table also has one or more flippers in the upper screen so you can hit Samus with them as well to accomplish your goals. The stylus can be used on the touch screen to “tilt” the table if ever needed. The tables are obviously split between the two screens, but it was done very well, and you never have to worry about being blinded much. The point between the joining of the two screens on the system doesn’t allow you to see Samus, but it’s hardly anything to make you panic. MPP also sports some great physics and an awesome frame rate. You can use either L and R or left on the D Pad and A to control the flippers. This helps it really feel like you’re playing a pinball game and there was also never any kind of slowdown in the game’s action. Even when there are multiple enemies or morph balls on the screen at once, you will never see any noticeable issues.
There are also some neat special effects that can be seen on the screens when you grab a new item or start a certain mode. Any time you get an artifact, a new weapon or initiate something on the board, a computerized female voice will say what you did and display an impressive isometric graphic in the upper screen showing what you did. The tables also display some nice environmental goodies.. For instance, Tallon Overworld allows you to see the shadow of Samus’ morph ball form, and it also has a neat little waterfall near the top. Phendrana is a winter themed environment, and it’s rather humorous to see all the “inverted” icicles at the top.
MPP is set up in a very simple and easy to navigate fashion. There are three main modes: Multi Mission, Single Mission and Wireless Mission. Multi Mission is where most of the action takes place and Wireless allows you and up to seven other people to play a game together to determine who’s best. more or less functions just like Metroid Prime did when playing that game. You start by selecting one of two tables, Tallon Overworld or Pirate Frigate. Those are the first two areas you encounter in Metroid Prime so it only made sense to have those be the only two available at first. Once you choose a stage, you are immediately taken to the table you choose. Samus in Morph Ball form is then launched up between the bottom-most flippers.
That is obviously when the main action begins, and it’s truly unbelievable how many things you can do on any one table. Nevertheless, your main objective is to obtain 12 artifacts, just like in Metroid Prime. You can do this a mind-blowing number of ways. Just a small number includes mini-games, Combat Mode, Wall Jump and Boss Fights. Mini-games involve the hole that has a blue hologram of a common Metroid enemy displayed above it. If you get Samus in there, you have to eliminate whatever is displayed. This can be Metroid, Space Pirates or Triclops. Combat Mode is activated by lighting up each letter in Samus’ name by rolling through a certain path on the table. Once you do that, the combat saucer in the middle of her current energy display allows you to turn into her suit form. Then a certain enemy such as Beetles comes out of the ground and you have to direct her with the D-Pad and eliminate the lot with your arm cannon. Wall Jump is simply an area that you use L and R to do wall jumps to grab an artifact at the top. Boss Fights are pretty self-explanatory, as you use whatever means available to take down a Metroid Prime boss like Thardus. All these will net you artifacts as well as the other ways you can do it.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Metroid game though without Samus’ trademark weapons and items. Pretty much all the normal things Samus has used throughout her years have some kind of use in MPP. You will find her Missile launcher, her Power Bomb, and various others. When you do unlock these weapons, enemies will begin to drop their replacements. Missile replacements look like the actual expansions from other Metroid games, and Power Ball replacements look like little blue buzzing balls. Of course, energy is always a common drop as well, and they are the trademark purple balls seen in other franchise iterations. MPP is more or less just like any other Metroid game, you are simply in morph ball mode 95% of the time and environments are in pinball table form.
There really is only one frustrating aspect of MPP. In Multi-Mission, the most important mode, it can be extremely tough to get through the entire thing. You have to get all 12 artifacts and get yourself transported to two final boards without dying or failing in order to complete the whole deal. At times you will absolutely stink at this game, especially at the beginning. You will lose your morph ball a lot and have not too much of an impressive score. But once you learn how everything works in regards to gaining artifacts, it becomes a little easier to get the game to work in your favor. Obviously, you can’t control how everything works, so you might get frustrated a lot when you lose at the worst time. The game is fun enough, however, so it should never get bad enough that you won’t want to play anymore.
The music and sound effects are also excellent in MPP. Themes are taken not only from Metroid Prime and redone in some fashion, but some retro ones from the original Metroid are present as well. If you’ve played Metroid Prime and any of the retro titles, you are bound to recognize the music immediately. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Metroid, the music is geared towards a sort of sci-fi/spacey and techno rhythm. Not at all of the themes are done that way, as some have a more action-oriented feel to them, but generally, they are of the sci-fi genre. The sound effects are great too, as all the ones generated from the table and Rumble Pack make this truly feel like an authentic pinball game. If you’re familiar with pinball at all, you can easily imagine what the game sounds like. All the electronic buzzes and other such effects that come with a pinball machine are here as well.
So speaking of the Rumble Pack, just what is it? Well MPP is the first game for the DS to really be dedicated to utilizing it, so if you don’t have the game you won’t have it. The game actually comes bundled with one, as it’s nothing more than a GBA cartridge built to be a rumble pack. It works along the same lines as the Nintendo 64 rumble pack, but instead of putting it into a controller, you stick it in the GBA slot on the DS system. The Rumble Pack is really what makes it feel like pinball the most, as all the major activity generated by the table you’re playing on works with the rumble pack. You will literally feel the DS shake a little bit any time something like that happens and it’s just really cool. Let’s just hope Nintendo decides to use the nifty device in future DS games because that will make our experiences feel that much more interactive.
MPP is a really addictive experience too, and that drives some great replay value. Now there are only four main tables granted (Tallon, Frigate, Phendrana & Phazon), but that hardly hurts how fun and addictive the game can be. Yes it was slightly disappointing to only have four main tables, but you eventually get six in Single Mission because of what happens when you truly get through Multi Mission. They may not all be available in Multi Mission, but having them all in Single Mission is always nice. Single Mission more or less has you trying to beat the default staff scores with either total points or a time limit. The tables that don’t feature bosses are based on your score, but it’s time that matters in the ones with them. Even after you play as much as you feel you need to in order to have a good status on the leaderboards, it’s just fun to keep on playing.
Metroid Prime Pinball is without a doubt a huge stray from the norm with the Metroid franchise. Retro Studios took enough of a huge risk with the GameCube titles and pitting Samus in a 3D environment. Fuse Games really went one step further by delivering one of the most bizarre yet intuitive DS concepts of this year. As strange as it may have seemed at first, we got a true quality title for our beloved handheld and one that you could easily pick up at any time and just start playing. If you enjoy pinball on any level, there’s absolutely no reason why you couldn’t like this game. Then if you’re a Metroid fan as well, there’s that much more fun to have.