This post originally appeared on Matt Weise's blog Outside Your Heaven.
Metroid Prime 1 (GC, 2002, 15-20 hrs) - A very nice first-person 3D exploration game by Texan developer Retro Studios, based on the original Nintendo franchise helmed by Yoshio Sakamoto. In terms of writing and backstory, Prime 1 is probably one of the more interesting examples of Western rationalism coming into contact with Japanese techno-mysticism. The techno-mystical mythology of Metroid, centered around the shaman-like "Chozo" race and its seemingly "magical" technology, is neither disregarded by the American writers nor fully embraced. Rather, it is cleverly scrutinized throughout the game in the guise of enemy science reports that keep trying--and failing--to understand it. Though entirely optional, this aspect of Prime 1 makes the game somewhat of a thoughtful exploration of not only the implied metaphysics of Metroid but of videogames in general, since many of the scrutinized concepts are common game conventions, like "life". Otherwise Prime 1 is recommendable as a marvelous work of atmosphere and game design, with mechanics and interface that blend together so seamlessly they recall the sublime immersive coherence of System Shock 1. A much, much better game than either of its sequels, largely because (unlike them) it retains the mystery and loneliness of its Japanese brothers, making it a more provocative piece of science fiction. Credits: Michael Mann (producer), Mark Pacini (lead designer), Mark Johnston (lead engineer), Todd Keller (lead artist).