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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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Primed for Destiny

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2012's best game is from 2002 

When I was but a lad of still-scared-of-the-toilet-age, my neighbors had a yard sale, and included in their treasure trove of old crap was their compilation of NES games. Being the age when you don't see with your eyes but with your hands, I immediately ran from game to game with eyes scanning for anything that might captivate my teeny hyperactive brain. With a gasp and a grin, I latched onto a colorful cartridge featuring (what I thought was) a dude in a spacesuit shooting at tiny spiky thingies. To a youngster like me, unjaded by years upon years of critiquing games, this was all I needed to know that this 'Metroid' game was going to be awesome.

However, as cruel fate would have it, my dear sister, being the extremely caring and unbelievably obnoxious older sibling that she was, told my mother that it had scary things like a 'Mother Brain' and 'monsters' and quite possibly 'caves.' My mother pursed her lips and shook her head, crushing my tiny dreams of being that awesome dude on the cover of that 'Metroid' game. So with a heavy heart, I bought 'Cobra Command' for a buck and trudged home with a heavy heart and a helicopter game.

Flash forward nine years, as the lad of 6ish becomes a lad of 14ish. Entrenched in my friend's basement, we had a copy of 'Metroid Prime' for Nintendo's new Gamecube. I was floored by the graphics and the sheer scale of this game. Having never played a 'Metroid' game before, I was immediately hooked. However, due to the fact that my buddy traded the game in, I never really got to immerse myself in the world of Tallon IV.

One more 88-mile-an-hour spurt later, and I find myself as an adult of 23 years. Nothing in my game selection seemed to hold my attention for too long, and I was feeling restless. I visited my local Obnoxious Game Place, and feeling a twinge of inspiration, I wandered into the dwindling Gamecube section. Lo and behold, there was a copy of 'Metroid Prime,' as if it had been waiting there for me for 10 years, yearning for a chance to prove itself to me.

I was not disappointed in the slightest.

The art direction in this game was absolutely superb. To this day, the angular graphics hold up remarkably well, with barely a stray pixel to be found. My surprise at the quality of the graphics was almost equal to the pleasantly unexpected awe at the design of the environs I was traversing: ruins that were covered in vines and crushed hopes, dank, lava-flooded caves, and mountain vistas with snow wisping down from above. 'Metroid Prime's' Tallon IV felt alive.

The unique controls, while they took a bit of getting used to, make your movements feel like extensions of yourself rather than just pressing buttons to get a reaction. Every step has a feeling of weight behind it, and your jumps feel like they have a sense of momentum behind them, allowing you to gauge distances by instinct rather than eyeballing everything twice before taking a leap. Retro Studios had said they wanted to distance themselves from first-person shooter territory and moving more toward first-person adventure. Exploration, not combat, is the focus of 'Metroid Prime,' and it's completely and utterly refreshing, even to this day. I was far more excited to find a new method of exploring than to find a new upgrade for my weapons. The pace at which you receive these upgrades is fantastically well-done. Just when you feel you've checked every nook and cranny possible, you're gifted with a new means to wander about the map, opening up a huge amount of gameplay for completists to explore.

However, the emotion that followed me well after I'd stopped playing was the incredible feeling of loneliness and failed dreams that had weighed upon me while playing. Tallon IV is a world that is slowly but surely falling apart, with images of former greatness embedding themselves in the memory of the lone protagonist. You don't interact with any other NPCs, but rather you find explanation in logbooks and ancient writings that flesh out the story as you attempt to unravel the mysteries set before you.

'Metroid Prime' isn't a game you necessarily play. Its lonely world and oppressively depressing landscapes stay with you long after you've stopped playing. It's an experience, and a shining example of a game that stands the test of time.

Still-scared-of-the-toliet-year-old me's need to explore is fully satiated.

Just don't tell him the main character's a girl. I don't know how he'd take it.

Aaron Waite's sister more than made up for this crime against her youngest sibling by introducing him to the wide, wide world of RPGs, a world she comments on in her comics at hoodiegypsy.com.

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