Metroid Prime Remastered is Metroid Prime, but ever so slightly better. The game looks wonderful and reminds me why the original put Retro Studios on the map. The atmosphere of the planet is palpable, and you really do feel like you’re discovering secrets on this ravaged planet and exploring an ancient civilization. A lot of what was great about the game still holds up, and I love that there are now multiple control schemes, neat accessibility options, and a change to how charging your beam works while charging up a shot. But as I approached the end of the game, the wonders that I was feeling came crashing down once I reached the Artifact Temple. Then I remembered why I never fell in love with Metroid Prime: I had to complete the Chozo Artifacts hunt.
For those who are unaware, before you can reach the final boss in Metroid Prime, the game tasks you with collecting 12 icons called Chozo Artifacts. Personally, I never found that they added much to the lore of the world, and they serve as literal keys that block your progression. You can’t progress until you explore all of the levels you’ve been to and search up and down to find them. The game gives you clues once you reach the Artifact Temple, and you’ll get more hints as you collect more. However, it feels like obvious padding to enhance the length of the game.
Yes, Metroid games are almost always about exploration and searching throughout your environment for optional power-ups, but those parts were exactly that — optional. This is not. You are forced to go back and explore previous levels, and no one likes being forced to do something for arbitrary reasons.
Some fans of the series say that it’s not that bad given that you could technically collect them as you made your way through the campaign. Sure, you would need to have certain abilities unlocked, but there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing them if you already know where they are. The problem with that logic is twofold. One, you still have to backtrack through the game to collect them, which doesn’t mitigate the problem at all. You’re still going back through all of the area, only now you’re doing it in the middle of the game instead of at the end.
Two, a newcomer isn’t going to know where these locations are. They’ll play through the game normally then be hit with this fetch quest in the 11th hour and have to piece clues together on their own to figure out where they’ll even be going. I can only speak for myself, but when I got to the temple on my first playthrough and realized I had to find 12 random keys, I trudged my way through it and nearly dropped the game out of the sheer amount of forced backtracking I needed to do since I had collected zero up until that point.
So I was making my way back to Phendrana Drifts to collect one of the artifacts when I had a thought: Why is this still here? Why is it that in the year 2023, over 20 years after the original game was released, I still have to go through the Chozo Artifacts hunt in Metroid Prime Remastered? It doesn’t add anything to the game and just comes across as a grind. Most dedicated Metroid players have walkthroughs and strategies specifically tailored to cutting back on the mandatory backtracking they have to do. Why didn’t Nintendo make any changes or adjustments to this infamous sequence?
You could make the argument that the answer is in the title of the game. This is Metroid Prime Remastered, not Metroid Prime Remake. However, the definition of a remake and remaster is blurry, and if Nintendo had decided to call this a remake, I don’t think anyone would have batted an eye at it. The graphics have been rebuilt from the ground up, and it goes way beyond a mere texture swap as seen in other game remasters from its generation. Besides, compared to the last time Nintendo remastered this game as part of Metroid Prime Trilogy, a lot more care and effort has been placed into this new version. Even then, you would think that Nintendo would at least attempt to make some changes to the tedium of Chozo Artifacts to modernize the game for current audiences.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Nintendo decided to radically change a generally unpopular sequence within one of its games. When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker released in the West in 2003, most fans criticized the Triforce Hunt that players had to endure in order to reach the final boss. Like Metroid Prime, the game put up an arbitrary roadblock that just served to pad out the game length by having you explore the world for random MacGuffins. You searched the Great Sea for treasure maps, then took them to Tingle for deciphering, then sailed to a random spot on the map to find one of eight Triforce shards. It was a pain that even fans of the game will often cite as being the worst thing about an otherwise excellent game. When Wind Waker was remade in 2013, the Triforce Hunt was severely reduced, with most of the locations that previously contained maps now containing shards, significantly shortening the mandatory padding.
Why not do that here? Why not reduce the amount of artifacts that you had to collect from 12 to eight or even six? Why not make collecting some of the artifacts a mandatory part of the story leading up to reaching the Artifact Temple so you don’t have to backtrack as much? Why not just remove them entirely? Why not just reach the Artifact Temple and immediately go into a fight with Meta Ridley on the spot? I can think of a ton of ways that the Chozo Artifacts could be altered, and it wouldn’t mess with anything leading up to it. In fact, it would only increase the player’s desire to reach the climax since the time between the hunt and the Meta Ridley boss fight would be reduced.
As it stands, for new players, the Chozo Artifacts hunt is a slog that forces players to scour through levels again for objects that aren’t entirely well hinted at. And for veterans, the hunt involves intricate plans to reduce the amount of backtracking they have to do, while still acknowledging that they will have to backtrack in order to finish the game. The hunt ruins the pacing of what was, up to this point, a well-paced adventure.
At the best of times, Metroid Prime Remastered feels fresh and exciting, but the Chozo Artifacts make it feel like… well, a 21-year-old game. The Chozo Artifacts have not aged well and are the one blemish on an otherwise fantastic game. I know there’s a fairly large proportion of people that want to preserve games in their original form. I myself am usually a part of this sect of people. However, I don’t think that there would be any real negatives to reducing elements from the hunt for modern-day audiences or at least giving players a choice in how they want to undergo it. I liked my time with Metroid Prime Remastered, but I didn’t love it thanks to that pointless quest. If altered, I may be singing a different tune.