Science fiction is the perfect storytelling device for video games. Glossy, alien images can be turned into reality by today's console systems, and the basic video game premise of getting better weapons and armor fits sci-fi's techie nature. It's a combination that worked brilliantly in the 1980s with Nintendo's original Metroid, and it still works today. Samus -- the main character of the series -- relies on her weapons and armor to explore her environment, using the upgrades she finds along the way to reach previously inaccessible areas.
At the beginning of Metroid Prime, however, like any good bounty hunter, Samus is expected to fend for herself, and like any good woman, she proves that she can accomplish this and save the galaxy at the same time. But make no presumptions -- Samus is no Ripley from Alien, who annihilated enemies in her underwear. In Metroid Prime, Samus stays tucked thoroughly inside a space suit that eventually has so many upgrades grafted onto it that she resembles a big orange linebacker.
None of this, however, comes close to illustrating the perfect fun that is Metroid Prime. What Nintendo has done here is capture every favorite feature from classic video games and re-imagine them. The details, like the newly orchestrated music and the familiar enemies, will thrill players of the original, while newcomers have plenty of surprises to enjoy, including the technology behind the game. With Metroid Prime, the GameCube does something that even the Xbox with its built-in hard drive hasn't been able to do: eliminate the need to wait as the game's levels load. Once Samus is in Metroid Prime's massive -- and I do mean massive -- world, there's not a single pause or break in the hours of action. And even though everything is happening from a first-person perspective, the game's targeting -- which is locked-on by a click of the controller's trigger -- takes the frustrating aimlessness out of combat.
These features would mean nothing if the game didn't deliver on its promise of fun. But after the first half-hour of playing, after you've destroyed the enemy's spaceship and escaped as it explodes around you, after you've followed the survivors to the nearby planet, and you unclench your fists and calm your heart rate, and observe that the game says that you are zero percent complete, fun is an understatement.