Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 34 ~Tallon Overworld~ (Metroid Prime)

Origin: Metroid Prime
Plays In: Tallon Overworld for the game's first half.
Status: Arrangement
Arranged by: Kenji Yamamoto

I don't think anyone can disagree that Metroid Prime has one of the greatest opening sequences in gaming history, no? Samus's infiltration of the Frigate Orpheon is heart-pounding, thrilling, and haunting all-in-one, concluding with a true-to-Metroid-form escape from the exploding facility as she chases down her (now mechanized!) archenemy, Ridley. Cue her landing on the mysterious planet Tallon IV, where you soak in the view of the raining jungle as the above song plays.

I can only imagine the euphoria long-time Metroid fans found themselves in, as a masterful combination of synth, choir, percussion and a lone trumpet conjured up an atmosphere so powerful that I suspect many just stood there taking everything in. I know I have, but how many stood knowing this adventure would live up to every expectation they'd been building for eight years?

That it works so beautifully is no coincidence. Kenji Yamamoto may not have composed the original Brinstar theme (that would be Hirokazu Tanaka) but his experience with Super Metroid bears fruit. With how Frigate Orpheon came out guns blazing, Yamamoto takes the opportunity to provide a nostalgic cooldown for the player as they slowly absorb their surroundings. It segues perfectly into the ambience that paves the way to the Chozo Ruins, and continues to do so until it's replaced by the equally amazing Tallon Overworld 2.

Together with Metroid Fusion, this GameCube masterpiece kicked off an era of Metroid that lasted well throughout the 00's. None managed to top Retro Studios' part revival, part 3D transition, but that Metroid was once again a starring member of the Nintendo family was enough fans to ask for...that is, until the disastrous reception of 2010's Metroid: Other M brought the series to a screeching halt.

The protracted silence on Metroid since then drove fans to unease, and last year's equally-disastrous reveal of Metroid Prime: Federation Forces has, once again, made those very fans to label the series as "dead". Bear in mind said game hasn't even come out. Ouch.

Putting aside the possibility that Federation Forces could end up a quality title (it's by Next Level Games, after all), where does Metroid go from here? Yoshio Sakamoto, undoubtedly burnt by Other M's reception, already expressed he's moved on to less-ambitious projects like Tomodachi Life. Do we hope that Miyamoto's interest in a Wii U Metroid title has somehow manifested into a NX project? And what if Federation Forces ends up bombing and Nintendo takes that a sign the series is no longer profitable? It's a scary time.

The wait from Super Metroid to Metroid Prime was a masterpiece being topped by another masterpiece, but here we have a dud transitioning to an unknown quantity fans won't even give the time of day. You have those wishing for Metroid Prime 4, and while Retro Studios has expressed interest in taking on the series again, you have an equal number of fans begging for them to take on something new. There's just no easy answer.

Even what I personally wish is certainly no easy feat. Metroid may not rank in my Top 5 Nintendo franchises, but what I desire is a game that has an opening reflecting that Tallon Overworld moment. It doesn't have to be as good as Metroid Prime or Super Metroid, but something that tells fans "you're home" and guarantees another sci-fi spelunking epic would be enough.

Samus Aran has been through a lifetime of horrors. I'm sure she can survive a character assassination and a spin-off misfire. Maybe she can pull it off.

Final Thoughts: Man, now I want to play Metroid Prime again. So good.

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