Samus as a Suicide Girl, it’s all I ever wanted

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004)

I shouldn’t ask this for fear of summoning them to my doorstep, like Beetlejuice, but where have all the good goths gone? I’m not talking about your posing e-girls, these days now good for a depraved bit of onanism but not much more. It used to be that you could go to some central location in a city, in Dublin’s case the old Central Bank, and find a gaggle of them hanging about, smoking, not going to school and talking about nonconformity. Bloody great, I say.

You couldn’t tell them apart either, which was another beautiful thing. These days it’s easier to suss out the low self-esteem attention seekers; one will have green hair, the next will have blue hair, and so on. But that’s no use – proper goth culture, your hair had to be entirely black, and the same with your clothes.

This meant one of either a Korn Slipknot or Linkin Park hoodie, and you better make sure those black jeans were baggy. Spiky bracelets? Sure, why not. Spiky boots and piercings too, if you could hack it. A dollop of black eyeliner, irrespective of gender, and finally some loose sexual inhibitions, and you were set.

But I’m going back years here. Where are the true goths now? Did they grow up to become fetish queens? BDSM dommes? I’m sure some of them did. Next time I visit one, I’ll ask if they ever used to abound the Central Bank of a sunny Saturday afternoon.

It’d break my heart if they normalised themselves and went out and got jobs though, and I don’t mean jobs where they lay on their backs – so much for counter-culture. The missus used to dabble with a bit of gothism, not much she tells me, just a teenage smelly rocker phase. It’s probably best if I don’t ask too many questions on the subject; I mightn’t like the answers.

You’ll notice as well that I’m only focusing on female goths here – that’s a hetero thing – but that was another wonderful aspect of the goth subculture: the boys could be entirely ignored and disregarded, no threat off them whatsoever. It never went over well when you flattened one with a box, mind, but there’s fewer better retorts to monotone sarcasm. Just mind they don’t score a hit on you with those pocket chains they wear, those things can really sting.

Innocent memories of a strange time. I didn’t understand any of the subculture, as you could probably tell by now. What was the difference between goths and emos, then? Was it a good idea to slit your wrists, as one particularly brain-dead kid in my year tried? Did Marilyn Manson really have his ribs removed so he could suck himself off, as all the goths claimed?

It all seemed fairly plausible, and you think you’re living in a deviant time. But actually, those same rumours persisted about Prince back in the day, and goths are around a lot longer than the early 2000s. And it’s never a good idea to slit your wrists, something I learned the hard way.

Nah, don’t worry, that’s a lie. I was never a goth, needless to say, they wouldn’t have me, I was just a plain old geek. It would have been a hell of an introduction to the dark world, though, if I’d gotten the razor out and crossed the street with it. And I’d have been prepared for the darkness actually, having played plenty of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for the GameCube, when it came out in 2004.

I had a great haul of games for Christmas 2004, you know, which was really when the GameCube was going full throttle. It was still getting smoked around the sixth generation circle by the PlayStation 2, but we weren’t even that envious because the Cube exclusives were so good. And given that the first Metroid Prime game was a revelation, probably one of the greatest games of all time, even the most lethargic of emos would have been hyped for this sequel.

The Metroid series doesn’t really do sequels though, at least not on the same console, so we were interested to see what Metroid Prime 2 would do differently. If you were really lucky, you could even get your first look at the game through a demo disc of all things. Playable demos, eh? It’s something Nintendo fans had desired for years.

In the end, they possibly changed too much for this game, but I’m a big fan of the effort. The two major changes were an ammo system, and a light-dark world. Oh, and God, crikey, I almost forgot about the local multiplayer mode where you and three other Samus cosplayers can run about in an arena map trying to blow each other to bits. Hardly a Halo beater like, not even a 007 Nightfire beater either if we’re honest. But wasn’t it nice and quaint to see those late local multiplayer modes, before online gaming became so widespread?

An ammo system though, whoa. I’m talking about Samus’ beam here, now – obviously the series always gave you a limited amount of missiles that you were constantly expanding. And even if you did run out of ammo for the Light Beam, the Dark Beam (or guess what, the Annihilator Beam) you could still get through doors and find ammunition pretty easily. The ammo system was almost a non-issue, really, but I know it turned a lot of people off.

I enjoyed it, although not when I would run out of ammo against enormous bosses and their dark emo mates. That’s the other thing, you’ve actually got two worlds to explore in MP2, Light Aether and its twisted form Dark Aether. It’s essentially the same deal as you do in Zelda: Link to the Past, or indeed Zelda: Twilight Princess, a reskinned world with some changes here and there, with travel between the two being essential to progress.

From that point the game gets dark, rather obviously, but it also gets depressing. It’s just misery on Dark Aether, and a lot of loneliness for Samus too apart from occasionally being accosted by samey enemies called the Ing. It pulls you into the atmosphere, don’t get me wrong. But for every main area, of which there are three large ones, there’s a Dark variant, and the enemies get Dark versions, and so do the bosses, and you’ll even pick up the Dark Beam, the Dark Suit, the Dark Visor… you won’t look as dark and moody and awful as those goths, but my point is that it’s relentless.

But not so relentless as the ponding synths and discordant beats that purports to be music in Dark Aether. You might fancy getting out of there quick, but that won’t work either because guess what, you lose health every second in the Dark World unless you get to a safe zone. With all this going on, forget about the darkness, it’s as if half the game takes place underwater and you’re constantly running out of breath.

And you’ll need to stay in those safe zones a long while to recoup every lost hit point because I’ll tell you, Metroid Prime 2 is a bloody hard game, even if you came in as a Metroid legend (time well spent during my geek years). Later versions of the game toned it down a bit, but try the original GameCube format and watch yourself getting blasted to bits in seconds by the infamous Boost Guardian.

I’m forever pointing out a game’s bad qualities and naturally making people think I hate the game, but I really don’t. I like Metroid Prime 2: Echoes a lot, though I’ll admit I don’t replay it too much. In fact, I think this is the one and only game I’ve fallen asleep to while playing. It was a definitely a step down from the first game, and it made some pretty wacky decisions. But it’s good fun, a worthy part of the trilogy, and most of all it’s a dark throwback to a gothic era we never thought we’d miss.

10 January 2023

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