To celebrate Metroid Prime’s impending return, Kyle Rentschler (from goombastomp.com) has dedicated a series of fantastic ‘Level by Level’ articles to the main areas in the original Metroid Prime. A fascinating series of reads that meticulously analyze these classic levels and lore with X-Ray Visor precision.
Metroid Prime begins with Samus tracing the distress call of the Frigate Orpheon, a Space Pirate frigate that escaped the fall of Zebes and entered orbit around Tallon IV to perform Phazon experiments on various life forms. Hours before Samus boards the derelict craft, a pair of Parasite Queens broke out of their enclosures and wreaked havoc aboard the frigate, prompting the Space Pirate crew to emit a distress signal before most of them abandoned ship. While the remaining Space Pirates managed to take down one of the Parasite Queens, the other acts as Metroid Prime’s first boss fight, an encounter that takes place after Samus has explored the main throughway. Upon beating the boss, the frigate enters self-destruct mode, and Samus must quickly rush back to her ship. En route through the ventilation system, Samus runs into a rebuilt Meta Ridley and loses her upgrades due to an explosion in a hallway. Once the Frigate Orpheon detonates, its remains can be revisited on Tallon IV, where it curiously bridges the Tallon Overworld and the Phazon Mines.
The Frigate Orpheon is a small, compact area that acts as more of an isolated tutorial than a part of a cohesive world. Its mechanical, interiorized setting stands out from the rest of Metroid Prime’s first half, and acts as a precursor to later game settings, like the similarly industrial Phazon Mines. In some regards, the Frigate Orpheon is aesthetically bland, especially upon subsequent visits, when it serves mainly as a desolate viaduct to the Phazon Mines. However, its initial interstellar setting and the actively unfolding events it houses provide a sense of ambient vitality essential to Metroid Prime and the unique environmental storytelling it famously popularized. Despite this forward-propelling narrative thrust, the Frigate Orpheon exudes an aura of isolation amidst its danger, setting the scene for several of Metroid Prime’s dominant themes and moods.