In this world, there is good is there is evil. There is light and there is dark. Video games have been capitalizing on this concept for 20 some odd years. Some of them are more memorable than others for their own special reasons, and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is memorable indeed.
Metroid Prime is one of the most critically acclaimed Gamecube releases, so when it got a sequel Metroid and Nintendo fans went nuts. What they would get was an experience that felt very familiar, and yet extremely different from what they had experienced before. Players will start their adventure by performing some familiar actions like scanning to open doors, and using the morph ball to enter small crevices. It isn't long before the corpses of dead Marines reanimate and come after Samus. It's then that you know this game is going to be a bit darker than its predecessor.
Samus is soon confronted by Dark Samus. Dark Samus is actually Metroid Prime, who took on this form after being defeated in the first game. Samus quickly learns that the planet Aether has been divided into a light world and a dark world when she follows Dark Samus through a portal. Dark Aether's very atmosphere is toxic, and she quickly runs back through. After consulting with the last surviving sentient inhabitant of the planet, Samus sets out to restore Aether to balance, and to destroy Dark Samus.
Echoes controls exactly the same as the first game, which is great. The scheme works great and comes naturally after you've used it for any amount of time. As one would expect, the game consists mostly of exploring and puzzle solving with combat being fairly limited. The wold of Aether, both light and dark, is much more deadly than Talon IV. It's also a lot more linear, but is bigger despite this. The result is an experience that feels just as open as before, even if it is not. It also means an increase in difficulty.
While you explore light Aether, occasionally rifts open and enemies are transformed into their stronger, more resilient dark Aether counterparts. It's even worse when you are exploring dark Aether. Your only refuge from taking constant damage are small havens created by light crystals. Traversing dark Aether is an enemy in and of itself, and one you'll quickly loathe. As you would expect, completing tasks in both worlds effect their parallel, and simultaneous exploration of both is mandatory. To summarize, this game is a lot harder than Metroid Prime, and is without a doubt the hardest game in the trilogy. The premise of light and dark doesn't end with just the story and world, but your weapon as well. Instead of the usual upgrades like the freeze shot and plasma beam, you will instead find Light, dark, and annihilator beams. These weapons have a rock=paper= scissors relationship. As one might expect, the dark beam obliterates light world creatures with ease. Similarly, the light beam makes dark creatures a less of a hassle.
Graphically, the game is not much improved from Metroid Prime, but the atmosphere and presentation make it very distinguishable. Metroid has always been a very atmospheric series, and Echoes certainly doesn't disappoint in that regard. Both light and dark Aether are beautiful in their own special ways.
The audio is very ambient and mood setting, however I didn't like it compared to some other Metroid games' soundtracks. Regardless of my preference, the tracks are all very fitting. The sound effects are also as good as one would expect from Metroid, from the shriek of a predator, to the squish of that predator's gut smearing across Samus' visor. If there's one thing all Metroid games do, it's set the mood.
Echoes also includes a multiplayer mode. In it, each player assumes the role of "a Samus" apparently. Throughout the maps, you will find beams and ammo. Like the main game, these beams share a rock-paper-scisors relationship, and equipping one means its opposite will have devastating effects on you. Metroid Prime is an adventure game, however, and doesn't translate well under conventional circumstances to good multiplayer. the maps are also incredibly limited. If you want good multiplayer Metroid, pick up Metroid Prime: Hunters for the DS. While this mode may provide a temporary distraction, there is no real merit to give.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is a very well crafted adventure and very unique to its series while remaining very familiar. It is also the hardest game in the Metroid Prime trilogy, which may turn some people away. It is also the weakest entry, but that does not mean it is bad. The transition from light to dark can be jarring, and the difficulty is poorly paced. Those willing to endure the hardships will be rewarded with an incredible experience. It is available on the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection on the Wii, but for the purest experience it should be played in its original Gamecube format. Luckily, if you can find a copy at a used game store, it is usually in the $5 range. That alone is a good enough reason to add it to your collection, if you ask me.