Metroid Prime: You must be this tall to enter Tallon IV

In Metroid Prime the world is divided into five major areas. Each one is generally designed to fit some sort of theme independently of each other. The more obvious themes are that of Magmoor Caverns and Phendrana Drifts, representing lava/fire and ice worlds respectively. Chozo Ruins is emblematic of a long lost civilization a la Indiana Jones. Phazon Mines is somewhat more difficult to classify, but it appears as the most sci-fi of the regions with Space Pirate technology strongly integrated into the environment. And then lastly is the Tallon Overworld, a smaller jungle based region that acts as a sort of central hub access to all other places.

Metroid Prime specifically separates regions in terms of themes.

Although the world is presented as supposedly diegetic, none of the major areas overlap and are always specifically connected by elevators. Nothing “exists” in the gaps between them, we never get a sense of the whole of the planet Tallon IV. While at first frustrating to categorize in terms of chronotopes, It occurred to me that this explicit designation of separated regions within a world resembled of all things an amusement park.

Consider how Disneyland is designed. It too has major areas based on various themes. Each region is carefully built to take as much space is needed, never spilling into the next so as to not create conflicting impressions/perceptions. Within Disneyland, people usually explore one area, experiencing attractions specific to it, and then choose another to visit. As long as people aren’t tired, the process continues until boredom occurs. This is quite similar to how the operator explores in Metroid Prime, constantly going between regions to progress the game.

A liberally cropped portion of Disneyland‘s Map

Furthermore, the regions are often exaggerated representations of preexisting physical or conceptual themes. Like how Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland exemplify the most blatant aspects of westerns, fantasy, and sci-fi, Metroid Prime also exploits preconceived notions in its areas. Just look at the most obvious ones, Magmoor Caverns drips lava all over the place while Phendrana Drifts constantly barrages you with ice structures and whatnot. Both of these areas are screaming hot and cold respectively.

This also explains the usage of time, or rather the lack thereof. When in Disneyland, the point of being there is to experience attractions and not care about other issues. The specially designed regions aren’t meant to remind you that time is ticking, attractions exist as constants instead of evolving features. It’s easy to lose track of time, to be focused on discovering new things and ignore everything else. We get a similar result in Metroid Prime, that the game has no temporal focus. One simply does not pay attention to the passage of time, rather instead on the passage of space.

To sum it up then, an amusement park chronotope is one that is strongly spatially angled. It is most clearly defined by thematic regions, areas with unique/distinct differences usually exaggerated. Traveling between these regions is frequent, even encouraged to gain the full experience. Time in this regard is always about the present, on what is currently happening. Through this, one gains a sense of the larger world through smaller extreme representations of it.

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2 responses to “Metroid Prime: You must be this tall to enter Tallon IV

  1. I am equal parts thrilled and horrified at the comparison of Metroid Prime to Disneyland, but I think you might be onto something here. However, I’m surprised that Henry Jenkins’ discussion of video games as amusement park-like spaces didn’t figure in here. Surely you could add his analysis to your own and push this idea a bit farther – perhaps one day you can!

  2. When we were discussing Disneyland in class in context to metroid prime, it reminded me of this quote. Thought I would share it.

    “Whence the possibility of an ideological analysis of Disneyland (L. Marin did it very well in Utopiques, jeux d’espace [Utopias, play of space]): digest of the American way of life, panegyric of American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality. Certainly. But this masks something else and this “ideological” blanket functions as a cover for a simulation of the third order: Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the “real” country, all of “real” America that is Disneyland (a bit like prisons are there to hide that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, that is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.”
    ― Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

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