Friday, November 27, 2015

Phendrana Drifts Appreciation

Ice and snow can be some of the most beautiful things on this earth.

There's a reason most children love and look forward to snow - it's breathtaking and otherwordly, and a nice break from the monotony of year round weather. The fact that, in most regions of the world, it's confined to the season of Winter, gives it a sense of uniqueness and a distinct identity and symbolism. There's also something about snow that's very comforting. It makes you feel safe. It's soft, it's inviting, and it's stunning to look at. The silence of gentle snow, or even the wind blowing in a snowstorm, are intensely calming sounds that put one's heart at ease. Even the smell of snow is soothing.

With that in mind, let's take a look at one of the greatest snow themed areas in gaming history: Phendrana Drifts, from Metroid Prime.

The snow falling in the air. The crunch of the snow beneath your feet. The fauna living here all bearing characteristics of creatures that have adapted to the snow. The dark and lonely Space Pirate base. The abandoned Chozo temple. This place oozes atmosphere, and was made even more impressive by showing off what was at the time top of the line graphical effects for consoles. I'll always remember my first trip here, stepping out of the elevator into the full view of the open Phendrana field. I stopped and took in the atmosphere countless times, and I actually felt upset whenever I had to leave this area. Luckily, Metroid is full of backtracking!

Let's talk about the music for a moment. The Metroid series thrives on an atmosphere defined by both isolation and exploration, and this is captured perfectly in Prime's soundtrack, which is a topic of its own, for another time. When you step off that elevator into the drifts, you're greeted by this sample of auditory bliss. The chimes in the background, the calm tempo, the almost windy quality that this music has all represent not only its snow capped, icy terrain, but also fall in line with that feeling of being alone on an alien planet. It's peaceful, whimsical, and beautiful, but there's also a certain loneliness to it that only adds to its masterful presentation.

TheOfficeMut has this to add:

"I nominate Phendrana Drifts from Metroid Prime as the most breathtaking environmental transition I have ever experienced in a game. First off, you're coming out of Magmoor Caverns, a scorching, hostile place, and you arrive in a bidirectional frozen shaft. At the end of this shaft is a door that opens up to a snow covered field, levitating rock masses, flying critters, and an ancient building in the background. But what truly encapsulates the feeling of awe in this area is its music. The god damn music in this area is what drives it all home.

I know that a lot of people love Metroid Prime, but for those of you who don't, I really wish that you could somehow muster up the strength to still play through the game and finish it. It may be difficult to play through something you don't enjoy, but god damn, there has to be something that bodes well with you in this game. I find it impossible for there to be no redeeming quality about this game to you. At least get up to Phendrana Drifts, I beg of you!"

He then treats us to a visual of both areas.

"This is Magmoor Caverns, where you are as the player just before taking an elevator up to Phendrana Drifts."

"This is Phendrana Drifts when you emerge from the shaft after getting off of the elevator."

Vanillalite agrees, stating the following:

"I'd mark this moment down as the single best moment in any of the Metroid Prime games, and one of the top if not the top moment of last gen. The lead up ambient music you get after you take the elevator is just so chill. Then you step out into the snowy landscape where the Phendrana theme kicks in, and it's just awe inspiring in terms of graphics, sound, and overall atmosphere.

The first look upon the snowy landscape and buildings of Phendrana Drifts truly is a gaming god tier moment.

TheOfficeMut and Vanillalite have a great point. Part of Phendrana's excellence is in its stark contrast to the dark, oppressive atmosphere from which you've just left behind. It is, in many ways, a breath of fresh air, only adding to its overall feeling of serenity.

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