Metroid Prime 2: Echoes works to recapture the magic of Prime, and take it to the next level. The world of Aether is bigger and more expansive than Tallon IV was. The puzzles are more involved, the enemies tougher and more numerous, the bosses more extravagant. Unfortunately, Echoes also seems to take Prime's weaker aspects and worsens them—travel is more tedious, the pace is slower and more methodical, nontrivial enemy encounters are too frequent. Then, there are the key hunts. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Immediately following the events in Prime, Echoes sees the heroine traveling to a new world even more alien and mysterious than the last one she visited. She has been called upon to locate a missing troop of GFS Marines who vanished in pursuit of a Space Pirate frigate near the planet Aether. Upon entering the atmosphere of Aether, Samus' ship is struck by lightning and crashes, breaking through the ceiling of a cave and landing inside.

Echoes begins much the same way as Prime, with Samus investigating a mystery. This time, rather than immediately uncovering the activities of Space Pirates, Samus discovers the fate of the unfortunate marines. It's not as intense a beginning as Prime, but the story is a poignant one.

Initially, the tale is told by the carcasses of countless alien insects and the environment itself. These caves had been converted into a temporary base by the marines, where they apparently came into conflict with swarms of aggressive creatures. Then the marines themselves pick up the tale—or rather, their corpses do. Each sad find adds the final notes of a personal log revealing bit by bit the thoughts, activities, and fears of these lost soldiers. Their tale is concluded when Samus arrives at their own landing site, their ship having suffered similar damage as Samus'. Here, a cut scene shows me the marines' last desperate stand against the hostile swarms of strangely possessed bugs.

Echoes is slightly more cutscene heavy than Prime was, and I found these short vignettes very well done, nicely animated, and conveying mood and emotion with simple clarity. This, combined with the excellent writing, gave the characters (mostly deceased) a depth and reality of being. I have a great love of animation, and I especially appreciated the elegance of movement portrayed in the gestures of the moth-like Luminoth. U-Mos is my initial living representative of this graceful species and he tells Samus of Aether's current struggle, the history of the war on Aether and of the Ing who are behind the world's slow death, as well as the deaths of the space marines. He asks Samus for her help and without so much as stopping to negotiate her contract, she sets off to explore the world.