Developer: Retro Studios
Release Date: August 28, 2007
Buy 'METROID PRIME 3: Corruption': Wii
Metroid Prime is a curious beast. After the phenomenal 1994 release of Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo, bounty hunter Samus Aran took an extended vacation. It wasn't until after the new millennium that we finally heard from her again, in the form of two new games: Metroid Fusion, a successor to Super Metroid for the Game Boy Advance and Metroid Prime, a prequel for the GameCube. While Fusion was met with positive reactions, most gamers were far more wary of the second offering.
Metroid Prime took Samus out of the side-scrolling world and placed her in a first-person viewpoint, worrying many gamers that the adventure and exploration for which Metroid was famous would be replaced by Doom. Luckily, the then-unknown Retro Studios managed to prove all of those fears wrong, and Metroid Prime brought the series into the third dimension with flying colors. In only five years, the Prime franchise has already managed to bring out as many titles as the mainline Metroid series, all of which were met with generally favorable reactions. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is Samus' first adventure on the Nintendo Wii, and Retro Studios once again manages to prove that they know how to make a Metroid game.
Set not long after the events in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption opens up with Samus once again battling the evil forces of the Space Pirates, aided by a few fellow Hunters. However, while on a routine mission, Samus and her allies are ambushed by Dark Samus, returned once again from the dead to seek vengeance. The heroes survive the attack, but at a price: All of them are infected by the deadly substance called Phazon, and it is slowly corrupting their bodies. When the other hunters vanish while seeking out Dark Samus, it's up to Samus herself to find them and save herself before she becomes completely corrupted.
Corruption is easily the most character-heavy of the Metroid games. In the tutorial alone, you meet more allies than in every other Metroid title, combined, but despite this, the plot is fairly lackluster. There are a few cool moments, but most of the plot is painfully shallow and predictable; in some ways, adding more characters made the problem worse. In other Metroid titles, Samus was alone (or with a simple computer aide), and most of the plot and backstory was inferred from old relics and stage design. The extra characters in Corruption feel very superficial and forced, but luckily, exploration trumps cut scenes every time.
Metroid Prime is a solid franchise, but the level design has always been fairly frustrating. The amount of backtracking was something that quickly became aggravating, especially if you missed the rare items required to visit the final bosses. Thankfully, Metroid Prime 3 does away with much of the backtracking, so rather than exploring a single huge planet, Samus now visits a number of smaller planets. The planets themselves are still sizable, but they're small enough that searching through older areas for that one thing you missed is much less of a chore. Even better, there are a number of shortcuts scattered throughout the levels, so tools such as monorails, cannons and underground pathways can let Samus bypass areas of the level she's visited before. She can even use her spaceship to travel to landing pads scattered around the worlds. While this does cut down on the overall length of the game, it helps keep the action flowing at a much smoother pace.
Beyond that, the Metroid Prime formula hasn't changed much from the earlier games. Samus starts out sparsely equipped as always, but quickly begins to find new and improved equipment throughout her travels. Metroid Prime 3 takes a much different path on upgrades than the other Metroid titles. There are fewer overall upgrades available, but most of them serve multiple purposes. For example, Samus can no longer switch her main beam, so every time she finds a new type of beam, it simply "stacks" with her old one. Eventually, that beam can shoot through certain walls, blow up crates, weld broken machinery and melt ice, all at the press of a button. Likewise, the grappling hook doubles as an energy siphon and the morph ball as a makeshift power supply. This actually works very well in the long run. Everything you need to solve a puzzle is yours with the simple press of a button, aided by the fantastic Wii control setup.
The biggest change in Metroid Prime 3 is the addition of the Hyper mode. After Samus is corrupted, she received a Phazon Enhancement Device, or "PED Suit," which allows her to use the corrupted Phazon within her to fuel the suit, granting her new more powerful weapons and total invincibility. Granted, this comes at a cost. Samus has to sacrifice health for ammunition in Hyper mode, so every time she transforms, she turns one of her Energy Tanks into a bar of ammo for the Phazon. Every shot she fires drains that tank, and when it's empty, she returns to normal, only one energy tank lower. Samus can, however, choose to deactivate Hyper mode, which returns the excess ammo/health back to her Energy Tank. If she remains in Hyper Mode too long, she becomes "corrupted" and is unable to transform back to normal until she fires all of her energy away. Stay in corrupted mode too long, and Samus succumbs to the Phazon, thereby ending the game.
Frankly, Hyper mode's problem is that it is too powerful. With the exception of boss enemies, every single foe in the game dies in only a few shots from the Hyper Beam. You have to sacrifice health to use it, but the cost per shot is fairly low, and once you learn how to time it well, you can obliterate everything in your path at minimal risk to Samus. There are a few twists that make it slightly challenging. For example, enemies who use Phazon-based weaponry can send Samus into an instant corrupted Hyper mode if they hit her too much.
All in all, though, the Hyper mode removes most of the challenge from the game. Once Samus gets a good supply of Health Tanks, which happens fairly early on, it becomes easier to simply go into Hyper mode and blast every enemy in your path instead of attempting to use their weaknesses. That quickly becomes wearisome, since it's rather clear that the enemies, with their shifting weaknesses and unique defenses, were designed to keep you on your toes, but when Samus has access to a win button, all of that gets thrown out the window. The game's Veteran difficulty mode slightly alleviates this problem, but it never quite fixes it.
One of the biggest worries about Metroid Prime 3 came from the Wii control scheme. Retro Studios had a lot on their plate, as Prime 3 was one of the first non-mini-game titles to take full advantage of the Wii's unique controls. The good news is they did a fantastic job. Moving and firing is simple and easy, with movement mapped to the Nunchuck's analog stick and aiming and turning to the Wiimote. Samus reacts faster than ever before, and firing and targeting enemies is a breeze that is only surpassed by a keyboard-and-mouse on a PC. The only sticky part involved turning Samus 180 degrees, which felt a bit too slow, even on the highest sensitivity. If she was just a bit faster, or a quick-turn option was included, I could see many gamers finding the Wii controls as their new personal favorite method of control.
Besides the basic movement, the Wii controls are also used to add an amazing level of interactivity to the Metroid worlds. No matter what Samus does, from pressing buttons to turning levels, it is done by having you mimic the required actions using the Wiimote. To open a door, for example, you will pull the Wiimote back, twist it and then push it back. While this sounds incredibly gimmicky, the actual execution is undeniably fun. I expected to quickly get tired of what seemed like simple actions, and yet something as small as being able to fool around with the button in Samus' spaceship really helped draw me into the world. It's one thing to press the A button and watch a canned animation. It's something else entirely to watch yourself doing it.
While Nintendo's online service doesn't offer Achievements like Xbox Live, a few games, like Sonic and the Secret Rings, have begun offering their own psudo-achievement system. Metroid Prime 3's version is mostly solid, although it includes a few elements that prevent it from being perfect. There are four levels of medals that players can receive. They're awarded for completing various tasks in-game, such as defeating a boss or earning a "stylish kill" by defeating enemies in a cinematic way. These medals can then be cashed in to unlock various bonuses, ranging from concept art to a Mii bobblehead doll for Samus' spaceship.
There is, however, a large flaw in this design. While the red, blue and gold medals are available to players as they play through the game, green medals are not. Instead, players earn "Friend Vouchers," which are sent to online friends who also have Metroid Prime 3 and it gives each of them a green medal. The only way to get green medals is to have online capability and a friend with the game, which wouldn't be so frustrating if it weren't for the fact that the best unlockables (i.e., the ability to take screenshots while playing) required at least one green medal to unlock. Much like Final Fantasy 3 DS, this locks content from players who don't have online capability or a friend with a Wii. Considering the overall high quality of the achievement system, such a bizarre and limiting choice is most frustrating.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption's graphics are a difficult thing to judge. In all honesty, the graphics themselves are not particularly impressive. The models are slight improvements over the ones found in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, but it's hard to be as impressed as one was back when Echoes was released. Furthermore, there are a few cases of really terrible model work. The few times that Samus removes her helmet, the facial model is absolutely terrible, complete with stiff, block hair that would have been embarrassing on the PlayStation 2. While the actual graphics are simply passable, the detail and effort put into the environments and effects are fantastic. Enemies react in different ways depending on how you fight them, melting under the plasma beam or dissolving into ash if killed by a Metroid. Simple effects, like water falling on Samus' visor in a damp cave or the way a barrier slowly melts under sustained weapons fire, do wonders in making the worlds that Samus explores feel actually alive.
Much like the graphics, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption's audio presentation isn't much of a step up from Metroid Prime 2. A lot of the same music is repeated, and while it is excellent music, one can't help but wish for a little more variation. One interesting element is that, with the exception of Samus herself, the entire game is completely voiced. The actors are solid, if not spectacular, and do a surprisingly good job, especially the creepily androgynous Aurora Units. It's still rather surprising to hear voice acting in a Metroid titles, but Corruption pulls it off very well.
Gamers eager for a new Wii title would do well to pick up Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. While it doesn't do much to change the overall formula of the Metroid Prime franchise, it manages to fix many of the flaws found in Metroid Prime 2. The proof-of-concept implemental of the Wii control scheme alone is worth trying out, and it should show eager gamers that the Wii really can do what Nintendo has promised. Even with a low difficulty level, lackluster story and flawed unlockables, Metroid Prime 3 is certainly a must-play for Wii owners.
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