Monday, September 3, 2007

Metroid Prime 3: A Review


I felt like I was in high school again. I was nervous. I had done something like this before, fooled around a bit, but this was going to be something new, innovative. Everyone told me how much fun it would be, but my palms were still sweaty as I fumbled around. Samus and I had known each other such a long time, and I have loved every second we have spent together, but this was taking our relationship to the next level. And I was nervous. Thankfully, my nerves eventually died down after I dived in and had my single most rewarding gameplay experience of the year, maybe longer. Lucky for me, Metroid Prime 3 is and was everything I had been hoping it would be, and more.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, is the 3rd and final Prime game from Retro Studios. It is the direct sequel to the two previous games for the GameCube. MP3 closes the chapter on the "Phazon" storyline for Metroid. Phazon is a strange, radioactive, almost organic material that has appeared in the Metroid universe. The Space Pirates, Samus's enemies, have been trying to harvest Phazon around the universe since the first Prime game, and MP3 explains Phazon's origins and more.

The story in MP3 is not the main selling point, but it is fleshed out further than any other Metroid game so far. While on a mission with the Galactic Federation, a wormhole appears, and from it pours a giant squid like create, similar to the first Prime's final boss, but bigger and with Space Pirates in tow. Samus, and 3 other bounty hunters, are instructed by the ship's "Aurora Unit" to head to the nearby planet Norion to activate it's defense system to prevent the giant creature from crashing into the planet. Right before activating the defense system, Dark Samus appears and overloads all 4 hunters with a huge blast of Phazon. When Samus wakes up a month later, her suit has been fitted with an energy container called a PED, which not only helps Samus not be poisoned by the Phazon in her system, but also allows her to go into an Overdrive mode, where she shoots pure Phazon from her beam cannon.

The Aurora Unit informs Samus that the other hunters have been dispersed to neighboring planets that were also attacked by these giant space creatures, but all contact has been lost with them. It is up to Samus to find the other hunters, and destroy these "seeds" that have landed on the other planets. The Aurora Unit, is a large half-organic, half-machine computer that is shaped like a large brain. The main Aurora Unit, and several others, aid Samus in her quest. The Aurora Units are the first example of how much of MP3 is dedicated to long time fans of the series.

There are 3 big new features found in MP3. The first is related to the story, and that would be the voice acting. Most of the main characters, sans Samus, is fully voiced, a rarity from Nintendo. The voice acting is extremely well done, with only 1 or 2 cheesy moments from some no-name soldiers. The second new feature is that you actually get to climb in and take control of Samus's space ship. Not only do you climb in and choose which planet to fly to, you can also call the ship to different locations on the map to save your game, and call the ship to bomb armored walls, and even attack some enemies. I never used the ship to attack enemies, as it only works outside, and no strong enemies appear outside, but it is a great concept, and if the ability to call your ship to different map locations was not introduced, it would have made backtracking to other planets the biggest pain in the ass.

The third and biggest new feature in MP3 are the controls. This is why I was nervous. MP3 takes FULL advantage of the Wiimote and Nunchuck. In your right hand, the Wiimote acts as Samus's right hand, with "A" controlling attack, and "B" on the underside of the Wiimote for jumping. The down button on the d-pad is for missiles, the "-" lets your switch visors (you point to which visor you want to use, for a total of 3 plus the main visor) and "+" turns on the hyper mode Overdrive. The nunchuck controls Samus's left hand and has the analog stick, which controls direction, the "Z" button for lock-on, and the "C" button to go into Morphball mode. While you control leg movement with the analog stick, you choose which direction to face by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. There are 3 sensitivity settings for this, and Advanced is easily the most intuitive of the 3 settings. In the Standard and Advanced modes, you press and hold "Z" to lock on to an enemy or object, but still need to point the Wiimote correctly to shoot.

When I first started playing, I could not get comfortable with any of the sensitivity settings, and for 30 minutes, I switched between Standard and Advanced. I was constantly facing the wrong direction and felt like I was always rotating or looking somewhere I didn't want to look. I also confused the Jump and Fire button in 2 big battles. However, by the end of the Norion level, I was in control. By the final boss, I felt like I was one with the game. The game becomes so intuitive and second nature, that anyone that is making a game for the Wii should play this game to learn how it should be done. A mouse and keyboard are no longer the most precise and fun control for a first person game.

Samus starts off with most of her abilities in tact, such as double jump, morphball, and charged shot. She finds missiles very soon, and a grapple beam as well. The grapple beam is a great feature, that lets you whip the nunchuck when locked on to grab everything from handles, loose pieces of debris and panels, and even enemies shields, armor, and the enemies themselves. The grapple made your left hand just as important as your right. Other upgrades include Spiderball, Spacejump, X-Ray visor and a wave beam, even if it wasn't called that. The X-ray visor and wave beam are more nods to previous games in the series.

Graphically, MP3 is the best looking Wii game available. Assuming you aren't standing directly on top of a door or wall, every texture looks smooth and well done. The art design is also incredible, with tiny creatures crawling around everywhere, bats flying out of caves, steam shooting from pipes, lights and electronics appearing everywhere. This won't fool anyone into thinking it is a 360 or PS3 game, but if the Wii can pump out games of this caliber, I have no problem with graphics this gorgeous. Musically, MP3 sounds just as good as every other game in the series, with haunting music that sets the perfect atmosphere for every level. One small annoyance with the music was in the Pirate Homeworld level, where a weird alarmy noise would appear in the soundtrack, constantly making me think I was about to be attacked, but otherwise, a flawless and beautiful score.

Prime 3 is not a flawless game. There are a few complaints I have, the first is not a little one. About 50% of the time, doors would not open immediately. And I do not mean a 1 or 2 second delay, I mean a 5 second delay in doors opening almost half of the time. I was at one time convinced that I was trapped in a room because neither door was opening, and suddenly, 30 seconds later, one finally decided to open. I understand the door system in the Prime series is to lower load times and make the game run faster, but when I have to wait 5 seconds on every other door, that is too long. I once got up and got a drink and after sitting back down, opening the soda, and taking a sip, the door finally opened. Not always a huge hindrance, but when there are 5 Metroids frying your ass and you have 2 missiles, and a door on Valhalla refuses to open up, it is a problem.

Despite that last complaint, I only died twice in MP3. This is not a difficult game. I died once by jumping into a reactor core (my bad) and once from the boss at the end of the first full planet, Bryyo. Speaking of the bosses, all of them are a blast and one of the highlights of the game, but only the Bryyo seed boss was any challenge. Even the final 3 bosses, including 2 rather epic showdowns, were walks in the park. This is probably partially due to how intuitive the controls were, so it was easy to defeat these creatures, but I expect a fight with Ridley to be crazy hard (you fight him twice) ala the first Prime, not over in 2 minutes. Maybe I shouldn't blame the game, maybe I am just that good... I beat the game in just under 15 hours with 100% of all items collected to get the secret ending (a secret ending that last 2 seconds and is another disappointment.) A great length for a good size game, but only 2 or 3 times was I ever truly challenged. Also, every other Metroid title, especially the first Prime, created an atmosphere of isolation, of being alone. That is broken here with the military and Aurora Units constantly communicating with you. This isn't a complaint, just a comment.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the best game I have played in at least a year. God of War 2 and Shadow of the Colossus are the last 2 games I played that rival the fun to be found in MP3. Twilight Princess was OK, but Retro Studios could show the Zelda team a few pointers. A good storyline, the best level design around, very good graphics, a cool achievement system, lots of references to other Metroid games and the best controls in any game EVER make Metroid Prime 3: Corruption an incredible experience. Ridiculously highly recommended.

4.89 stars (out of 5) yes, I can give 1/100 of stars

Images courtesy Nintendo and IGN

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