If you own a Wii, chances are you’ve spent the last month biting your fingernails to the quick in anticipation for the final installment in the Metroid Prime series, Corruption. For the hardcore crowd, there’s a lot riding on this game’s quality and success; Metroid Prime 3 is the first big release to be built from the ground up for the electric blue wonder. It's not a GameCube port, not a mini-game collection, not a sports title, not a toss-off Pokémon cash-in, but an original Wii title that you can actually play. Whether you like the series or not, Metroid needs to be the royal flush in the imaginary last hand between the casual and the hardcore set.
This is do-or-die time for the "novelty console", folks. They’ve tied the cute little fella to the conveyor belt and pushed him toward the buzz saw. Will Batman submit to Joker’s internet chicanery and post a ruthlessly negative screed in a blatant attention grab? Or will Robin take Penguin’s payoff money and write a glowing but heartless puff piece?
Hook your grapple lasso on the jump for my review.
I'm sure you've heard by now: the most revolutionary aspect of this game is also what makes it such a blast to play. Metroid Prime 3 controls like an absolute dream. In simple terms, you use the nunchuk analog stick to move Samus about, and point the Wii remote to aim and fire. The golden combination here is the option to employ advanced reticule sensitivity (in which the "dead zone" of movement is at its smallest on-screen) coupled with a handy lock-on bound to the Z button. This gives you the ability to center your screen on a particular enemy while still shooting at anything that crosses your vision. Locking onto enemies is a godsend when you want to perform precision strafing or circle around an enemy, but it's not essential to success; those who stick to free-firing can certainly do so. What makes this control scheme so unique is that it actually works. Retro Studios has created a functional Wii first-person shooter, and in doing so has also crafted the most successful installment yet on a console.
There are a few other touches sprinkled throughout that take full advantage of the Wii's capabilities. You've got the ability to rip shields off of enemies by slinging your nunchuk, as well as several lever pulling tasks to gain entry to locked rooms. Much more than janky add-ons, these aspects have the cumulative effect of creating an unparalleled sense of immersion. Never before have I felt so close to physically being inside a game’s world.
Beyond the phenomenal control updates, however, the core gameplay mechanics have remained largely the same. This is definitely another chapter in the Metroid Prime series. Corruption features only a few new suit upgrades that weren’t included in previous Metroid games, and generally unremarkable ones at that. While it’s always good to see the old Ice Missiles and Plasma Beam, it’s time for Samus to learn some new tricks. In their favor, Retro has been very upfront about this by naming it Metroid Prime 3, rather than Turbo Ultra Metroid Wii-tastic.
If you were impressed by the way the GameCube handled Resident Evil 4’s lighting effects, then prepare yourself for the light show this game has in store for you. Explosive colors saturate each of the planets, providing a captivating backdrop to every puzzle or battle. You might find yourself using the Screw Attack just to watch the circular yellow flashes arc across the screen. There are dozens of breathtakingly pretty scenes to traverse through that will give you that classic “Metroid” tingling down in the pit of your stomach. Long-time fans will know what I’m talking about: those rare moments where you experience the harmonious fusion of art and entertainment.
Don't be put off by all this art talk if you're looking for hardcore action gaming; Prime 3 is no cakewalk and offers a fine challenge with its frenetic shooter showdowns. Much of this challenge, however, comes from not knowing exactly what to do in a particular boss battle or puzzle and fighting to stay alive while you figure it out. Figuring out the game’s mechanics and patterns will give you a bit of an advantage if you play Normal mode first, so those players looking for a truly tough experience would do well to start out on Veteran mode. These options are both available for first-time players at the game's start.
Speaking of bosses, Corruption features some of the best boss battles we've seen in recent years outside of Shadow of the Colossus. As massive and epic as previous titles, Corruption shakes things up with several bosses equipped with a slew of alternate forms at their disposal. Some even have up to nine different mutations they can swap on the fly, constantly keeping you on your toes. The variety in combat and inventive boss design schemes prevent the battles from resembling the sluggish grinds of attrition in earlier Prime titles and are a definite highlight of the game.
When you’re not tearing alien bat-dragons to shreds, Metroid Prime 3 also happens to be an adventure gamer’s paradise. The environmental puzzles in this game are phenomenally complex and enthralling. You’re given Herculean tasks to accomplish that are brought about by dozens of interlocking tiny missions. The payoff and sense of personal satisfaction is immeasurable -- "I built that destructive device with my bare hands before I dropped it on that city! I am the king of my living room!"
Unfortunately, Corruption is not without a handful of confusing tasks that are counterintuitive and don’t seem to flow naturally. These sections that leave you wandering around wondering what to do next can bring tedium to the game's otherwise measured pacing. They're not game-breaking, but they're enough to demand better environmental or textual cues for problematic sections where players tend to get off track.
Keeping in line with another series tradition, you’ll often find yourself backtracking to collect last minute items that will help you access the final boss. Corruption, fortunately, really shines in this department compared to its predecessors. The backtracking is not a last minute afterthought employed as a cheap gimmick to extend the game’s running time. When you backtrack in Corruption, entirely new sections open up on the old planets you’ve already explored -- not just pockets with missile expansions once too high to reach without a double-jump. There's no need to brace yourself for a boring, 3-hour slog through useless errands or needless item collection. The game quickly builds to a suiting finale, and while the final boss battle may disappoint some after the long trail of ferocious bosses that precede it, I doubt anyone will find much to harp on about the game's closing chapters.
Verdict: Buy it!