Retro Studios brings its fantastic Prime series to a close with guns a-blazing. And you, dear player, will be the one blazing those guns. Readers be warned: Spoilers ahead!
As I spent the last week or so playing through every virtual centimeter of Retro Studio’s latest achievement, I couldn’t help but think that Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the game they’ve been wanting to make for the last six years. This is not to say that their previous efforts have not been appreciated. Granted, I did not care for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, but I still feel to this day that the original Metroid Prime is among the very best of the last console generation. Now, with the power of the Wii in one hand and more freedom to make the game they want in the other, Retro has succeeded in perfecting the Metroid Prime formula to the nth degree.
You will wander through towering, forgotten civilizations and organic landscapes packed with ambient life and bizarre flora. You will marvel at the mechanic inner workings of a floating city in the clouds. You will, for the first time, explore the dastardly Space Pirate homeworld. And you will find out where that most vile of space-faring substances, Phazon, really comes from. More than ever before, Corruption introduces the player to exploration in the grandest sense. This is partially because Samus travels to several different planets, each brimming with detail and worthy of its own game. But I’m getting ahead of myself. If I want to sing the praises of Corruption, I should start from the beginning.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption takes place six months after the events of Echoes. The Space Pirates are up to their old tricks and have infected the Galactic Federation’s numerous supercomputers, called Aurora Units, with a Phazon-based virus. Samus and three other bounty hunters are called to the scene to cure the Auroras scattered through the system and to investigate Pirate activity. Mere moments pass before the Pirates attack a Federation outpost, with the intent of seeding an entire planet with Phazon, much like what happened to Tallon IV and Aether in previous games. During the first tense hours of gameplay, you are given the task of preventing this disaster, and its outcome paves the way for a meaty plot that is distinct and refreshing after the passive storylines of previous Prime games.
The most notable change, of course, is to the control scheme. No longer hindered by a single-stick control scheme, Retro Studios embraced the Wii Remote and its Nunchuk counterpart. The player manually aims by pointing the remote at the screen, while the A button fires, the B button jumps, and the D-pad fires missiles. The + and – buttons get their own functions later on. Overall, it’s an incredibly intuitive control scheme. My only complaint is that the missiles are a little awkward to reach for, but I’m not sure where else they could have been mapped. Meanwhile, the Nunchuk handles movement, lock-ons, the Morph Ball transition, and, best of all, Samus’s increased Grapple Beam arsenal. By extending your Nunchuk forward, Samus zaps her Grapple Beam onto whatever object can be grappled. By snapping your arm back, Samus tears the shield off a Pirate trooper, rips a weak structure off a wall, and various other well-implemented tasks. In fact, complex motions are not performed by the Nunchuk alone: several manual doors, switches, and panels must be interacted with by moving and twisting the Wii Remote. While I got the feeling that Retro liked these concepts a little too much, they are a welcome change from the days where passively scanning a console would activate a door or a switch.
And while locking-on is certainly an option, it is not nearly as necessary as it once was. When dealing with a single enemy, it’s certainly helpful to have that monster in the center of your view, but when battling a battalion of Space Pirates, strafing and precision aiming become more critical. It’s true that you can lock into a single enemy, but fire at another; I found this option limiting when other enemies would leave my field of vision. The fact that there is no lag in response to your movements, and that merely moving the aiming cursor to the edge of the screen to make Samus turn makes for a wonderful shoot-‘em-up style that absolutely destroys the traditional dual-stick setup and, in my opinion, the mouse-and-keyboard option. Because Samus now aims where you point, and not where your pointer is, there is a feeling of immersion that lifts Corruption above any traditional FPS I can think of.
Samus still collects new weapons and armor suits during her quest, most of which have made appearances before. My least favorite item, Seeker Missiles, have made a return, but are luckily not used that much. Samus gets to go into Hyper Mode, in which her body is pumped full of Phazon energy, and her attacks become more devastating. You must watch your Phazon meter, however. If Samus stays in Hyper Mode too long, she’ll become fully corrupted and die. Also, using Hyper Mode "wastes" an Energy tank. The longer you stay in Hyper Mode, the more energy you’ll drain from the tank. Knowing when to use Hyper Mode and for how long quickly becomes a key to your success in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Perhaps for no other reason than lack of buttons on the Wii Remote, Samus’s beams now stack in power. This is actually a welcome change, as you will no longer have to switch your beam weapon to open a red, and then a green, door. The beams also have new secondary uses. The Plasma Beam, once only good for setting things aflame, now becomes a handy soldering gun. When combined with the upgraded X-Ray Visor, the Nova Beam can penetrate Phazon-based shields to activate otherwise invisible switches. None of these uses feel entirely gimmicky, although the Hyper Mode upgrades aren't used nearly as much as they could have been, nor is the Spider Ball. Your ship, which Samus gets to control in short bursts, is also criminally underused. Imagine a boss fight in which Samus orders her ship to let loose a barrage of missiles on a stunned monstrosity. In fact, I wondered why a feature like this wasn’t implemented, because some of the upgrades you pick up are Ship Missile Expansions. If your ship never uses its missiles, why would you need to upgrade them?
Like I said before, Samus travels between several worlds in this game. Norian, Bryyo, Elysia, and the Pirate Homeworld are all on the list of vacation spots. Although I enjoyed traveling between worlds, I did not appreciate having to travel to different checkpoints on a single planet. That is, each planet is made up several different, distinct maps, and these maps do not necessarily meet up at any point. So, when trekking through Bryyo on your quest to get all of the item upgrades, you will have to return to your ship after exploring the main hub, then the thorn jungle, and then again for the fuel gel factory. Ideally, all of these maps would hook up, but it’s not always the case.
Luckily, you tend to forget about all the wandering thanks to Retro Studio’s increasingly gifted art direction. Each planet feels complete and distinct, and if you take the time to read the logbook entries, each world has its own back story, too. My favorite planet has got to be Elysia, which resembles something out of an Isaac Asimov story, what with its alien gear works and immense, steam-powered generators. The light blooms, shadows, and particle effects all come together wonderfully to create a mesmerizing landscape that is constantly surprising, and I love it. All of this beauty comes as a price, however. Perhaps because of the larger Wii disc size, many doors now open exceedingly slowly as the next area loads. Normally this wouldn’t bug me, but there were many times where I just wanted to run back to my ship or to a save point and not deal with all the beasties on my heels, only to hit an eight or nine-second door load, which would force me to engage my attackers. By far, the worst offenders in this regard are Bryyo and the derelict Federation spaceship, but it’s a pain no matter where you go.
Overall, however, the door loading times and map configurations cannot bring this game down. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the current high point of the Wii, and I cannot recommend it enough. From the immersive control scheme to the thorn jungles of Bryyo and everything in between, Corruption is a wonderful, nearly flawless game. It brings closure to a wonderful trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what Retro Studios develops next, be it Metroid or something else entirely.