Review by clarkisdark

"Prime and proper"

The Wii remote instantly brings to mind pristine first-person shooter controls, but early games have failed to offer a truly definitive FPS experience. Part of the problem is that the IR method is inherently flawed. Aiming within the confines of a sensor bar restricts how you play, where the wrong movement can throw your point-of-view spinning out of control and/or drop the cursor off the screen. I won't lie to you; these issues still manifest themselves in Metroid Prime 3. Metroid is not the end-all of Wii control; it's merely the point where we should have been at launch.

While Metroid Prime 3 goes with the standard IR system, it at least does it extremely well. Moving the cursor close to the edge of the screen will cause Samus to look in that direction (no surprise there). If you hold the Z button on the nunchuk, however, the screen locks in place, allowing for the pixel-perfect accuracy we so desire. Sweet! The Z button is also used to lock onto enemies, but the default option lets you continue to move the cursor freely. So the feeling of being in control of the gun never falters. There really is a higher level of immersion involved, despite occasional technical mishaps, and it rarely ventures into the gimmickry that has plagued Wii so far. Of course, there are moments where you have to twist the remote or push it in/out to operate a lever. Ultimately, this adds little. What I do like, on the other hand, is the integration of the nunchuk. Shaking it will grapple onto objects or enemies, and another shake will rip off whatever you've latched onto. Very satisfying.

One thing is apparent with Metroid, though. The Wii isn't meant for complex, hardcore games. Every button is put to use, but many of them are not easily-accessible. Adjusting your hand to hit the plus button or D-pad can be just enough to screw up your aim. I think Retro Studios planned for this sort of thing to happen, though, because the game isn't overly difficult. I hate to say it is dumb downed for the Wii audience, but there does seem to be some leeway. True hardcore gamers, however, can play on a higher difficulty, anyway. And even normal mode is a fair challenge with some boss battles that'll take 2-3 tries or require some backtracking to get more energy tanks.

If you don't like rapidly shooting stuff, though, you're going to be disappointed. The monsters in this game take a lot of hits to kill. Some boss battles aren't necessarily hard; they are just ridiculously long. Granted, you are prodded to enter "hyper mode, an alternate state Samus can enter where her shots do much more damage. But hyper mode comes with a trade-off: it uses up energy tanks. If you're low in energy tanks, hyper mode may have to wait. And you can't stay in hyper mode for too long, either, without running the risk of becoming corrupted and dying (Metroid Prime Corruption! I get it!).

In this last Prime installment, Samus travels between three large planets as well as some side areas. The first planet is a little ho-hum, as it's just another lava-filled world. But by the time you reach the second area, things pick up considerably. Later levels have such a rustic, authentic feel to them. There is so much attention to detail, like repair bots floating around or a broken elevator jittering up and down that has nothing to do with the main pathway. All of it is scannable, too, giving you clues as to what to do next or just providing insight into the world. Metroid Prime is truly more of an adventure than a typical shooter. There are always just enough monsters present to keep it action-oriented but not enough to drive you crazy. So one room may be all about blasting space pirates while the next is centered on figuring out how to climb to the top of a spiral.

The transition between rooms is rather stilted, though. The game is designed to load things in real-time, but it doesn't always do so quickly. Some doors take such a long time to open while the Wii system clicks and whizzes and sounds like it's going to overheat. During your wait, you've got several monsters heckling you that you may not have had any intention to deal with but are now forced to. Gee, thanks. These pauses also make it more tedious than needs be to backtrack. Backtracking is an important part of any Metroid game, as you receive suit upgrades that allow you to access once impenetrable areas. With the amount of waiting involved, though, it's not quite as fun to quickly drop in a level and attempt to open "that one door" again. Regardless, it's still fun to wreak havoc on monsters that once gave you trouble and use new skills in places you wanted to (but couldn't) explore before.

I won't spoil the upgrades for you (though many of them are carry-overs from past games, anyway), but they are used in some clever ways. Along with the scan visor, Samus has two other visors that allow you to see levels in new ways. And there are always places to squeeze yourself into in morph ball form. But then there are puzzles that make no sense whatsoever, a sequence of events that requires knowing where obscure and easily-overlooked items are. You won't figure them out unless you cheat or spend three hours combing over each world again and again. It's hard to remember what was in each room and if there was something there you still needed to do. A lot of time is potentially wasted wandering aimlessly around.

But that's adventure for you. And you've got to give Retro Studios credit in making such intricately constructed, yet believable, levels. It's a big investment to see it all. Beating the game is 12-15 hours alone. Collecting every missile and energy tank upgrade, however, will bring you to upwards of 20 hours. The 100% ending isn't anything special, though; it's just enough closure that it should have been the standard ending. But if 100% is your thing, there's plenty to do. There's a lot of back story and lore to uncover by scanning certain items, and you can collect tokens by performing special tasks like reaching 500 kills or uncovering hidden messages. These tokens are then be used to unlock extras like art galleries or music samples.

The music samples, unfortunately, are no real reward. Metroid Prime's music is actually kind of annoying. When monsters ambush you, a fast-paced background loop kicks in that screams, "Get me over with as soon as possible!" A pleasant surprise, on the other hand, is the inclusion of voice acting. Samus doesn't speak, but those around her do. And that makes a huge difference in presentation, raising this to the standards of games like Halo. The graphics aren't too bad, either. As mentioned earlier, the level of detail is astounding. It's more style than realism, though, which is perfectly fine. It looks pretty and runs smoothly, and that's all I need.

Final Comments:
If you're thinking that Metroid Prime 3 will change the FPS genre forever... it won't. I went back to playing dual-analog the next day and enjoyed it all the same. But this doesn't mean the Wii is doomed. Metroid's crazy, new control scheme has a steep learning curve and some small annoyances, yet it's fun. It's a unique experience that's worth playing, especially for hardcore Wii owners who are sick of the mini-game compilation disease. And it's not just about testing out the controller, either. Metroid Prime is a deep, complex adventure that, for all its moments of tediousness, should please the fans.

Score: 8.5


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/24/07

Game Release: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (US, 08/27/07)


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