Review by Chiasmata
Somtimes it's hard to be a woman.
Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.
When Samus Aran was unveiled as female, it was a revelation from the testosterone-heavy action men that were infesting video-games in the 1980's. Samus struck a blow for women's rights in the living rooms and bedrooms of teenage gamers across the world. Unfortunately, as with any other popular medium, women's roles in video-games were soon subverted for the purposes of selling (a phenomenon that continues to this day) inevitably, women are portrayed as supermodel material, with skimpy skirts and enough hair for a herd of horses. If Lara Croft is Indiana Jones with breasts and hot pants, Samus Aran has become Boba Fett with better legs.
This doesn't mean she's not bad-ass.
Metroid all started in the 2-d age. Its complexity and originality set it above the rest of the action platforming titles at the time, and as a series it seemed set for bigger things. However, after the seminal Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo, Samus didn't see light of day until the release of Metroid Prime on the GameCube. Gone was the kitsch 2-d interfaced, replaced with a trendy first-person viewpoint and snazzier graphics. Despite the reservations of fans, the game took to the 3-d waters like a duck to soggy bread the game was one of the best titles available on the lonely and unloved 'cube, and was followed up with sequels and spin-offs. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, as the title suggests, is the third title in the Prime series, following on after the events of the original Metroid game, but before Super Metroid. MP3:C holds the honour of being the first Metroid title on the Wii.
Hopefully, it's not the last.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is a joy to control. Having dodged Red Steel completely, and having not yet plucked up the courage for Resident Evil 4, I had yet to savour the (allegedly) fiddly delights of first person shooters on the Wii. Despite initially spending a lot of time staring at the floor, walls and sky, and very rarely at my enemies, the point-and-shoot interface clicked pretty quickly. Pointing the Wiimote at the screen to control your crosshairs, and to steer Samus around the game world in simple, intuitive and fun. A handy lock-on feature gives good control whilst tracking speedy enemies, and the precision of the Wii sensor bar allows for accuracy nearly comparable with mouse interfaces. Other quite lovely touches include the way in which the game invites you activate switches and buttons; press the A button over a switch, and Samus will grab it so far, so boring. However, to fully activate the device, the player must follow the onscreen instructions and manipulate the switch with the motion sensitive remote. It may well sound gimmicky and tacked-on, but the effect is to draw the player into the game. Controlling Samus's hands in such a way gives a genuine sense of immediacy, and opens up numerous clever puzzles and intuitive solutions.
Metroid games have always been about more than shooting. Right from the most humble beginnings of the series, the games have encouraged the spirit of exploration, the sense of uncovering the hidden secrets of ancient ruins and high-tech marvels. In nearly every area of the game, there will be places that you cannot access, routes that you cannot follow. Rather than frustrating, they are a hint of what is to follow, as these areas only become accessible once new equipment and technologies are obtained. Simply put, the game deliberately and deliciously tantalizes the player with hints of new toys and delights that might be available around the next corner. The game steeped in atmosphere. When you aren't using your handy laser cannon to create cauterized craters in pesky Space Pirates, you'll be wandering between the fragmented remains of gigantic war golems, through dense growths of twenty foot, disturbingly organic alien flora and along the corridors of abandoned temples to gods unknown. Dramatic it may well sound, but that's just one area of one planet that you'll be exploring.
Graphically, the game holds up well. The Wii mightn't be the mightiest of the bunch, but Metroid looks good, with a steady framerate and detailed surroundings. The lighting is particularly good, and adds nicely to the aforementioned atmosphere. While there are no obvious loading screens, the game occasionally delays doors opening while the Wii's drive spins as it loads the next area. Generally, it doesn't detract from the action, but once you notice the wait, it begins to grate. The sounds are excellent - the game's soundtrack fades in and out depending on the action, and always seems appropriate to the moment. The occasional random NPCs you encounter are bland, but the voice-acting of the main characters is (mostly) good.
The major flaws with the game are initially slight, but grow over time. Constantly having to switch visor modes in order to examine literally everything in sight is, at first, an interesting diversion, but soon irritates. Switching out of the standard visor mode involves holding down the "-" button on the remote and pointing the cursor at an onscreen icon. The whole process takes less than ten seconds, but constantly having to do so soon becomes a chore. Plus, the icon for the scanning mode is off to one side as soon as it activates, Samus responds to the remote being pointed to one side by turning, requiring the player to have to correct their crosshairs. Again, it sounds minor, but considering how often you'll be doing this, the cumulative effect will have you gritting your teeth in frustration.
The only other fault I could find with the game is the somewhat archaic save system. It may well be faithful to the original Metroid games to only allow players to save at designated save points, but in today's console gaming climate, we expect to be able to save where we want, when we want. There is nothing more annoying than reaching a new area by overcoming a tricky puzzle only to have to lose your progress because you don't have time to fight all the way back to the last save point. Doing so invariably feels laborious, and smacks of poor game design.
Aside from those slight reservations, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is one of the finest titles currently available on the Wii, and promises good things to come for both the franchise and the system. Nintendo may well be gearing up for yet another highly profitable Christmas, but at least they had the decency to throw us suffering fans a scrap before our Xmas feast.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (EU, 10/26/07)
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