Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)
It?s astounding how masterfully the original Metroid Prime delivered on the promise of a sequel to its revered predecessor, because let?s face it: modernizing dormant franchises, no matter how revered, usually garners poor results. Gamers are wrongheaded to pine for this, though unfortunately, publishers are typically all too happy to meet their demands, often injuring many fond memories in the process. With regard to a 3-D Metroid, so much could have gone wrong, but didn?t -- and these days, we all take the marvelous results for granted. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption marks the final chapter of this modern expression of one of Nintendo?s most hallowed franchises. In many ways, it?s everything for which fans could have hoped: a game that indulges its roots (often at the expense of the player?s experience) while making competent use of the Wii?s unique control interface. It takes one significant liberty, however, that runs completely contrary to one of Metroid's most essential elements: It attempts to tell a story in such an amateur, overassertive way that it more or less pollutes the series' traditionally pristine, unearthly atmosphere.
Behold: a world populated with a host of lazily-conceived characters that feel like they?ve been straight ripped out of the Unreal universe. You have a space admiral with a military service accent that barks orders at Samus. You have hordes of faceless space marines that die in droves, give you terse directions when prompted, and generally stand where you?re most likely see them, showing off their G.I. Joe-looking power armor. Worst of all, you have a lame coterie of bounty hunters that treat Samus as if she were part of some superhero team. One of them propels himself through the air via ice-bridges, like the popular Iceman character from the X-Men comics; another can change her physical appearance at will. The best thing about them is that they all eventually die by Samus? hand, but you should expect to endure some tiresome sequences wherein the game expounds upon their personalities. Indeed, this isn?t exactly an unusual cast of characters when it comes to sci-fi game narrative, but the Metroid series has always thrived on its inhospitable, barren vibe. It?s all about Samus being all alone in bizarre, alien environments, encountering nothing that isn?t hostile, assembling her arsenal piece by piece, and uncovering well-placed narrative bits if her player feels inclined to seek them out. Corruption more or less beats you over the head with its narrative elements, and they?re frankly pretty embarrassing. Perhaps the developers intended to give the series a bit of closure, as this last chapter of Metroid?s prequel story is its last true installment for the foreseeable future. If so, it was a poor decision; by attempting to imbue the Metroid universe with life in this ham-fisted way, the designers have thickly slaughtered something essential about it.
The gameplay itself is more or less business as usual -- and thankfully, you can play the game for long stretches without being yanked out of context by the intrusive narrative. The environments are especially grandiose this time around -- particularly, one world that resembles Cloud City from the Star Wars films, replete with steampunk-inspired sky bridges and ornate cannons that blast morphball-form Samus from platform to expansive platform. There is a healthy bit of backtracking involved -- as with any Metroid game -- and it can get pretty severe at times. Corruption makes greater use of Samus' spacecraft than any of the previous games, so the mission structure will often have you blasting off to a planet you've already visited in order to acquire a suit upgrade that will help you progress. The old Metroid scheme is in full force, without a doubt, though frankly, fans don't have the luxury of complaining. Imagine what would have happened if the original Prime came out, sans the heavy focus on traversal and backtracking: The cries of blood would have created a most deafening disturbance in the Force. Essentially, we all trained Metroid's designers to give us backtracking traversal, and it's as good as it ever was in Corruption.
Corruption's action elements are supremely satisfying, thankfully, given how deeply the environments are populated with enemies. It takes a little while to get used to aiming with the Wii remote, but once it clicks, it feels just a bit more engaging than your standard dual-stick console shooter setup. Battles are frequent, and you're always encouraged to unload at your full capacity; missile ammo and energy power-ups are everywhere, so there's never any real reason to hold back. One exception to this rule, however, is in the boss battles. Corruption introduces a mechanic wherein you can sacrifice a chunk of your health to charge Samus' suit with hazardous Phazon energy. In effect, this makes your weapons -- first, your blaster, and later your missiles, bombs and grapple -- many times more powerful during the duration. Since most of the bosses can only be harmed while in this "hyper mode," a restrictive economy will often emerge wherein you're basically trading health with the boss. Battles lasting an excess of 20 minutes aren't uncommon in Corruption. If they were epic, multi-staged affairs, this would be less of a problem, but when you're shooting the boss' solid projectiles in the hopes of a health pickup dropping, it gets pretty boring. It's a shame that a lot of these encounters are so onerous in execution; there are plenty of interesting ideas built into many of them that utilize Samus' abilities in very clever ways.
Perhaps this was a good time to end the Metroid Prime series. If Corruption was an indication of where the series was going, then it's no doubt as good a time as any to step back and reevaluate; the prospect of another Metroid game populated by such an absurd cast of bit players is pretty horrifying. It's fortunate that, in the end, the designers didn't take the sort of liberties with the game design that they did with the narrative presentation. This, in spite of the sour grapes courtesy of this Metroid purist, makes the game well worth experiencing. Corruption is Metroid at its simultaneous best and worst, which, in the grand scheme of things, is much more than a lesser game could muster.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game purchased by Crispy Gamer.