MDb Review: Metroid Prime 3: by CapCom

Five years ago, Retro Studios did the impossible. As an unproven developer, they took one of Nintendo's most beloved franchises and translated it into 3D - first-person, no less. They not only created an original genre, but also one of the top five best games for the Gamecube, earning praise and awards from the game development community. With Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Retro Studios finally brings the trilogy to a close in an excellent - though unfortunately somewhat lacking - finish.

The best feature of Corruption is its controls, with precision aiming and movement providing both freedom and accuracy - it is simply a joy to play as Samus. Retro Studios takes full advantage of the Wiimote and nunchuck with free aiming, Z-targeting, and the excellent Grapple Lasso. Pulling switches and whipping away debris and Space Pirate shields is far from a gimmick due to their frequent use and strong logical and kinetic connection between the player's movements and those of Samus. I almost wish the Lasso could be used more frequently in battle. In fact, the only minor weak spot to the otherwise perfect controls is the undocumented Jump Ball, which can be somewhat difficult to use.

While the Grapple Lasso is a welcome improvement, Samus's other power-ups achieved mixed results. The Plasma Beam has certainly improved through its ability to weld electronics or melt metal, and the beam now sports a fiery burst covering a ball of plasma that makes the gun a pleasure to fire and watch. The Boost Ball can also now effectively be used in combat. However, Samus's missiles still have a slow rate of fire, and some items such as the Spider Ball seem under-used - it's late-game appearance and infrequent use make it seem as if it was included simply because it was in previous games. Most disappointing are the new Ship Missiles, which are far too infrequently used.

Game Design:
Perhaps Corruption's best new gameplay design is Hyper Mode, which allows you to convert health into attack power with devastating results. If you become Corrupted in Hyper Mode, your energy will increase over time or through enemy damage, so skilled players can take advantage of this system to remain in Hyper for longer periods - though Samus will die if she becomes fully Corrupted. Entering Hyper is also the best way to combat enemies that enter Hyper themselves, as their attack and defense are doubled. Its only drawback is that some bosses require Hyper to beat them, making the battles frustrating when you have low health - I don't see why my beams and missiles can't simply deal less damage.

The level design is also a mix. The Prime series has always had a greater focus on puzzles, and while there are certainly plenty of interesting ones to solve, some, particularly Morph Ball puzzles, are designed more to take advantage of Samus's abilities than to make any logical sense while still others must be solved during heated battles. Backtracking has been improved by populating old rooms with new enemies and obstacles, though the backtracking involved in the exploration of a derelict vessel greatly reduces its ambiance. Unfortunately, bottomless pits also make a return, more noticeably disrupting the flow of play and drawing attention to the game's artificiality.

Corruption's is also well-paced, and seems to be evenly divided into one-hour segments, perfect for the casual player but not disruptive of multi-hour sessions. There are also two initial difficulty settings to choose from, Normal for beginners and Veteran for experienced players. A New Game + feature thankfully saves all your scans so you can just focus on what you missed.

Unfortunately, perhaps my biggest gripe with Corruption is that I simply feel it doesn't give us enough. When we are presented with Metroid eggs, I want to see them explode when I walk up to them and I want to blast my way through a hatchery full of the ravenous little monsters rather than just look at them. I want to see more vertical exploration, going deeper into the planets before coming back up to a new area you didn't even know existed. I wanted to see an awesome final boss that was more like a certain other famous final Metroid boss and the absent escape sequence. And where, again, were the classic Chozo item statues?

Retro Studios' art design is still fantastic, with a strong attention to detail that gives each planet a powerful thematic feel, down to the individual door designs. Bryyo's atmosphere changes from jungle to fire to ice with incredible ease while SkyTown's steampunk aesthetic fits well with the sadness and nostalgia that reflects the city and its lost inhabitants. The Phazon areas in particular are incredibly stunning, with that creepy, organic feel we've loved since our first trip through Zebes. And while you may have heard complaints that the game 'looks just like Prime 1,' Corruption without a doubt boasts more highly detailed models, better visual effects, and much larger environments than past Primes. But when all is said and done, it is Corruption's solid art design that will outlast the underlying hardware - as it should be.

Corruption's score perfectly enhances this visual ambiance from the moment you first load the title screen with its fantastic theme. Kenji Yamamoto's brilliant melodic tracks like Bryyo, SkyTown, and several amazing Super Metroid remixes are enhanced by his 'atmospheric minimalism,' tracks with little or no melody, something Hip Tanaka aimed for in the original Metroid. Corruption definitely has a quality soundtrack, though unfortunately several compositions won't play well for casual listening.

Don't get me wrong - Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is simply a fantastic game and well worth adding to your collection. It is one of the first games that has really demonstrated the Wii's capabilities, and is definitely a high-production, high-quality title. While some of my complaints could be considered sour grapes and don't ruin the game individually, taken as a whole, they demonstrate that Corruption is not as pixel perfect as we might like it to be. In all, Retro Studios has certainly given us an enjoyable romp through Samus's universe, though one that has had its ups and downs. I will certainly be anticipating whatever they have in store for us next.