Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Review)

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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Released on the Wii, August 27, 2007, by Retro Studios and Nintendo 
Retail: $49.99
Wii U Game Reviews Score: 9.9/10

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I've been a Nintendo fanboy for almost 30 years. However, as the son of a farmer, I wasn't exactly rolling in cartridges as a kid. I was able to pick up, at the most, two or three games a year. By the time SNES rolled around, I could find some ways to make spare change, and get a few more. By the time the Nintendo 64 rolled around, I had a job and could buy most of the games I wanted. However, money generally comes with a catch-22. To make it, you have to work. To work, you have to give up time you would otherwise give to video games. Life's not fair. Still, I found time to purchase every Nintendo home console, up until the Wii. For some reason, I thought married dudes couldn't play video games. That was a stupid assumption.

The Wii came out a month before I married, and over the next few months, I watched the Wii craze explode. I was quite shocked to see this new Nintendo system outsell its rivals, Sony and Microsoft, after both the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube got kicked around so badly in the market. The craze didn't stop there, though: the Nintendo Wii went on to become one of only three home consoles in history to sell more than 100 million units.
The whole world was having a Wii party, and I wasn't invited.
Zelda, Mario, Samus, all got shiny, new, awesome games, and I had no means or time to play them. Samus' new adventure was perhaps the most painful to miss. I had played through and loved both Metroid Prime 1 & 2. Metroid Prime 3 was a Wii exclusive. My cousin had a Wii, though, and he had picked up Metroid Prime 3, though he was apparently upset with the new Wii motion controls. I went over to his place one night to play Metroid Prime 3, and we struggled to make it to just the first boss. It destroyed us. We never played the game again, and my hands rarely touched a Wii Remote for the next half-a-decade. Then, the backward-compatible Wii U was released.
By this point, I had wised up. I had been playing video games again for awhile on my old classics, the Super Nintendo, the Dreamcast, the Nintendo 64. I knew now was the time to jump back onto the new system bandwagon. My son's burgeoning interest in video games only fueled the fire. We picked up a Wii U, and some Wii U games, but I knew I had a lot of unfinished business to attend to. It was time to catch up on what I missed--Metroid first. I couldn't leave Samus hanging.
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That Was the Longest Intro Ever! Talk About Metroid Prime 3 Now! 

Sounds like a plan!
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption continues the Prime Series' story, with bounty hunter, Samus Aran, returning to the Federation fleet after an adventure on the planet Aether. Samus is summoned to the fleet, along with several other bounty hunters, but almost immediately after her arrival, the fleet is attacked by Space Pirates. These Pirates are led by Samus' nemesis, the Phazon mirror, Dark Samus. The fleet is able to fend off the attack, only because of Samus' heroics, though the beating she takes renders her unconscious.
Samus wakes, weeks later, to find that she and the other bounty hunters were corrupted by Phazon, a malevolent alien energy source. In an attempt to stem and benefit from the corruption, the Federation have equipped Samus and the other corrupted bounty hunters with a Phazon Enhancement Device, or PED. This device allows the bounty hunters to utilize the dark energy now inside them.
Samus also discovers she is the last of the bounty hunters to awaken. The others were sent on separate missions to investigate similar space pirate attacks...all have ceased communication with the fleet. It is up to Samus to investigate...intergalactic mayhem ensues.  

So Samus Is Off On Another Lonely, Alien-Eradicating Journey?
Not exactly. While Samus herself does not speak, Corruption features plenty of characters to talk to. Just look below.
 photo c2a8d487-6905-4008-b5ca-bab6216450f2_zpsgzsq3m1e.jpgThroughout the game, Samus will work together with the fleet, keeping radio communications with the Federation's Admiral Dane, several computer systems, as well as others she comes across in her travels. As this is the 21st century, all of these characters feature full speech, and the voice acting is great. All of this character interaction marks new territory for the series, but if you're like me, you aren't playing Metroid Prime games to socialize. You are playing them because you are a loner with authority issues who cherishes the opportunity to wander incomprehensible alien landscapes, blasting strange, terrifying creatures as you ponder the nature and depths of your alienation.
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Thankfully, the majority of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption features Samus Aran, exploring on her own, blasting monsters from a first-person perspective, solving puzzles, and occasionally folding into a metal (morph) ball in a third-person perspective to navigate tighter tunnels and passageways. While the nature of the gameplay is quite similar to its two predecessors (and rightfully so, as this is a cohesive trilogy), the manner in which Samus is controlled is severely altered.
But I Don't Like Change!
Yeah, well me neither, but the fact of the matter is, the Nintendo Wii was not created to push graphical boundaries. It was created to offer new possibilities for how video games can be played. Because of this, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption's main hook is not a more graphically enhanced version of the series' previous two games, though it looks better and plays smoother than those two. Corruption's main hook is that it comes closer to putting players behind Samus Aran's visor than ever before. This is done through the game's innovative control system. Samus' geographical movement is done via the joystick-like nunchuk controller, held in the player's left hand. However, her aiming and firing is done via motion control by the Wii Remote, held in the player's right hand, pointed at the screen. While this control scheme has been compared to a PC keyboard and mouse set up, I find it more akin to something else.
I've always enjoyed the light gun arcade shooters of the 90's: Lethal Enforcers, Area 51, Virtual Cop...the only thing I don't like about those games is that geographical movement is on rails--the player has no control over where they walk, or the direction they are headed. Those games move for you. You just aim with the controller (usually a light gun) and shoot.
Metroid Prime 3 changes that. The player gets to aim and pull the trigger (the B-button beneath the Wii Remote), but also gets to go wherever they want, whenever they want--the nunchuk joystick in their left hand gives complete control. When I blast the titular metroids (yes, they're back, and they're still terrifying) in Metroid Prime 3, as in the photo below, I might as well be Samus--I'm seamlessly and intuitively moving in whatever geographic space I need to be, while my arm is moving and firing with an identical motion to hers. I have total freedom.
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Admittedly, this amount of control takes some getting used to, and eight years ago, pressed for time, I couldn't handle it. However, given time, there are no better controls. The amount of freedom is unparalleled.  I can't see going back to just holding a regular old controller and twiddling my thumbs, but...looks like that's what's going to happen. With the Wii's incredible sales, plenty of subpar game developers jumped in and flooded the market with subpar games. While Nintendo and its first-party developers released several landmark titles that fully utilized the Wii's unique possibilities, many third-party developers dropped the ball. Thus, instead of being seen as the future of video-game control, the Wii Remote and nunchuk are seen by the majority as a gimmick.
How unfortunate.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption fully realizes the promise and capabilities of this control scheme. From yanking back the nunchuk to rip off enemy shields, pouring the final shots into an enormous boss with a fierce, pointer-finger crescendo, to at times, and rather satisfyingly, needing the skill do both motions at once, it doesn't get any better than this.
Except, of course, for the rare instance the player forgets what they are doing and points the Wii Remote away from the sensor bar...awakening the circle of death.
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While this only happened to me during combat maybe three times after I got the hang of things, and never once altered the outcome of a battle, that one second loss of control while my Wii Remote re-calibrated was quite infuriating...but what is three seconds out of 23 hours?
Three seconds.
Okay, So the Controls Are Really Sweet, and the Game Is Fun to Play...But Do the Under-Powered Wii Graphics Murder Your Eyes?
It's no secret that the Nintendo Wii's graphics chip is a barely updated version of what gamers got from the Nintendo Gamecube...which was released five years earlier. However, that has no effect on this review, as
1. I am only rating Metroid Prime 3: Corruption's graphics against other Wii games, and
2. The game looks great.
Retro Studios' art department is second to none, and even with Wii processor power dwarfed by the competing X-Box 360 and Playstation 3, Metroid Prime 3 holds its own.
Retro created several distinct planets for Samus to traverse (another major departure for the series, as the previous two Prime games kept Samus tethered to one particular planet, respective to each game). While Prime 1 did the basic video game lava area, ice area, jungle area take, Prime 2 mixed things up a little bit. Prime 3 takes things in even more interesting directions.
A key visual inspiration here seems to be the Star Wars prequels. From a story and character perspective, a Star Wars prequel reference is a great insult, but from an art department perspective (as well as the perspectives of music composition(John Williams!) and fight coordination), that's a pretty high compliment. The prequel influence makes sense, as Star Wars: Episode Three was released during Metroid Prime 3's development.
Corruption's planets include Norion, featuring a federation base clinging to rocky cliff walls (reminiscent of Episode III's Utapau), Bryyo, featuring enormous fungi, even more enormous statues that come to life, and fiery bits of buring jet fuel, and Elysia, featuring a steam-punk-influenced technological hub in the skies. Elysia's architecture is particularly gorgeous, and it is hard not to think of the prequels' battle droids when running into Elysia's errant robots.
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Corruption's enemy monsters are highly detailed and uniquely designed. Like other Metroid Prime games, the player can scan enemies and certain pieces of architecture with their visor for more information (and unlock bonuses by doing so). Weapon effects are excellent and appropriately devastating. Few things make me happier than watching all the particles build around Samus' charged cannon shot. Also, the game runs at 60 frames-per-second, making for a faster and smoother visual experience than its two predecessors.
Okay, It's Pleasing On the Eyes. But Does Metroid Prime 3 Meet the Series' High Audio Standards?
Definitely. Corruption's musical score continues Kenji Yamamoto's winning streak. To keep cohesion with previous games, the soundtrack is completely synthesized, but it makes the most of its medium.
I'll just say, if you've played a Metroid Prime game before, and you see this for the first time:
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you know you're about to hear some awesome music. Yamamoto's choral works for Metroid Prime's menus hit a trifecta of awesome here, with Corruption as possibly his greatest opening theme yet. Prime 3 features a several more choral compositions, among them a jaunty, burly, male-led piece for a portion of Bryyo, and a gorgeous, ethereal one for the sky-city of Elysia. The latter is actually reminiscent of some of Howard Shore's music for the elvish cities of the Lord of the Ring's films...another movie trilogy that was released during the Metroid Prime series' run.
In addition to Yamamoto's rich themes, select portions of the soundtrack focus on dark atmosphere over melody, immersing the player in Metroid Prime's world. Also, boss fight music is sufficiently pulse pounding,  Finally, it doesn't hurt that the five note "Samus Enters" theme that plays every time you leave your gunship after a game load makes you feel like you can take on the entire galaxy. Also, when you blow stuff up and shoot monsters, it sounds real nice.
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Have You Forgotten Anything Important In Your Long-Winded Rambling?
Yes, actually...I've neglected to detail a couple of Metroid Prime 3's additions to the series' gameplay.
The first is the PED suit's features. Hahaha...I just got the developer's joke. Good thing Barry Bonds didn't have this thing in the 90's.
Samus' PED suit is incredibly destructive. If a fight is lacking in chaos, Samus can always inject one of her life energy tanks into her PED suit and go into "hypermode." The screen then tints hazy white and Samus turns into Samus on...steroids. Phazon shots absolutely decimate enemies, and throughout the game, more Phazon attacks are learned and earned. The only problem..."hypermode" not only drains Samus' energy, but introduces the possibility that Samus will completely, overload on Phazon. This kills Samus, transforming her into darkness itself, and must be avoided at all costs, generally by firing off Phazon shots as rapidly as possible when Samus' Phazon meter goes red.
The second important addition is the ability to enter the cockpit of Samus' gunship.
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This is super awesome. While the player cannot manually fly the ship, they can select a new planetary destination, check their status, and look really, really cool.
Hey, That's Nice. You Done Yet?
Do you want me to be?
Well, Actually, I Have One More Question, But Please Only Answer It If You Can Do So Concisely, and Not As a Long Ramble, Like You Do Everything Else.
That statement was kind of a ramble.
Sorry. What was your question?
How Long Am I Going to Be Playing This Thing? Are There Like, Item Search Quests or Anything?
I beat the game in 23 hours, and Gamefaq's survey (with over 500 gamers reporting) lists the average game completion time at a little under 25 hours--perfect for this sort of game, in my opinion. It's enough time to get your money's worth and fully explore each world and the game's mechanics, but not so much time that the game becomes tedious. As in most Metroid games, the player can achieve a 100% completion rate by collecting all of Samus' suit upgrades.
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In addition to making Samus become even more dangerous than at Corruption's start, with missile expansions giving her a higher missile carrying capacity, and energy tanks increasing the damage she can take, all this collecting unlocks a better ending for our hero. Finish with a high enough completion percentage, and...heheh...Samus takes off her helmet.
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In all seriousness, finishing the game with 75% of all items collected initiates a surprisingly reflective ending that grants quite a catharsis for those who have played through the entire series. Get 100% of the items, and you get yet another ending scene added post-credits (though the 100% completed extra scene is more unconnected epilogue than emotional). If you really love this game, 100% completion unlocks the insanely hard "Hypermode Difficulty." While playing on "Normal Mode" allows the player to gain various tokens for performing certain tasks, defeating certain enemies, and scanning certain objects, "Hypermode Difficulty" allows the player to collect even more. These tokens can be used on the main menu to purchase songs from the soundtrack and view exclusive game art. This is really cool, but only for the absolute diehard, as even I, a pretty huge Metroid fan, was fully satisfied simply by completing the "Normal Mode" at 100%.
So in conclusion...
You've most likely got a Wii lying around your house somewhere, and a Wii Remote and Wii Nunchuk you've never fully appreciated.
Time to use them.
It doesn't matter if you've never played a Metroid Prime game before. The story is easy to pick up, and like most games featuring one of Nintendo's lead characters, gameplay is featured far above story, anyway.
Go play this game.
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This is about as good as the Wii can do. Good character models, animation, and weapon effects, greatly augmented by Retro Studio's incredible art design and architecture.

Music and Sound
Epic, memorable themes, and atmospheric, enveloping musical textures. Sound effects are almost as good as actual shrapnel and tentacles flying out of your television.

Signature Metroid Prime first-person shooter and explorative gameplay (along with third-person morph ball rolling) at its best, with incredible control innovations to boot.

Lasting Value
The main mission is fun and hits the completion time sweet-spot,  while offering enough things to do on the side for even the most meticulous, demanding player.