Does the last installment of the Prime series wind up echoing previous games, or will it be corrupt?
Set after the second Prime game, Samus Aran is once again called into duty to save the day and rid the galaxy of phazon once and for all. This time, Samus has a new weapon in which to so: the Wiimote.
Playing the original Metoid Prime on Gamecube was quite an experience. Not only did the series take years to be released on a new platform (entirely skipping the N64 era) but it also made the transition from 2D to 3D. For the first time, players actually became Samus herself as the helmet first person view brought an entirely new FPS experience. Without a typical dual analog control scheme, the developers instead went with a lock-on function to free up the other analog stick to swap visors and guns instead of incorporating a free look control scheme. The Wiimote, however, provides a similar but much more accurate handle on Samus’ arm cannon.
The Wiimote control scheme provides an experience that goes deeper than a mouse and keyboard set-up. Using the lock-on function borrowed from the Gamecube versions, the Wiimote can lock-on to a target so the screen always stays arbitrary to the position of Samus to her enemies, but now the player has to use precision Wiimote aiming. Like a much more detailed light gun game, the player can aim simply by pointing the Wiimote at the TV and pressing the “A” button. This allows the player to not only accurately shoot the enemy that is locked-on, but also other targets within the close proximity. Because Samus will often be outnumbered, this is a great way to keep battles heated and fast paced.
Unlike other controllers, the Wiimote has very few buttons. In order to work around this problem, the developers created a system where switching visors is as painless as possible. When playing, the player needs to hold down the “-“ button to bring up the visor selector. To equip a specific visor, the player simply needs to point the Wiimote in the desired section of the screen, then release the button. Unfortunately, hitting the “-“ key is a little difficult because it is located slightly south of the normal hand position on the Wiimote. Gamers with smaller hands might need to learn to stretch to this key, especially when used in combat.
The “A” button is used to shoot, the “B” trigger button jumps, and down on the d-pad shoots missiles. Because of the limited number of buttons, the developers eliminated a gun selection option all together. In Prime 3, the player will never have to worry about changing guns or missile types as this gameplay element is worked directly into the story.
One of Metroid’s highlights has always been the environment in which the game takes place. Traversing these alien environments really engrosses the players and always generates a great sense of exploration. With that “what’s around the corner” attitude, players will always wait with anticipation about what danger and mystery lies behind that next door. This visual style is displayed very well on the Wii and is the best looking Wii game to date. The environment is always intriguing as are the creatures that inhabit it. And because the story involves the Galactic Federation and its soldiers, Samus will gain the help of fellow Hunters and some members of the Federation.
Like the other Prime games, the music is wonderful. It further develops the overall mood of the alien environment. And for the first time, Prime 3 features full voice over work…but Samus does not speak (like all Nintendo characters). Instead, Samus can go up to any Federation trooper and speak to them as well as listen to orders from the commanding Aurora Unit. I must admit, hearing voice in a Nintendo game is a little strange because it is so unique, but I definitely enjoyed this new addition to the series.
Unlike Metroid Prime 2, this game is strictly a single player adventure. Metroid started in the single player category and I think it best belongs there. However, making an attempt of adding “achievements,” Prime 3 will reward players with vouchers by doing special things during gameplay such as scanning enemies, killing bosses, or performing other unique stunts. These vouchers are then used to unlock things like soundtracks, a Mii Bobblehead for your cockpit, and even incorporate a screenshot tool. This screenshot tool is very cool. Once unlocked, whenever the player taps “up” on the d-pad, a screenshot will be posted on the message board of your Wii Home Screen. This image can then be sent to anyone on your Wii Friend list. Also, the game will often reward the player with Friend Tickets, but in order to turn them into Friend Vouchers, the player must send them via WiiConnect24. Friend Tickets are useless unless they are turned into Friend Vouchers. This is a great reason to call up your buddies and get their Wii Friend Codes. Perhaps Nintendo has some big plans with their WiFi service and want gamers to gear up for it…?
The title of the game is Metroid Prime 3 Corruption. The “Corruption” part comes from the fact that Samus is infected with Phazon, the strange but powerful element that is the basis of the Prime series. Samus can now channel this Phazon power through her modified suit to shoot powerful beams that can take down enemies fast. But if not used with care, the Phazon will actually corrupt Samus and kill her, sending the player to the game over screen. Like using the visors, reaching the “+” key on the Wiimote to activate the Phazone mode isn’t the most convenient button to reach either, but it does the best it can.
For the first time, players will actually get to sit in Samus’ cockpit of her space craft. Controlling Samus’ hand via the Wiimote, the player will actually get to press buttons and play around in the cockpit. But flying from a cockpit view isn’t the only use for Samus’ ship. Once found, a grapple beam can be attached to your ship and will need to be used to solve puzzles throughout the game. In all honesty, Samus’ ship has always been a noticeable icon throughout the Metroid series, but until now, has never been more than a cosmetic feature. Using the ship for gameplay reasons really sets Prime 3 apart from all other Metroid games and should be used within every Metroid game from here on out.
Samus has a few new tricks up her arm cannon this time around. The grapple beam has been fleshed out and is used for many instances in combat and in puzzle solving. The player needs to physically extend the nunchuk, as if casting a line for fishing. Often times, Samus will encounter shield barring enemies and the only way to successfully attack them is to rip their shield away. Once the player extends the nunchuk, it needs to be quickly pulled back to finish the “whipping” effect. This grapple can even be used to power up or power down certain doors and force fields throughout the game. And when Samus needs to open doors or activate switches, the player physically has to move the Wiimote in the appropriate motion. For example, to open a door, the player needs to push the Wiimote in, then twist, then push it back in towards the screen. It is these little details that truly give the illusion that the player has become Samus herself. The motion controls are top notch in this game.
Metroid Prime 3 has some great boss battles. In fact, one of the early boss battles with Ridley is one of the coolest fights I have ever played. If you ever witnessed the fight between Gandalf and the Balrog creature from the Lord of the Rings movies, you will have an idea of how this takes place. But in order to beat all these bosses, Samus will need to use every weapon in her arsenal including the grapple beam and morph ball.
Like all Metroid games, in order for Samus to continue deeper into the labyrinths of the alien environments, a new item will need to be found. Using a similar gameplay formula like Zelda, finding these new items allows Samus to reach new areas and also gives purpose to backtracking to find things that were missed, like missile expansions and energy tanks. While I personally don’t mind a moderate amount of backtracking, I do find it quite annoying to forcefully go back and retrace all my steps to find items that are critical for the story progression. The first Prime forced the player to find an absurd number of artifacts, the second Prime game forced players to find several keys, and this Prime game forces the player to find a ton of energy cells. Forcing the players to go back throughout the game, with minimum clues and hints as to where they are specifically located, to reach the ending chapters of the game is teasing and aggravating. The developers pretty much are saying “ok, now you have all the items in the game, go back and explore the environments we created and maybe try and find some more missile expansions.” But finding these energy cells, which act as keys in the last part of the game, is frustrating. While I can understand collecting a few of these hidden items, forcing the player to collect all of them almost seems unfair. There are gamers out there that will only want to get through the game while others will want to collect every hidden power-up. This situation is ideal for the hardcore, forcefully collecting these items for the casual gamer will increase needless frustration.
The overall presentation of the game is outstanding and is by far the pinnacle of the Prime series. The graphics are the best on the Wii so far and the voice acting is a nice welcome to the series as a whole. Controlling Samus through the Wiimote works spectacularly but forcing gamers to retrace their steps to collect dumb items is just cruel and meaningless. Borrowing from Microsoft’s Achievement system, the voucher system is a great way to get players to scan objects with the visor, fight bosses, and get fellow Wii players’ friend codes.
But without question, it is great to see more epic games on the Wii. Like Zelda Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3 should be picked up by every Wii owner, even if you didn’t play the other Prime games.
(Towards the end of the adventure, a certain object can be scanned that explains that the “Metroid Dread” program is nearing completion. While this “Dread” has nothing to do with the Prime story line, it has been rumored for a number of years that a DS Metroid was in the works with a coded name of “Dread.” However, Nintendo has officially denied all rumors of this statement but it is still pretty cool that the developers put this into the game.)