Septemeber 13, 2007

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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)
Nintendo, Aug. 27
By Xander Scott news@hippopress.com

There’s a certain fan base of Nintendo’s that has been waiting on the edge of its seat for a game like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and now that it is here those fans will be breathing a sigh of relief.

Finally, the hardcore gaming crowd has a Wii-exclusive title that it can point to and show that the underpowered console is more than capable of delivering a deep, engrossing, cinematic experience that rivals anything else on the market today.

In Metroid, you don’t use the Wii’s motion control scheme to hit a tennis ball or doodle on a note pad. That’s kid stuff. Here, you use the IR pointer to shoot anything that moves while exploring beautifully detailed alien landscapes. There are other first-person shooters out there on the Wii, but Metroid is the first game built from the ground up to harness the unique control mechanics, and the end result is a control that bests anything you can do with a control stick.

In the 20 years the franchise has been around, the darkly sci-fi Metroid has been treasured by the hardcore crowd over the Marios and Zeldas of the same area. There’s no princess to save here, no kingdom to protect. Instead, as the first female protagonist of the medium, central character Samus Aran’s universe borrows heavily from the Alien films. There’s always that vibe of being alone, outnumbered, and facing a hopeless number of less than friendly natives. A Metroid, by the way, is a flying alien that sucks your life force from your face. You’ll want to shoot these when you come across them. Trust me on that one.

The Metroids eventually make an appearance, but the larger problem in this particular chapter is a performance-enhancing space drug known as phazon. Give Samus a dose, and she’ll get a whole lot more powerful for as long as she’s getting juiced. However, if this particular power-up is abused, you’ll find the power will “corrupt” Samus, and the game comes to an abrupt end. Even in the future, drugs are bad. Don’t do drugs, kids.

The corruptive power of phazon drives the plot of the entire game, as Samus travels from planet to plant to try and kill phazoned-out junkies in an effort to stop the epidemic. The plot is really just an excuse to explore some of the most organic level designs you’ll come across. All the puzzles you must solve to get from Point A to Point B never feel thrown in or forced. Instead, there’s a real sense of accomplishment in using the environment to find a solution to the obstacle in your way.

Whether you place Metroid above or below The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess depends on whether you prefer your adventures with swords or rayguns, as the two titles remain the class of one-player, stay-up-all-night-jacked-up-on-Mountain Dew-to-see-the next-beautiful-vista gameplay. The only knock I can put on Metroid is that the first-person controls are so much fun, it would have been great if an online multiplayer mode had been included to test one’s skill against other wanna-be Samuses.

Hey, all the more reason to put a rush on a sequel. AXander Scott