Thursday, August 19, 2010

Game Review: Metroid Prime Trilogy (Part 3: Metroid Prime 3)

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Reinventing the wheel

Wii, 2007 / 2009

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Retro Studios

Time to Complete: 9 to 13 hours first go

Note: This review covers the Metroid Prime Trilogy version of the game. Though as far as I can tell, it's the same as the regular version.

Brought to us once again by the sexual dynamos at Retro Studios, Metroid Prime 3 is the culmination of the Metroid Prime saga, as well as the first of the three to begin its existence on the Wii console. Is it any good? Find out inside. There will be both punch and pie. Rated T for Teen.

As the first Metroid Prime on the Wii, this game is the pioneer of the control setup that Trilogy integrates into the first two games of the series. The controls are mind-blowingly well-done and intuitive, and put the controls of most shooters to shame with their accuracy. The only real problems come when you aim upwards off the screen, which for some reason the Wii has some trouble handling. Other than that, the controls are great, and by the end of the game I was immersed enough that going back to a regular game controller felt like a step back in time.

While the first two Primes each take place on a single planet, this game features a number of planets to traverse. None of them are as expansive as Tallon IV or Aether, obviously, but it's interesting to fly to different worlds nonetheless. However, this leads to one of the problems with the game: linearity. It's more linear than other Metroid games, as the plot directs you to go to certain areas in a certain order and carry out certain missions. Early on, the game feels more like Halo, and I found myself waiting for the game to get more "Metroid-like" - and that's a problem. The Metroid series has a distinctive tone and resonance, and a Metroid game without the same themes comes across as, in a way, hollow.

Which is not to say that the game isn't good - on the contrary, it may, debatably, actually be the best game in the Metroid Prime series. That, however, is a matter of complete subjectivity. Someone playing Prime 3 first will likely find the other two to be inferior, while someone playing Prime 3 last will likely find the original game to be the superior one. Prime 3 may well be the most refined of the three, but as a follow-up to the first two there's a definite feeling of "been there, done that". This is pretty unfortunate.

The biggest issue I had with this game, as far as problems go, is the loading times. Nintendo has historically been somewhat opposed to loading times (see: the N64), but this game has them in abundance. Typically, loading takes place when you go to open the door to a new room. The next area will load, and the door will open when it's done. However, sometimes these loads take a while, and it isn't uncommon to find yourself standing at a door, waiting for it to open, for 10-20 seconds. It gets extremely grating after a while, especially since the first two games in the series barely had this problem at all.

Other than that, the game is pretty great. As far as gadgets go, it resurrects the X-Ray Visor - now with the ability to spot hidden enemy weak points. Often these are hard to hit, but worth the effort to try. One recurring boss in particular can actually be one-shotted via this method. The Power Bomb is missing this time around, but there is an Ice Missile upgrade that gives the standard missiles a freezing component. Unfortunately this isn't as good as it sounds, and missiles in general begin to lose their usefulness midway through the game as they are overtaken by beams in the power department.

Unlike the other Primes (and Super Metroid), which allowed players to switch beams at will, Prime 3 follows in the footsteps of Metroid and Metroid II by having each new beam replace the previous one. The Plasma Beam makes a return here, and is followed up by an even more powerful beam: the Nova Beam. It's green, which tells me that my previous Secret of Mana reference was spot-on after all since we ended up getting a Dryad beam. The Plasma Beam is nearly as strong as Ice Missiles so it is preferable in many situations, while the Nova Beam essentially obsoletes said missiles.

Speaking of beams that obsolete other things, this game introduces a new concept for the series: Hyper Mode. At any point during gameplay, the player can enter Hyper Mode and completely demolish everything in their path with an insanely powerful Hyper Beam. However, it drains the player's health and has its own disadvantages. Despite the downsides, this ability can very easily become a crutch for players, as they can turn to Hyper Mode whenever the game gets tough and blaze through everything in their path. In a way, it kills the challenge of the game, which already isn't too high to begin with. This game never pushed me the way Prime and especially Prime 2 did; there are no Phazon Mines like areas or Boost Guardian like bosses to be found here. Even the final bosses, typically reliably difficult in any Metroid game, are almost laughable here on the normal difficulty. Luckily, there are higher difficulties to choose from. Just be warned, on the normal difficulty the game basically falls at your feet without too much trouble or effort.

On a final note, the graphics in this game are superior to the first two, and the music is truly excellent. Several of the battle themes, in particular, are extremely memorable. This is a game that has great potential and largely delivers on it. It takes the Metroid series in a bit of a different direction, and it's the kind of game that needs to be approached with an open mind - and not be compared too much to the memory of the first game in the series.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

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