It streamlines the Metroid gameplay while preserving the franchise’s key characteristics: its immersion, ominous loneliness, and the maze-like maps
Although, understandably, much of the focus surrounding the Nintendo Wii was related to its motion controls, which were a remarkable and long-awaited step forward despite their flaws, all of that commotion overshadowed what was indeed the console’s best feature: its effective pointer. More than streamlining all kinds of user interface, that capability brought actual applications to several genres, as it supported the plarforming greatness of Super Mario Galaxy, brought clear improvements to The Legend of Zelda, and allowed the creation of some rather inventive gameplay features. In spite of its wide applications, however, nowhere was the pointer as beneficial as it was in first-person games, and in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption the Wiimote found what was probably its finest utilization.
The title handles like a bliss, as if the the Wii’s unique control scheme were built with the game in mind. Samus’ arm canon perfectly replicates the direction in which the pointer is aimed, allowing for shooting and visual exploration of the character’s surroundings with a level of accuracy that is not matched even by the mouse and keyboard setup that has long stood as the efficient basis around which first-person shooters have been constructed. With all aiming and turning set to the Wiimote, players can freely move Samus around with the Nunchuck, which – when moved forward – also works as the character’s grapple beam, a weapon that in Metroid Prime 3 can be used both to latch onto certain points and rip parts of many enemies’ protective gear.
Naturally, not only does that perfectly intuitive control scheme work as an enhancement to Metroid’s explorative vein, which gains a whole new level of immersion, it also is heavily positive to combat scenarios. Both the original Metroid Prime and its sequel, Echoes, featured a lock mechanism that automatically fixed Samus’ aiming reticle onto a foe, making battles a matter of pressing the A button to shoot and moving around to avoid incoming fire. Corruption, meanwhile, seriously up the stakes, because while the lock functionality is still present, it no longer guarantees spot-on shots. Here, the reticle is merely aimed at the general vicinity of the enemy, leaving it up to players to adjust it as characters move around the screen, therefore making shootouts far more interesting and thrilling.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is not shy to take advantage of that newly found quality. Where its two predecessors merely punctuated sequences of exploration with moments where shooting became imperative, in Corruption battles gain bigger prominence. Thankfully, though, the franchise’s gameplay integrity is preserved, and firefights do not come remotely close to being as frequent as Metroid’s signature features: its environmental puzzle solving, and the constant search for missing pieces of equipment that allow the bounty hunter to get to previously untouched locations on the map and make new discoveries.
Samus’ new session of figuring maze-like maps out and shooting a whole lot of Space Pirates begins when the Galactic Federation summons her and three more hunters to a meeting. They are briefed on how the federation’s organic super computers, called Aurora Units, have been attacked by a Space Pirate virus, hence making the whole network of valuable information vulnerable. Before much is revealed, though, an attack by that faction occurs on a nearby planet and the four hunters are dispatched to deal with the problem. Working alongside the others, Samus is able to stop both the pirates and an incoming mighty meteor of Phazon – the mysterious substance that had corrupted the worlds featured in Metroid Prime and Echoes – that was heading towards the planet. In the process, though, she is heavily wounded by Dark Samus, who tried to stop the hunters from succeeding in their task.
One month later, Samus wakes up from her coma. She discovers that her body and those of her fellow hunters had been infected by Phazon on the attack. The federation scientists, therefore, upgraded their armors with a Phazon-enhanced powerful beam called Hypermode, which is a pleasant addition given the combat-heavy ways of the game and a story-related asset, as using it for a long period of time causes Phazon to take over Samus’ body and kill her. Moreover, she learns that the federation had sent the other three hunters to three distant planets where Phazon corruption had been detected. Having mysteriously lost contact with every single one of them, the federation asks Samus to clear the looming threat.
The grand contours of the storyline, told through a surprising amount of cutscenes with dialog and the traditional logs acquired from Space Pirate computers, materialize into a plot that is quite impressive. Besides managing to involve Space Pirates, the federation, Samus, the other three hunters, Dark Samus, and Phazon into one overarching story, it succeeds in tying the entire trilogy together and leading it to an extremely satisfying and epic conclusion.
Perhaps as an answer to the mixed opinions caused by the complexity of Echoes, Corruption plays a whole lot like an optimized and streamlined take on the original Metroid Prime. Given the threat is spread across the galaxy, Samus must hop into her ship and travel between four distinct planets (the major Galactic Federation outpost in Norion, the flooring organic variety of Bryyo, the ruins of an advanced civilization in the Skytown of Elysia, and the toxic environment of the Pirate Homeworld) and a few other minor places – including the abandoned and destroyed G.F.S. Valhalla, certainly the scariest and darkest location to ever appear in a Nintendo game.
Although the sum of all those maps amounts to a world whose size is similar to that of the environments of Metroid Prime and Echoes, the fact they are disjoint – working as individual units instead of fully connected settings – greatly decreases the intricacy of the level design and the need for backtracking. Samus’ ship – which plays a larger role in the game than ever before in the history of the saga, as additionally to serving as transportation it can be summoned to lift major obstacles from the terrain – has plenty of available landing spots on the main planets. Thus, walking from the furthermost extremity of one region to the most distant point of another one, whether as part of the main quest or in a search for extra energy tanks, missiles, or power bombs – can be done much more easily and smoothly.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, then, is easily the most friendly and accessible game of the entire trilogy. Its general simplicity, though, which can be felt even though it does offer a great share of the traditional Metroid puzzle solving and geographic riddles, may bother longtime players who expect the series to yield backtracking-heavy affairs. As a way to try to cater to those, however, Retro Studios packed the game with three difficulty modes – Normal, Veteran, and Hypermode, which is only unlocked after beating the game once – that offer an extra level of challenge by making the frequent enemies stronger and the mighty and creative boss battles, which are certainly easier than those of the original and Echoes, more difficult.
The final distinction Corruption has in relation to its peers, and another shift that might bother some purists, is how – this time around – her collaboration with third parties, namely the Galactic Federation and the hunters, is intense for Metroid standards. The feeling of isolation and immersion that is so important to the franchise is still standing strong, after all Samus is the only one that is truly capable of figuring out the problem and dealing with it accordingly, but that vibe is certainly somewhat diluted by the punctual communication and interaction with people who are fighting on the same side that she is.
The split and more digestible overworld, the fact that Samus has got some close company to deal with the current galactic menace, and the more frequent shooting segments will undoubtedly bother some fans. In the end, though, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is excellent; a fitting closing chapter to one of gaming’s finest trilogies and a title that is able to give closure to the themes and stories approached in the three installments that make up the Metroid Prime saga. A technically perfect game with an extremely smooth and intuitive control scheme that takes full advantage of what the Wii offers, it streamlines the traditional Metroid gameplay to embrace a new audience while doing a great job at preserving the franchise’s key characteristics: its overwhelming power of immersion, its ominous loneliness, and the engaging process of figuring out its maze-like maps.