September 7, 2007 // 3:01 pm
- Hardcore gamers were beginning to wonder if Nintendo had forgotten them
Hardcore gamers were starting to wonder if Nintendo had forgotten about them. The company likes to crow about the smash success of its DS and Wii machines – and about how its expanded the gaming audience to include people like your grandma.
"Metroid Prime 3: Corruption" is proof positive that Nintendo still loves those that stood by them during the leaner GameCube years. This is an extremely well-crafted rollercoaster ride featuring one of the most beloved figures in Nintendo's mascot menagerie, bounty hunter Samus Aran.
In this first-person perspective game, sci-fi heroine Samus must take on an array of space pirates, alien nasties, and ultimately her shadow, the evil Dark Samus. Samus comes packing – she's equipped with a giant multi-purpose cannon attached to her left arm.
Over the course of the game, players will accumulate an arsenal of weapon power-ups like ice missiles, grapple lassos and the deadly screw attack. Samus' suit transforms into a perfect sphere called a Morph Ball at the press of a button, allowing her to roll through tight corridors and slip through narrow openings.
The "Corruption" subtitle comes from Samus' ability to utilize dark matter (called Phazon) to temporarily heighten her prowess. These space steroids are dangerous – if you use the Phazon-powered Hypermode for too long, Samus becomes corrupted and perishes. (Let that be a lesson to all of you young sluggers.)
The game becomes something of a juggling act: You must learn when and how to use Hypermode without leaving yourself too weak to fend off an attack. In latter stages of the game, such as the pirate home world, many of the thrills come from perfecting this balance while fending off dozens of cosmic monsters.
"Corruption" realizes the potential of the Wii Remote as a gun sight. You point the remote at the screen, aiming Samus' arm cannon. With the nunchuk attachment, you move her around the alien environments. Developer Retro Studios really nails the right sensitivity of looking and aiming with the Wii Remote, proving that for a first-person shooter experience, this controller is far superior to dual analog sticks on a traditional video game controller. (Though, the PC's mouse-and-keyboard set-up has yet to be trumped.)
You also twist and swing the remote and nunchuk to open locks, yank shields away from enemies, and interact with computer terminals. The level of immersion the Wii Remote and nunchuk offer truly delivers on the initial promise of the Wii to hardcore gamers: You can become your favorite video game characters.
The previous two entries in the "Metroid Prime" trilogy on the GameCube emphasized exploration and adventure over straight action. Players that found the formula lacking excitement – especially in the second entry, "Echoes" – will appreciate the tilt toward shooting lots of aliens.
If you liked the exploration elements of the previous titles, there's still elements of it in "Corruption." Samus uses a visor to scan her surroundings, and when you scan something new, it goes into a logbook. These log entries help tell the story of the game. The Morph Ball segments are also a real highlight, providing some clever puzzle-play as you weave through obstacle courses and labyrinths.
The art and sound design in "Corruption" are exceptional – for the Wii. The dazzling use of color and shape in creating Samus' universe is so impressive that it cries out to be rendered in the kind of HD you find on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Yes, the Wii is not a graphical powerhouse by design, but "Corruption" has such style that you want it to explode off the screen.