Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Reader Review
The original Metroid Prime for the Gamecube was billed by Nintendo as a ‘First Person Adventure’. An interesting choice of words: dropping ‘shooter’ and inserting ‘adventure’ was not only a cunning marketing attempt to differentiate it from the rabble but also a brutally honest indication of the nature of the game. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of playing Metroid Prime (and the equally outstanding sequel ‘Echoes’) will appreciate its particular flavour of gameplay consisting of epic, non-linear exploration, varied and interesting mechanics (including a heavy emphasis on platforming), wonderfully solitary atmosphere and unusual controls. Playing to the game’s strong sense of individuality, Retro Studios elected to eschew the right thumbstick for all but a few menu controls and forced the player to both move and look with the left thumbstick. Initially jarring and frustrating, everything soon made sense. An intuitive lock-on system allowed you to engage enemies and explore the rich environments with ease. The experience was like no other before it and nothing else (except perhaps for Resident Evil 4) has come close to matching it.
Fast forward to 2007 and the final chapter of the epic trilogy was released on the Gamecube’s successor, the Wii.
Delivering a trilogy across two different platforms must come with a very particular set of opportunities and challenges. On one hand there is the weight of expectation from the community as to what the game should and should not be. On the other, the opportunities afforded by new hardware (not to mention the desire to remain fresh and forward thinking) must gradually move developers away from their starting point. You only have to look at the Halo Trilogy to see this journey in action. Factor into this equation the Wii, a console that turns traditional logic on its head, and you’ve got a rather conflicting set of parameters. Not only is the Wii the first console that is not significantly more powerful than its predecessor but it’s also one that embraces a completely different control method: the Wiimote. On paper, you’d be forgiven for concluding that it’s a perfect marriage as it allows the franchise to cross platforms whilst keeping the visual fidelity consistent and also embrace a truly unusual control method. Placing all your faith with what’s on paper, however, isn’t always advisable.
Rather than stay true to the first two titles and force players to use the left thumbstick for the lion’s share of the work (and thus preserve much of the franchise’s unique nature), Retro Studios (perhaps under the direction Nintendo) chose to use a traditional control scheme, albeit one that replaces the right thumbstick with the Wiimote.
The end result is a crushing disappointment.
Instead of feeling like a true Metroid game, proud of its individuality, it comes across as desperate to shed its ‘First Person Adventure’ moniker and be accepted as part of the ‘First Person Shooter’ crowd. Couple this with the fact the Wiimote is rather imprecise at times and the resulting experience is not only a bastardisation of the Metroid experience, it’s just plain frustrating in its own right. With the original controls mapped to the Nunchuck, the Wiimote actions could have been used for charge shots, the grapple beam, shifting into the morph ball and other key actions without polluting the basics of movement and vision.
If Bluray is Sony’s Trojan horse this generation, Metroid Prime 3 is Nintendo’s.
Aside from the controls, another crushing disappointment is the (ironic) abandonment of any sense of isolation and truly solitary exploration. Metroid 3 makes extensive use of voice acting and narrative and whilst we take these as a given in modern action and adventure gaming they are elements that the first two games rejected to their immense credit. As with the control scheme (and in keeping with Nintendo’s new business strategy), individuality has been replaced by an overwhelming need for acceptance.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that I don’t like this game but it still has many, many merits. Aside from the controls and core elements of the atmosphere, Metroid 3 retains many of its predecessor’s strengths and remains a fine title. Indeed, in the context of the barren landscape that is mature titles on the Wii, it is a particularly fine recommendation and those new to the franchise will find much to love. It will be most interesting to see how Retro Studios handle the forthcoming ports of the first two titles for their Wii re-release. I’m not naive enough to expect them to honour their original control scheme but an option to use them as described above would be satisfying to say the least. That said, if Metroid 3 was sacrificed on the altar of the Wiimote, one can expect the first two to receive a similar treatment on the shiny new kitchen work surface that’s been placed on top of it: Wii Motion Plus.
Perhaps I’m just a traditional console gamer at heart but I firmly believe that motion controls are being embraced at the cost of design solutions that have already reached a near perfect conclusion. This review isn’t an attempt to say that there’s no place for motion controls in gaming but rather a plea to publishers and developers to ask themselves an important question: do they best serve the needs of the game?
7 / 10