Monday, February 2, 2009

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Greetings. I am Aubrey's brother, Caleb. He's agreed to allow me to post reviews on his blog as I have somewhat different taste in games and because I have an Xbox 360 and so will be able to play the games that will be released only for the Xbox. I will try to stick to the creed my brother has set forth, but you will probably find my reviews a bit different than his as I find different things about games more important than others. That said, I give you my first review.

Metroid has long been a favorite game series of mine since my brother introduced me to Metroid 2 on the gameboy. So, perhaps it is fitting that the first game that I will be reviewing for his blog is the newest game in the Metroid series: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

One of the things that has impressed me about all of the games in the Metroid Prime series is how they have stuck to their roots despite the change in perspective and yet have provided enough new content that it isn’t entirely like playing a 3D version of the original Metroid.

For example, jumping, like in the platformers of old, is quite important to the game as a whole. If the door out of the room you’re in isn’t directly in front of you or at the end of the hallway, then it’s likely you’re going to have to jump to get to it. Sometimes you will have to solve a puzzle (most of which are fairly simple) or get some sort of additional item to help you navigate your way through the levels. Jumping is also important in battles, as it is one the main ways to avoid damage from attacks.

The morph ball, of course, is there, as well as the Prime version of the spider ball from Metroid 2, which works only on magnetic tracks instead of any surface. If you can’t run, jump, or swing there, then you probably get there by morph ball. There are also quite a few spider ball puzzles sprinkled throughout the game. These can either be fun, or frustratingly annoying. Thankfully, the frustrating ones only seem to be there as a challenge to collect missile expansions. You can easily finish the game without collecting all the power ups and so it’s not necessary to collect all of them (unless you want to unlock the 100% ending.)

The controls are fluid and fairly easy to pick up. The control scheme is similar to a console first person shooter, except the Wiimote takes over for aiming and changing the camera view. The control and sensitivity of the Wiimote is customizable to some extent, however I didn’t play with this very much. I found a setting that fit me almost immediately and used it from then on. If you don’t like the default settings, play around with the settings and I’m sure you will find something that you can at least live with. By the time I finished the game, moving through the world was second nature.

The major hype in Corruption was the “hyper mode” (pun not intended.) Hyper mode has been featured in Super Metroid and the first Metroid Prime, but always at the final boss. In Corruption, you may enter hyper mode at any time, but at a cost. You must spend your health to power your weapons and if you stay in hyper mode for too long you will become corrupted and will have to keep using your weapon to keep your corruption from consuming you.

For a feature that was so talked about during the development of the game, I really didn’t use it all that much. There are certain points in the game where you absolutely must use the hyper mode, and the associated abilities you get for it later on, to get past obstacles. These obstacles are usually structures that may only be destroyed by phazon energy and the occasional enemy that cannot be hurt except by phazon-based attacks.

Oh, and then there are the enemies who can go into hyper mode as well. My first reaction to this was “Why the hell do these enemies have the same ability as I do?” It didn’t make sense in context at first. However, then I realized that the enemies that can go into hyper mode are with the Space Pirates and they obviously reversed engineered the technology (as they have an annoying habit of doing).

Enemies in hyper mode do annoyingly large amounts of damage and are nigh invulnerable to normal weapons fire. They also don’t seem to suffer from the ill effects that you do in hyper mode, so do not expect them to come out of it any time soon. They can be annoying, too, because the only way one can tell if they are in hyper mode is by the blue tendrils of phazon issuing from them. So, there were quite a few instances where I found myself pounding on an enemy only to realize later that they were in hyper. Thankfully, they are quite vulnerable to your hyper mode weapons, so a few blasts from them will usually get rid of the enemy quickly.

You will also find that quite a few bosses are impossible to defeat without entering hyper mode at some point and that some of the bosses even have their own hyper mode. However, except for a couple of times where I was in a battle that was swamped with very tough enemies, I only found myself entering hyper mode when the game forced me to; either by putting one of the above obstacles into my way or by literally forcing me into hyper mode.

However, I did like some of the doodads inspired by the Wii’s unique controls. While the grapple lasso has a really stupid name, it makes up for it in its awesome design and utility. I’m sure that many a Metroid fan has thought about using the grapple beam to rip away debris or grapple enemies. In Corruption, you can do just that, using the grapple beam to rip shield away from space pirates, expose weak points on bosses, or even ripping certain enemies apart. My only disappointment would be that it could not be used on any other enemies besides those that it could specifically be used on.

The buttons, switches, and keypads were another thing that I liked. In the first two Metroid Prime games, all switches that could be activated were activated either by shooting them or using the scan visor. Sure, one of Samus’ arms is inside her gun, but she still has a free hand. So, I liked that we actually had Samus using buttons and pulling levers to operate things rather than just scanning things with the visor all the time.

Another thing that Wii controller inspired were sort of what I would call “shooting gallery” instances. As your gun is not locked in place like it is in the first two Metroid Primes, they have created quite a few “shooting gallery” instances where you can try out your newfound accuracy (or lack thereof) with the Wiimote. One example of this comes in the first couple of levels where a swarm of robots will fly at you, shooting all the while. These robots are lined up in rows across the screen and all are shielded except one. As you destroy one, another one becomes vulnerable and so on until you destroy the swarm.

While most of these do not hurt the game and even make it interesting when you have to aim for a specific part of a boss, there is one instance in particular where it pissed me off to no end. There is a gas giant that you visit called Elysia. You land in a city that floats in the clouds that is appropriately called “Sky Town.” For some reason, possibly to make sure you could not explore the place before you got the grapple beam, there are zip lines throughout the city. The people at Retro Studios thought it would be great to have one of these “shooting galleries” while you are zipping along these zip lines.

So, you have these flying robots going up ahead of you and if you don’t shoot the bombs they lay or if you run into them, then you fall into the bottomless pit below. Thankfully, you don’t automatically get a game over every time you fall into a bottomless pit. If that had happened, I would have proceeded to chuck the disc of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption out of the window. However, you do take a moderate amount of damage and you are placed back at the beginning of the zip line where you have to do the “shooting gallery” over again… and over again… and over again. Until you finally, through pure luck as I doubt this could be completed with any kind of skill, manage to destroy all the bombs/robots and make it safely to the other side. And guess what happens when you want to go back the other way. Yeah. This was quite possibly the most annoying part of the game for me and completely ruined what was otherwise a pretty awesome level.

That annoying bit of gameplay aside, the game, overall, was a good experience. If you have yet to play the first two Metroid Prime games, I would suggest you pick them up before considering playing this game. For one, they were for the Game Cube and are probably quite a bit cheaper and thankfully, the Wii is backwards compatible. For another, they’ll let you gauge whether or not you will like the gameplay as there hasn’t been too much change between games. For those of you who have played the first two but for some reason have yet to play the third, go ahead and at least rent it. It’s definitely my favorite of the three.

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