Latest ‘Metroid’ entry puts Wii Remote to the test

[10 September 2007]

By Justin Hoeger

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Many heroes have a dark side. But for Samus Aran, it’s a bit worse.

Her dark side is literal, born from the bubbling remains of a terrible enemy, the creature called Metroid Prime. This Dark Samus later popped up on the planet Aether and caused trouble, but Samus defeated her in the end.

And now Dark Samus is back. She has new allies in the insectoid Space Pirates, who seek to conquer the Galactic Federation with the help of this evil doppelganger and the toxic but powerful substance Phazon.

As the other “Prime” games have done, “Metroid Prime 3: Corruption” adds its own spin to the “Metroid” formula. Where “Metroid Prime” perfectly translated the classic 2-D game play of “Super Metroid” into three dimensions, and “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” took that foundation and added parallel worlds and a selection of beam weapons that burned through ammo, a first for the series, “Corruption” is more like the Game Boy Advance’s “Metroid Fusion.”

“Fusion” was set on a space station designed to mimic certain environments, so all the areas were similar in size and shape, and didn’t flow together as organically as the mazes of other “Metroid” games. Similarly here, Samus visits several different worlds, each with its own look, feel and environment. Even some of the upgrades, like the enemy- and liquid-freezing Ice Missiles, are borrowed from “Fusion.”

The game starts off with a bang, featuring an attack on a Federation world by the pirates and Dark Samus. They try to crash a Phazon-laced meteor into the planet and are stopped by Samus and a trio of other hunters, but not before Dark Samus manages to blast them a good one.

Once she’s recovered, Samus learns that her body is now producing Phazon on its own, with no apparent ill effects. Federation scientists fit her with an experimental weapon system that runs on Phazon, which puts her into a state called Hypermode in which she’s invulnerable and her shots are more powerful – strong enough to defeat some massive foes that can’t be hurt by anything else.

This power comes at a price, though. Activating Hypermode drains one of Samus’ energy tanks completely, leaving her weaker when she exits this state. What’s more, sometimes she’ll enter a sort of overload mode where she’ll need to fire rapidly to vent excess Phazon, or die. It’s a powerful weapon but one that requires some careful management – and she’ll need it (and other weapons and devices, new and old) to defeat Dark Samus and foil the pirates’ plot.

A lot of this is pretty much par for the course in a “Metroid” game, but this is the first series entry on the Wii - and thus the first to use the Wii Remote. This could have been a disaster. First-person games so far on the Wii have been a mixed bag, to put it generously.

But “Corruption” nails it. Using the remote and the Nunchuk attachment together feels perfectly natural, with the remote controlling Samus’ gun arm, jumping and navigation chores, and the Nunchuk handling movement, target locking and our hero’s odd transformation into a metal sphere for rolling through narrow vents and passages. The remote also controls Samus’ visors, including a new one that lets her call her spaceship for bombing runs and other tasks.

The exact settings may take a little tweaking for some players to find their preference, but once a player gets the hang of it, the game moves and feels just like it should. Aiming and shooting are smooth as can be, and this game relies far less on the lock-on feature than the previous two.

Even better, the game makes heavy use of Samus’ grapple beam, which lets the player attach a stream of energy to an object or foe and then yank it with the Nunchuk.

“Corruption’s” graphics can’t stand up to those of “BioShock,” “The Darkness” and other shooters on current systems. But the visual design here makes up for that. The worlds Samus visits and the foes she faces look terrific, never mind their exact polygon counts. From the ruins and jungles of Bryyo to the graceful sky city of Elysia, each area has a distinct look and feel.



3 ½ stars


SYSTEM: Nintendo Wii

PRICE: $49.99


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