Aug 29, 2007
With so much emphasis on the casual market (Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Wii Play etc), it's easy to assume Nintendo's slowly leaving the hardcore gamer behind. Half of 2007 is over and the only true gamer's game we've seen from the company is Super Paper Mario - an RPG that either pushes your buttons or falls flat. Now, finally, there's a built-for-Wii title that embraces serious players and rewards them with intense shooting action, brain-sizzling puzzles and the smoothest graphics and art direction the Wii has seen thus far.
Fans of Metroid already know how the game works - explore alien worlds, find power-ups that allow you to travel even deeper into said alien worlds and eventually save the galaxy from energy-sucking Metroids. The emphasis has always been on exploration, but there's just enough shooting to keep your pulse going. That's not quite the case with Prime 3, which trades a lot of the "figure it out yourself" moments for shootouts with Space Pirates and their radioactive armory. Longtime followers might be put off by the objectives, voice acting and run-n-gun gameplay, but in our experience, it helps balance a series that has long tried to offer something for puzzle and action audiences alike. It also gives a bit of context to Samus' universe - at long last she's able to take on a mission that doesn't leave her stranded and alone.
That said, if Prime 3 kept the same stiff control scheme as its two GameCube predecessors, we'd be in serious trouble. That's where the Wii Remote comes into play, and it works beautifully. Freely aiming with the remote makes the experience much faster than the older titles, where you had to hold R just to look around. Here, it's almost on par with a mouse and keyboard, though turning left or right still feels too slow. The gesture controls, like yanking and pulling the Nunchuk to activate the Grapple Beam, don't always work as planned, but do draw you into the action. There's something oddly satisfying about ripping off tails, legs and armor shards when you're actually miming the movement.
The gesture moves aren't total gimmicks, as you'll use them again and again to bring down all sorts of enemies. With so many ways to fell your foes (freezing, melting, bombing, grappling, electrocuting), even simple enemy encounters become white-knuckle moments that put all of your skills to the test. On the other hand, boss battles, as with the other two Prime games, are far too long and rely on simple patterns and extreme patience to win. There's not one boss we actually enjoyed taking down in this entire game. And this, sadly, is the beginning of what's wrong with Metroid Prime 3.
Despite the vastly improved controls and strikingly layered visuals (easily Wii's best), much of Metroid Prime 3 feels the same. Bosses are unimaginative, mindless drones that repeat tired attack patterns over and over again. Enemies have next to no AI at all, usually running full speed ahead into your sci-fi arsenal. These same enemies also tend to completely respawn when you leave the area, forcing you to fight them infinitely. Incessant scanning is necessary to know the whole plot and solve most of the puzzles. One or two poorly designed puzzles stop the entire game for many, many players (Google "Bryyo help" and see what happens). Basically, the same cons of the other two games, offset slightly by the aforementioned controls and graphics.
Other additions, like the voucher-sharing point system, had us scratching our heads. Sure it's nice to unlock music, art and other bonuses, but this is the online mode? Just last year we had Metroid Prime Hunters on DS, a full-fledged fragfest that played spectacularly. This series isn't supposed to be about one-on-one versus battles, but Prime 2 had them and Hunters had them on Wi-Fi. It seems like a misstep to exclude the feature from the online-enabled Wii.
Metroid Prime 3 falls into the same category as Twilight Princess - the ultimate achievement of the series, yet in desperate need of an evolution. This is the third Prime game in five years, each strikingly similar to the last, so it's hard to gush uncontrollably about a game we've basically played twice before. This is the final Prime game, however, and it's easily the best, with a formula that's been tweaked and pruned to its most perfect point. Now please do something new before we all get tired of it.