Another Reason to Go Wii

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption continues Retro Studios' science fiction series. Using the nunchuk controller makes for intense action

There are plenty of really cool looking games being developed for the Nintendo Wii, chief among them Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the third installment in Retro Studios' successful science fiction series. Once again, you'll assume the role of bounty hunter Samus Aran and do battle against a myriad of evil space pirates and other bizarre creatures, all the while solving intricate puzzles and navigating our heroine around detailed alien environments. But while Corruption looks similar to its predecessors (and that's both good and bad), it sure doesn't play like them. That's where the Wii remote comes into play, providing us with a different type of experience we just can't get anyplace else.

By and large, Metroid Prime 3 bears a striking resemblance to the last two games, and that's actually wound up being both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we're quite fond of the work Retro's done over the years in bringing the Metroid universe to life. The architecture, creepy aliens, and various effects shine, especially on a high definition monitor. But the fact remains that Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes were released ages ago, and while they still look good, that's not the type of visuals we want to see from a supposed "next generation" console. We know that the Wii isn't a graphical powerhouse, but we were looking for some extra oomph, some pristine sparkle that we'd never seen before. But unfortunately, Corruption looks like a GameCube title. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and for all we know the game's appearance might be significantly beefed up in the time leading up to its release, but for now, we're not pissed, just content.

Now that we've gotten that issue out of the way, we definitely subscribe to the theory that there's more to a game than its graphics, and with that being said, Corruption (at least what we've played of it) has the potential to be one of Nintendo's premier games, and it all has to do with the innovative control scheme.

To date, not much is known about the game's story, and the demo that we played begins pretty much like most Metroid titles, with Samus receiving a distress call from a Galactic Federation Base. Upon arriving, she learns that those nefarious space pirates are running amok, and she sets out to locate and reactivate a power generator that supplies energy to a planetary defense cannon. It's not the most original of narratives but we'll take it, especially when it's complemented by typical Metroid conventions. Similar to its predecessors, Corruption features plenty of objects to scan and aliens to blast. Of course, how you do all of this is what makes the game unique.

Metroid Prime 3 is played using the Wii remote and the nunchuk attachment. To aim Samus' blaster, all you have to do is move the remote around, and what's especially cool about this is the onscreen cursor travels in the same direction, which allows for near precision aiming. Whenever you want to blast something you press A, and to charge for a more powerful shot you just hold down the button for a while, then release it, much like you would in the other Metroid games. Furthermore, you can immediately fire a missile by pressing down on the remote's d-pad, and the Z trigger (located on the nunchuk) will target enemies. However, wily aliens can break the target lock, and fast-moving bad guys cannot be targeted at all, at least in the demo.

Pressing C on the nunchuk will activate Samus' morph ball mode, and while in this form she can drop bombs by pressing A. You can also move her around with the nunchuk's analog stick.

All this stuff is cool, but we're much more enamored with opening doors and using the grappling hook. To open things, you have to move the remote forward and then pull it backwards. This simulates Samus' hand reaching out and opening a door or flicking a switch, and Retro's done an excellent job implanting it, but we had a lot more fun with the grappling hook. After locking onto a grappling hook node with the Z button, you flick the controller and then quickly yank it. The same goes for pulling shields away from those nasty space pirates, a maneuver that we're quite enamored with.

The demo is roughly fifteen to twenty minutes long and chock full of quality Metroid goodness. We scanned things, shot aliens, scanned some more stuff, then entered into a thrilling boss fight with Ridley, the winged creature that's popped up several times in past games. But unlike the more traditional boss battles that we've seen, this one was very reminiscent of the epic confrontation between Gandalf and the Balrog in the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Ridley and Samus plummet down this 16,000-20,000 foot shaft, and the goal is to defeat the enemy before both characters hit the ground. And to make things even more stressful, the developers put a timer in place to further mess with our heads. It's definitely a very intense experience.

Thus far, Nintendo hasn't announced an official release date for Metroid Prime 3, so we're thinking that it's going to slip into 2007, particularly because the company doesn't want to release too many franchise games during the Wii's 2006 launch. There's also been no talk about how far along the game is in development, so it's very possible that Retro has been given the green light to take its time in order to assure a quality product. But the demo is extremely enjoyable, so for now, we eagerly anticipate new information. Hopefully, we won't have to wait too long.

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