Joystiq impressions: Metroid Prime 3 (Wii)

Nintendo fans, rejoice. Metroid Prime 3 is going to be the best Metroid Prime game yet. It's been burdened with the enormous task of fulfilling Nintendo's promise of providing unsurpassed FPS controls through the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Surprisingly, Metroid Prime 3 has more than delivered in this near-final E3 build. Not only do the controls work exactly as we'd like them to, Retro Studios has surprised us by fleshing out the Metroid experience with its most ambitious story yet.

Long-time Metroid fans will appreciate the game's opening moments. We're taken inside Samus' trademark space ship. Have we ever been here before? Interfacing with the ship through the Wii Remote certainly felt exciting, allowing players to control Samus' ship -- something we can't remember ever doing in the series' history. Players will touch various panels within the ship, and pull a lever, providing a simple facsimile of piloting a real space ship.

As you dock your ship in a battleship, you'll meet a small army of NPCs. Imagine our surprise when they referred to Samus' previous exploits, fully voiced. In the game's opening moments, Samus will be able to interact with characters that feature full voice acting, seemingly a rarity in modern Nintendo-published efforts. We appreciate the series attempting to connect Corruption to the previous Prime games, but we have to admit that the heavy-handed nature of the story caught us a little off-guard. Watching the Galactic Federation talk about the conquest of the Space Pirates made us think we were watching Halo 2, not a Metroid Prime game. However, Metroid purists need not worry: Samus still goes on as a mute.


The calm that resonates in Corruption's beginning can only last for so long. Obviously, trouble is brewing, and a virus attacks the Federation network. Samus must quickly return to action. There are now three control options: Basic, Standard and Advanced. By default, the game runs with Standard controls, but we found the Advanced method to be the most satisfying. In Standard mode, players will move the Wii Remote and lock on to enemies much like they have in previous Prime games. However, in Advanced Mode, players will be able to move the Wii Remote freely, and have their in-game view move simultaneously. Gone are the bounding-box problems of previous Wii FPS titles. Advanced Mode makes navigating a first person environment a joy. For example, in Red Steel, players struggled to look left or right quickly, because the cursor would not move the view. This issue is completely resolved in Advanced Mode, making it the most accurate recreation of FPS mouse movement we've seen in a Wii title so far.

Samus' newfound agility makes the shooting element in the Metroid series much more challenging, and much more fun. In Advanced Mode, players can choose to have the camera lock on to an enemy, but the player's aim can move independently from lock-on. Players will have to precisely aim, instead of simply relying on the lock-on. The multiple control options should allow players of all skill levels to play the game.

Less than thirty minutes into the game, we've acquired the ability to fire missiles, and we have our Scan Visor ready. The game then tests our skills in a boss fight that requires truly precise aiming. The massive enemy that looms over Samus has glowing red shoulders which must be targeted and destroyed. Only then, will the enemy launch an attack made of Phazon, which must be fired back at the enemy to reveal its final weak point. Aiming at the shoulders would have been much easier with lock-on, but we enjoyed the challenge of having to jump around attacks, and over shock waves whilst firing away at the weak point. It should come as a testament to the controls that this was all possible, even if it did take a couple of Game Overs to ultimately win. Hitting the oncoming projectiles was an absolute breeze thanks to the Wii Remote's quick responsiveness. If there is one qualm we'd make about the revised controls, it has to be the missiles: pressing Down on the D-Pad in the midst of a heated battle still feels awkward to us. Thankfully, it wasn't too necessary in the first boss battle we encountered.

After the boss battle, players will see Samus make a brilliant escape to her ship. (We don't want to spoil it to our readers.) When we arrive on Samus' ship, we must make way to our next destination. Once again, we were caught off-guard by something we didn't expect: the incredible size of the world map. It looks as though Prime 3 will provide Samus with the greatest variety of locales to explore. Our next destination made just a small portion of a map that we're sure will encompass a small galaxy. Nintendo promises that each of the multiple worlds that Samus visits in Corruption will be fully realized. Color us impressed! Certainly, that's a relief to hear after the somewhat stagnant and repetitive Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on Gamecube.

The next part of the demo continues in an area we've already explored in last year's E3 presentation. The same ideas were reiterated: the Nunchuck was used as a grappling beam, one that could grab debris and move them out of our way. As expected, ball puzzles returned as well.

Our time with Corruption ended with a hint of things to come. Samus must deal with other bounty hunters in a story that marks the return of Dark Samus and Phazon. Phazon will corrupt the bounty hunters, and Samus will have to use a new Hypermode to fight the effects of the corrupting Phazon. We admit it: the story has us intrigued.

Although we understand that graphics aren't the most important aspect to many gamers, it's still disappointing to see Metroid Prime look the way it does. While there are new lighting effects in place, it's easy to say that Corruption still does not match the visual quality of last generation's best games. Character models are especially disappointing, missing the bump mapping found in games such as Halo 2 or Mario Sunshine. A quick glance at the game will bring warranted comparisons to the Gamecube original, and we're saddened to see Retro Studios fail to push the Wii graphically. At least it runs in 480p and widescreen.

Also, we find it interesting that Retro has opted to remove multiplayer from Corruption. While Prime 2's multiplayer was laughable, we think the new control mechanism for Corruption would've created a far better FPS experience than other Wii titles currently provide. If this is truly the end of the Prime series of games, maybe the team at Retro Studios can craft an original Wii multiplayer FPS game? One can only hope.

Both Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy have done a great job at reminding us that Nintendo hasn't abandoned the core gamer completely. It's been a long time since we've dusted off our Wii, and we can't wait to finally play a game meant just for us. The game will be available in late August.