How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. First persion might be a sticking point for some, and compared to the previous two games, exploration is heavily deemphasized, to the detriment of its ability to fit in to the genre.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~12 hours
Review Info: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was played using the Wiii U eShop version of the Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Buy Metroid Prime 3 if you like…
- First Person Perspective
- Visceral Atmosphere
- 3D Zelda Style Puzzles
- Expansion of Metroid Universe with the Federation
- Guided Gameplay
▼ Review continues below ▼
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption caters to my sensibilities as a Metroid Fan, but it is also a major disappointment. Loading up the game for the first time feels exciting; with shiny new motion controls you get to control the inside of Samus’ ship for the first time, really dialing up that immersion factor I’ve mentioned in my reviews of the previous two games. While the novelty of slightly upgraded graphics and new gimmicks wears off pretty quickly, there are still some fantastic moments throughout the experience. But many of the new features have less than ideal implementation, and worst of all Prime 3 fails to capitalize on what really makes the series unique; the exploration.
I’ll talk a little about the good first. Since I have been playing this series using the Wii Prime Trilogy version, the point-and-shoot wiimote controls aren’t actually unique to Prime 3 anymore. However, it’s pretty obvious from the first boss encounter that Prime 3 was actually designed to utilize them. Enemies often stand a convenient distance away to set themselves up for the shooting gallery controls, with some specifically designed to test your speed clicking skills. The gimmick can feel a little overused sometimes, but as a whole the new focus helps Prime 3 to have some of the most interesting combat encounters in the series – particularly with the bosses. Initial enemies actually try to use cover now, giving the impression that the AI has finally improved beyond the boring stand and deliver strategy they used in previous games. Every boss has a weakpoint you have to aim at rather than being a lock-on-and-strafe dance when you’re not just trying to figure out their Zelda-like weakness.
I also really like how some of the previous game’s systems are more streamlined. Rather than getting four different weapons you switch between, you just upgrade your main cannon and replace the old weapon permanently – similar to how it’s worked since the first Metroid game. This eliminates the silly weapon switching just to go through doors that slightly bogged down movement in the previous games. Samus also moves slightly faster than before, switching between her ball form and her killer biped form more seamlessly. Some transition loading screens can actually be skipped, which is wonderful when traveling between zones. There are still some immersion factors that take up more time than I’d like, but I recognize that there is still a limit to hardware capability.
The entire scenario of Prime 3
is set up to be more grandiose. There are characters and cut scenes now
– beyond the one or two NPCs that push you along your way. You get to
travel to multiple planets this time, which opens up the game to view
sites that I didn’t know I always wanted to see in a Metroid game. For the scale and scope of Prime 3, I could easily see it being someone’s favorite game in the series.
Like a monkey’s paw however, all of the wishes that came true with Prime 3 also came with some sorrowful caveats that affect my personal opinion of it.
Those aforementioned motion controls would probably be the most obvious complaint. As has been the general experience, the point and shoot controls work great, but any time you have to pretend you’re moving Samus’ hands through space you run into accuracy issues. The biggest offender is when you have to pull levers and twist switches – it always told me to push my wiimote towards the screen, and it never seemed to work the first time, ever. With the sliding switches especially, Samus’ hand sometimes hilarious flew across the screen like she got an instant shot of caffeine, ironically breaking any immersion the game might have had. Now that Prime 1 and Prime 2 have the shooting controls, they basically have everything good that can come from the Wii’s controller scheme. Pointing and clicking around Samus’ ship is still fun, but it almost feels underutilized. The only button you really need is the one that tells the ship where to go next. I’ll talk about the ship a little later though.
The design of the combat encounters is improved by the control scheme, but with that step forward they took another step backward with a poorly thought-out “Hyper Mode” mechanic. On paper the idea of Samus going into a “Super” mode is pretty cool, especially since using that kind of thing throughout the game has been an idea teasing fans since Super Metroid. The issue lies with it being something of a dominant strategy, and an Achilles heel during boss fights. The power works by converting your HP into powerful laser shots, which are better than any normal weapon you get in the game. This seems like a good way to balance the power. Most combat in games is merely an exchange of hitpoints – you want to take down the enemy’s faster than they’re able to take down yours – so a power that requires you to spend your HP could make for an interesting fast paced cost-benefit analysis. The trouble lies in when the power is actually required to defeat an enemy. If you’re still solving a boss’ puzzle, and you run out of HP because you keep shooting it at the boss’ weakpoints, suddenly you’re left with your final energy tank and unable to enter hypermode anymore. At that point you either die, or you wait slowly for the game to gift you an energy pickup. This is not a complaint that the game is too difficult by any means – Prime 3 is probably the easiest of the Trilogy overall.
In my opinion, Hypermode is a boring dominant strategy when it’s not required, and a frustrating anchor when it is required and you don’t already have a boss pattern memorized. I can only imagine that on hard mode my previous issue of enemies taking too long to kill would be exacerbated by them now really wanting you to spend your HP just to get past them in a reasonable time, compounding the possibility that a mistake will send you to your death. Some of this risk is mitigated somewhat by there being checkpoints before bosses now – you don’t have to go back to a save point when you die anymore. But I can’t help but feel like Hypermode should have been paired with a healing mechanic of some kind. Just as an example, DOOM 2016 rewards you for performing melee attacks, encouraging aggressive play, but most of all making the player feel like they’re skillfully progressing through the game’s challenges. A similar risk/reward mechanic more appropriate to the Metroid universe could really have moved Hypermode beyond being just a novelty gimmick.
Perhaps the worst effect of Hypermode though is its devaluation of missiles. Metroid has always used Missile Packs as the primary way of rewarding players for backtracking and exploring areas fully. The Prime games took this a step further, adding in missile combos that drain your missiles quickly – so more exploration directly translates into the freedom to use these super powers more often. Prime 3 dumped the missile combos entirely, and even the hypermode missiles only fire off one shot at a time. Prime 3 also introduced ship travel, and like always boarding your ship refills your ammo supply, further reducing the value of actually going to go and find all of the power-ups for any reason beyond raw completionism. Some of the game’s best challenges are still found with these optional pickups, but there’s no reward to temper any frustration the harder challenges might produce, making the process feel more like a chore than an accomplishment.
Which brings me to the greatest problem I have with Prime 3; exploration just feels lackluster. With the ambitious scope of having five planets that you can traverse, they sacrificed the honeycomb level design that defines the Metroidvania genre and most of the Metroid games. In theory, having a ship travel the galaxy to many locations is awesome, but the locations ended up being simple in execution. Many landing locations are just loops with few branching paths that don’t just lead to another boring missile pack. I’ve ranted about this for a while in some of my other reviews, but if the player isn’t exploring, then backtracking feels like padding. Backtracking is never a “feature” of Metroidvania games, it’s merely a consequence of the greater goal of letting the player navigate the world for themselves. Prime 3 just has backtracking for most of the game, and coming straight from playing Prime 2, that’s a huge let down.
I do like how the endgame “key” quest was handled in Prime 3 though. Instead of requiring the player to find keys of ambiguous function, instead you find energy cells that you use to power up systems on a derelict ship in an attempt to unlock a code you need to go to the final dungeon. This theming for what is now a staple of the Prime series is amazing. You even have some choice – some of the energy cells merely open up optional pickups, so you’re only actually required to find six of the nine keys to complete the game.
Theming is really where Prime 3 excels. I personally prefer the isolated caverns of other Metroid games, and the idea of Samus being this hardened bounty hunter who works alone. But, given the widespread impact of the crisis you deal with in Prime 3, it would make less sense if the Federation didn’t get directly involved with the conflict. It is a little weird to me that the Federation refers to the Space Pirates as just “Space Pirates” rather than their group name – it gives off this “G.I. Joe” Saturday morning cartoon vibe that they aren’t using proper names in a government setting. But then, they are talking to what are supposedly mercenary hires with the hunters, in-universe it’s reasonable that they’d use the “demonized” reference. They set up several of the other hunters for later encounters, which, if you couldn’t predict the outcome from the beginning, it’s pretty obvious by the second and third time it happens. Still, the story in Prime 3 progresses logically (within its own rules) and arguably helps to solidify the game as the most immersive title in the series.
As an obviously biased Metroidvania fan, I can’t help but feel that Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the weakest in the series, but I can’t really deny that it does a lot of great things still. I personally think that people who don’t actually care about exploring in Metroid games will still be annoyed by the forced backtracking that Prime 3 puts you through, but I also know that the concept of “the game is greater than the sum of its parts” is contingent on what is most important to the person playing the game. If immersion and a coherent story are more important to you than solving a Metroidvania world, then Prime 3 might just be your favorite in the series. Looking at the series as a whole, each game has incredible elements that are lost or gained between them – none of them really reach perfection in my opinion. If Retro Studios could just combine the best of all three, then Prime 4 would truly be a force to be reckoned with. With the advent of games like Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, I can’t help but feel like the hardware limitations of the past are no longer anchoring points to the possibilities. I just really hope that Prime 4 brings the focus back to what the first game established, and what is the defining characteristic of what makes Metroid Metroid.
A step forward from the previous two titles in terms of bosses, but a step backward with the emphasis on the Hypermode mechanic
There's a bigger emphasis on combat rather than platforming this time around, though there are a couple of good jumping sections
Sadly, the strongest feature of the previous two Metroid Prime games has been stunted significantly with the design in this one
A step up from Metroid Prime 1, but still too many puzzles where the player is going through the motions rather than solving anything
There's more going on than in the first two games, but it doesn't really make the forced cutscenes worth the extra time
Everything is shinier and more polished than the previous entries, which is expected given the hardware upgrade of the time
While there are some great tracks, there are a few that are just bad, plus it's odd to not have orchestrated music given the era
With better combat, having harder difficulties to choose from is more significant, but the lack of exploration will drag down subsequent plays