Samus ever

Metroid  has a new control scheme, but so what?
By MITCH KRPATA  |  September 19, 2007
2.5 2.5 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption | for Nintendo Wii | Rated T for Teen | Published By Nintendo | Developed by Retro Studios
People have been trying to get into Samus Aran’s suit ever since they first discovered that the bad-ass, bounty-hunting hero of the Metroid series was a woman. If you beat Super Metroid in less than three hours, you were treated to a tiny, pixilated image of Samus in her underwear. The Metroid Prime series upped the ante by adopting a first-person-shooter approach, allowing players to penetrate Samus’s outer shell for the duration of the gameplay. And now, in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, you can use the power of the Wii remote to control Samus’s hands, wrapping her long, slender fingers around handles, pulling objects out of things, pushing them in, over and over . . .

Well, uh, excuse me for putting it in that context. One reason it was so exciting to find out, at the end of the original Metroid, that Samus was a woman was because her battle suit was genderless. The makers of Prime 3 have hyper-sexualized her. Not only does she appear in a few cutscenes with flowing blond locks and pale blue eyes, but her suit now has dangerous-looking breasts and hips wide enough to push a Mini Cooper through. You can’t really make out much of this while you’re playing Prime 3, but there’s plenty of time to ponder such metatextual issues while you’re traipsing from one end of a massive level to another, waiting for something to happen.

Exploration has always been Metroid’s MO — indeed, it’s what’s made the series special. But it’s never felt arbitrary or forced. Until now. Prime 3 sends you skipping across several varied worlds, each with its own æsthetic. Bryyo is a natural wonder, with massive flora dominating the skyline. The bronze city of Skytown floats above the clouds of Elysia. The Pirate’s Homeworld is a technological monstrosity whose natural features have been nearly eradicated by years of the Pirates’ irresponsible stewardship. They’re all fantastic, imaginative settings worthy of the series — and yet each one ends up feeling exactly the same. Land in one spot and then head to the farthest point, only to be rebuffed because you lack a particular power-up. Head all the way back to your ship without having done anything.

Yeah, yeah — that’s just like any other Metroid game. But the scale of Prime 3 ends up working against it by adding more downtime to the back-and-forth travel while failing to improve the core gameplay. There are new weapons and abilities, sure, and this time you can even call in your ship to tow large objects or drop bombs, but it’s the same game. Boss battles rely overmuch on the “shoot the glowing weak spot” model, and many of the enemies seem to have been transplanted directly from the two earlier Prime games, art and all.

What is new is the control scheme. The packaging touts this as “the best first-person controls ever made” — which may be true if you don’t count any first-person computer game made since 1995. For a console, however, it’s a breakthrough. The pointer function of the Wii remote controls the aiming reticle as well as the direction Samus faces, for a degree of precision a thumbstick can’t match. Motion sensitivity is employed in a few other ways — to use the grappling hook, you whip the Wii nunchuk forward and then pull it back. So what? The result is the same. You get the impression that the developers spent so much time perfecting the controls, they forgot to give you anything interesting to do with them.

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