Ambition. It’s needless to say if you are a game developer ambition is something you want your game to exude. Ambition is important, but just like anything else too much ambition is a bad thing. When it comes to ambition biting a developer in the nether regions, I’m often reminded of titles like Xenogears where the scale of the project was so immense that its budget couldn’t support it and resulted in one of the most interesting yet most flaccid role-playing games in existence. Now I don’t hate Xenogears. There are several things I like about the game. I just wish people could see that despite its scale it’s a flawed creation, not worthy of that many ten out of tens. Xenogears teaches us many things about games, but the lesson I’ve always taken from the experience it puts fourth is sometimes what a game tries to do is more important than what it actually accomplishes. Likewise, imperfect games often times have more to tell us than those quote unquote “masterpieces.” These were the kinds of things that were on my mind as I booted up Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii. Many, many years late to the party would this – my first Wii game – help me forget my slight disappointment with Echoes or would it only reinforce my feelings that the original Prime was when lightening truly struck?
The first thing one will notice with Prime 3 is its scale. The game isn’t really longer or shorter than its predecessors – which is a good thing considering they clocked in at a respectable length that easily justified their purchase – but the game attempts to spread out its real estate for the illusion of girth – geographically and with its narrative. There’s a real push to up the ante in these areas and it’s obvious from the start. Story wise the game introduces us to some rival, but friendly, bounty hunters who are rather likeable. As far as the game’s setting goes, Corruption takes place over several planets and star ships. The idea of introducing additional characters in the Metroid universe is an interesting one. Up until now all we’ve had is Samus herself and the various members of the Space Pirates. Well, okay, we had Prime Hunters in there but I’m not sure if anyone really cared for the additional characters in that game. Corruption’s first missions go into some detail about these guns for hire, and it’s not hard to form a little bit of affection for them, especially once you combine their actions with the various logs you uncover. However, the attachment to these personalities ends as quickly as it begins. Dire fates await these hunters yet you’ll feel absolutely nothing for them when they meet their demise. Even when Gandrayda screams in agony in her final moments it means nothing. This is the exact opposite of how one feels when they gun down a member of Fox Hound in Metal Gear Solid. We don’t know Sniper Wolf or Psycho Mantis for very long but we feel we do after we talk to them before they pass on. Samus’ fellow bounty hunters in Prime 3 feel utterly wasted in comparison: bitches of a narrative that simply undervalues them.
The game also misses the mark with many of its locations. While this feeling started to take hold in Echoes there is something about Corruption that is downright weird. Structurally the game is similar to the previous games but there’s an element that keeps it – for the lack of a better description – from really feeling like a Metroid game. I’m sure some of those reading are saying “Of course it doesn’t feel like a Metroid game, it’s a freaking Halo rip-off!” but I’ve never played Halo so I don’t know if that’s what happening or what. Early on I thought this problem was due to the game’s control scheme and my inexperience with the Wii but the problem persisted even after I gained my bearings with the controls. To be honest, I can’t wait to replay the first two games with these controls when I get around to playing the Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Still, while I’m not exactly sure of it’s the cause, I think Corruption’s real problem is a small lack of inspiration. As I implied above I feel the game is ambitious with its scale – and I really respect that – but I think some of the most awe-inspiring locations in the game are rather boring, Elysia is the prime example were a lot of the planet’s architecture repeats itself making it very easy to become disoriented. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the game’s map feature I would have wasted more time than I did rambling around looking for things in this area. The small lack of inspiration aside, Prime 3 also struggles in the challenge department. Such a problem is tongue in cheek as I don’t really consider any of these games to be hard yet there are often times were it took a few loses to become familiar with boss enemies. Corruption continues this trend at first (damn you Mogenar!) but by the time you reach the third Leviathan seed bosses become an absolute joke. You’d think that with the word “Omega” in front of his name Omega Ridley would be hard but no… and the final bosses are even greater pushovers. This is unfortunate because boss fights tend to be one of the best elements of the series.
Flaws aside I enjoyed my time with Corruption. While it is probably my least favorite game out of the three game trilogy, I like how each game has its own identity. That said, while I’m pleased with what Retro did for the series I don’t think I’d want any more games in this style. It’s pretty clear that some aspects of Corruption were stretched thin to keep the experience fresh. Prime 3 proves this is easier said than done, although those who found the pervious games too confining will probably love this entry. Personally, I like my games to be a little more self-contained like the original Prime which was definitely the winner of the trilogy for me. Regardless of my opinion, Corruption is completely worth picking up – especially at today’s used prices.