Written by Brian Szabelski
For Wii owners, it has been a very long summer with few reasons to brush the dust off their consoles. It has been especially difficult for the hardcore Nintendo community, with many of them growing sick over the perception that developers are only putting out Wii games for casual gamers.
The waiting has finally paid off, as the highly-anticipated Metroid Prime 3: Corruption arrives on the Wii after a nine-month delay (Prime 3 was originally supposed to be a launch title for the Wii), and to their credit, Retro Studios has pulled off something incredible.
Prime 3 is perhaps most notable for its new controls that use the Wii remote and nunchuk, but we'll dive more into that later. Prime 3 also adds the ability to pilot Samus' ship into the game, which becomes handy and important in navigating between multiple planets in the game, another new feature. The inclusion of tokens and friend vouchers for completing certain in-game tasks has been added, and these tokens can be used to unlock things like artwork and music. There's also the return of the Spring Jump and the stackable beam system. Finally, Prime 3 adds a hyper mode to the game, which drains health but gives Samus the power to blast enemies with super-powered bolts of Phazon energy.
In the final installment of the series, Samus Aran must do battle with her super-powered doppelganger Dark Samus, who manages to infuse the dangerous element Phazon into Samus and three of her fellow bounty hunters. With the help of advanced technology, Samus is able to get a boost in power, but with the drawback of putting her own health in danger. Her mission: stop Dark Samus from infecting the known universe with Phazon and put an end to this menace once and for all, by any means possible.
The core of Prime 3's game play remains much the same. Sometimes you'll be shooting your way through a horde of Space Pirates, while other times precision is key when trying to solve the game's puzzles. Prime 3, though, seems to take things to the extremes, namely the boss battles.
One of the most memorable battles involves falling down a long shaft while trying to blast away at Meta-Ridley before you both hit the bottom. It's experiences like these that make Prime 3 incredibly exciting and fun to play.
On top of that, new features like the Grapple Lasso add new depth to game play. For example, in the case of the Grapple Lasso, you'll use the upgrade to rip shields and armor away from enemies, as well as opening sealed doors. Other items from the previous editions, like the X-Ray Scanner, have been improved making them more useful.
The only bad part is that there's a "fetch quest" at the end of the game, and while it can be annoying, it's not nearly as bad as the Triforce pieces in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Using the Wii remote and nunchuk to control Prime 3 is probably the game's biggest selling point, and Retro has made sure not to let gamers down. Using the Wii remote to point and the A button to shoot is pretty easy, as is using the B button to jump, though switching the two buttons around might have made controls even easier. Locking-on is handled by the Z trigger, but unlike past games, you have to aim your shots once locked-on to a target. This is a big change at first, but it opens up the game's control scheme, and later in the game, can be used to get one-hit kills. The Wii remote and nunchuk movements used in the game are simple enough for anyone to pull-off. Unfortunately, mapping missiles to the down direction on the directional pad is a little cumbersome at times, especially during frantic fights. Overall, controls are pretty intuitive and do a good job of making the gamer feel like they're in Samus' shoes.
For the first time, the game brings voice acting into the fold, and it's done pretty well. The dialogue at times seems kind of, well, generic, but it fits the cut-scenes, which are very well done and serve a purpose. As far as Wii games go, Prime 3 is by far the best-looking and best-sounding. The environments look far better than previous games in the Metroid Prime series, and the game's soundtrack fits very well with the overall design. Each planet has a unique look and art style to it, especially the game's later stages.
Even after beating Prime 3, there's plenty of reasons to go back and try the game again. There's always going through the game again to get 100% of all necessary items, or trying to beat the game on Hyper Mode difficulty, which is unlocked after beating the game on normal difficulty. Unfortunately, multiplayer mode got the axe this time around, which might either be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it.
This is the title that hardcore gamers have been looking for on the Wii. After suffering through ports and games centered more towards casual players, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is a breath of fresh air on the Wii even if it builds-on a lot of past Metroid titles. Future Wii games will likely surpass this one, but Metroid Prime 3 might be the Wii's Gears of War - the game that opens the gates to a flood of great titles on Nintendo's newest console. We can only hope that's the case.
Pros: The best-looking game on the Wii to date. Controls are well-done and adjustable to different levels of sensitivity, though sometimes controls are gimmicky. New power-ups add depth to the game's combat and puzzles. A solid, polished title all around.
Cons: The stupid fetch quest at the end of the game. No multiplayer.
"Halo 3," the highly anticipated video game from Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), won high praise on Sunday from game reviewers who gushed over the lush settings, cinematic feel and array of multiplayer features.
The game, the final chapter of a trilogy that began in 2001 with the launch of Microsoft's original Xbox, is a key part of the company's strategy to take a bigger share of the console gaming market from Sony Corp (6758.T).
Gaming news Web site GameSpy gave "Halo 3" five stars, its highest ranking, saying it was so good that it was worth buying an Xbox 360 just to play it. The Xbox 360 costs $280 to $450, depending on features.
"Quite simply, 'Halo 3' is the reason the Xbox 360 exists," GameSpy said.
Since "Halo 3" is the game industry equivalent of a new "Harry Potter" book or "Star Wars" movie, few expected it to be a flop. Specialty gaming retail chain GameStop Corp (GME.N) said the title set a record for advance orders while Microsoft has said it expects initial demand to surpass that for 2004's "Halo 2," which racked up $125 million in its first 24 hours.
The game is set to go on sale on September 25.
Reviewers did voice a few complaints. Some said the game's graphics, while impressive, fell short of titles such as Take-Two Interactive Software's (TTWO.O) "BioShock" and "Gears of War," also from Microsoft. Others said the behavior of computer-controlled enemies wasn't very realistic.
"Will 'Halo 3' live up to the hype? No. There isn't perfection here. There isn't an absolute, please-all quality," said gaming blog Joystiq.com, though it added that the game was still a must-have.
Most critics said any shortcomings were more than made up for by unprecedented variety that includes a cooperative mode that allows four people to play together online, and editing tools to let gamers modify levels to compete against each other in "deathmatch" competitions.
Dan Hsu, editor-in-chief of gaming magazine EGM, gave the game a perfect 10 rating.
"It's such a huge package. It's hard to imagine something gamers don't like here," Hsu said.
GameSpot, another top gaming news Web site, weighed in with a rating of 9.5, saying the new features refreshed the familiar feel of the "Halo" universe.
"When you roll all this stuff together ... it really feels like a dramatically different game, and a dramatically bigger game. It comes together in an amazing package that is definitely one of the year's best," GameSpot said.