7 December 2018 | Field78
Prime example of a great trilogy finale
One of the downsides of being a Nintendo fan is that you miss out on several gaming franchises that are exclusive to other systems, such as the Halo and Gears of War series. But the obvious upside is that Nintendo has its own unique franchises, like Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, that more than make up for that.
By the early 2000s, Mario and Zelda were already quite a gaming powerhouse; Mario since the 1990s, and Ocarina of Time having recently cemented the Zelda series into gaming lore. As for Samus Aran, the Metroid series seemed to face oblivion after three 2D-platform games, until a 3D-shooter by a third party was announced. Naturally there was a lot of scepsis, but the gaming world was quite shook when Metroid Prime not only featured solid graphics and gameplay, but was also able to retain the typical Metroid atmosphere and sense of exploration. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was a worthy successor that, although generally not considered better than its predecessor, added the concept of a hostile alternate dimension to the series. But the third game proved to be the worthy closer of the trilogy, and is my personal favorite in the series.
The first two games were fairly light on the narrative side, containing few cut-scenes and focusing more on subtle in-game directions to guide Samus' mission of exploration. Corruption radically breaks with this tradition by guiding the player through one of the most immersive prologues in gaming history. Immediately thrusting the gamer into the action of a Space Pirate invasion not only kicks off the story in spectacular fashion, it also introduces us to the gameplay and the supporting characters, like admiral Dane, the Aurora Unit, Ghor, Rhundas and Gandrayda, who play major roles later on. The interaction with these characters gives the game opportunities for more scripted events, side missions and twists than ever, but the game also still relies heavily on scanning written sources in order to unravel the backstory at your own leisure.
Especially rewarding is that the script builds on previously established story elements. Dark Samus, Space Pirates and Phazon make a return, and the latter is even integrated into the gameplay. New discoveries provide a strong context for the events of the previous two games, revealing what links their backstories together. All this creates a pretty solid story arch and direction, but still leaves ample room for free roaming and exploring.
The previous games took place on one planet with widely varying scenery, which required frequent traveling in between areas and back-tracking in order to unlock suit upgrades, which in turn opened up new areas. This gameplay feature is still in effect, but it is nice how it now comes with a twist. The makers have greatly increased the scope of the playable area by featuring several unique planets that Samus can visit with her ship. The planet Bryyo with its seamless blend of nature, structures and technology is pleasantly reminiscent of Tallon IV from Metroid Prime, and the Space Pirate homeworld is dark and gloomy planet, poisoned by decades of over-industrialization. But the design trophy goes to Elysia, which is a floating city of unparalleled technical beauty that has no comparison within the series (or any other game for that matter). And it is the site of some of the most intense battles and relevations of the game
As said, the gameplay is largely unchanged from the previous games, with Samus' trusted power suit giving us a first-person view of an alien world where the player must battle Space Pirate forces and other creatures, as well as search for important items. But the development of this game for the Wii gives it an edge over its predecessors. The ability to move and aim independently from one another by using the Wii-mote is an important asset to dispatch Space Pirates, one that was understandably carried over to the Metroid Prime 1 and 2 ports for the Wii. The Nunchuk control is used with great effect for several context-sensitive actions, such as opening doors and using the Grapple Beam, which makes it especially rewarding, and differentiates the game even further from most shooters, especially the boss fights. Lastly, a nice variation in gameplay is found in the obligatory search for nine hidden items necessary to unlock the final boss; in the previous two games, this opened up a special staging area, but here, it provides access to a certain mystery that needs to be solved before confronting the ultimate boss and finishing the story once and for all.
As said, Metroid Prime 3 Corruption does one hell of a job tying the trilogy together, but is also a masterpiece of gameplay, storytelling and graphics in its own right. It is hard to see the upcoming Metroid Prime 4 for the Switch surpassing this level of brilliance, but they may try as far as I am concerned.