The whole corruption scheme is handled very well, as a kind of Phazon arms race. Most of the enemies in the game can go into hypermode too, and the only way to kill them is to risk corruption. This goes for bosses as well, so the player has to strategically balance their health against firepower. Using up several energy tanks will leave Samus practically drained of health, so when a boss enters hypermode she has no way to damage the Phazon-charged behemoth. Health conservation isn’t just a vital survival strategy, but is essential when that health needs to be turned into Phazon ammo. Hypermode is the key theme of Prime 3, but isn’t overbearing the way the Dark World was. It fits snugly into the whole Metroid formula, encouraging some extra shooter action but never detracting from the series’ fundamental concept: exploration. And there’s plenty of that to be done in Prime 3.
Corruption has five sprawling worlds to investigate, whereas all previous Metroid games had one branching planet. Each of the planets has multiple locations, usually with a high degree of variety between them. The first planet, Bryyo, begins with a trek through crumbling ruins and progresses to subterranean lava mines, which then transition into an alien forest, and later into an ice-encrusted shrine. Amid these areas are an abandoned Galactic Federation stronghold and a Space Pirate military installation. As the game progresses, these places change; an arena may appear empty once the resident boss is defeated, but revisit the location at a later time and you’ll find that the Pirates have set up shop (and a number of gun turrets). Once I began exploring the other worlds, I discovered that every planet has the same level of depth and variety of Bryyo. .
These individual locations are ultimately smaller than the “worlds” in past Metroid games, but as a result they are tighter, stay fresher, make more sense, and put together they build some truly expansive locations. In contrast, Prime 2: Echoes’ four worlds were massive but also confusing, and more than a bit monotonous. I enjoyed the raw challenge and brain teasing of Echoes, but the mainstream gamers found it intimidating. The extra year Retro took to make the level design more intuitive, is apparent in each of Corruption’s varied environments. They have once again achieved that elusive perfect pacing that Prime 1 nailed. Corruption is a sequence of environments that become more complex the farther you dig, but are easily digested in small individualized chunks.
Ambiance and atmosphere is the glue that holds all these pieces together, and for the last chapter of their trilogy, the creative team behind Corruption made sure that every aspect of the game’s craft sparkled. Retro Studios is nearly unmatched in artistic talent in today’s gaming industry. Using the Wii’s comparatively limited graphical hardware, Retro has pulled off some incredible environments and effects. Like the previous two games, attention to detail is what makes Corruption so gorgeous.
Examples of this detail appear all over the place. Skytown’s diligent repair robots swarm through the ancient Chozo towers, and the forests of Bryyo teem with elaborate flora and fauna. The Space Pirate homeworld is an industrial wasteland, characterized by a drenching acid rain that is actually a significant gameplay factor. The Galactic Federation fortress on Norion is replete with flickering holograms and the bustling activity of officers and techs. Talented digital brushes clothe each of these places with uncanny realistic touches, and the creative use of bloom lighting is seen in the soft glow ebbing from walls and objects. The common theme of all the planets is Phazon. The sickly blue stuff is slowly consuming every environment, with blue tendrils and splotches that grow from the walls, increasing as you get closer to the source of the corruption. The fact that Retro pulled off such visually immersive locations with the Wii hardware is a testament to their talent. They even managed to work the Wii remote’s battery indicator into Samus’s visor—watch those four little lights at the top of the HUD, they do something now.
To accompany the rich graphical presentation, Kenji Yamamoto returns to provide an epic score. His music reflects the game’s broader scope; this time the pieces feel less claustrophobic and lonely. The signature creepy Metroid techno theme remains, but with an action oriented flavor and more traditional influences. One or two of the pieces felt a bit too generic for my tastes, like something out of a 2002 era shooter running on the Quake 3 engine. By and large, however, the score has a sense of finality and cohesion among the three games in the trilogy, with just the right amount of nostalgic touches borrowed from Prime 1 and Echoes. For longtime Metroid fans, at least one classic tune has been recreated, keeping with Yamamoto’s strategy for the last two games.
The polish from the music and graphics carries over from the presentation aspect and into the core gameplay. Corruption fixes a lot of small nagging problems with the Metroid series in general, from storyline to progression and how that progress is made. For example, traveling between worlds and areas takes a lot less backtracking—instead of hoofing it, Samus uses her ship to get around.
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