Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Review (Wii, 2007)

This one wasn't on my radar for replay originally. But a friend who runs a youtube channel recently published a video about his experience with this game[german] that made me want to relive the experience as well.

Metroid Prime 3 wasn't too popular with many fans of the original GameCube classic even back when it had just come out in 2007. Compared to its predecessor it lacks in organic map design and prioritizes action over adventure gameplay. Those aspectual differences weren't game-killers for me back then and I still had a good time with this game on my Wii. My opinion on a game usually remains the same even when I replay it years later. Sometimes I like games better when revisiting them because I learned to appreciate aspects of them that I wasn't able to get before. However in the case of Metroid Prime 3 I had to conclude that my take on the game has soured considerably.

The Wii's motion controls were always a matter of controversy. Personally I didn't mind them in general, even if they often felt gimmicky — as in not strictly necessary — and rarely added any real value to the gameplay experience. However I always saw value in them for shooting games. They work perfectly well with rail shooters such as the Resident Evil Chronicles games and Sin and Punishment 2. And beyond those I used to think they were a great match for Metroid Prime. However now years later, going into Prime 3 almost right after blazing through the first game's remaster, they felt rather misplaced to me.
Personally I always liked the original's lock-on controls. As counterintuitive as they may feel to the average first person shooter fan, I always liked about them that I had to put little effort into aiming. It helped make the original Metroid Prime feel more like an adventure game than an action game. Metroid Prime 3 — despite still having a good sense for atmosphere — plays more like an action game, and the new control scheme is partially to blame (you can still play the game without free-aim and make use of lock-on, but the game is designed around free-aim and has some really annoying moments when you play with lock-on — so that playstyle is heavily discouraged). Furthermore the motion controls requiring the Nun-Chuk to be moved are noticeably imprecise and actions relying on them sometimes won't trigger unless the player is very careful about their movements. It's quite annoying. And pushing, pulling and twisting objects always seemed to pull me out of any immersion I may have had felt before. Indeed the game would feel better if it could be played with a GameCube controller like its predecessors did. Still this is actually only a comparatively minor gripe I had replaying this one.

Major problems I had replaying Metroid Prime 3 were:

The game feels incredibly scripted. Most rooms require the player to perform actions according to a flow chart: Bomb this first, then jump here, jump there, and then grapple over there, now shoot here. Small puzzles were always part of these games, but Corruption leaves comparatively little room for players to freestyle themselves through the game.

Ordinarily I'm not one to complain about backtracking in Metroid games. I enjoy planning routes back to places I had visited before, taking into account new upgrades and collecting power ups that had been inaccessible before. However in this one there is little room for creative routing. I actually got sick of having to backtrack through the same rooms, in exactly the same order and with nothing new to discover, over and over.

For my taste there's too many rooms that lock the player in until they have taken care of some mini boss or waves of enemy spawns. I never liked these in excessive amounts no matter the genre or franchise.

Compared to Metroid Prime and Echoes, loading times between rooms in Corruption are often quite noticeable. The obligatory sequence of steps (go into the ship, press that button to open the map screen, choose your new location, watch a cutscene, then watch another cutscene...) required to move from one Gunship landing spot to another also gets very old, very fast.

All of the above make for some questionable pacing. You can casually blaze through Metroid Prime in one evening. Not so much with this game.

Not to mention that Samus is no longer alone on her mission: Metroid Prime 3 is a full-fledged modernized game where the player is always on some quest given to them by an NPC. You can turn ingame hints off, but the game always directs you towards your next goal nevertheless.

My take on this game was always that it's a good first person shooter, but only a decent Metroid game at best. Today I'd rather say that it's a terrible Metroid game and a decent first person shooter at best. The game has strong atmosphere in some places and makes good use of its sci-fi setting with Skytown hovering in the atmosphere of Elysia and Bryyo being tidally locked to its star. Nevertheless I really wasn't digging it this time around. Not to say it's a bad game. I was enjoying it a lot at times, but the game requires some patience to make up for its slow pacing. I just didn't have that this time around.

Players have clamored for Switch remasters of this title along with one of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes — but for me this one would be a hard pass, considering that it would hardly fix more than the controls (which are my smallest issue with the game). The visuals of the original Wii game are fine enough even today anyways. Play the game for a while and you won't be much aware that you're playing an old game from the SD era.

Hopefully Metroid Prime 4 will do better than this. Unfortunately Metroid Prime 3 is a Metroid game in name alone, not in spirit.