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Game Review

The folks at Nintendo created the first Metroid game way back in the mid '80s. And those sly little pranksters buried a secret in its final moments that came as a complete shock to their young players. You see, all of the game's action had centered around a cannon-armed bounty hunter named Samus. Samus—who chased space pirates through one of the first-ever nonlinear action/adventure games. Samus—who powerfully represented teen boys as they gathered power-ups, leapt from platforms and blasted sci-fi organisms. The heroic Samus ... was a girl! When she took off her helmet at game's end, and players closed their gaping mouths, a beloved franchise was born.

Twenty years and some nine titles later, she slips that heavily visored helmet on once again, fires up the old cannon arm and steps into Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Play starts as the galaxy's most feared bounty hunters are called to a meeting with the Galactic Federation's military big cheese. There we learn that those devilish space pirates have shut down the Federation's Aurora computer systems. The humanoidish bad guys (looking sorta like velociraptors in space suits) are essentially trying to take over the universe with a highly radioactive mutagenic substance called Phazon.

In fact, they sent Phazon seedships hurtling into space to crash-land on nearby worlds and spread the poisonous corruption. It's Samus' job to clean up this mess and save the civilizations of the universe. But there is one problem. In the course of things she's infected by the Phazon corruption. It adds some extra punch to her cannon blasts, but, if she's not careful, could eventually turn her to evil.

Taking Control
This scenario may sound old-school to fans, but the new Wii motion-sensing controllers make Metroid Prime 3 play strikingly next-gen. With only a couple of buttons to worry about, you aim your weapon arm, scan objects and rotate the camera view by turning and pointing the wireless remote, while the added nunchuck control takes care of movement, locking on targets and tossing out grappling hooks.

Players gain a controller boost in the puzzle-solving department as well. Switching between scanning or x-ray visor is quick and precise. So studying environmental objects for clues becomes far less of a chore. Opening things is more interactive, too, as you pull a lock back with the controller, twist left or right, and then push forward to snap things into place again. All in all, this is about as smooth and intuitive as it gets with game controls.

And while I'm glowing about Metroid Prime 3's niceties, let me include a nod to its impressive art direction, producing rich, diverse environments on the exotic planets Samus explores. Icy tunnels and lava-spewing portals make searching for passageways and hidden alcoves—or figuring out detailed, complex machinery—all the more eye-catchingly fun. It's all topped off with quality voiceover work that adds dramatic dimension to the game's storyline. (Except for one character's single use of the word "d--n.")

A Popgun vs. an Assault Rifle
Samus seems to be trying to keep her helmeted head well above the grit and grime we've all come to expect in 21st century gaming. In fact, her struggle with the Phazon infection and ultimate battle with a dark version of herself clearly points out the good-conquers-evil theme that is the heartbeat of this franchise. Play is brisk, puzzles aren't too tough and chapters can be beaten in reasonable amounts of time.

Siblings sitting next to Samus on the video game shelf often feature gore-letting and flesh-rending. But Metroid Prime 3 shies away from that. Targets are blown out of existence or fall to the ground and quickly disappear. And Samus uses her cannon in a wide variety of activities like opening doors, melting ice and shooting pattern puzzles, so to a large extent gunfire here lands much closer to arcade shoot-'em-up than an assault rifles-blazing death battle.

But this is still a first-person shooter. And I could never get that fact—and its accompanying problems—out of my head as I faced a nonstop parade of robotic villains or flying and jumping creatures for whom a slug of hot lead was their final destiny. And in this regard, the nifty wireless Wii controllers I was giving props to earlier aren't a plus since they make the act of virtual shooting seem just a little more real.

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Bob Hoose

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