Silence. The Wii Remote safety screen appears and fades back to darkness. Turn the volume up. From the moment you hear the sweeping intro score from famed Metroid composer Kenji Yamamoto and watch as the Metroid Prime 3 title screen rolls in, you know right then and there this is going to be a worthy conclusion to the Prime trilogy and an epic send-off for the Phazon story arc.
Metroid Prime 3 concludes the amazing story of Samus Aran's efforts against Phazon, the biomutagenic substance with corruptive characteristics.
Retro Studios have raised the bar for 3D Metroid, improving the successful formula established in Metroid Prime 1 and 2, and then some. Without a doubt the control scheme lies at the heart of this first-person experience, with a natural point-and-shoot method eliminating the need for dual joysticks. Many often laud the Wii Remote for second-best behind a traditional mouse-and-keyboard, and they wouldn't be far from the truth.
At first you may find the control method daunting and almost wish for the good old fashioned control system from the GameCube titles (I sure did on a few occasions). Keep at it though, you'll find a short learning curve to picking up the natural aiming, strafing and jumping movements, but the steady difficulty increase as you progress deeper into the game eases you seamlessly into it. A clever use of all the Wii Remote's functions and motion-sensing ensures that everything's in easy reach. But enough about the controls, as there's plenty more Metroid Prime 3 has going on.
Dark Samus and the Space Pirates both hunger for Phazon, and this obsession has ultimately led them to join forces. Together they aim to corrupt multiple worlds with Phazon seeds, repeating the events of Tallon IV and Aether on a galactic scale until all civilization falls under Dark Samus' control. At the forefront of this war, Samus will find three new faces coming to her aid - bounty hunters Rundas, Ghor and Gandrayda (you'll be forgiven if Gandrayda looks a tad familiar). But even the combined firepower of the Galactic Federation and the hunters doesn't stop Dark Samus from corrupting them with pure Phazon, leading to the meaning behind the game's subtitle.
With Samus' body producing Phazon reserves from within, she gains abilities not unlike the Phazon Suit from Metroid Prime (although sadly this time there are negative effects to be had). A new suit granted from the Galactic Federation allows Samus to utilize Phazon for a number of potent offensive abilities, and to top it off she'll be invulnerable while it's in use. Players be warned though, extensive use of this new Hypermode will drain Samus' life energy, and further in the game she takes the risk of becoming utterly corrupted by Phazon.
Don't expect a straightforward trek through environments looking for artifacts or temple keys. Taking place on multiple worlds, the entire game boasts incredibly rendered environments, each one as alien as possible from each other. Your basic premise is simple - access each Phazon seed and ultimately destroy it - but the creative minds at Retro have ensured that each one requires different tactics and sports different objectives. You'll be fighting alongside GF troopers, taking the fight to an incredibly huge variety of Space Pirate forces, exploring ravaged worlds and ancient Chozo-built complexes - all the while slowly learning of Phazon's origin (and the numerous nods to the events on Tallon IV and Aether sure hit the spot).
A surprising first for the series is the inclusion of full voice acting. Retro took the ambitious step and couldn't have pulled it off better, with convincing performances from the cast and a lack of anything remotely cheesy. Keeping true to the series' roots, Samus remains mute throughout the adventure, although the execution of dialogue doesn't make it glaringly obvious to her lack of speech involvement.
Atmosphere is what Metroid is all about, and the worlds of Norion, Bryyo and Elysia have it in spades. Remember the sweeping views of the Sanctuary Fortress in Echoes? Just wait till you visit SkyTown. Retro have always packed the worlds of Metroid Prime with incredible detail, so that nothing is symmetrical, repetitive or recycled.
For a small white box, the Wii sure does cater for attention to detail (and the bloom lighting effect looks a treat). Subtle nuances are the icing on the cake (activate the Scan Visor and check out Samus' eyes reflecting off her visor, and words escape me when watching Samus arrive or depart from worlds).
Of course atmosphere would be naught without an engaging score, and if one word could describe Metroid Prime 3's music, it would be epic. Kenji Yamamoto has crafted an unforgettable soundtrack, from the grand title theme to frantic battle themes and a few remixes of old favourites. I can't mention SkyTown enough - standing outside while taking in the horizon and listening to the gentle harmony is pure genius.
Plenty of classic abilities return along with old favourites such as the Screw Attack, Boost Ball and Seeker Missile, while others gain further uses (Grapple Beam) and a host of Phazon-powered weapons augment Samus' arsenal. But her best new toy is without a doubt her gunship. Far more than your mobile save station / ammo recharge station, Samus' gunship will finally take part in the action thanks to her new Command Visor. Simply summon the ship to perform bombing runs on pesky foes, lift incredibly heavy objects or land at designated landing zones. Evidently new features await at every turn, and if you're still reading this you should get the message by now (hopefully).
Remember the Image Galleries in Metroid Prime 1 and 2? While enjoyable rewards for filling up your Logbook, they were simple and quick. Not this time. Completing a range of tasks throughout the game on three difficulty settings rewards you with plenty of credits - spend these on bonuses ranging from galleries to soundtrack pieces. Swap friend vouchers with buddies to unlock some of the juicer bonuses (yes, this may be a cheap alternative to proper run-and-gun multiplayer, but Retro's stance on excluding multiplayer to refine the single player experience was a wise choice in the end).
Retro have truly outdone themselves with this terrific conclusion to the trilogy, one can only hope they'll revisit the series sometime in the future and take the experience even further. If you own a Wii, don't deprive it from this... first-person adventure.
Written by Falcon Zero on 1 December 2007.