Wii

‘Metroid Prime 3: Corruption’ video game review

So the Metroid Prime Trilogy is finally coming to the Wii U? Took them long enough, I had just finished Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii version of the trilogy that I borrowed from my friend. It’s been so long since I played Metroid Prime 2: Echoes that I can’t even remember how long ago it was. Maybe about seven years? I was surprised how familiar the game felt once things got going, even though it had been so long and the series had moved to a new platform with revised controls.

The Metroid Prime games are first-person-action-adventures. Some may call them a first-person shooter, and yes shooting is the combat, but the focus is on exploration. The gameplay involves exploring planets, scanning stuff for clues, acquiring power-ups to unlock new abilities and defeating enemies. Most of the action takes place in the first-person, especially against enemies with gunfire, but some puzzles require the Morph Ball, where Samus literally turns into a metallic ball and is controlled from a third-person perspective. Many areas you encounter may not be reachable until certain upgrades are found or bosses defeated.

The story Corruption closes the Prime trilogy. Samus has spent the last two games assisting the Galactic Federation in their ongoing fight with the Space Pirates, who have been using Phazon to gain power. Phazon is a newly discovered powerful mutagen substance. In the first game, Phazon corrupts a Metroid (life-sucking organism) and it mutates into a large being called Metroid Prime. After Samus defeats it, it absorbs the Phazon from Samus plus her DNA, and revives itself as a Dark Samus. After Samus defeated that evil doppelganger in Prime 2, it somehow revived itself in space. We get to Prime 3, after Dark Samus invaded the Space Pirates homeworld with Phazon and brainwashed them to be her followers. Dark Samus for some reason wants to spread Phazon across the universe so it spreads the mutagens to various planets. Samus teams up with the Galatic Federation to stop the spread of Phazon, as well as the Space Pirates and Dark Samus.

The storytelling has improved; it’s still convoluted, but much less so. The other Prime games also felt like a one-woman show, but in this game, Samus has other characters to interact with, full voice acting and all, something uncommon in Nintendo games.

There isn’t much new in Samus’s jump from the Gamecube to the Wii, but I’ll say what has changed.

Corruption is more user-friendly. In the first two games, Samus explored one large planet (Tallon IV and Aether respectively), this led to a lot of exhausting backtracking. Metroid Prime 3 instead takes place on multiple planets with many landing sites for Samus’s gunship to travel to. There are several planets, but the game primarily takes place on three, all of which are very different. Bryyo was heavily combat based while Elysia had fewer enemies, meaning a larger focus on exploration. There are also more save points, a lower difficulty and checkpoints, meaning you don’t have to go to the boss area again from the save point after you lose to the vile things, you just start the battle again.

The game of course takes advantage of the Wii’s controls. The GameCube controller almost felt like it was designed to work with the Prime games because each button and control stick had a meaningful purpose. Of course with the Wii Remote pointer, the game now plays a bit more like an FPS. Beams powerups (shots from Samus’s arm gun) are no longer switchable, and are just simply upgraded. The new controls took me a few hours to get used to, but once they clicked I was really happy with them. However, they could be quite frustrating at times. The little things like pushing the Nunchuck forward and back to rip something off with the grapple lasso and pulling the Wii Remote away and towards the screen to take out/put in an energy core could be quite fiddly.

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Another new feature is Hypermode. As part of the story, Samus is corrupted with Phazon and can switch to this powerful but dangerous state. It makes her attacks very powerful but requires life energy. Later on, her corruption becomes so severe that she falls into a corrupted Hypermode and she must use Phazon energy to get out of it, or die. I didn’t quite understand this concept so when the game surprised me a few times by switching on deadly Hypermode I died a couple of times.

When Metroid Prime came out it was acclaimed as one of the best games ever, and looking back, it’s not hard to see why. Scepticism and scorn over Metroid’s 3D transition being in first-person led to a crazy surprise when it came out and we saw it up there with Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as perfect examples of a 2D series making a fantastic 3D debut. All the Metroid elements were there like the Morph Ball, exploration, a sense of isolation, boss fights, sci-fi settings, Space Pirates and power-ups. Retro Studio’s fantastic innovations such as scanning and different visors made players feel like Samus, and all the aforementioned elements were elevated to immersive highs (although for the sake of full disclosure I haven’t played the 2D Metroids for any meaningful amount of time).

I always liked the Metroid Prime games but never quite loved them. I find it generally hard to get into first-person games in general for some reason, and felt at times that the Metroid Prime games were testing my patience with all the backtracking. I bought the Wii around 2008 or something and Corruption came out a year earlier, but I never felt that it was a must have compared to Smash Bros or Mario Galaxy.

When I first started playing Corruption, I already started feeling frustrated at all the scanning, the fact that you have to be very precise with the aiming instead of just locking on and shoot, and whatever the hell I thought Hypermode was. Once I gave this game a few hours, scanning every room became an exciting habit, the feel of the controls became natural, and I realised how well designed this game actually is.

Metroid Prime 3 is a great game, although I never revelled in the perceived excellence of this series that others had for it. It’s definitely a game for the hardcore crowd, because casual gamers may not find the focus on exploration and scanning too tasteful. For the rest of us, Corruption is a compelling sci-fi adventure.

Rating: 4/5.

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Media in Australia: Video Games

The readings this week discussed the history of gaming, a medium that until recent years has been misunderstood by those who don’t consider themselves gamers. The latter half of the first decade of the twenty-first century saw a dramatic shift in the demographics of people playing video games. In Games and Gaming: An Introduction to New Media, Hjorth believes that three of the most influential trends in this new era of gaming were Nintendo’s Wii console, Apple’s iPhone and games on SNS (Social Networking Sites) such as Facebook. The Wii, which launched in 2006, led to those outside of the stereotyped demographic (young males) to play video games. Wii Sports, bundled with the system, became popular with parents, grandparents and others who had never had any previous desire to play video games (Hjorth, L 2011, pp. 127). Mobile gaming took off when the iPhone launched in 2007 and brought with it the App Store, a digital shop that sells applications for the devices. In The Media & Communications in Australia, Hjorth notes that by the end of 2008, more than half the applications sold on the store were video games (2010, pp. 264).

These “casual” games such as Wii Sports and Angry Birds are doing so well are because of their simplicity. Video game critic Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw notes that for a first-time gamer, playing a video game intended for established long time gamers can be “disorienting” (2010). iPhone games in particular usually require simply tapping the screen, which is a lot easier compared to ten buttons on today’s video game controllers.

References

Hjorth, L (2011), Games and Gaming: An Introduction to New Media, Berg Publishers, Oxford.

Hjorth, L. (2010), Chapter 15, The Media & Communications in Australia, 3rd edition, Crows Nest, NSW, Allen & Unwin.

Crowshaw, B 2010, Super Mario Galaxy 2, The Escapist, viewed 29 October 2012, < http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/7856-Super-Mario-Galaxy-2.2>.

[ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 30 OCTOBER 2012. MAY HAVE BEEN EDITED SLIGHTLY]

This is the final of ten blogs I wrote for my university subject, Media in Australia, in 2012. The links to the other nine can be found here: https://stefanb33.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/media-in-australia-university-blogs/

New Super Mario Bros. 2

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New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a direct sequel to New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, and a follow-up to the Wii title, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Like most Mario games, the plot involves Mario trekking across the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach, who has been kidnapped by Bowser. This is tradition, and no-one really cares about the plots in 2D Mario platformers. Gameplay is very much like the other 2D Mario platformers. You run, jump, stomp on enemies, go through warp pipes, become bigger after grabbing a Super Mushroom and shooting fireballs after picking up a fire flower. The goal is to reach the end of the level. There are a number of worlds with many levels in each, with the last level in a world ending with a boss battle. If you’ve played a 2D Mario platformer before, this will instantly feel familiar.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks, feels and plays exactly the same way as the previous games in the New Super Mario Bros. series. The game places a huge emphasis on coin collecting, much more so than previous games. So much emphasis in fact, that all the levels have much more coins than usual and are designed to allow as much coin collecting as possible. You can jump through a gold ring which will temporarily turn your surroundings into gold. So kicking Koopa Troopa shells with this effect on, for example, leaves a trail of coins for you to collect, and stomping on Goombas gives you a bunch of coins. There’s also a gold block that goes on Mario’s head that generates coins as he progresses through the level until it runs dry. The only real new power-up in this game is the Gold Flower that essentially turns Mario into the Golden Child for the rest of the level (unless he takes damage). He fires golden fireballs that turn blocks and enemies into more gold for him to collect. Every coin you collect, even if you die (but not if you quit), will add to a grand total that you can see on the main menu and level select screen. The game’s ultimate goal is for the player to collect one million coins. At least Super Mario 3D Land had the decency to explain why there were so many Super Leaves, whereas this game doesn’t even give a hint to why there’s so much gold. With so many coins around, isn’t the Mushroom Kingdom going to experience a hyperinflation crisis that will easily surpass the Hungarian pengo in the 1940s?

A new mode in the game, known as Coin Rush, is one way the player can collect a plethora of coins quickly and easily. The mode picks three random levels, and the player has to guide Mario through them without time running out and collecting as many coins as possible. The records will be exchanged through the 3DS’s Streetpass feature. Having Spotpass on allows your personal coin total to be added to a worldwide grand total. The Coin Rush was fun the first few times I did it, as well as provided a challenge the rest of the game lacked, but the novelty wore off fairly quickly.

In fact the novelty wore off the entire game fairly quickly. New Super Mario Bros. 1 came out six years ago, and nothing has changed besides a 3D effect and a Coin Rush mode. Oh, and I completely forgot to talk about the 3D effect. I know this is a 2D game with 2.5D graphics, but it could’ve done a lot better, especially as it’s a first-party Nintendo game. All it does is make the foreground three-dimensional and blur out the background. I left it off most of the game to save battery-time. The game is also way too easy. You still get extra lives every time you collect 100 coins, so with the extra emphasis on coin collecting, I had over 100 lives when I beat Bowser. That world was the only time the challenge ramped up, but only a little bit. There wasn’t even a point in having lives at all.

There’s multiplayer too, just like the Wii title but with half the players. You can co-op with a friend for the entire game and have the coins collected added to both your totals. And it really restricts you to following one player, which is strange when players have their own screen! I missed the competitiveness of DS title’s multiplayer. I must admit I enjoyed this game’s co-op a lot more than I thought I would, because it’s for everyone. You can work together just fine, but you can also muck around just fine too (with so many lives there’s no issue there…). It depends on what kind of friends you have. When I played with my friend, we worked together at times but killed each other to get power-ups and it was actually quite fun. Having it online would be cool though, I don’t see why they don’t do it, because then I would have more reason to play the co-op.

I think Mario is officially being milked now. Why now, you ask? And hasn’t Nintendo been milking their mascot since games such as Super Mario Kart, Dr. Mario and Mario’s Time Machine? Well, those games were spinoffs that had their own distinct gameplay from the main series of Mario games, and with the exception of the latter, they were good games. Mario is not just the mascot of Nintendo; he’s not just the most recognisable video game character in history; Mario is the pinnacle of Nintendo’s innovation.

When you think back to the first Mario game, the arcade hit Donkey Kong in 1981 that was revolutionary as one of the earliest platformers, and featured one of the first instances of cutscenes to advance the game’s story. Then 1985 saw the release of one of the best-selling video games of all time, and one of the most revolutionary too, Super Mario Bros., saved the video game industry from certain death. It also had precise controls, huge cast of characters, and was one of the first games to have an ending, instead of just being about how high the score can go. It changed video games forever. Later on, Nintendo revolutionised three-dimensional video games with Super Mario 64 in 1996 and motion controlled action games with Super Mario Galaxy in 2010.

It wasn’t just the main Super Mario series that saw the portly plumber bring innovative, intuitive and accessible gameplay. Guinness World Records crowns Super Mario Kart, the first in the Mario Kart series, as the best game ever (based on initial impact and lasting appeal, apparently). While I wouldn’t place Mario Kart as the best series ever, the series is definitely groundbreaking in its own right. Many of the Mario sports titles, such as my favourite, Mario Tennis, are just really good games. The Mario RPGs made the genre a lot more accessible as well as introducing a number of gameplay innovations that made them so much fun to play. All these games injected Mario flavour to a great extent. The New Super Mario Bros. sub-series has overstayed its welcome however.

New Super Mario Bros. came out in 2006 with a clear purpose, to give the fans a new 2D Mario platformer. It was the first 2D Mario platformer since 1992’s Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on the Game Boy. It did leave a big impression on me and the rest of the gaming community, and it deserved all its praise. Sure, it had more of the same general gameplay introduced in the original Super Mario Bros. game, but it had a bunch of new features too, such as a head-to-head battle mode. It didn’t feel like the sequel to Super Mario World, but felt like a tribute to all the 2D Mario platformers released on consoles, by incorporating many from these into the game. It even had some elements from Super Mario 64, such as wall jumping and triple jumping. There were some new power-ups too. The blue shell didn’t add much, but at least it was something we hadn’t seen before. The Mini and the Mega Mushroom were game changers, and I think it’s what that game is remembered for the most. My point is, it was a great game with excellent design that introduced 2D Mario platformers to a new audience and reminded the veteran Mario gamers why we loved these games in the first place.

Then the Wii title came out, I haven’t played much of it, but I do believe it had a reason to exist. Obviously the most significant thing is for the first time you could play a 2D Mario game with 3 other people at the same time. It also brought back Yoshi and introduced a few new power-ups. Other than that, it was really similar to DS game, but it had a good reason to exist as it broke new grounds for the Mario series. The 3DS follow up on the other hand, has failed to convince me it needed to be made.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a great game with excellent controls and level design. The problem is that the core gameplay hasn’t evolved at all. The minor adjustments made it fun for a while, but after 8 or so hours of game-time, I just had enough, with my coin tally sitting at 60,000. C’mon Nintendo, give us something original! I’m not buying the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. U, because it looks just like the Wii title, just with more levels…In the meantime I give New Super Mario Bros. 2, a score of 3/5 because it feels more like a level pack than a fully-fledged sequel and I got tired of playing this game as I’ve played it before. If you haven’t played Mario 2D platformers to death, just for you I’ll give this game 4/5…4.5/5 if you’ve never played one ever and I’ll heartily make a recommendation.

For those interested, here’s my review for the previous Mario platformer on the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land https://stefanb33.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/super-mario-3d-land/