Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption review

Five years after Samus made her 3D debut in Metroid Prime she returns to complete the trilogy in Metroid Prime 3: Corruptions, this time on the Wii.

Due to the GameCube pretty much being dead and buried before the Prime trilogy could be completed, Corruption was released on it's successor the Wii which meant new graphics, new sound and a whole new control scheme.

Six months after the end of Echoes Samus is called to the Federation for a meeting with the other bounty hunters first encountered in Metroid Prime Hunters. Here they are given orders to clear a virus from super computers called Aurora units. Obviously with this being Metroid it's easier said then done and when the hunters land on the planet Norion they learn that a Phazon asteroid will soon be colliding with the planet. Before they can do anything about it they are attacked by Dark Samus and knocked unconscious, well, all but Samus who just manages to activate the security defenses before the asteroid hits.

Cut to one month later with Samus regaining consciousness and finding that after the Phazon based attack by Dark Samus she has now been corrupted with Phazon which makes for an important aspect of the game as you have to control the Phazon that has corrupted Samus.

Controlling the Phazon is key to the game but I'll come back to that later.

What I'm going to get out of the way first is the graphics and sound. As per usual the sound is great with remixed and revised music from the first Prime game and the graphics are great to look at. Though the graphics did at the time push the capabilities of the Wii, the console isn't that much more powerful than the GameCube so whilst the graphics do look great there isn't really a vast difference between the Cube Prime games and this game.

Next, the controls. With Corruption being released on the Wii the by now familiar feel of the Cube pad has been replaced with the Wii remote and nunchuk which adds new experiences to the trilogy. First of all is the ability to use Samus's ship to do more than just save in. You can now enter codes into a keypad and activate the thrusters to fly between planets. Whilst it would have been great to take full control of the ship to fly around it is still a nice touch. Sections of the game also require you to move door controls which you can do by using pulling, twisting and pushing motions to activate the doors.

One small niggly thing that I found with the controls was when changing between visors you have to hold down a button to bring up the visor select screen and then flick the remote to select which one you require. It is simple enough but it would have been better to keep it the same as the first two games and use the d-pad on the remote which is redundant bar pressing down to fire missiles. Apart from that the controls are fine and easy to use.

Quickly touching on the visors, there are no new visors this time round with there also only being three available which are the command visor, the scan visor and the return of the X-Ray visor from the first Prime game. The scan visor has the new option of scanning certain points that will call for your ship where it will either drop missiles to destroy stuff or pick up and move certain items.

There is also a change to the beams where as in the first two Prime games you could select from four beams, now the beams are stacked like back in Super Metroid. Finally, a change has been made with the loss of Samus's weapons at the beginning of the game where she in fact does not lose the weapons at all. This time round Samus starts off with basic weapons and has to collect upgrades through out the game to be strong enough to destroy each of the bosses.

Another use of Samus's ship is the ability to fly between not only different planets but also different sections of the planet that you are currently on. This eliminates a lot of walking and backtracking and makes reaching places a lot easier. That's not to say that walking and back tracking has completely disappeared, it just means that you won't have to walk through the same spot god knows how many times.

So, going back to the Phazon that has corrupted Samus. This is an integral part of the game as it's a function that you use to become temporaryily invincible and boosts your attack to allow Samus to easily take out tougher enemies. This unfortunately does come with a price in that first of all to activate the hypermode an energy tank has to be injected meaning that for the time you are in hypermode your energy is quickly falling. The second catch is that if you don't exit or fire the phazon quick enough Samus will become corrupted and will die instantly. Therefore, at the beginning of the game especially, you have to be wise as to when best use the hypermode and be quick enough to exit before death occurs.

Overall with all the new additions of hyper mode, summoning Samus's ship, the extra waves and waves of enemies and the use of the Wii remote and nunchuk, Corruption feels like a new game instead of just feeling like the third game in a series. Bar the difficulty level being a lot easier than the previous games, Corruption is a worthy game to close the Prime trilogy and like the frist two games should definitely be in your collection.

Final score 8.5/10

Monday, 17 October 2011

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes review

Just two years after the successful release of Metroid Prime, Retro Studios and Nintendo once again joined up to create a sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.

And what a sequel it is.

Set after Metroid Prime Hunters for the DS Echoes follows on from a cut-scene that is shown after the credits of Metroid Prime if and when the player has completed all 100% of the game, a scene that I won't be revealing here for people who haven't seen it.

This is one of the major differences between Echoes and Prime with Echoes being a lot more plot heavy than the first game which feeds into the game play of the second. Where the plot of Prime was pretty much to collect twelve artifacts to open a path to a crater before the Space Pirates get there first, Echoes delves into the battle between the inhabitants of a world that has been split into two, the light world and the dark world. Again, this is a major difference between the two games and it's really where Echoes comes to life.

Starting off in the light world Samus receives a message from the Federation to investigate the disappearance of some Marines who had last been seen around the planet Aether. Once landed Samus finds the Marines dead but on closer inspection they rise to attack her. When the Marines are defeated Dark Samus makes her first, but not last, full appearance as she disappears through a portal to the dark world. Samus being Samus follows her through and is promptly attacked by the Ing who steal her weapons and upgrades and push her back through to the light world.

This is where the game really begins.

Yes, like the first game you have to hunt down and collect weapons and upgrades and yes once this is done you have to collect keys to access a temple to face the last boss but that's all that is the same between the two games as there is so much that is different and I'll start with the most obvious which is the two worlds.

As mentioned previously Echoes is set between two sides of the same world, light and dark. Both sides are different to each other and both sides have to be accessed to be able to progress, sometimes flicking between the two in quick succession to resolve obstacles that stop you from progressing. For example; you may come across an area which is seemingly blocked in the light world. To resolve this you jump through a portal to the dark world, progress past the previously blocked section and jump through another portal back to the light world to carry on. This can also apply to obstacles that need to be moved and the control that needs to be scanned is through a portal and in the other world.

There is one major problem with the dark world (apart from the enemies) which is the fact that as you walk around your energy is gradually being taken away. This is combated by the usual collecting of energy but also by standing in safe zones which are areas of light that replenish your health over time, but you have to be careful as some safe zones need to be shot to keep them going to obtain full health. It's this that adds a level of urgency to the game whilst in the dark world as if an enemy succeeds in knocking Samus out of a safe zone you start losing energy from both the enemy and the dark.

There are numerous differences in the weapons/upgrades department from the first Prime game which includes the return of the Screw Attack, first seen in Metroid II: The Return of Samus on the Game Boy. There are changes in the beams that Samus uses with only the charge beam being carried over from the first game, the other three being replaced with the light beam, dark beam and the annihilator beam. The three beams are reliant on having enough beam points to use them. Once ran out they cannot be used again until more points have been collected and the annihilator beam uses a lot of them with it being a light and dark beam combined.

Like the beams some of the visors and suits have been changed with the combat and scan visors remaining and the thermal imaging and X-ray visors being replaced with the dark and echo visors allowing for Samus to see better in the dark world and to be able to see and detect sonic waves and sound movements to be able to solve puzzles and open doors and to see the sound waves of moving enemies.

The beams and visors are selected exactly the same way on the Cube pad as the first game with all buttons being the same, in fact nothing has changed with the controls allowing for you to easily pick up where you left off with the first game.

Graphics wise Echoes is as gorgeous as Prime with Samus visiting desert wasteland, a swamp area containing a submerged hydrostation and the sanctuary fortress which looks great. The sound again is absolutely brilliant and it makes you want to keep the TV fully turned up to immerse yourself in both worlds.

Unfortunately there is one criticism that can be said of the game which is the difficulty level. Echoes in places is a lot harder than Prime with the constant jumping between portals and having to work your way through two worlds that are so similar yet so different. There are also a lot (and I mean a lot) more bosses than Prime and as mentioned previously if you are fighting them in the dark world and they push you out of the safe zone you can end up losing a lot of energy rather quickly.

Overall though Echoes, like Prime, is an excellent game and a worthy sequel and should definitely be be sitting in your collection alongside the first one.

Final score: 9.5/10

*Echoes introduced a multi-player section to the Prime trilogy which I've yet to play which is why it isn't mentioned in the review.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Metroid Prime review

Eight years. That's how long it took for Nintendo to release a new Metroid game on a home console after the release of Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo.

Was it worth the wait? A resounding yes.

Taking the template of Super Metroid, developers Retro Studios and Nintendo pulled Samus into the 21st Century and gave fans an excellent 3D first-person adventure that gives you impressive graphics, vast areas to explore and great game play.

The game starts with Samus landing and exploring a Space Station and it's the exploring that plays a huge part in Metroid Prime. One of the first things that you will notice when learning the controls is the option to select a different Visor for Samus, a Visor that was new to the series at the time but one that now plays a huge part in the series, the Scan Visor.

The Scan Visor does exactly as it says and allows for you to scan certain objects in nearly every room that you enter. They are items that are different colours with the Visor on with Green being items that have been previously scanned, Orange coloured items are ones that offer information and hints about the story and game. Red coloured items are the most important items to scan as the information from these are collected into the log book and count towards the 100% needed to complete the game and be awarded the special ending. Red coloured scans include the likes of enemies, bosses and collectable items such as missiles and energy. The scanning of bosses is particularly important as it provides information on how to destroy the enemy, especially helpful when the boss has multiple forms.

Once the first boss has been scanned and killed it's time a familiar sight to Metroid fans which is the countdown. Samus has seven minutes to return to her ship before the Station explodes killing everyone and everything aboard. It's here where everything starts to really kick in as the game play and the start of the plot is set-up as an explosion causes Samus's suit to malfunction leaving the player with everything unavailable except for the Power Beam. It's also the first time in the game that you get to see Meta Ridley in full 3D glory.

Once Samus has returned to her ship and has landed on Tallon IV you really start to realise and appreciate just how graphically wonderful Metroid Prime really is. From the forests and barren wastes of of Chozo Ruins to the lava pits of Magmoor Caverns and the snowy plains of Phendrana Drifts, every area and every room has so much details poured into it. Some areas/rooms you will find yourself just standing and looking, absorbing the detail. A special mention has to go to Samus's Visor which just looks amazing when hit by rain drops or when covered by steam, making it hard to see through, just superb. Another superb bit is the cut-scene that happens in the Phendrana Drifts when after stepping through door the shadow of Meta Ridley appears overhead as he flies across the Drifts.

The sound and music are another aspect of the game that are absolutely fantastic with a special mention going to Phendrana Drifts where the music is so serene, a complete contrast to the bombastic technoesque style of music when working your way through the almost claustrphobic tunnels of the Magmoor Caverns. The sound also deserves a mention as each and every noise is distinct and perfect, from the hissing of steam coming from pipes to the screeching of enemies as they come flying towards you.

Due to the design of viewing the game through Samus's visor this allows for changes to be made with four different versions of the visor being available. These are the standard and scanning visors that you start the game with and after collection the thermal imaging and X-Ray visors that allow for enemies, platforms and items to be spotted a lot easily. Like the visor there are also four beams that Samus collects through out the game with the charge beam being the standard at the beginning of the game with the wave, ice and plasma beams being collected later on. There is a fifth beam which is the phazon beam that is used very briefly near the end of the game but plays a major part later on in the trilogy.

Cycling between the visors and beams is simple enough with the c-stick and d-pad being used to toggle between them. In fact the entire lay-out of the controls is pretty much perfect and simple to use with every button being utilised and the Cube pad being easy to use.

Alongside the visors and beams there are the numerous amounts of upgrades to acquire including the obligatory missile expansions and energy tanks to collect and various different suits that are needed to progress through out the game. There are also upgrades such as the Spider Ball (first seen in Metroid II: Return of Samus but used slightly differently here), the power bomb and the grapple beam. All needed to progress.

So to sum up. Following on from Super Metroid was always going to be tough and with Prime Retro Studios and Nintendo produced an absolutely brilliant game that not only kept everything that made Super Metroid brilliant but also added lots of new layers and abilities to make this stand on it's own two feet. Simply put, Metroid Prime should be in your collection and with the ability to play it on both the GameCube and the Wii and with prices being so cheap to buy it, there really is no excuse why it's not in your collection.

Final score: 9/10

Sunday, 9 October 2011

What I've finished - September 2011

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes - GameCube
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Wii

Two games completed in September, the second and third parts of the Metroid Prime trilogy. Echoes I thought was an absolutely brilliant game and despite some frustrating sections is definitely worth a play. Corruption on the other hand I was quite disappointed with as the difficulty level had been turned right down which was a shame as it just wasn't quite the perfect ending to the trilogy, still worth playing though.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

NES-Bit Magazine

It's here.

After weeks and weeks of hard work from Lorfarius, Greyfox and the many volunteers (myself included) from NES-Bit.com the first! issue of the NES-Bit magazine has launched and is available to buy as a PDF for £2 (just over $3 at time of writing) and will be available for a limited print run next month.

The layout of the magazine is bright and vibrant and easy to read with a nice mixture of text and pictures. It also covers a wide variety of articles such as a brief history of Nintendo, box art comparisons, a look at all of the Simpsons games released for the NES, the current Homebrew scene and an entire page dedicated to the Mario. Bros movie from the early 90's.....

If you are a fan of the NES or have never played one and are intrigued about the history of it then you cannot go wrong with picking up a copy of the magazine and for the price of just £2 you cannot really complain. So please support NES-Bit.com (all proceeds from the sales go directly into the upkeep of the site) and purchase a copy, you won't regret it.