Metroid 30th: In Retrospect – Corruption
Continuing with our look back at some classic Metroid titles, we now cast our eye to the final instalment in the Metroid Prime trilogy: Corruption. We have covered the original Prime and Echoes in the past, so Corruption is a suitable focus for discussion. Just a quick warning of minor plot spoilers; anyone who is still waiting to experience Corruption may want to come back to read this after playing.
Released nine years ago, Corruption was the series’ first outing on the Nintendo Wii, meaning the team had to implicate a new control scheme to follow the previous Gamecube games. Retro Studios arguably invented a revolutionary control scheme to suit a first-person shooter using the Wiimote & nunchuck. In many ways it felt smoother than the Gamecube controls on its predecessors, which could sometimes feel clunky and unintuitive. The control scheme implicated here would be retroactively added to the first two games in the Metroid Prime Trilogy.
The fear that the control method would not have enough buttons to accommodate the game’s needs was understandable, but Retro made smart moves in development that resulted in a solid control scheme: holding down a button and then aiming at a certain section of the screen to select beams and visors; tapping the ‘C’ button to convert into the Morph Ball; using a variety of inputs on the D-pad and ‘A’ button to use weapons. The development team deserves full credit for creating a control scheme for the Wii’s unique remote.
While many Wii games began to use arbitrarily gimmicky controls, Corruption instead uses the motion controls to its advantage and manages to avoid most of this. There are a few exceptions, such as the methods used to unlock doors. Some doors require the player to awkwardly move Samus’ finger to input a keypad sequence, others require a battery to be installed and twisted several times. It can be finicky and runs the risk of breaking the game’s incredible immersion, but thankfully it’s not seen much.
The increase in power over the Gamecube brought around obvious improvements too, including graphics and audio. The soundtrack and audio took full advantage of the larger amount of RAM available, resulting in higher quality. The soundtrack is much more reserved than previous entries – in a series already full of melancholic tunes – instead ramping up the ambience to suit each environment. Dramatic music is in full force for the big battles, some of which are genuine highlights in the whole series. Gandrayda’s fight music is haunting and tense, with a tinge of tragedy that befits the scene as Samus is forced to fight a corrupted former ally.
Graphically it is the best-looking of the trilogy, and exhibits some of the most beautiful locations seen in a Metroid game. The ethereal Elysia location SkyTown is a personal standout, as Samus travels around a research station stood high above the clouds. There’s a lingering feeling of unease as Samus delicately swings, jumps, and spider-balls her way across platforms where the ground beneath can’t even be seen beneath. This is all emphasised by the lonely atmosphere and flighty music.
The planet Bryyo is notable for its varying hostile climates. Most of the Bryyo is covered by structures harbouring lava-esque fuel gel, but another half is swimming in jungle. Later on there’s a small Bryyo area buried under ice and snow, blindingly white. While the previous games had plenty of variety in its locations, Corruption steps it up. It’s greatly helped by the fact that Corruption takes place across multiple planets, rather than just one.
This expansion plays into the game’s narrative, as Corruption tells the grand finale of Samus’ struggle against the deadly Phazon. The story opens up to introduce several other major characters and an epic war between the Galactic Federation and the Space Pirates. Samus’ story is still a solitary adventure with only rough guidance given by her support crew. Even with the drive towards more narrative, Corruption is anything but a linear game.
There’s vocal dialogue this time, though Samus remains silent. While the introduction of dialogue may not have been to everyone’s liking, it is only used lightly across the game and gives personality to the secondary characters.
It’s a very likeable cast too. Admiral Dane leads the Federation’s fight and gives very light directions to Samus. Make no mistake, Dane is no Adam Malkovich. He advises Samus on her next objective, but leaves her to her own devices while continuing to be badass off-screen by fighting his war. The other bounty hunters are introduced as friends of Samus but feel tragically underused, as we only get to see little of what they’re capable of before they are turned. Nevertheless, this does make for some exhilarating boss battles that carry an emotional weight rarely seen in the series (Super Metroid’s finale is the only other that springs to mind)
Samus’ personal struggle with Phazon also reaches its climax as she becomes more corrupted as the game progresses. Her new ‘PED’ suit allows her to utilise the lethal substance by entering Hypermode. To most enemies, she is nigh unstoppable while in Hypermode save for the few enemies that have the same upgrade. The catch is that Samus can overload and be instantly killed if Hypermode is active for too long. It creates an intriguing risk/reward scenario where the player needs to watch their metre to avoid instant death. Some nice touches are added to demonstrate the progressive corruption; Samus’ face turns blue and veiny, her eyes turn black, and this can only be seen when there is enough light to expose the reflection on her visor. By the end of the game, she is forced to remain in this state until the finale.
What a finale it is too, as Samus travels deep into the Planet Phaaze while the Federation engages in an intense space battle behind her. On a sentient planet full of biological horrors that wouldn’t look out of place in an Alien film, a final confrontation against Dark Samus is fought before the true final boss. Admittedly it may have been more climactic to make Dark Samus the final villain rather than introduce a latecomer, but it doesn’t do much to dampen the mood.
Corruption is a thrilling conclusion to one of gaming’s greatest trilogies, and was a fine first outing for Samus on the Nintendo Wii. It also marks Retro’s latest – but hopefully not final – Metroid game. The Texas studio has confirmed in the past to be developing a new game since the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. With Kensuke Tanabe leading the project, it’s a reasonable suggestion that the new game could be a Metroid Prime for the new generation.
But that remains pure speculation, and while the future is still to be written, Corruption has already been solidified as an incredible end to the Prime saga. Mission complete.