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by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Rated Teen; Wii & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & N & lt;/span & intendo's 1987 classic Metroid starred Samus, a space-suited lady bounty hunter with a cannon for an arm, who ran, jumped and blasted at enemies while seen from the side, in profile. In that respect, she was like every other videogame hero of the side-scrolling generation (except that she and Princess Peach were the only girls). Metroid was distinguished by Samus' ability to shoot all around her, the game's tall, jump-filled levels instead of horizontal maps, and the eerily persistent presence of a planet's hostile native life forms. Atmosphere, design and gameplay all came together so memorably that it spun off a franchise.

In 2002, Metroid Prime transformed Metroid's two-dimensional side view into three dimensions. Samus could now rotate her arm through a full sphere of angles, calibrated precisely by the GameCube's dual-joystick controller. The more immersive first-person view allowed the designers to pepper the game liberally with outer-space details and enough gunplay to earn the game a "Teen" rating -- rare for "Everyone"-oriented Nintendo. It was an exciting experience to play Metroid from the perspective of Samus, and the shift in dimensions was enough to restore some of the enchantment the franchise had lost during its spin-off years.

Now, Nintendo has migrated Metroid to its latest system, and the only innovation it has brought to the series is a motion-sensitive targeting system. Certainly Corruption takes advantage of the Wii's slightly better graphical capabilities. Walls, floors and lava flows are detailed in intricate patterns of dark, opulent colors, making the game look almost Moorish. But the storyline -- presented through elaborate cut-scenes, in which Samus is shepherded through her mission by an entire empire's bureaucracy -- depletes the out-on-an-adventure charm of the whole enterprise. And though a new angle to the Metroid universe is revealed and new planets are discovered, they rarely display any variation on the lava/ice/desert/machine levels Samus has already explored in other, better Metroids.

THE GOOD: On the innovation front, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption integrates the Wii's motion-control controller in a way that finally makes it more than a gimmick. The pointer-style Remote becomes Samus' cannon. Waved across the television screen, the targeting crosshairs move exactly where I point them, and when they near the edge of the screen, my view turns in that direction. Coupled with the joystick-equipped Nunchuk, moving and aiming become instinctive and immersive. Nothing that two joysticks couldn't achieve, but the Wii Remote is faster and more accurate.

THE BAD: Forget sitting back and relaxing -- Metroid Prime 3 is played while perpetually pointing the Wii Remote toward a TV-sized space. Bigger screens will work better, but smaller displays will make aiming a tight, fussy procedure. Nothing will help the motion-sensitivity in the Nunchuk, however, which must be waved forward, then yanked back to use Samus' grappling hook -- a process that works approximately half the time. And as if to further undermine their good work with the Wii Remote, Corruption's designers, Retro Studios, included numerous move-the-Remote-to-move-the-lever sequences, all of which reminded me that I was playing with a plastic toy.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption marks the debut of a beautiful new control scheme for first-person shooters, but without Metroid's trademark spark of surprise, the game feels like more Metroid Prime.

3/5 Stars

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