I've finally finished the third and final Metroid Prime game. It was a pretty good game, on the whole. Each individual aspect of the game is quite good, and the structure is much the same as the previous two Metroid Prime games. Nonetheless, I have a few reservations about it that cause me to conclude: It's a fun distraction that even the hardcore fans can enjoy... while they wait for a 'real' Metroid game.
The graphics, while not exactly "next-gen", were much in-keeping with the previous Metroid Prime games, which puts them in a special category deserved only by top-tier games, simply because of the art. Metroid Prime, way back in 2002, set the standard for detail-oriented graphics: There are no flat walls, no plain patterned floors, no generic, repeating rooms. If you get wet, water flows off your visor; if you use the thermal sensor, you pick up even the tiny, insignificant fish in the ponds; the X-Ray visor reveals Samus's finger bones within her gun. With the scan visor (especially the improved one in Metroid Prime 2 and 3), you pretty much never have to worry about the Golden Sun problem I discussed in my last post (discerning interactive game elements from background details) and yet the scenery is such that you never run out of things to look at.
In other words, Metroid Prime 3 makes its official graphics as detailed as its concept art... if not moreso. There's something to be said for that. Musically, the game was more of the same, which is fine with me since all the Metroid games have historically had amazing music. Actually, my suitemate Erik commented, "That music sounds a lot like Metroid", and then walked in to find that, to his surprise, it actually was, even though he had never heard the particular track before! As for the greatly-increased presence of voice acting - it's not entirely welcome, but neither is it horribly distressing.
But there are some aspects of Metroid Prime 3 that take away from its true Metroid feel. First and foremost is the structure of the game. Its story is at the forefront of the game, and drives the gameplay directly, rather than simply being explicated through the gameplay. It's something of a natural progression - from Super Metroid's narration text and the encounter on the space station before heading to Zebes, it has become a slippery slope. Metroid Prime upped the ante for story in a Metroid game with the inclusion of Lore scans. But until now, Metroid games didn't have escort missions. I think that the increased focus on story is part of the reason I felt like I got fewer upgrades in MP3 - because sometimes, new areas were accessed simply through story points rather than using the upgrades. I knew something was up when I started the game and they introduced the command, "Press (A) to talk with people." (Nevermind the fact that A is also the fire button, so I ended up shooting civilians in the face while attempting to converse with them.) Not to mention that the story itself is a little on the cheesey side. What little passes for a plot twist is not too shocking, and moreso than ever before, MP3 uses Phazon as a total Phlebotinum, more than just being a weird mutagenic ore like it was in the first Prime game. Lastly, flying from planet to planet seems... well, gratuitously grand-scale, since you barely cross any area on any particular planet. Almost the whole game could've taken place on a single planet (in-keeping with other Metroid games) without suffering any serious loss.
Another very un-Metroid-like feature, which Metroid Prime 2 introduced (much to my dismay) and Metroid Prime 3 continued to spread, is the presence of bottomless pits. While they are common in a lot of videogames, I always thought the lack thereof was a particularly brilliant triumph of the Metroid series. Falling off a ledge used to mean that you would have to find your way back up somehow. Now it results only in being non-diagetically teleported back to the platform, a practice I find not only disconcerting, but a break in the immersion. Granted, with so many wide-open level designs in Metroid Prime 3, it becomes difficult NOT to have ledges that you can fall from (and arguably, invisible walls at the edge of the ledges would also break immersion)... but it feels out of character for the series nonetheless.
That said, I enjoyed the game, and even if the next entry in the series isn't a 2D "Metroid Dread" in the true spirit of the franchise, I will probably play it. Though obviously it'd be better if it were.