Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another game review?

So here I am, returned from my long hiatus. Don't worry, I am still a Ninty fan. Of course I have played through a few games since last we spoke the most notable of which is Metroid Prime 3. I could ramble on for quite a while about this game but if you are like me, you have played it, or read reviews about it, or both. I don't want to give you another review, and you don't want to read one. What I will write about is Nintendo's approach to this title and how I feel it has changed gaming as a whole.

The first thing you notice about any game in the Metroid Prime series is that there is a level of ambience above and beyond any other game out there. The arcitecture of ancient ruins, the sounds, reactions from the avatar, reflections in the visor, all exude such a level of polish and style and reflect nature to the point where you dont notice anything missing from the game world. You walk past a steam vent and your visor fogs, if its raining you have rain droplets on your mask, when you take a bad hit Samus instinctively brings her hand up to protect her face. This atmosphere permeates the entire game. Every game, at it's root, is an imaginary world, fleshed out by imagination and idealism. It has it's own rules and values and must find a niche in which it can live comfortably. The Metroid series has always been pretty cliche when it comes to levels. A lava level, and ice level, underwater, derelict space cruiser... Yet it is a testament to the series that it never feels forced, each level exists naturally and they coexist without making the gamer wonder why because of the flow of the game.

There is a lot of running and gunning in MP3 as well as the other games in the series but at it's heart, Prime is a puzzle game, not an FPS and this shows though in every room as you are given very natural obstacles to an obvious objective. 'This is where you must go and this is what is stopping you, now figure out how to get around or through it.' Do you need a new weapon or ability? Or do you just need to take a step back and think how the tools you already have will get you where you need to go? Exploration is key to noticing subtle clues that you would surely miss if you go blazing past them. In fact, a secondary objective in every MP game is to catalog every lifeform, technology and ancient clue in a rather comprehensive database. Scanning enemies will oftentimes reveal weaknesses that will help you detroy them more easily. It is better to think of Metroid as a puzzle series with action sprinkled in rather than the other way around and this thins the walls between two nearly opposite genres.

Perhaps the greatest addition to gaming is the use of the Wii-mote to aim and shoot. The technology isn't perfect, but after a very short while it feels tighter and more natural than anything else on a console add to it the opening of doors, pulling levers, using the grapple beam and many other actions that feel much more interactive and the level of realism gains another point or two. Of course, technology will only get better and this game has given developers and gamers alike a great reason to try the next iterations.