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Metroid: Other M (Nintendo Wii, 2010)
Price Range:$19.95 to $28.95
Intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran returns to her side-scrolling roots for an all-new adventure developed by Nintendo and Team Ninja.... Read More
Intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran returns to her side-scrolling roots for an all-new adventure developed by Nintendo and Team Ninja. The storyline takes place directly after 1994's Super Metroid and delves more into Samus' personal history than in previous games. As one would expect from the team responsible for the Ninja Gaiden series, Metroid: Other M features fast-paced combat, a highly cinematic presentation, and distinctive controls. The game is primarily played while holding the Wii Remote horizontally, as Samus blasts aliens, tucks into a morph ball, and acquires new powers to access different areas. In addition to the default third-person view, the game lets you quickly switch to a first-person perspective for scanning environments or shooting specific targets. Shifting viewpoints is accomplished by pointing the Wii Remote at the television screen. Minimize
88 Reviews from Epinions.com
Sep 6, 2010
The M is for Mediocre.
Pros: Some interesting plot developments, solid boss battles, some good action
Cons: Awkward controls, mischaracterization of Samus, the least "Metroid" game in the series
The Bottom Line:
A few good moments don't make up for this game's mistakes. In an effort to return to roots, somehow this game forgot what it meant to be Metroid.
I have always loved Metroid, ever since my first steps into the sprawling 8-bit caverns of Zebes as a child. Super Metroid is universally regarded as a genre-defining classic, and I still believe Metroid Prime to be the best video game ever made. Fear, isolation, and discovery have always been hallmarks of the series, and I was excited to see this new take on things.
As I blasted my way through the corridors of Other M, my brain flickered between extremes as it rendered judgement on the newest installment of my favorite series. No matter how I tried to find each plus, there were always three minuses to drag it back down. And while the game is not bad, objectively speaking, it is unequivocally the worst major Metroid release in the history of the franchise.
Why? Where to begin...
Everybody agrees that Retro did a bang-up job bringing Samus into the new millenium with the Metroid Prime series. Despite the shift to a first-person perspective, the game kept the Metroid soul. It felt like a Metroid game. It invited you to get lost in it. To live it.
But it was time for an overhaul, and Nintendo decided to see what Team Ninja was up to. It was decided to bring the series back to its roots -- a side-scroller that harkened back to the classics, but laced with modern flourishes that bring old-school Metroid into the next generation. But those flourishes often seem forced and unfocused, creating a weird hodgepodge of a game that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Each "feature" seems more like a committee decision intended to put another exclamation point on the box.
However classic, the run-and-gun gameplay of the original Metroid may seem a little quaint in 2010. After all, it takes time to aim at all those little aliens, and we all have better things to do... so Samus has now been granted the ability to aim on her own. That's right... your job is to run down the hall and pound the fire button. She'll do the rest. Once your beam is powered up, most enemies are dead before they even arrive on-screen.
To compensate for this, most enemies (at least in the early game) require quite a few shots to kill. You are encouraged, instead, to make use of Samus's new tricks, in which she pretends she's Kratos/Dante/Bayonetta and gets up-close-and-personal with her foes. Tapping any direction at the right time will result in a dodge, after which Samus can return fire with a charged blast. Once the enemy is weakened, she can run in for some showy grapple kill.
It's odd to see Samus battling in this way, honestly. I don't mind the change, but it doesn't seem like innovation so much as a cheap rip-off of modern action brawlers. Samus has engaged in battle countless times, but watching her rip the wings off of a flying Space Pirate seems too cruel for her character, replacing her sense of purpose with a sense of malice. But the modern gamer wants exciting combat, and by Jove, Team Ninja is going to serve it.
At any point, Samus can shift into a first-person view (in a nod to Prime) to either look around or to fire missiles. It's a neat effect, actually, and there is something interesting about finally recognizing that these two-dimensional corridors are meant to represent three-dimensional structures.
But the use of it, beyond being a gimmick, is questionable. Out of combat, it is occasionally used as a plot device -- Samus needs to scan around for some four-pixel-wide environmental detail before progressing. These moments are frustrating. Not knowing what the game wanted me to look for, I spent 20 minutes spinning in circles before I found a tiny green puddle in the green grass.
In combat, it's almost worse. Remember how much fun it used to be to launch missiles in all the other Metroid games? Wave goodbye to that feeling. This perspective is the only way to fire your missiles in Other M. But the process is so slow and clunky that you will generally avoid missile use except to solve puzzles. One late-game boss is made unnecessarily frustrating by the need to keep flitting in and out of this poorly conceived mode while Samus gets assaulted from all sides.
Taking a cue from horror games like Dead Space, the camera will occasionally move in close for an over-the-shoulder vantage. Samus stows her cannon, and begins to walk... very... slowly. This is your cue that something ostensibly important is going on.
But this mode does nothing but annoy. Apart from the suddenly-awkward controls (moving in 3D space with a d-pad is makeshift, to say the least), these segments can drag on. At one point in the middle of the game, I had to walk through several corridors at this clumsy snail's pace. When I finally reached my goal, there was a brief story event, and I was taken back to the start only to find that they wanted me to retrace most of that route again, and still at the same pace. Why? Why is it like this?
Deepest Metroid Storyline Yet!
The original Metroid was released when plot was merely a blurb in the instruction manual, and the series has generally maintained the tradition of sparse storytelling. This has had the wonderful side-effect of creating a universe full of mystery and intrigue, where facts come slowly and are more rewarding for the wait. Samus Aran, our iron-clad heroine, has been relatively silent for two decades, except for the occasional snippet of text and some tasteful introspection in Metroid Fusion. Even in Metroid Prime: Corruption, surrounded as she was by chatty extras, Samus took it all in without a word.
Well those days are over. Samus has found her voice, and plans to use it. Incessantly. She comments on everything, no matter how trivial or self-evident, like some emo teenager with a voice recorder. She's the Alan Wake of outer space.
The plot isn't really bad, per se. It's cliche, but serviceable. To its credit, it introduces a few cool ideas to Metroid canon, including a very interesting lesson in the biology of a series mainstay.
The problem is more that Samus's character takes a beating here. We already know she's an orphan that was raised by alien bird-people who groomed her to be a war machine, so nobody doubts her need for a therapist down the line. But Other M predictably turns her into a pouty teenager with daddy issues, and robs her of confidence and poise. If the game were set as an origin story, it would be okay. But as positioned, Other M takes place after she has raided Zebes, fought Mother Brain, destroyed the Metroid homeworld, and even had time for the entire Prime trilogy. This is a seasoned veteran, but halfway through the game, she almost gets herself killed during a scripted nervous breakdown triggered by the arrival of an enemy she's already defeated four times in other games. It makes no sense, and it breaks the character.
The Metroid Parts:
Since this is a Metroid game, after all, the designers did think to include some level design and item collection. But it's not quite what you might expect...
The Bottle Ship is a relatively tiny environment by Metroid standards, made even more so by the linear way in which it is presented. In past Metroid games, your progress has generally been dictated by your abilities. You can get to that ledge once you can jump high enough. You can cross the chasm once you learn to swing across it. These tantalizing environmental details keep you on the hook, and finding the right item is rewarding as all the potential uses light up in your mind.
No more. In Other M, your progress is typically limited by doors. You can't get into that room? That's because the door is locked. Don't worry... it'll open later, but not for any good reason except that it will then be time for you to go there. Paths are also bounded by invisible walls, and there are a few times where you'll see an item you could easily jump to, but the game doesn't "want" you to do it that way. So you can't.
You start the game with all your items, but Samus (in another assault on her established personality) agrees not to use anything until Adam grants authorization. That's right. You're watching your friend get attacked by some horrible creature and you just stand there helplessly until Adam gets back from the bathroom. "Hey Samus... yeah, go ahead and use your Grapple Beam to swing over there and save him. Hurry along now."
Whew! Thanks, Adam. He'd have been a goner if you hadn't called when you did.
The greatest joy of a Metroid game -- finding new items -- is completely eradicated here. Instead of thinking "sweet!" when you gain the ability to use your Super Missiles, you just think "it's about ****ing time, Adam -- while you've been lounging in the command center, do you know how many doors I've passed that require Super Missiles to open?" The difference may be psychological rather than functional, but these things matter.
And regardless of how they are dispensed, the game has a severe shortage of items anyway. Where are series standards like the Spider Ball? Can't anybody come up with some new toys while we're at it?
You can still collect missiles, but the impact is dulled by the fact that they are no longer fun to use, and you can replenish them any time you want. Yes -- any time you want. By "concentrating." I wish I was making this up.
Team Ninja really wanted to emphasize how "classic" this game is, so you only have one option -- hold the Wiimote sideways and pretend it's an old Nintendo controller. Shifting into first-person is handled by pointing the remote at the screen (which is more than a little awkward, because you have to reposition your hands). You move with the d-pad, jump and shoot with the 1 and 2 buttons, and that's pretty much it.
And every minute of this game, you will be wondering why they didn't give the option to use the Nunchuck. Every single aspect of the game would work better that way, and it could have otherwise played exactly the same. The d-pad is painful and awkward any time the game allows for 3D movement. The scheme as offered works, but the refusal to include a better option was a stubborn mistake.
Perhaps it's meant to simulate Samus's exasperation with Adam. "But I have a Nunchuck! Why can't I use it?" "Because I didn't authorize it."
Graphics and Sound:
Other M is a decent-looking game, but falls well short of the Wii's potential. The graphics are technically sound, but something felt wrong. Halfway through, I realized the problem. I was running through an ice cavern, and the camera zoomed out, and I realized that everything felt... small. It feels like a miniature Metroid playset rather than a real world. The space station is an artificial setting, and feels sparse and geometric. Even the jungle areas have an angular and synthetic feel to them. Nothing is organic. Metroid Prime looked better ten years ago on older hardware.
Enemies are lacking in variety and detail. One long-tailed lizard looks comical rather than threatening, and the lava monsters are just a doughy and uncreative mess. The bosses are cool, in general, and provide a stiffer challenge than their cannon-fodder friends.
It's also worth noting that Samus doesn't have a shadow. This is not trivial when you're trying to stick a jump in a big lava cavern.
Sound was passable, borrowing a few nostalgic clips from past games, but mostly relying on stock noises. The music was uncharacteristically weak, and even the classic Metroid cues were in short supply (I guess they can't play the "item found" tune if there are no items to find).
Other M clocks in at about 10 hours, but at least one of those hours is spent watching movies. Completists will enjoy returning to the Bottle Ship after the main story is completed in order to collect 100% of the missile and energy upgrades (many of which actually cannot be obtained before the game ends, oddly), but even this feels a little hollow. The item locations are explicitly indicated on the map, so finding them is trivial. In terms of pulling 100%, this is the easiest Metroid game in the series.
Once the game is finished, you can re-watch all the movies in Theater Mode, or browse some cool concept art in Gallery Mode. But the presentation is otherwise spartan, and there will be little reason to revisit this game once completed, unless you just really enjoy running around and having the game shoot things for you.
Bringing it Together:
I know I'm coming down hard here, but the Metroid series comes with too valuable a pedigree to be permissive of mediocrity. Other M is a fun game with some cool ideas bubbling beneath the surface, but it is short, and it comes to market with too many compromises to be the AAA title it deserved to be. While it advances the story more aggressively than any other game in the series, it does so in such a ham-handed way that I honestly prefered not knowing, and I fear the damage to Samus's character is irreparable. The gameplay has some great moments, but they are mired in questionable decisions and unfocused ideas.
Metroid: Other M is a perfectly average game. No more. No less. Taken as a side-story or one-off experiment, there are things to appreciate here. But as a central title and the next step in the evolution of the franchise, it is unquestionably a step backward.
Here's hoping Metroid: Yet Another M gets things back on track.
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