Metroid: Other M

by Logan

August 29, 2010

So a little after a year since it was first revealed to enormous fanfare, Metroid: Other M is finally released to the masses. The changes it promised to bring to the Prime formula were much welcomed and I was extremely excited to get my hands on it. In the end, a lot of the changes represent bold change and a promising future, but some of the core ideals were lost in translation.

Other M is co-developed by Nintendo and Team Ninja who is of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive fame. The idea of turning Metroid into a fast-paced action game derivative was one that I thought was a slam dunk. While I certainly enjoyed all of the Prime games, they always felt foreign to me. They were clearly Metroid titles at their heart, but with the standard set so high and so early by Super Metroid, I always thought why they should try to mirror that title. With Other M, they get a little closer, but it’s still not quite there. The game consists of pseudo-side scrolling sections and 3D action combined with the FPS elements of the Prime games. This works quite well, but the control implementation severely hampers the experience.

Of all the games I’d expect to play like this, Other M was at the bottom of that list.

For reasons I can’t fathom, maybe stemming from a designers irrational fear of buttons, Other M’s control scheme is restricted to one Wiimote. It works alright for the most part, but it’s still an odd decision. The big problem comes from the lack of precision it creates. This doesn’t interfere with the gameplay much, but you can tell it severely influenced the design to compensate for it. All “side scrolling” and action gameplay is done with this sideways position, but on many occasions you’re forced to quickly point the Wiimote at the TV to go into a quick first person mode. This adds a little immersion, but it isn’t as an intuitive as you need in some situations. It’s also the only way you can shoot missiles, and being as how you can’t move in this mode, it’s a pretty big problem. I also had issues with the Wiimote deciding that it was being pointed at the TV if I accidentally slid my palm off of the IR sensor. These quips aside, it does give me hope for a new control scheme in the next game, the gameplay and system itself is too good to be bound by such a boneheaded input system.

The biggest change that Other M touted was supposed to be an incredibly deep story and finally delving into more personal aspects of Samus. This is where I was utterly and completely disappointed. The only way I can describe the radical new look and feel of Metroid is that it’s “too Japanese.” I understand that’s pretty ironic seeing as how it’s the brainchild of a Japanese company, but this new anime inspired direction just clashes with every preconceived notion that I have of the franchise.

God DAMMIT, Japan.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but the story is so drowned in unwarranted self exploration and melodrama that it cheapens the experience in a profound way. I’m not going to spoil anything, but the story is so choked in these bizarrely strange decisions that it’s disconnecting. This is helped in absolutely no way by some pretty mediocre voice acting, worst of which is sadly Samus. There are all of these games establishing Samus as a badass space heroine, and Other M does its best to shatter all of these attributes. On top of all this, Samus mainly talks through these drab inner-monologues that are so monotonular that you’d think Microsoft Sally was her voice actress. I understand this sounds like a lot of nitpicking, and it mostly is, but if the whole premise of the game is an immersive story and deep character development and interaction, then you better fucking do it correctly.

Also, while I’m on the topic of nitpicking, I just have to address one plot item that made me laugh every occasion it was mentioned. In an effort to finally address the whole “Samus loses her weapons every game!” problem, the developers made the odd decision that Samus is only allowed to use weapons when she is authorized to. So that means while you’re getting your ass beat by a boss who can only be damaged by your Ice Beam, you actively refuse to fire it until you’re authorized to do so. The logic behind it is baffling.

You’re also authorized to breathe!

It is just nitpicking, but it also kind of deprived me of one of my favorite parts of a Metroid game. You come to an impassable room, and then you have to go around and find the item you need. Instead, now you run into a wall and you have to take two steps backward until you’re “authorized” to proceed.

In conclusion, I really wanted to like this game, and for a lot of my 8 hour play through, I did. Team Ninja was successful in a lot of respects like blending the aesthetics and formula of the legendary 2D Metroid games with some of the new mechanics and tricks of the Prime games. When the story isn’t rearing its head and the controls aren’t letting you down, the game definitely rewards you with some fun. However, between its faults and the completely lackluster finale, this game failed to capture my undivided attention like some of its predecessors did. As for a score or a final verdict, I think Samus conveys my feelings more than adequately.