Metroid Other M: Review
Nintendo took a big risk in 2002 with the release of Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime on the Gamecube and Metroid Fusion on the GBA. The former posing the threat of alienating a legion of hardcore Metroid fans who’ve been with the franchise since Samus first landed on Zebes, the latter being less of an alienation inducer. Prime took the series , glossed with 3d visuals, and made it a first person adventure. Fortunately, it was a success and it was met with much critical acclaim from countless outlets. Metroid Fusion, served as a back-up per say, in case Prime failed to appeal to fans, they could pick up Fusion which offered a more traditional Metroid experience albeit with some alterations. It was the first title in the series to shed a substantial amount of light on the narrative, including several cut-scenes interspersed throughout the action. It was also a more linear affair, what with Adam, serving as an AI, guiding you on a mission to mission basis.
Eight years later and here we stand, with a new Metroid game just released, one with a significant amount of care going towards it arc and cinematic presentation even going as far as giving series heroine Samus Aran a voice. Ironically enough, Metroid Other M serves as the narrative bridge between Super Metroid and the aforementioned Metroid Fusion. Also ironically enough, gameplay wise, it stands right in the middle of both those games. You have moments of intense exploration in isolated areas, combined with Fusion’s more linear style with Adam, this time in flesh, giving you orders. Orders whose reach goes right to Samus’ arsenal, more on that later. So, after beating the game, does this truly deliver as a standalone Metroid experience? Find out below.
The plot starts off simple, but then reaches Resident Evil territory. Which is funny, because at times this game channels that feeling the original Resident Evil invoked all those years ago. I won’t explain how exactly it gets to those proportions, for the sake of spoilers, but if you’re a Resident Evil fan you probably know what’s going on here once you start exploring the Bottle Ship and it’s 4 main sectors.
How does Samus end up on this Bottle ship? In classic Metroid fashion, she receives a distress call code named : Baby’s Cry. ‘Baby’ of course indicates Samus’ current state of mind after the events of Super Metroid which this game follows, what with the baby metroid Samus found in Metroid II being annihilated over her head by Mother Brain. Those events are depicted in absolutely stunning CGI, something that will definitely shoot streams of nostalgia through the veins of those who’ve played the SNES classic.
Several scenes later and you’re landing your ship on this gigantic facility, and low and behold guess who’s there. Samus’ old comrades from the Galactic Federation including Anthony “Remember me” Riggs, who seem to have answered the same call prior to Samus’ arrival. Those comrades are led by Samus’ father figure and her former commander: Adam Malkovich, who resembles Marth of Fire Emblem fame for some reason. What follows is each troop getting their own objectives with Samus lifting most of the heavy burden, under close watch too as Adam has access to everything seen through Samus’ visor from his main system. What follows is a mix of both classic Metroid and the linear style seen in Fusion, complimented by gameplay mechanics found in Prime.
The game was designed,control wise,with the intention of mirroring the old days , the golden age, of gaming, specifically the NES days. You hold the Wii Remote horizontally and this serves are your only means of controlling Samus. Movement, and sense move, is mapped to the Dpad. The 1 and 2 buttons correspond to shooting your beam and jumping, respectively. And Samus’ iconic morph ball mode is initiated by pressing on the A button. All these inputs are utilized in a 3d space, with a fixed camera view that shifts to a sidescrolling perspective at times. Despite what reviewers have ill-stated about the controls, they work fine. A little getting used to may be needed at first due to the fact that you’re traversing 3d space sans analog control, but past that you’ll be pulling off overblasts and initiating sensemoves like nothing. There’s another aspect to the gameplay, and that’s the player’s ability to switch to a first person perspective at will, with a catch.
With a simple pointing of the Wii mote to the screen, you’re able to switch to Samus visor view. In this orientation you can shoot your beam, and missiles once locked-on to an enemy. You’re also able to scan items ala’ Metroid Prime, the catch,though, comes in the form of you being stationary while in this mode. The devs take this scanning element to a cinematic level by implementing them into cut-scenes where you’re tasked in finding a specific point of interest in your surroundings. Unable to move on until you find this point. To some it may prove frustrating , but personally I find it to be a nice little touch. Also, despite the restriction of movement, the first person mode works extremely well in the contexts of exploration and combat. And speaking of restrictions.
Adam Malkovich, celebrated commander under the Galactic Federation, serves a role similar to that of his in Fusion, providing Samus with mission breifings and objectives that moves the game and plot forwards. In this game we see Adam under a new light, as aforementioned, we see him as a father figure to Samus through the game’s many flashbacks of Samus in her Galactic Federation days. Adam definitely serves as an integral character in this game with his sense of power and control even affecting Samus and the player alike. As implyed, restrictions also come in the form of what abilities Samus can/cannot use. It’s a clever twist on the tried and true tendency of being stripped of all of Samus’ abilities/weapons. In Other M, you need to wait for Adam’s authorization to be able to say, turn on your varia suit while in the norfair inspired Sector 3. But, at times , authorizations come right at the perfect time.
At one point late in the game you’re ambushed by creatures shooting at you from left and right through a small glass dome that Samus is trapped in. Their beams can go through said glass and damage you , yours sadly can’t…until Adam, in the midst of Samus taking heavy fire, authorizes use of the wave beam. And voila, you can now take on those baddies. I have no complaints with this aspect of the game, instead, I find it to be a brilliant plot and gameplay device.
You might notice I mentioned ‘sensemove’ and you might be wondering, just what is that? Team Ninja, of Ninja Gaiden fame, show their roots here by way of a dodge mechanic that Samus can eaily perform by simply tapping any direction on the Dpad upon an enemy attack. This is also complimented greatly by the ability to counter immediately after a dodge, simple by charging your beam and initiating a sensemove and you’ll dodge and blast a power charged shot simultaneously. Clearly you can see how fun it is to play Other M, it truly delivers in the gameplay front, and trust me , the boss fights are amazing, utilizing everything in your immediate arsenal making for some epic battles especially the one with recurring nemesis : Ridley. Not to sidetrack, but fighting Ridley invokes a lot of nostalgia, from the room the battle takes place in to his classic theme blasting though your speakers.
The gameplay makes for one action-packed title, what with Samus being able to perform finishers on fallen foes, but it wouldn’t be Metroid if it were all action now would it?
Fortunately, the developers were able to successfully use these gameplay mechanics to make the exploration all the better. And what’s a Metroid game without exploration right? In regards to this franchise, it’s all about the atomosphere, and Other M is no omission to that rule. Thanks to the Bottle ship being composed of sectors made of hologram images. This allowed Team Ninja to include all those staples in Metroid levels.
Sector 1 serves as the grassy, forest stage akin to Tallon Overworld in Metroid Prime. Sector 2 serves as the ice stage that brings back memories of traversing Prime’s Phendrana Drifts for the first time (sadly the theme in this stage isn’t the one from Prime). And finally, Sector 3 could pretty much be renamed Norfair, nuff’ said. Your main hub is appropriately titled…the main sector, and here you’ll find all those cramped up industrial rooms found in almost all the Metroid titles.
The level design is superb and you’ll never find any rooms or halls that look the same (I’m implying you Metroid I !) The camera view is always set so that you can truly appreciate the levels you’re scrolling are freely roaming through. Sometimes you’re automatically shifted to an over the shoulder view where your movement is toned down in speed and here you can truly appreciate your surroundings. Kudos to Team Ninja for making authentic levels that fit among the best in the series , specifically those gone through while wandering Zebes.
With all the basic cogs that make up the Review machine put in place, I want to add something more personal to the mix, and hopefully you all will , or have shared, a similar experience.
Throughout my whole time playing this game I was having a good time, enjoying the combat with a little of that signature Team Ninja style, and absolutely loving the exploration. Yeah it may be a more linear style when put in front of the likes of Super Metroid and the original Metroid, but that doesn’t stop it from still delivering that atmosphere and element of exploration that other games just don’t have and demand, respectively. Many reviews state how this game lacks exploration completely, with the only bits of them found when searching for the scattered items. I really don’t know if these reviewers were playing the same game. But, enough of that, other complaints need to be addressed.
It was also stated how this game was flooded with dialogue and cut scene after cut scene continuously interrupting the action and making it feel to dramatic for its own good. Again I have to question if people were playing the same game. The only time where there’s lengthy amounts of cut-scenes is at the beginning and the end of the game. With short amounts of dialogue and rapid cut-scenes interspersed throughout the campaign. And in regards to Samus’ voice?
Yeah it was a bit weird at first, having Samus talk right from the beginning of the game, what with her having been a silent protagonist for all these years. But after that shroud of acceptance went over me I began to really love the voice-work done for Samus. Yeah most of the Galactic Federation, and that god-awful scientist who engages the tutorial, may sound as generic as soldiers from First Person Shooter X Game, but Samus’ voice brings a lot of depth to her character in my opinion.
She carries her words with a tone that indicates a person who’s been through a lot. Having lost both her parents, her home, and having lost all hope for a normal life, do people really expect her to sound any different that how she’s vocally portrayed here? Sure some lines of dialogue written for Samus may come off with some cheese, but this is a video game, not a motion picture.
With all that being said, what do I give Metroid Other M? A solid and well-deserved 10 out of 10. This game if a love letter from Nintendo to old-school and modern Metroid fans alike. Taking the best elements from both Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, the two high points of the series, and molding it into an unforgettable stand alone Metroid experience. One that shouldn’t be compared to any other entry before it in terms of greatness. The essence of Metroid is there, and honestly, that’s all that matters. I hope Nintendo crafts future installments in this style, bring on Metroid Dread (hopefully).
10 out of 10.