Despite the critical and commercial success of the Metroid Prime Trilogy, Nintendo took their renowned sci-fi adventure from the skilled hands at Retro Studios and handed it over to Team Ninja, the developers behind the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series. The fruit of Team Ninja’s labor, Metroid: Other M, put more of an emphasis on plot and promised to develop Samus Aran as a character.
Right off the bat, Metroid Other M has something other Metroid games do not: an in-depth plot. The story takes place after the events of the SNES classic, Super Metroid, with Samus answering a distress call that seems to be coming from a massive space station, the Bottle Ship. The plot thickens when Samus runs across her old military buddies, who have also heeded the distress call and have come to search for survivors. By this point, Other M already has more characters in its exposition than other Metroid games had for the entire presentation, a testament to its emphasis on plot. Unfortunately, although the plot is more developed than other Metroid games, it is poorly written. The story is ridden with plot holes, not only when stacked against the rest of the series, but within the game itself. When the story finally withers to an end, the player has no sense of accomplishment as Samus’s actions have little to no impact on the plot.
Every character is wooden and one-dimensional. None of them are ever given a chance to develop and we are given little reason to sympathize with their plight. At the forefront of the poorly written cast is Samus Aran, the main protagonist of the series. While it is nice to see Nintendo trying to give one of their most popular characters emotional depth, the emotions they have given her are completely inconsistent with prior games. Samus is depicted as being a more fragile character than previous games had shown her. For instance, she has a breakdown in front of a recurring boss in the series, one she has confronted and defeated time and time again.
The biggest problem with the story by far is that it seems to put itself before gameplay in many regards. Not only do the lengthy, poorly voice acted cutscenes break up the action, the game made much more linear than previous Metroid games for the sake of plot. This may be fine for other series, but one of the many joys of Metroid is non-linear exploration, the ability to explore your environment free from the confines of a restricting plot. Exploration and backtracking are often rendered impossible as the game is prone to lock doors to previous areas, even more so than Metroid Fusion, forcing the player to move forward and advance the dull, uninteresting plot.
Another example of Other M’s story taking precedence over gameplay is that Samus does not find suit expansions hidden across the game world. Instead, she starts out with all of her equipment and suit features in tact. Samus is limited in her capabilities by her ex-commanding officer, Adam Malkovich, the one commanding the expedition on the Bottle Ship. One can somewhat understand limiting Samus’s weaponry as much of her arsenal is capable of extensive destruction, which might harm any pontential survivors. However, Samus’s weaponry was not the only thing that was limited. The quality of her armor and her mobility enhancements are also inhibited for the better part of the game. Why would these things be locked when they would bring no harm to survivors at all and only hamper Samus’s ability to aid in the mission? This is where story crosses the fine line between enhancing the gameplay to holding it back.
However, Other M’s story does not entirely hold the gameplay up. Team Ninja deserves a proverbial medal for the work they have done on Other M (keep in mind that Nintendo wrote the story, not Team Ninja). Players use the Wii Remote held horizontally, moving Samus with the D-pad while firing and jumping with the 1 and 2 buttons. Essentially, they used an NES controller, applied it to a modern, 3D game, and managed to make the experience enjoyable, although moving Samus through 3D space with the D-pad is not the best choice. In the end, combat is fast-paced and exciting, and should be the only reason anyone should buy this game.
As if to please Metroid Prime fans, Other M includes a way to switch to a first person perspective to blast foes with missiles and better examine the environment. Unfortunately, this option is more of a hassle than anything else. It is initially jarring and takes a lot of getting used to. Also, you are rooted to one spot when in this perspective, making it infinitely less desirable and less useful in combat than the third person view.
The most annoying part of the shifts to first person perspective are the all too common investigation sequences. In these plot-halting, adrenaline-stopping scenes, players are restricted to first-person view and the game forces them to find a miniscule detail in a given piece of scenery before allowing them to progress any further. Close observation will rarely do players any good and they will only get through these parts by either blind luck, a heavy-handed hint given before the sequence begins, or by looking the answer up on a walkthrough.
If you remember the Metroid Prime games, you may recall how detailed and lush the environments were. The art style takes a different direction in Other M. Though it is no Metroid Prime when comes to living, breathing worlds, Other M still looks great thanks to an emphasis on color and animation. The colors are brighter and more saturated and the animation runs smoothly and gracefully. In some ways, the art style change from Prime to Other M is similar to the art style change from Zelda’s Twilight Princess to Skyward Sword, in that detail is lessened at the expense of color.
Music is one way the Metroid series has always established its mood. From the very first NES game, its score has always created an eerie atmosphere. Other M’s music may not create the uncanny sense of solitude that permeates throughout the previous games, but it still keeps you on the edge of your seat. The background music is tense and suspenseful, making even a humdrum stroll down a long corridor somewhat exciting. There are also some excellent symphonic pieces scattered throughout the game.
Many of the problems Other M faces could easily be rectified if it were an earlier entry in the series chronology, perhaps set before Zero Mission. Samus’s fragility would not only be excusable, but understandable, as she has not yet become the strong, fearless bounty hunter portrayed in later games in the series. It would give us true insight into her past and make her all the more interesting. Unfortunately, Nintendo was more focused on making the Super Metroid fans squeal by tethering the latest game in the franchise to that classic title. By doing so, they have placed Other M near the end of the Metroid timeline, when Samus should be the least emotionally vulnerable. Story aside, the game works rather well, but it is still not up to the standards set by Super Metroid and the Prime Trilogy. So, do yourself a favor and buy either Super Metroid or the Trilogy, if not both, and leave Other M in the bargain bin. But, if you have already played both of those games and simply need a Metroid fix, go ahead and buy it. Just keep this in mind: buy it for the action or you will end up disappointed.
- 5 Stars- A Must Own Game. Games don’t get much better than this. We recommend you buy it if you can.
- 4 Stars- A Great Game. It’s not perfect, but it’s close. If you like the genre, you should like this game.
- 3 Stars- A Good Game. This game may have some flaws, but is enjoyable. Give it a try.
- 2 Stars- A Poor Game. There is something off about this game. Fans of the series or genre might like it.
- 1 Star- A Bad Game. There are obvious flaws that keep the game from being enjoyable.
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