Review by Relle
A Metroid title worthy of your time.
Metroid: Other M is a great game. I can say that unequivocally and without shame, for it is something more than the sum of its parts, which is a good thing since some of those parts are pretty polarizing.
The game begins with a pretty snazzy cinematic getting you up to speed on the ending of Super Metroid, as well as setting the stage for the upcoming adventure. After a brief tutorial, you're off to investigate a distress signal at the Bottle Ship, and soon run into the "Remember me?" black dude, Adam Malkovich a.k.a. Samus' father figure, and a few other named but not important NPCs. From there it's off to find survivors, investigate what went wrong and ultimately save the universe, as per usual.
The story as a whole is pretty pedestrian fare, with most of the dialogue delivered by Samus (she speaks!) Unfortunately, Samus' voice is rather monotone, as though she's giving a mission report after the fact. Her voice isn't bad, it's just lacking emotion. While it's not a great beginning for Nintendo's foray into full-on voicework, it's infinitely better than what could've been (see: late 90's/early 00's RPGs). The other voices are handled adequately enough, with Anthony (black dude) having a better day than most.
Much has been made of the game's way of handling suit upgrades. Samus doesn't lose the powers she had at the end of Super Metroid (except the Hyper Beam) but instead she has to have each one authorized by Adam. While this sounds stupid, the game handles it fairly well. Samus' weaponry is pretty damn destructive (Adam uses power bombs as an illustration of that destructive potential) and since it's a rescue mission, she's not to use anything that could accidentally nuke anybody. This ultimately works pretty much as any other Metroid game, with power-ups doled out as they're needed for you to proceed (with one exception that ends up being a major facepalm moment). In short, it's not nearly as silly as it sounds.
The game controls surprisingly well considering the fact that it only uses the Wiimote sans nunchuck. The game is structured so that the corridors and tunnels let you move primarily in straight lines, with some open areas that are easy to navigate. The camera is fixed, but follows you well. There can be some rare instances where you're attacked from off-screen, but most of the time you're given plenty of room to maneuver and blast away. The game autotargets your shots, letting you point Samus in the general direction of something nasty and fire away. This works well for most mooks and some bosses. while faster enemies can dodge your shots, forcing you to adjust your tactics.
Overall, the way Samus moves is straight out of Super Metroid. Gone is the slow-walking Samus of the Prime trilogy. In Other M Samus is agile, powerful and deadly, and you get a sense of that early on. Running, jumping and gunning are all seamless and quick. The new Sense Move lets you dodge out of the way of enemy attacks, and has the added bonus of fully charging your beam, letting you deliver an instant counterattack. New maneuvers such as the Overblast let you leap atop enemies and deliver a charged blast to the face, and Lethal Strikes let you take down weakened enemies in one satisfying kaboom.
Though missiles can only be fired in first-person (and said viewpoint only achieved by pointing the Wiimote at the screen) holding the B button as you move the Wiimote lets you lock on quickly and fire away. While a single button press would be faster, this method does have a gunslinger aspect to it, and shaking the Wiimote allows Samus to Sense Move in first-person, letting you dodge enemies if you can't get a shot off in time.
Another new mechanic is Concentration, which lets you restore your missiles and energy when they're low. While this sounds like you can have infinite energy and ammo, there's a catch. Energy takes a very long time to restore, and you can only activate Concentration for your energy if you're already near-death. Further, at the beginning you can only restore yourself to 99 energy, regardless of how many tanks you have. This really isn't feasible for later boss fights, so the only way to do it is to not get hit. What about for everything else, you ask? Well, the big catch is that there are absolutely no energy or ammo drops. You can only restore yourself at save points, so if you take too many hits, fall into lava, whatever, you can't heal until you find a save point, or if you drop so low you're able to Concentrate a little energy back.
The only outright flaw with this game are the forced first-person searches. There are points in the game where you're made to go into first-person view to lock onto and examine something relevant to the plot, but you're not always told what it is, and what you're trying to find may not be the easiest thing to locate to begin with. These break the flow of an otherwise stellar and fast-paced action/adventure game, and like many others, I recommend you grab a FAQ and check those parts for what you need to find so you can get back to your business of saving the universe.
The other flaw is that in a few parts, the game will switch things up, putting the camera behind Samus and having her slow-walk through an area until she arrives at the story-relevant location. You can't run, jump, shoot or do anything, but there aren't any enemies in these sequences, so ultimately it's just boring. There's one point in the game in particular that has you slow-walking through several rooms, with nothing to do in any of them, until you get attacked...and then you walk back. It's slow, it's boring and it's pointless, but when it's over, it's over, and there aren't too many of these sequences to begin with.
Though fans will argue with me over this, the game's linearity isn't a major flaw. Yes, you can't explore to your heart's content until after the final boss, but the game does a good job of sending you here and there, moving the story along and keeping things fresh. It's a fairly brief adventure by normal gaming standards, though long by Metroid's. You'll have perhaps 8-9 hours until the very very end, assuming 100% pickups, plus or minus some depending on how long it takes you to find said pickups. The game also features a Hard Mode for the true masochists, as it limits you to 99 energy, 10 missiles and zero pickups. Hope you're good at dodging.
As a final word, Metroid: Other M may be a love it or hate it kind of game, but what polarizes it is not so much the game itself, but the characterization of Samus. If you go into this game thinking she's supposed to be a badass gun-toting action girl...well, you're right. But she also has emotional and psychological baggage just like the rest of us, and this game explores that. The best I can say is to go into it with an open mind rather than a preconceived notion of Samus' personality.
Bottom line: This is a fun game. The story may not be Oscar-worthy, the voice acting is mediocre at best and Samus' characterization may make you hate Japan, but above it all is a fun, fast-paced sci-fi shooter that is a blast to play. If Super Metroid is ever remade for 3D (and you know Nintendo might do it) the gameplay of Other M needs to be the basis. This is what Metroid in 3D should be, and I sincerely hope Team Ninja gets the go-ahead to produce a more polished sequel.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)
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