Review by kenryoku_maxis

Reviewed: 07/14/11

Metroid Other M - Controversy is Thy Name

Metroid: Other M

Few games have become more controversial in the last few years than this sequel to Super Metroid. And many extreme opinions have been floated, from claiming Samus has been ruined to even saying Metroid is a dead franchise. But is this title really deserving of such negative opinions?

Graphics and Design:
The setting for Metroid: Other M is not unlike the 2004 title Metroid Fusion. The entire game takes place on an isolated space station made to resemble the planet Zebes, the planet featured in Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo. And resemble Zebes it does, right down to using the same creatures, environments and even background colors seen in Metroid: Zero Mission and Super Metroid. Though it does feature some new enemies, fans of the series will no doubt recognize a large portion of the flora and fauna in Other M.

But beyond the similarities to previous 2D entries, there are a host of changes. The game itself features a cross between 2D and 3D graphics, rendering every boss, minor enemy and location in full 3D. Its definitely a step up for the series graphically, but can be a bit confusing to find your way at times, much like the Prime series. Luckily for those who dislike a healthy dose of trial and error exploration, the game features a similar system as Fusion of using arrows to direct you down the right path to progress the game. You won’t get lost often thanks to the system, but for many this is a handicap itself, as the thrill of getting lost in the maze of hallways is what draws them to the previous entries in the series.

One other major change is the addition of fully CG rendered cutscenes. Its clear Nintendo and Team Ninja spared no expense while designing this title, as some cutscenes border on 10 minutes and feature an impressive style all their own. But it does become apparent at times that these cutscenes were not directly influenced by the events proceeding them and at times break you out of the world the game has established. While sometimes this can be a good thing, in this title it quickly becomes a negative and slows the pace of the gameplay.

Overall, the graphics for the game are some of the best on the Wii. Team Ninja and Nintendo have definitely made one good looking title and fans should not be disappointed in the detail that went into this title. But no one can be faulted for feeling somewhat confused by the emphasis on story based cutscenes and a linear path in a series that previously focused almost exclusively on exploration.

Perhaps the most controversial move Nintendo has made with the latest entry into the Metroid franchise is the emphasis on story, much like they attempted to do with the Zelda series in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. And this was definitely a bold move to take with a series known for its subdued and almost minimalist take on story. Considering nearly all the Metroid titles that have proceeded Other M have only featured dialogue in the first few seconds of starting the game, and some feature no dialogue or exposition of any kind, the sudden change to multiple hours of dialogue and cutscenes has turned some heads.

Much like Metroid Fusion, in Metroid: Other M Samus can talk. But much of this dialogue turns out to be monologues written after the fact, as if she is recanting her actions on a personal log. While this style is in no way bad, and is shared in other games in the series, many of these monologues have awkward wording and even project a kind of ignorance you wouldn’t assume Samus would have after the fact. To add to this, you have plenty of examples of Samus talking directly to people as the story unfolds. But even here, Samus seems to be one step behind everyone in understanding key events and even shows multiple instances of hesitation when deciding what course of action to take. Both traits she doesn’t often portray in past games. Even in Metroid Fusion she seems on the ball and ready to do what is needed, but often comes off as detached or even hesitant to act, all traits not commonly associated with gamings most famous female bounty hunter.

Still, perhaps these traits could be overlooked if the story was written a little better. But even at its most basic form, Other M turns out to be a traditional story about a mystery that must be solved. Some murders take place, people go missing and someone is controlling events from the shadows. At its heart, it lacks a strong driving force to solve the very story that drives the entire game and ultimately fails to fully resolve at its conclusion.

This is not to say the story is entirely bad. There are some distinct moments that will surprise many and the characters are interesting. But the eventual development they receive seems forced, once again relying on rather poorly written monologues describing the characters past motives as perceived directly through Samus’ thoughts.

While the story in Other M has left many people scratching their heads, the gameplay itself is not without its controversy. At its heart, the gameplay is a fusion of classic 2D scrolling Metroids and some first-person features of the recent Prime series. While this concept sounds plausible in theory, the game features only the use of the standard Wii Remote at all times. This is perfectly fine when it comes to the 2D aspect of the game, retaining the simple jump, shoot and item interface. But in order to use missiles and certain other items, you need to point the controller at the TV screen, switching your view to first person. It’s a unique system that is easy to use, but feels limited compared to the previous titles. Many will wonder why additional support for the Classic Controller or GameCube controller wasn’t used.

In addition to the focus on first person for using items, several cutscenes in the game emphasize the use of first person for exploring. But unlike in past Metroids, these exploration segments are forced based on events in the story and you cannot continue without completing them. This leads to some frustrating segments where you have to point your Wii Remote at various spots on the screen until you trigger the right spot and the cutscene resumes. And it is hardly ever clear what you are looking for.

But perhaps the most confusing aspect to the gameplay is the addition of a limitation on what powers you can use. Over the course of the game, you do obtain new powers, just like previous Metroid titles. But this comes as a directive from Adam Malkovich, allowing you to use certain powers you already possessed from the beginning of the game. Its done well and definitely produces some of the more unique surprises in the game, but leaves you with a bit of a sour taste in your mouth as you always know the big man upstairs is calling the shots and letting you unlock new powers. And since you run past many secret locations you could otherwise explore with your arsenal, it makes the same feel a little too streamlined to just complete the story so you can actually explore.

Adding to the list of changes, Other M goes away from the collection of missiles and energy packs that appear once an enemy is destroyed. Instead, energy and missiles can only be replenished either at a save point or by pointing the Wiimote in the air and holding the A button to refill your life or missiles. While this certainly removes the need for finding more missiles and energy, it also puts you in danger as more than likely, you will only need to replenish your life in the middle of battle. And you cannot move for several seconds while doing so.

Additionally, gameplay has been tweaked to add a dodge feature. A welcome addition to a game that can feature a dozen or so enemies attacking you at once, as well as bosses who throw projectiles at much more improved speeds. But as many can tell you, the addition of this dodge feature makes getting hurt a very rare event, as any enemy movement can be dodged and you are even encouraged to do so to lower the time of your beam charge.

What seems to be lacking the most in Metroid Other M is the music. Entire sections of the game can be played without a single hint of music. And while this works well for a Horror game, Metroid Other M definitely would have benefited from a more active soundtrack. What little music does appear is mostly present to accentuate the atmosphere of the many in game cutscenes or boss fights. But while exploring the game, expect a heavy emphasis on hearing your blaster and the screech of dying enemies.

The Final Verdict:

Metroid Other M is obviously a title that was made for Metroid fans. Yet it features so many changes and series defining moments, many will be turned off by the entry. Still, when all is said and done, it’s still quite a ride and worth a playthrough. While this game may become the black sheep in the Metroid timeline, almost all of us can agree it tried to do what everyone wanted, right down to being a direct sequel to Super Metroid and expanding on Samus character. It’s up to you to decide if you like the path they took.

Graphics and Design: 8.5
Gameplay: 8.0
Story: 6.0
Overall: 8.5

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)

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