Review – Metroid: Other M

When Metroid: Other M was first announced, I was excited but also apprehensive.  We haven’t had a new Metroid game since Prime 3 came out three years ago, so the idea of a new Metroid game was obviously promising.  What concerned me was the focus on action that we saw in the initial trailer (Other M was developed by the team behind the action-packed Ninja Gaiden revival).  The trailer showed Samus decimating bad guys, blasting them away at point blank range, and generally kicking butt.  It looked cool, but I was concerned that the classic Metroid formula of exploration and isolation would be abandoned for this more cinematic approach.  So, having now played through the entirety of the game, the question that remains is “Does Metroid: Other M deliver?”  The answer is, in fact, a definite “Yes,” but there is a pretty large “but” attached…

Interestingly, of all the elements involved in Metroid: Other M, the gameplay works the best.  True, there is a much more refined sense of action than in previous games, but it flows well.  It’s actually a pretty gratifying feeling jumping onto a bad guy’s head, aiming your arm cannon down at him, and firing a shot at full charge.  Additionally, the core element of exploration is still very strongly present.  There are tons of missile expansions and energy tanks hidden throughout the game.  Many are in obvious spots, but some are very cleverly hidden.  It surprised me how many power-ups I missed the first time through the game (There’s an epilogue after the main story is complete where you can find all the power-ups you missed).

 

 

The takedowns are both vicious and a lot of fun.

 

 

Of course, the biggest (and perhaps most controversial) gameplay element is switching from a third person to a first person perspective at will.  For the most part, this works pretty well.  Occasionally, you’ll face the wrong way or the effect might be slightly jarring, but, on the whole, it accomplishes what it should.  It does rather subtly give the effect that the game is more in-depth than it actually is.  It does make the game rather intuitive.  However, it’s not always as gratifying and those few moments where the game forces you into a first-person perspective are not always as effective (mostly because you’re stuck in that perspective until you find something important).  I like the feeling of controlling when to switch to first person, but when forced into that perspective, it can get old fast (mostly because, half the time, you don’t know what you’re looking for).

 

 

The switch to first-person perspective, while occasionally jarring, sells the immersion of the gameplay.

 

 

In terms of game progress, Other M is surprisingly linear.  Of course, you’ll often backtrack or return to areas you’ve been to before, but the game makes no attempt to leave you wondering where to go next.  Instead, it’s usually very clearly dictated where your next objective lies (not only do Navigation rooms highlight the next room you should enter, but, often, other doors are locked to prevent you from going anywhere you shouldn’t).  As I’ve previously mentioned, Other M feels a lot like the GBA’s Metroid Fusion, which was also fairly linear.  While it’s not always the best setting for a Metroid game, I don’t mind the linear-ness of Other M because there’s still a fair amount of items you can find that aren’t essential to the game.

Unfortunately, now comes the point where that big “but” I mentioned previously comes in.  The gameplay for Other M is great, but the story, I’m sorry to say, isn’t.  The story begins with Samus Aran recovering from the events of Super Metroid.  Once out on her own, she intercepts a distress call from a massive space station known as the “Bottle Ship” (presumably because it looks like a giant bottle), and flies there.  Once there, she finds a small platoon of Galatic Federation soldiers who are also investigating the distress call.  These soldiers are led by Adam “Daddy Issues” Malkovich, whom Samus served under before she became a bounty hunter.  From there, we see a story of mystery, betrayal, Federation conspiracies, and emotional trauma.  Sometimes, the story works.  When we see that there’s some sort of conspiracy aboard the ship and that someone from the inside is killing off Federation troops, that segment works just fine.  Although it’s not exceptionally creative (mostly because the next game in the series, Metroid Fusion, has an extremely similar plot – with a space station developing bioweapons), it works.  The problem with the story lies in its portrayal of Samus Aran.  At first, I was ok with it, but as time progressed, the portrayal got worse – to the point that it angered me.  Other M takes place rather late in Metroid chronology.  At this point, Samus has already defeated the space pirates at Zebes twice, wiped out every single Metroid, dealt with the Phazon and Dark Samus saga of the Prime series, and terminated Mother Brain…twice.  Other M would have you believe that, despite all these accomplishments, Samus is really just a scared, lonely girl who desperately wants the approval of her former commanding officer.  Previous Metroid games embraced the isolation of our wandering space detective/supersoldier, but in Other M, Samus admits that she is, in fact, scared of being an outsider.  At one point in the story, longtime Metroid villain Ridley suddenly and unexpectedly appears.  Rather than tackle him head-on (as she has in every past game), Samus has a panic attack.  Literally, she stands there, panicking and unresponsive.  The game even has the gall to show a quick flash of her as a little girl before the dragonlike creature.  This is not the Samus of every single Metroid game prior.  Before this game, Samus fought Ridley a total seven times (if you count the Prime series).  Even if you panicked the first time you faced him, I’m sure you wouldn’t after seeing him this many times.  The portrayal of Samus in Other M is not only inaccurate in comparison to the rest of the Metroid games, but it’s borderline sexist.  Samus is continually treated like an outsider (which hurts her feelings), but the biggest reason for this is the fact that she’s a girl.  Everyone (including Samus) is always talking about how delicate and fragile she is.  Umm, hello?  This is the same Samus that went to the Metroid homeworld and systematically wiped out every one in existence.  This is the same Samus that, not once, but twice infiltrated Zebes and took out Ridley, Kraid, Metroids, and Mother Brain.  Nothing about Samus’ fragility makes any sense in the context of the overall Metroid saga.  The only basis for it is the fact that she’s a girl in a world full of men.

 

 

The box art for "Other M" shows two depictions of Samus, which is rather accurate, because the game gives us two very different versions of the character.

 

 

Ultimately, Metroid: Other M is a schizophrenic experience.  The gameplay is great and it showcases Samus being a brutal powerhouse.  The story, however, strips that away completely and instead portrays Samus as a girl who’s never found her place, despite all the accomplishments she’s had by herself.  “Gameplay Samus” is just like the Samus we’ve known for years, with a few more moves and a couple minor differences.  “Talking Samus” is a complete stranger, who seemingly exchanges her strength for an overpowering insecurity.  It’s a shame too, because this game is Nintendo’s first real attempt at a story-centric game.  I applaud Nintendo for really trying to make a game focused on story for the first time (Legend of Zelda doesn’t really count, and, while the Prime series definitely has a good story, the gameplay is designed so that the story can be mostly ignored if the player wishes to do so – though he’d really be missing out), but it’s such a shame that the story completely misses who the main character of the Metroid series really is.  It’s ironic because Retro Studios seemed to respect the franchise more with their Prime games, than Team Ninja did with Other M, even though it was overseen by one of Metroid’s original creators.  Other M feels like two games.  The first, which is based on exploration and combat, I heartily recommend, but the second, which is based on a poor retelling of a character, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Pro’s

  • In gameplay, Samus is a powerhouse
  • Classic exploration and puzzles are back
  • The feeling of finding a hard-to-reach power-up
  • Controlling a third-person Samus again
  • Downright beautiful-looking game

Con’s

  • In the story, Samus is weak, afraid, and, essentially, unrecognizable
  • Acquiring items through authorization, while new, is exceptionally cheap and against Samus’s character.
  • When forced into a first-person perspective, the game sometimes leaves players wondering what to do next.
  • It’s a bit on the easy side for a Metroid game.
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~ by digitallysmitten on October 8, 2010.

One Response to “Review – Metroid: Other M”

  1. […] try to invoke themes in storytelling that don’t mesh well with the gameplay.  In my review for Metroid: Other M, I stated that “gameplay Samus” felt very different from […]

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