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Platform

Wii

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Team Ninja / Nintendo

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

August 31, 2010

 

 

- More fleshed out story than previous Metroid games

- Still has all the hallmarks of a Metroid game

 

 

- Samus' horrible monologues

- Snapping from 3rd person to 1st person isn't as seamless as it needed to be

 

 

Review: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

Review: Metroid (NES)

Review: Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (360)

Review: Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

 

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Metroid: Other M

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

metroid other m          metroid other m

 

Ever since its 16-bit rivalry with Sega, a company that promoted an “edgier”, more violent form of gaming, Nintendo has been unable to shed its public image as a “kiddy” game developer.

But it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying; ever since the backlash for censoring the first Mortal Kombat, Nintendo has been steadily but unsuccessfully trying to convince gamers over 10 that their consoles have just as much violence, swearing, and scantily-clad women as their competitors. Meanwhile, older veterans continue to embrace the latest Mario, Kirby, and Pokemon games regardless of their family friendly content.

And yet, it was Nintendo’s most faithful who were the most shocked during their 2009 E3 reveal of their first collaboration with Team Ninja (a company known for

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not pulling punches with the blood and boobs that decorate their titles), a cinematic, action-heavy adaptation of the Metroid franchise. While Metroid has always been considered Nintendo’s darkest series, allowing a company as controversial as Team Ninja to have free reign over such a valued franchise was one usually reserved for fanboy dreams.

Taking place immediately after Super Metroid

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(but also some time before Metroid Fusion), Other M showcases famed bounty hunter Samus Aran after her recent exploits on planet Zebes, which resulted in the simultaneous destruction of the Space Pirates, the Mother Brain, her archenemy Ridley, and the baby Metroid that helped her in her most crucial moment. With barely any time to mourn the loss of the baby, Samus receives a distress signal from a massive Bottle Ship, a spacecraft housing top secret experiments. Unlike previous adventures, Samus isn’t the only human navigating the alien-infested area, as she soon rendezvous with a group of Federation soldiers consisting of her old friend Anthony Higgs and her former Commanding Officer, Adam Malkovich. Despite the silent tension between the two, Adam allows Samus to assist his squad, provided she follows his orders to the letter. Out of respect for him, Samus agrees, and takes part in a Federation conspiracy that may have resulted in the resurrection of her deadliest enemies, including the titular life-absorbing aliens themselves.

As the above plot synopsis shows, Other M features the biggest emphasis in story yet seen for the series, drawing continuity from games both past and future (the character of Adam was mentioned extensively in Fusion, and Samus’ days as a Federation soldier have been covered in several manga and artbooks in Japan). It also relies on several cutscenes that feature full voice acting, including the first speaking role for Samus herself. It’s a chance for series co-writer Yoshio Sakamoto to flesh out his beloved character, offering fans a softer side of the bounty hunter while detailing her personal issues, including the longing for acceptance from her former mentor.

It’s a bold experiment in offering life to a previously silent character, but it’s also a decision that has quickly caused many fans to flood the message boards with their outrage over the “disservice” given to one of gaming’s most popular heroines. Much of this ire stems from the alleged “sexist” tone the game offers; in one specific example, this is the first Metroid title where Samus does not lose all her abilities and armor upgrades at the start of the game, but instead chooses to lock away each of her weapons until Adam approves them. This mechanic was meant to display Samus’ respect for her former Commander, but also creates several questionable situations (during one portion, Samus must trek through a lava-filled area, which veteran players recall causes continuous damage without a Varia suit upgrade. Even though she already has this upgrade installed, Samus will not activate the suit until the plot finds it “necessary”). The most infamous example, however, involves Samus’ uncharacteristic reaction when faced with a familiar face….

 

metroid other m          metroid other m


But the real problem with Metroid’s talkie re-imagining lies in….the talking. Much of Samus’ dialog consists of self-narration, of which she rarely states anything noteworthy or even interesting. Instead, her lengthy monologues merely describe or repeat every event that occurs before her, as if to hammer in the details to the player, even though any fully functional player could easily follow the story without any assistance. In fact, try imagining any of Other M’s cutscenes without Samus uttering a single word: not only would you not miss any plot details, the story would actually be better for it.

Fortunately, the gameplay revisions are much more acceptable, although it is bound to be met with the same kind of controversy; despite the expert job that Retro Studios did in bringing Metroid to the first person, Other M has chosen to chosen to bring the camera back to a third person view. This was often requested by hardcore fans, but rather than follow the current trends of the perspective, such as over-the-shoulder firing and cover-based mechanics, the game strives for a pseudo-retro feel that features 2D platforming in the onset, but also tosses in several camera angles that open up more dimensions; for example, one portion of the map could feature Samus running and jumping in a fixed angle just like in her sprite-based games, while the camera seamlessly swings around to allow moving toward the foreground and background, or even zooming back far enough to lay out a large stretch of land for the armor-plated heroine to jump around (or roll around, when the situation calls for it) in every direction. The first-person view also makes a return appearance, this time in the form of a free aiming mechanic, where moving the Wiimote from its default sideways position to its more natural vertical pointer will instantly switch to first person, allowing players to look and aim at targets freely, or to lock onto them by holding down the B button.

While the first person viewpoint is mostly optional, there are several key moments that require the use of this perspective, not to mention that in order to use missiles, targets must be locked on. While switching between the two perspectives is an instant process, it isn’t exactly a seamless one; no matter how quickly one may try to interchange the position of their Wiimotes, there is almost always a delay when doing so, sometimes occurring in succession if you don’t steady the IR pointer properly. Had the game simply used the standard controller plus nunchaku setup, with the interchanging of the two perspectives relegated to a button press, the transition would have been handled much more smoothly. The reticule during first person mode can be rather finicky as well, especially during cutscenes that require you to aim at a certain target in order to advance the story.

Aiming hiccups aside, Other M does manage to outdo previous Metroid incarnations in regards to action; the enemies are faster and more furious than ever before, practically swarming over Samus like insects (which isn’t a stretch, given how many of them do resemble bugs). Gone are the basic patterns of classic Metroid foes, who now tend to make a beeline toward the bounty hunter with little time to prepare. Anyone who has experienced Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden series will no doubt feel a sense of déjà vu, particularly the way Samus leaves an image trail after dodging attacks, as well as the heavily animated executions that are unique to each foe. It’s an intense experience that is unlike anything ever seen on a Nintendo game, but one that certainly brings back that classic “Nintendo Hard” feeling.

Fortunately, to help players keep up with the extra tenacious enemies, some streamlining has been done to the combat controls; rather than positioning Samus to fire directly at an enemy, she will now automatically target foes while in the third person, allowing players to easily mop up swarms of weaker enemies while also keeping a close eye at the larger, more dangerous opponents. A dodge roll mechanic has also been implemented, where players can effortlessly roll away from danger with a push of the D-pad just before an attack connects, allowing Samus to roll in any four directions. Mastering the art of dodging is the most important step to survival, as several bosses (both mini and large) can deal tremendous damage to slower-witted players.

In order to streamline the combat even further, enemies will no longer drop health and ammo after defeat. Instead, when Samus is at a critical state in their health, or have completely run out of missiles, players can instantly replenish both by assuming a “Concentration” stance, which is done by holding the Wiimote straight up and holding down the A button. It’s a mechanic that works as intended, helping to increase the tension during battle as enemies can interrupt Concentration to lay out the finishing blow, but there is some frustration in the fact that you can only enable this when you’re at your weakest; players could have their health close to a dangerous point, but will be unable to heal themselves as they aren’t “weak” enough to allow Concentration, resulting in a few closer-than-intended calls.

The ability to explore every nook and cranny in order to turn up hidden caches of ammo and health is still present in this game, continuing the most recognizable tradition of the Metroid series. The game also manages to bring back some of the fear and dread found in the earliest games, thanks to its aesthetic style, including dark corridors and ominous music. Like many Wii titles, the visuals are obstructed by the aging technology, including blurred out textures and jaggy walls, but the framerate is solid and the FMV footage is some of the prettiest ever seen in a Nintendo game. Unfortunately for some hardcore fans, the game adopts the linear structure introduced in Fusion, with an on-screen map telling you where your next destination is at all times; since most of the items can’t be retrieved without a specific ability, anyway, there is little reason to deviate from the outlined path.

Ultimately, Metroid Other M will go down as one of Nintendo’s most divisive titles, especially among fans of Retro’s Prime trilogy. While the drawn-out dialog does hamper the storytelling, patient viewers may be pleasantly surprised at the intriguing twists the plot takes regarding Metroid canon, though there are still a few obvious holes in the plot as well (including the sub-plot of a rogue Federation agent that literally goes nowhere). But as is the usual case for Nintendo, the gameplay is a solid and action-packed, to the point that the game almost feels like a mod of an existing Sony or Microsoft action game. To that end, Other M is an experiment that fails to be Marvelous, but certainly well above Mediocre.

- Jorge Fernandez

(December 28, 2010)

 

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