Review by gazm0tr0n
"A game that should've been left in the oven just a bit longer........"
The Varia Suit wearing, arm cannoning, arse-kicking, (whatever adjectives you can further describe with), interstellar bounty hunter is back in a new adventure. This time around, she has brought with her an old style, new location, and much hyped new dev-team in Team Ninja. From the first-look release trailer at E3 2009, Samus looked ready to hand out some serious power-beam ownage to any sucker brave enough to cross her path. Now that the game has been released, does it live up to hype? Has the passing of the reins from Retro to Ninja been worth it? Does it live up to the high expectations we have come to expect from a modern day Metroid?
The short answer, is no, but that's not to say that they are some very promising signs should Nintendo decided to keep Team Ninja on board to develop Samus' next outing.
The game's story takes place after the events on planet Zebes and Super Metroid, with an injured Samus awakening to find herself in a Galactic Federation military hospital. From there players are moved to the tutorial level where players are taught all of Samus' basic moves and weapon uses. After that we are taken to Samus in her ship, intercepting the SOS known as Baby's Cry. After some sappier and draining scenes, we arrive at the destination for the game, the BOTTLE SHIP and meet the support cast, something not really encountered before in a Metroid environment.
The story and environments are nothing new. If anything, it seems like Team Ninja has just taken bits and pieces from both Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, which is somewhat disappointing from such an acclaimed dev team. The way the story is told, or in this case, acted, is a new approach adopted by Ninja. It is not necessarily a bad approach, but a venture that definitely could have been done much better. The cut-scenes are too many, the voice acting is monotonous and often of the please pity me, or the daddy didn't love me persuasions, which is very unbecoming to someone who is supposedly the most bad-arse bounty hunter in the galaxy.
The gameplay has been the source of most criticism and after completing the game's tutorial it's blatantly obvious as to why. Most of the game has returned to its third-person roots with gamers using only the wii-mote to move, fire, roll and observe. The control design is simple enough to use and understand yet after playing the Prime trilogy, it just seems somewhat lacking.
One point of hype was the seamless transition between the first-and third person perspectives by pointing the wii-mote at the screen. In a way, it is seamless, and it does move from third to first quite well. Unfortunately, that's where it ends. The controls are too inaccurate and unpredictable. The missile system is flawed by it only being able to be used in first person mode and while locked on to a target. Not only does this limit the use of the missiles, it also restricts beam capabilities. Team Ninja, while credit is given for trying, you just haven't made the grade this time around, sticking with the already proven wii-mote + nunchuck combination would have been a much wiser move.
The element of exploration has also been completely removed, or at least 85% removed, with gameplay mostly of a linear fashion and one that often becomes repetitive and un-interesting. Any exploration that can be achieved is done after completion of the main game, which is even then assisted by the flashing of a blue dot to indicate a missed item or expansion. Suit power-ups themselves are not necessarily found, more they are authorised when Samus hits a particular roadblock and no other method can be found to overcome it, again proving the point of no exploration. It also begs the question as to why the most powerful bounty hunter in the universe needs to have her equipment authorised for use when one power bomb can wipe out the problem in less 2 minutes?
Speaking of power bombs, the morph ball, sadly, plays a less significant roll (I, know, clever yet sad) in this instalment of the Metroid series. With introduction of Metroid Prime , players were introduced to a new and innovative approach to the morph ball. Users were required to think more than just Hmmm, this space looks small. I know! I'll use the morph ball! They were required to observe and calculate the best approach to their target using a variety of morph ball power-ups. In Other M, all players are required to do is notice a hole in the wall, go morph ball and roll through the linear path, with the occasional bomb needing to be used. If you think that's exciting, you need to get out more and experience this thing called life.
The last negative aspect of the gameplay that shall be pointed out is the ease of which any enemy is destroyed. A Metroid player of experience will find the boss battles extremely easy to overcome, whether it is via obvious weak spots or just experimenting between missiles and beam weapons, players are sure to annihilate bosses within the space of 10 minutes. The same can be said for normal enemies, some just take one less power beam shot than they need too to be destroyed. The difficulty of navigating around the BOTTLE SHIP is disturbingly low, as most gamers of substance will spend a maximum of five minutes searching a room and noticing what must be achieved to move on.
All that being said, the gameplay does have its moments. The return to the third person Metroid experience is one that most series' fans will find enjoyable and nostalgic. The introduction of the Speed Booster and the Shinespark will no doubt ensure a good hour or so of entertainment to players new and old alike and of course, the immense satisfaction one gets from blasting a space monster into the depths of oblivion. Players can expect at least 8-10 hours of gameplay from the main quest.
On the graphics, Team Ninja, pat yourselves on the back because you have successfully created a Metroid environment worthy of the current gen console systems, many games running on the PS3 and Xbox could take a lesson in what you have achieved for this title. The backgrounds are smooth and un-pixellated, with a great deal of thought and detail put into them. The same can be said about the soundtrack. Each individual sector's track conveys the feeling of that particular part of the ship, whether it is a forest, desert, glacier, ocean or volcano, along with the return of one or two classic tracks.
Metroid: Other M is a game that will mostly disappoint fans both new and old alike. What must not be done, however, is totally dismiss what has been achieved by Team Ninja in the few short years since Corruption reached our shores. If anything, it should be seen as a game that was taken out of the oven just a bit too early. The ideas and structure of the game were on the right track; the only thing that let it down was the story telling and control structure. Team Ninja, you have support for the next game, just make sure the control system utilises the Nunchuck capabilities as well as hiring better voice actors/writers.
To a fan of the series, it is most definitely a buy, as you will have returned to the butt-kicking days of Super Metroid. To a newcomer, don't be disappointed; start out with either the aforementioned game or a title from the Metroid Prime series to break yourself in, as I expect great things are yet to come from this well-established franchise.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 10/18/10
Game Release: Metroid: Other M (AU, 09/02/10)
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