Review by Kamikaze Tomato
"Linear, very short, yet magnificent."
I have played every Metroid game save Hunters (and Pinball, I guess), but I've done it within the past year or so: last summer I replayed Zero Mission and decided to just go and play them all, as the only one I ever played was (obviously, if you've read this sentence) Zero Mission. I was steeling myself for the purportedly awful controls of Metroid Prime, having beaten all the 2D games, when Trilogy came out. So I'm pretty sure it was meant to be.
I bring this up because this game will inevitably be compared to its predecessors, and given it's the "worst" Metroid game that I've played outside of Metroid II it seems proper to point out that my sentiments are not in any way fueled by nostalgia, unless you honestly think nostalgia can set in within a year. The non-blind reader will note the quotation marks around "worst": this is due to the fact that I loved this game, I just don't think it measures up to the majority of the series.
Rather than split my analysis by standard categories, I'm just gonna list the bad right away (as many bad bits work off each other) and then try to convince you to at least rent this game. I spent the full fifty and I have no regrets, but this game isn't for everyone.
Considering this game came out yesterday and I'm writing my review today, and I don't review games I haven't beaten...yeah, this is a short one. It contains only three real sections outside the hub, and they aren't the largest sections in the world. Moreover, this game is sorely lacking in the exploration factor synonymous with Metroid: Super Mario Galaxy is less straightforward than this. Rather than blocking off paths with obstacles that need certain items, 90% of the time there's simply a locked door in the way. You're going from point A to point B without any doubt in mind for how to get there. Sure, there are puzzles and enemies in the way (more on that in The Good) but all in all it really shouldn't take longer than a weekend to beat this bad boy thanks to the small area and the straightforward path.
I'm not gonna keep writing about how short it is, because there's not much else to say on the matter and I'm not a fan of redundancy and I'm not a fan of redundancy, but in my opinion this is the worst part of the game. I was honestly kind of shocked when it ended.
There are other flaws as well that really took me out of the experience. Chiefly, the soon-to-be infamous scanning sections. Now I loved scanning in the Prime series, really: the logs added to the story in a non-obtrusive way, the information was occasionally handy, and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Strange, but true. This game does not have scanning, which I can live with, given lots of games don't have scanning. What this game DOES have, rather, are sections that force you to look around in first person mode for a 'hint' of some sort that has a detection box the size of a nail tip. It's tedious as hell and it adds nothing to the game. A related, but more acceptable annoyance is the fact that some sections require you to walk slowly with your gun ready, but without the ability to fire. Just as tedious, but at least it adds to the atmosphere a bit.
(Hey, remember, this game is short. Even WITH the random tedious bits.)
It's not a gamebreaker at all, but it's just a hassle the likes of which can't be found in any other Metroid game. Even if you didn't like scanning, at least it was optional.
Finally, the gameplay sometimes leaves something to be desired. The switch between third and first person is occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, annoying. I really enjoyed it most of the time but the fact that it's the only way to launch missiles just plain sucks sometimes. The lack of health or missiles from combat (you recharge missiles whenever you want and can recharge your health when weak) is something that I thought I'd get used to. I didn't. Unlimited missiles diminishes their worth and solidifies them as simply the weapon when using first person, and the health...well, I like health. Save points are close together and all, but sue me, I like tangible rewards when I kill me an alien.
But enough about that, here's
The fundamental reason why this game feels so different from other Metroids is that it IS so different. And different is not necessarily a bad thing.
What this game lacks in exploration it gives back in sheer adrenaline fun. This is easily the most combat-focused game in the series, and the ease of controls mixed with the flat-out style makes it hard not to have a blast while you're playing it. Ripping off the wings off giant bugs, jumping on a monster and ramming a laser down its throat, freezing a boss's hand and running up its arm for the kill, this game is just cool. And, more importantly, it actually feels like I'm doing something about it, rather than just watching. Timing your dodges and charges is everything, and I actually died in this game. Consistently. Not, like, all the time, but more than once. This is more than I can say for any other Metroid game save Super. It's a short one, but it actually manages to be tough every now and then.
The puzzles aren't anywhere near as clever as Prime, but again, this is an action game. Samus runs quick (which, while wonderful, might actually contribute to the shortness), fights tons of bosses and gets additions to suit her new level of weapon...weapon...weaponity. Boosts to her charging speed, dispersing weapons and a gradual succession of upgrades make sure you're never bored (except of course when the game just stops for no reason: see above.)
And what upgrades they are. We don't see much of anything new, but let's face it, speed boosting, grappling and space jumping are just plain fun things to do. The introduction of the former to 3D was a rousing success, and when mixed with the copious wall-jump space we get a speedy little acrobat in Ms. Aran. The morph ball is sadly underused, as it can't do much in the constant battle, but when it's in it's fantastic.
(If this was the bad section, I'd say I missed the spider ball. But it isn't, so I won't, even though I did. Miss it, that is.)
Finally, while this game is short (very, very short) I was playing it for the better part of yesterday and today. Barring classes and food, this was my life. My friends are probably worried, and my new roommate probably thinks I'm like this all the time. The fact that I'm not only furthers my conclusion that this game is crazy fun: even for somebody like me who looks down on anyone who honestly calls themselves a "gamer" it's addicting.
If you're a Metroid fan, you're going to be torn. This is a great game, and regardless of what some may say it always feels like a Metroid game (the atmosphere takes care of that), but it's not in the Metroid genre. Exploration is severely limited, and action (as well as plot, if you see below) is at the forefront. Because this is on purpose, it works, but it still feels inferior to other Metroid games because, well, if you like Metroid games then this isn't enough like the thing you like. This game is proof that different =/= bad in terms of quality, but if you're looking to be dropped in a world with naught but your wits and a superhuman battlesuit in a quest to seek out items and paths, look elsewhere. I would at least rent this game, but even though it's short I, again, don't regret buying it outright. This is the kind of game that I'll be playing again in the future.
(PS: the reason I don't bring up the plot, which is a huuuuuuuuuuuge part of this game, is that it really is subjective. I loved it, for the most part, but I feel like if I talk about it I'm gonna end up spoiling something. It's best to come into this fresh, and while it's certainly no Shakespeare I found it to be enjoyable enough. More importantly, it wove seamlessly into the gameplay, only rarely feeling like it was interrupting me despite the length of the cutscenes. The only problem with it that isn't subjective is that you pretty much NEED to have played Super Metroid to get the full impact of the plot; Metroid II and Metroid Fusion probably also help.)
(PPS: I have to give this game kudos for its creative approach to Samus's customary gimping at the beginning of the game. She's gotta lose all her items somehow, and while it doesn't make the most amount of sense I just got a kick out of how they weakened her up. Best explanation since Fusion.)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/03/10
Game Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)
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