Metroid: Other M
Review by BluePenMan
"It's not good, it's not bad... it's just... O.K."
As far as Nintendo franchises go, Metroid is one of the most influential, right up there with Mario and Zelda. It's gone trough a few changes throughout it's career, seen installments from a few different developers, each with their own style and intent. As a result, players need to keep an open mind when playing new Metroid games, and not expect them to be carbon-copies of older entries in the series. Other M is no exception. Players expecting this to be just like Metroid Prime will be disappointed, as will players expecting the exploration depth of Super Metroid. This game is what it is. It's not good, but it's not bad either. It's just an o.k . game.
The gameplay here is a mixed bag. Some aspects work well, while others are just about terrible. Since this is by far the most important part of the game, I'll go into great detail on 3 major aspects of the gameplay, explaining why or why not they work. Most everything seems to have been designed well, but ultimately suffers from poor execution. Take for example, the controls. for most of the game you hold the Wiimote sideways, use the control pad to move, and the 1 and 2 buttons let you shoot and jump respectively. This works well, and it almost feels like you're playing Metroid on the NES. That is, until, you want to shoot a missile. Then you have to point the remote at the screen, hold down B so you can aim, and then press and hold A until your missile is charged up. This wouldn't be so bad, but you can't move at all while doing this. And since this is required in pretty much every battle, you're constantly left a sitting duck. This is where the majority of the game's difficulty comes in, and in some of the later battles, you have to do this maneuver so quickly, you'll find yourself either hitting the buttons in the wrong order, thus using your morph ball when you mean to fire, or else taking unnecessary hits. It's really a shame, because the controls would work so well if not for this.
Another aspect that suffers from poor execution is the overall design of the game. Most games in the series let you freely explore the world, finding everything for yourself, and your only limitations are your current equipments. While all the games have an overall linearity, most of them don't shove it in your face, and you feel like you're in control. This game, sadly, is not like that. It's very Metroid Fusion in it's approach. You are not allowed to freely explored until the end of the game, and in the meantime, you are forced, more or less, to follow a very strict path. The game tells you to go to a certain place in the map, and once you're there, it only tells you to go to the next place, and so on and so forth. It's linear running through hallways and killing enemies, and if you have the right equipment, you may be able to find a missile pack or two along the way. There are very few diverging paths, so you're locked into the one path from start until finished, and many doors lock once you've gone through them, so you can't backtrack and explore for more goodies. It works ok, but it definitely doesn't fall into the Metroid formula.
The last thing Metroid is really known for is puzzle design and utilization of your equipment. Most games follow a very ingenious formula. You'll stumble upon an item in a room, and once you're there, the only way to leave the room is to use your new weapon in a mini puzzle which acts as a tutorial for that weapon. For example, the morph ball in the original Metroid. To reach it, you climb up and jump over a wall, but once you hit the ground on the other side, the wall is to high to jump over again. Luckily for you, there is a piece of equipment right by. You pick it up, and now have the ability to transform into a ball and roll under things. Now you notice a space underneath the wall that you can just fit under while in ball form, allowing you to leave the room and go on your way. This formula works well, and led to some of the most memorable puzzles in Super Metroid and Metroid Prime. Unfortunately, this aspect was completely left out of Other M. Instead, you'll walk into a room, Adam will say, "Samus, I'm authorizing use of the blah blah blah" and then you more often than not leave without even using that new weapon in a cool puzzle. In one instance, you wander into a room you've been in twice before, and Samus just unlocks 2 of the best weapons, and you go on your way. There was no puzzle, no mini tutorial, no anything. Because of this, the game feels like the programmers put little to no effort into the game. Maybe they weren't even familiar with the Metroid Formula. Because of this, the game takes a huge hit in the gameplay department.
I won't go into too many details on the story. It, like just about everything else in the game, is just ok. It goes into some of Samus's past history, which is kind of interesting. But at the same time, you're caught up in this plot, that has twists and surprises throughout. If you're a big fan of the series, some plot twists are really enjoyable, while others fall short of expectations. The plot also seems cluttered in places, with too many things going on, which can lead to some confusion.
One of the few aspects of the game that was done right throughout. I'll start with the sound. Long time fans will enjoy the fact that music from many of the earlier games appears, sometimes in updated recordings, sometimes in all out remixes. And it all sounds really good. Unfortunately, most of the music is midi, and not orchestrated. Now, that may be too much to expect since a lot of game aren't orchestrated, but I digress. It's still enjoyable to listen to.
The graphics are also done fairly well. This is without a doubt one of the best looking games on the Wii. There is a level of detail not found in many games on the system, and some cinemas just look amazing. Unfortunately, other contemporary consoles have spoiled us with realistic graphics, and this shows that the game's visuals are confined to the Wii's less than stellar graphical capabilities.
Play time/Replayability: 6/10
This game is short, which is what you should expect from the Metroid franchise. The first time through, you can beat it in about 7 hours. If you're looking for all the items, it will take you closer to 10 or 11. As for replaying it, once you beat the game with 100% you unlock hard mode, which takes away all missile and energy tanks. If you thought the game was too easy the first time, then replay with with a maximum of 10 missiles, and 99 health. Definitely worth replaying for.
Like I said before, this game is just ok. It's not great, it's not terrible, and it's no where close to being the best in the series. However, despite it's flaws and short comings, it's still a lot of fun to play. If you're like me, and you expected it to follow the classic metroid formula, you'll definitely be let down. Go into it with an open mind, and you'll find yourself enjoying it a lot more.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 09/07/10
Game Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)
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