Review by Virtue777
"As disappointing as it is innovative."
When Metroid Other M was announced, many fans were skeptical. Could Team Ninja, a developer known for its intense action game series Ninja Gaiden and fighting game series Dead or Alive really pull off a Metroid title? Metroid, known for its action-adventure hybrid gameplay filled with exploration and puzzle-solving, is quite the farcry from Team Ninja's usual affair. Team Ninja and Nintendo brought forth a few interesting ideas, but sadly those are often overshadowed by a myriad of flaws.
It's likely that graphics are of little importance to the majority of Wii owners. After all, if one wanted a graphical powerhouse, the PS3 or Xbox 360 would be a much better route to travel. Sadly this does not excuse Metroid Other M from criticism in this area.
From an artistic perspective, the game looks boring. The environments are uninspired, and that's very disappointing for a Metroid title. Do not expect to see anything as grand as Phendrana Drifts from Metroid Prime or Torvus Bog from Metroid Prime 2. The environments are dull and lack life. They also lack variety. The entire game takes place on a space ship and is separated into sectors. The sectors stick to one central theme, and rarely deviate from it. It's all stuff you've seen before: jungles, volcanic caves, and frigid mountains. There is little flavor to those areas: remove the Metroid mechanics and Samus as the main character, and the areas would fit perfectly in many games. They can be summed up with one word: forgettable.
Looking at the technical side of things, the game is average or below average. The textures are low resolution and "jaggies" plague the game. In first person mode, Samus' weapon lacks the detail it had in the Metroid Prime titles. In fact, I would say that Other M looks a bit worse than the Metroid Prime trilogy in general. On the other hand, the cinematics in Metroid Other M are absolutely beautiful...however, considering the majority of the game is not spent in cutscenes (thankfully), this does little to alleviate the visual flaws of the game.
SOUND & MUSIC
The sound effects get the job done, though at times they can be quite odd and repetitive. Some foes make some annoying sounds, and the classic Metroid upgrade jingle is missing, but other than that the game sound effects are above average. Sadly, the music is practically nonexistent. The majority of it is very ambient, and some people prefer that. Personally I enjoyed the catchy tunes that accompanied almost all of the previous Metroid games. Even if one does enjoy ambient music, I believe the average gamer will be disappointed with the small quantity of tracks offered. Still, there are some cool remixes of classic Metroid tracks within the game, though it doesn't quite make up for the lack of catchy area music that is often praised by Metroid fans.
STORY / PRESENTATION
The story is told mainly through cutscenes that occur somewhat frequently and often last a long time. The plot resembles a typical anime and reveals much of Samus' past. For the most part, the cutscenes are well done and serve their purpose in progressing the story line. However, some cutscenes are unnecessarily long, and a few others are quite nonsensical. Some points in the story will raise the eye brows of Metroid fans, but any newcomer will probably enjoy the tale Team Ninja and Nintendo have weaved.
The premise is a bit cliche, but the way it unravels is interesting. Without spoiling anything that isn't revealed on the back of the box...basically, Samus receives a distress signal from a very large space station known as the Bottle Ship. Samus responds and enters the Bottle Ship, where she encounters her former commander, Adam Malkovich, and other Galactic Federation soldiers. Something went VERY wrong, and it's up to the team to find out what exactly caused this seemingly hi-tech ship to fall into complete chaos.
Let me begin by praising Team Ninja for its innovation: Metroid Other M has an absolutely genius control scheme. Using only the Wii remote, Samus is yours to command. The majority of the time spent controlling Samus is with the Wii remote held sideways, viewing the action from a third person perspective. Third person gameplay is smooth, but may take some time to get used to, as Samus' movement is directed entirely with the directional pad. As one would expect, playing a three dimensional game this way is not quite as easy as it is when using an analog stick. Luckily this isn't much of an issue in combat thanks to a dodge mechanic that is activated by simply tapping the directional pad in any direction. Face the Wii remote towards the screen, and first person mode shall be entered where Samus can fire missiles and use other functions. Here's the catch though: while in first person mode, Samus cannot move. She can only dodge, which is initiated by the player flicking the Wii remote to the side of the screen immediately before being hit by an attack.
Unlike other Metroid games, Other M takes a more linear approach to progression. The player is directed to the next location throughout the entire story. While exploration is not necessarily forbidden, it is certainly discouraged in this particular entry. The environments are not very large, and sadly they don't mesh together quite as well as other Metroid titles. Locations of upgrades are revealed to the player once all the enemies in a room are defeated in most cases, which may bother some series veterans.
Combat is simple, and most encounters can be conquered by mashing the directional pad to dodge and waiting for an enemy opening. Auto-aim is always on when in third person mode, and it works fairly well for the most part. When charging her gun, Samus gets an instant charge after dodging, making this strategy even more effective. Some enemies can be finished off with a close range blast initiated by tapping the directional pad toward them while they are weakened. Boss fights, while fun, usually devolve into a similar affair, with the added element of having to find the time to switch into first person mode and fire a missile. Overall the difficulty of this title is very low, though recent Metroid games haven't exactly been known to be too difficult.
It's sad to say that this unique game is dragged down by many flaws that really have no reason to be present. For one, the camera can be quite clunky during some platforming sections and combat scenarios. The camera angle is fixed, which can cause some issues when backtracking down certain enemy infested hallways. This could have easily been remedied by allowing the camera to face Samus' direction when the player presses the "B" button on the Wii remote. From time to time, the player is faced with scan sections in which obscure things must be targeted...half of these are not bad, the other half are downright frustrating, requiring the player to target the EXACT point in the area in order to progress the story. Either way, these situations really break the pace of the game and will probably appeal to very few gamers. Some of the more peculiar decisions the developers made lead to more frustration than fun, such as the ability to recharge your missile stock and recover from low energy by pointing the Wii remote vertically and pressing the "A" button. This works wonderfully when not being assaulted by enemies. During combat though, it is difficult to pull off in most situations, making it a somewhat pointless feature. It adds to the intensity in some boss fights on the other hand, challenging the player to find just the right time and location within an arena to utilize this function. Due to the fact that enemies do not drop any health or missiles, fighting respawned enemies is a waste of time. Once the room has been cleared out once, nearby upgrades are displayed on the map, leaving the player no reason to fight respawned enemies and ultimately acting as more of a hindrance to be avoided. There are also a few instant (or near instant) death situations that rely more on trial and error, which is a bit out of character for the Metroid series and is more reminiscent of the Team Ninja's Ninja Gaiden games.
LENGTH & REPLAYABILITY
A first playthrough will likely take the average player 8-10 hours to complete. Finding all of the upgrades may tack on a couple of extra hours. After finding every upgrade in the game, Hard mode is unlocked...though it is essentially normal mode without upgrades. An art and movie gallery are unlocked as well. Other than that, there is little to encourage multiple playthroughs and will probably leave players wanting more. The linear nature of the game makes a second playthrough a bit less desirable, and cutscenes are sadly unskippable, which further discourages multiple playthroughs.
Metroid Other M is worth checking out via rental service or perhaps borrowing from a friend, however I would strongly advise against purchasing. Some veterans and newcomers may be able to ignore the flaws and appreciate the unique game Team Ninja has crafted. Others may give up shortly into the adventure. Metroid vets are likely to be offended by the abandonment of series traditions. Overall I believe Metroid Other M is a rough start to what could potentially be a great Metroid subseries. If Team Ninja is given the opportunity to create another Metroid title, a lot of great things could come from this unique approach to action-adventure gaming.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/10
Game Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)
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