Review by Link_Wind_Hero
"Does it live up to the series?"
Last year, it was announced that Nintendo and Team Ninja (of Ninja Gaiden fame) had teamed up to develop the latest entry to the Metroid saga, Other M. This pairing alone was enough to tell the fandom that a very different style of game from the Prime sub-series was about to be thrust upon us.
The Metroid series has been a staple of Nintendo's from their very beginning. Every Nintendo console except the N64 has been host to at least one Metroid game, and every one of them is highly rated. With this said, Metroid: Other M seems to have a lot of hype to live up to and a lot of negative feedback to crush, and I strongly believe that it meets these challenges.
Metroid has never been a series known for riveting stories and immense plot twists. Sure, every game has had a story, but they have always taken a backseat to the gameplay. Other M attempts to change the paradigm with which we view the series. All characters, including Samus, now have full voice acting, and there are several absolutely beautiful looking cutscenes to help tell the tale.
The game begins with a re-telling of the battle with Mother Brain from Super Metroid. Following this cutscene, Samus wakes up in a Galactic Federation hospital. After a short tutorial to teach the player the controls, Samus leaves the Federation's vessel to go seek a new bounty.
An unnumbered amount of weeks pass by. Eventually Samus receives a distress call from a Galactic Federation research station, dubbed the Bottle Ship, and immediately heads to answer the call. Upon arrival, the station seems to be deserted.
Samus begins to explore the ship, and runs across a group of Galactic Federation soldiers who have also answered the distress call. Among these soldiers is Commander Adam Malkovich, Samus's former Commanding Officer from her time with the Galactic Federation.
The group makes their way deeper into the ship, where they are attacked by a strange purple monster. Samus helps the GF soldiers defeat the monster, and then requests to join the group and help out with the mission. Adam agrees to this offer, on the condition that Samus follow his orders as if she were under his command once again. From here, the group splits up to explore the ship, discover why the distress call was sent, and rescue any survivors.
The game is interlaced with cutscenes and dialogue that delves into a side of Samus that has always been inferred, but never truly elaborated upon. Samus's past, her thoughts, and her feelings are at the center of this story, and some fans have not taken very kindly to this. I however, absolutely love this part of the game.
The very first plot twist in the series was the fact that Samus was actually a woman, and not a man or robot of some sort. Many fans have forgotten this detail: Samus truly is NOT a mindless robot; she is a human with feelings and emotion, and now we have access to that.
As a whole, this game does a fantastic job at bridging the gap between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, tying up some story elements introduced in Fusion very nicely, while also existing as its own story.
This game returns to the series' third person roots, though rather than playing on straight 2D sidescrolling planes, it is played in a fully 3D environment. After the very successful Prime Trilogy's first person viewpoint, the change is a first for a three dimensional Metroid game. I am a huge fan of the Prime games, and I think both styles of gameplay are fantastic, though very different.
The gameplay is where Team Ninja really has left their touch on the game. It is incredibly fast paced and very action-oriented. The game is played by holding the Wii Remote on its side, similar to an NES controller. The D-pad is used for movement, A is for transforming back and forth from the Morph Ball, 1 fires the Arm Cannon, and 2 is to jump. Pointing the remote at the screen will enter a first person mode similar to the Prime games used for firing missiles (the only way to use them) and looking around the environment for hidden routes, enemies, or items.
It definitely takes a little getting used to using a D-pad for movement in a 3D plane, but the developers have built the game with an 8-directional character specifically in mind, so it never really causes a problem. The camera also is very good at knowing where to go, and never leaves you travelling in an awkward direction. Scenery is turned temporarily transparent if it is hiding Samus as well, so you never lose track of her.
The transition between first and third person is nearly flawless and really adds to the gameplay, and is anything but a gimmick. One of my biggest gripes is that you can only fire missiles while in this first person mode, and only once locked on. This makes them far less useful and versatile than in previous games, and limited to something you can only use sparingly.
An area that has raised a lot of concern with fans is how Samus obtains items. Rather than some explosion or technological glitch of her Power Suit causing her to lose all of her items at the start of the game, like most Metroid titles, Samus begins Other M with all of her weapons and upgrades form Super Metroid. Due to her working under Adam's command, she is only able to begin to use an item when he authorizes the use of that item. There are a couple items that are found the traditional way, but they are very few.
I was very uneasy with this tactic at first, but it has grown upon me. To be honest, it makes more sense than her mysteriously getting in an explosion of some kind and losing all of her items, then magically finding those exact same items hidden throughout the planet. She has agreed to work under the military, and she must follow her orders from her temporary superior. Militaries don't go in guns-a-blazing at full force, they tactically determine when and where to use which weapon, and for what purpose.
However, this does lead to a few irritating parts where you just wish Samus could flick the on switch for some items without waiting for Adam to approve (such as running through the lava area without the Varia suit), but overall, it has the same effect as finding these items: you have to progress to a certain room or area to get them.
This game is also by far the most linear game in the series, even more so than Fusion. You are forced from save room to save room with very little exploration in between. Rather than the usual doors that are opened by shooting at them with a different weapon (doors which could be put anywhere, requiring you to backtrack once you got a new beam or missile), doors in this game are locked and unlocked by Adam back in the control room. This leads to the game locking off areas you aren't supposed to be in, leaving only the straightforward path to the next goal open. This goes against what I see as a staple of Metroid: free-ranging exploration.
This is eventually remedied, though only at the very end of the game. After the game has been beaten, Samus returns to the Bottle Ship for a particular item, with all doors are now opened, and this is when you can go through the entire ship and obtain 100% of the items. Yes, that does mean that you can only get 100% after beating the final boss, but there is still plenty to do after that, including a few new areas that are only available in this post-game section.
The game adds in a few melee attacks in addition to the beams and missiles Samus has always had. When an enemy gets close to death, they often will fall to the ground or sink down in a weakened state. If you begin to charge your beam and run towards the enemy, Samus will initiate a Lethal Strike, which is very cool. They vary depending on the enemy, but usually involve grabbing the enemy and shooting a charged beam into their mouth, stomping on them and shooting the beam at their back, or something similar.
Another new gameplay feature is the Sense Dodge. Whenever Samus is just about to get hit by an attack, be it melee or ranged, you can press the D-pad in any direction and she will dive in that direction to dodge the attack. Also, if you are charging you beam while you dodge, the beam will fully charge instantly.
Overall, Team Ninja has definitely made their presence known in a very positive way, expanding upon traditional Metroid gameplay with their traditional action-packed style of gaming. The only drawbacks to me are the linearity and somewhat the missile usage. 8/10
Oh well, there has to be a downfall to every game. Music in this game is nearly non-existent. Most of the game involves very light ambient music, which is very different from the engaging music of previous titles, such as Metroid Prime or Super Metroid, and sometimes there is no music at all, only sound effects. This is, for me, the biggest drawback of the game.
However, I must commend a certain piano tune, as well as my favorite remix yet of a certain boss's theme.
This game is a fantastic entry to the Metroid series, and is well worth the buy. The engaging story, addicting and fun gameplay, and overall entertainment from the game kept me glued to my TV from start to finish.
I give this game a solid 8/10. It is a great game that I don't regret buying at all, but it does have a few drawbacks to keep it from being perfect.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/10, Updated 09/10/10
Game Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)
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