Review by Onilink99999

"Metroid Other M - A bad game, or just different?"

If you've been on any Metroid forums recently, you've probably noticed that Other M hasn't been received well by a significant portion of the Metroid fan-base. Common complaints are the linearity, and consequently the lack of exploration, the quality of the story and cutscenes, and the way that Samus has been characterised. This has led to many statements about the quality of Other M – I've seen huge numbers of people state that it's not only a ‘bad' game but ‘terrible'; others have attacked the director and co-creator of Metroid Yoshio Sakamoto for this new direction for the series. So before beginning this review, I'd like to state – by no means is Metroid: Other M a bad game; in fact, it's quite good. Is it a good Metroid game though? Well, obviously that's going to depend on your own conception of what a ‘Metroid game' is. So with all that out of the way, let's get into it.

Story
Metroid: Other M takes place a few months after Super Metroid, attempting to fill the time gap between Super Metroid and Metroid: Fusion. Whilst travelling in her spaceship, she receives a distress signal coming from a Galactic Federation research vessel that you'll come to know as the Bottle Ship. After landing, Samus encounters her old commander Adam Malkovich, along with some of her old friends from the Galactic Federation. Eventually, Adam requests Samus' help in uncovering what happened to the Bottle Ship, and you then begin the game proper.

The first hour of the game is very heavy on story; there's a lot of cutscenes and heavily scripted events. After that, though, the story is spread quite sparsely across the game's 8-10 hour length. Now, as I mentioned before, the story is a major point of contention for Metroid fans.

It's important to remember that this isn't the first Metroid game to introduce story and cutscenes; the Prime games, Metroid: Fusion and Zero Mission all incorporated some degree of narrative into their games. However, generally the storyline was subtle – it wove itself into the gameplay and never really interfered in the player's experience.

The exact opposite is true for Other M. The story is told exclusively through cutscenes and monologues. Now, for the most part, the former isn't too bad. There are nice animations and camera angles used, and the characters convey everything with body language quite well. However, there is almost always one of Samus' monologues running over the top. I am not exaggerating when I say that these monologues often ruin what are otherwise great scenes. Most of the time, she's just describing what you can already see on the screen or regurgitating what you've just heard – and this is always done using the greatest number of words possible. It doesn't help that Samus' voice sounds monotone and bored for a greater part of the game. Show, don't tell is a lesson that the developers of Other M need to learn.

The ending, particularly, was terrible in my opinion. Without spoiling anything, the game tries to lump a huge amount of characterisation and emotional relationships between two new characters (one of which you've only just encountered) on the player in the space of 10 minutes and expects them to care – and, quite simply, you don't. The plot loses its focus on Samus entirely (until the last 30 seconds or so), and is quite possibly the most unsatisfying ending I've ever seen in a game.

To briefly touch on the characterisation of Samus, I'll just say that she comes off as a fairly weak and insecure person, overall. It's pretty rare that she stands up to Adam or anyone else, even though past evidence states that she hates being ordered around (just look at the intro to Metroid: Fusion). In the early stages of the game, she's a bit obsessed with the Baby Metroid. In the intro, the tutorial, and the next couple of cutscenes she's just moping about the death of the Baby. Maybe it's because this relationship is told entirely through the terrible monologues, maybe it's because I've played the old games so I've already seen that relationship occur, but it just comes off as hollow and annoying. I think Sakamoto was trying to show a maternal side of Samus' character, but just pushed the issue too much and went about it in the wrong way. Spoiler Alert for anyone that hasn't seen the first trailer for Other M – Ridley's in the game. One thing which was a bit odd was how Samus, upon seeing Ridley, completely loses it – she starts trembling and screaming whilst Ridley growls and attacks her. Now, whilst it makes sense that Samus would have some post-traumatic stress issues with Ridley, she's killed him six times already. I'm pretty sure she got over it many games ago. There are some redeeming points for Samus' character in the game, though, the most prominent being in Sector 0. Whilst I wouldn't say the damage is irreparable, the narrative has certainly taken its toll on the one of the most iconic and beloved heroines in gaming.

Gameplay
This is the area where Metroid: Other M shines brightest. The game is played using only one Wii Remote. The default position has you holding the remote horizontally and playing the game in a sort of 2.5D third-person – you use 2 to jump, 1 to fire, the d-pad to move, the A-button for Morph Ball, etc. It's similar to using a NES controller.

However, if the player twists the Wii Remote to face the screen (like if you were playing Metroid Prime 3, for example) the game shifts into first person mode, where they can look around and lock-on to things by holding B, and fire the arm canon and use missiles with A – although you cannot actually move. Missiles are exclusively used in first-person mode, so you use it quite regularly.

Additionally, if the player holds the Wii Remote vertically and holds A, they can use ‘Concentration' and recharge their missiles and, if near-death, health. That's right, there are no health or missile pick-ups in Other M; the player can recharge by using concentration and through Save Stations.

Whilst this last point may confront some players, the game plays quite smoothly, and it's amazing how much Team Ninja achieved with just one Wii Remote. It's a control scheme which could only really be done on the Wii, so it's nice to see the developers taking advantage of that – as well as taking some inspiration from the Prime games.

There are only two issues I have with the controls. Firstly, in first-person mode lock-on and look around are mapped to the same button, which can lead to some frustrations as the lock-on feature is *very* sticky. Secondly, ledge grabbing and jumping just never seemed to work particularly well for me – oft times Samus would just hit the ledge and fall…rather than grabbing it like she's supposed to. I don't know why this is, but it definitely proved annoying in my play-through.

Team Ninja is the force behind the more recent Ninja Gaiden games and so, playing to their strengths, Other M is a far more action-oriented game than any of the series predecessors. Combat is fast and sometimes brutal.

The third-person mode of the game uses an auto-targeting system – simply point Samus in the general direction and she'll shoot at the nearest target. This works well most of the time – but I have encountered hick-ups where Samus aims at nothing or the least relevant enemy, and these were usually at the absolute worst of times. I think some sort of system which gives more precedence to particularly dangerous foes or damageable body parts could improve auto-aiming. Still, no automatic system can be perfect, so they did do a pretty good job.

Samus now also has some more physical abilities – the Sense Move, Lethal Strike, and Overblast are all new techniques which add a more action-oriented feel to the gameplay. Sense Move allows Samus to dodge enemy attacks by pressing in any direction on the d-pad the moment before an enemy's attack hits. Additionally, if you successfully Sense Move whilst holding 1 to charge your beam, it will instantly charge up to max. This ability is vital to staying alive in Other M, and also contributes significantly to damage out-put.

Sometimes, after significantly damaging an enemy or boss, Samus can perform a Lethal Strike – a powerful finishing move where Samus gets up close and personal with her enemies before, for example, stamping on their head and blasting them with your charge beam, or round-house kicking them into their allies. There is a unique animation for every type of enemy, and they add a nice cinematic flair to combat.

Similar to the Lethal Strike, you have the Overblast. This allows Samus to jump on certain enemies (such as Hoppers), charge up her arm cannon, and fire straight down into her enemy's head. What's interesting to note about the Overblast is that it's not just a cutscene – the player has to charge up the beam and time exactly when to fire it; if they get this timing wrong, they will be knocked off and suffer some light damage, adding a slight element of risk and reward.

One more aspect I'd like to mention is something that I haven't really seen mentioned anywhere else, and that is quick-time events. However, these aren't the quick time events which are obviously about to happen and have you follow button prompts as they appear on the screen. Other M makes use of the quick-time event by thrusting them suddenly on the player and letting them use the mechanics of the normal gameplay to escape them. For example, there's a sequence where you enter a room and are suddenly attacked at high-speed from above. What do you do? You use a Sense Move, just like you would normally. It gets the player to think on their feet and allows the mechanics of the game to be used in a more cinematic way – which I think is a great attempt to try something new with the now-stale quick-time events.

All of Samus' traditional weapons from Super Metroid are in the game, and function exactly as they used to (although they nerfed the Space Jump and reduce the Gravity Suit to a purple hue). I'm sad to say that there is only one new power-up in the game, and it's one of the first you receive – the Diffusion Beam. Whilst it's a great addition to Samus' arsenal, surely some more new power-ups could have been added. After all, most of the current weapons have been around since 1986. On that note, actually, many of the basic enemies are recycled from Super Metroid, so if you're a long-time fan of the series, then you'll certainly be seeing a lot of old content. With regards to enemies, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, as this is the first time many of the creatures have appeared in 3D – but I don't think the developers could get away with this again.

Progression is generally quite linear – you save at a Save Station and a marker gets placed on your map telling you where to go. On this note, I think it would be nice to have a bit more detail in the maps. I think the Prime method of fully 3-dimensional rotating maps as well as room names should have re-appeared in Other M, as it added a certain layer of authenticity to the location and also served as a handy navigational tool. But anyway, whilst I never felt like I was just running down a straight corridor (due to the aesthetics and intricate design and objectives of certain rooms), freedom was undoubtedly limited.

Nevertheless, exploration does still exist in Metroid Other M – but it's far more limited than in past iterations. There are five types of items to uncover – Missile Tanks (which now only give you 1 extra missile a piece), Energy Tanks, Energy Parts (4 of which make a whole tank), E-Recovery Tanks (which increase the amount of health you restore through Concentration) and Accel Charges (which increases how fast your beam charges up). Admittedly some of these are hidden quite well, and puzzles sometimes make excellent use of your abilities (particularly the Speed Booster and Shinespark) – however many are pretty obvious, particularly as the game marks items on your map after you clear each room of enemies. It's worth noting that only 71% of items can be gained in the first-run – you must wait until the credits have rolled before being allowed access to everything else. This post-game section is actually quite enjoyable (particularly the extra boss and final sequence) and harks back to the more traditional aspects of exploration and item-collection in Metroid.

There are moments in the game when Samus will suddenly stop, go into first-person mode, and the player will have to play “Where's Wally?” (Or “Waldo” for the Americans) and try to find what is often a completely unspecified object. I appreciate the attempt at adding more interactivity to the story, but these are stupid and dull objectives better left to cutscenes.

The one last aspect of gameplay I want to discuss is boss fights. They are one of the best and most varied parts of the game, and consist of some truly awesome moments. To give general examples, there's a boss that controls gravity and can make you weigh tons, or a boss with whom you need to pull onto land via a tug-of-war using your grappling beam. There is a nice mixture of old and new enemies to fight and even the old foes have had changes – both aesthetically and in terms of their abilities. Whilst Other M is never really hard, the boss fights are the biggest challenges the game has to offer – they stand-out from the basic enemies just like they should. Actually, trying to avoid spoilers, there's a particular boss who, after you do enough damage, eats you and begins to damage you rapidly, and you have to kill it with the Power Bomb. The problem is, until this time the Power Bomb hasn't been authorised, and you're not told that you can use it. I actually had to check a walkthrough to figure out what to do, so a cutscene telling me that it's unlocked would be nice.

Presentation
Other M is one of the few Wii games which attempts a more realistic look and succeeds with flying colours. Character models (particularly Samus) look great, as do the enemy and boss models which are very nicely detailed. Environments generally look quite good (of particular note is the tutorial room which makes very nice use of reflections), if relatively un-inspired (that is, you've just got your generic jungle, fire, ice, water, and technological areas).

I rarely noticed jaggies; however some textures (such as the molten rock texture) look blurry, overblown and just lack detail. Particle effects, which you'll be seeing quite a lot of due to the diffusion beam, and explosions look nice enough, but aren't anything particularly special.

Animations are very nicely handled, and every person and creature behaves and moves just as you would imagine, which gives the world of Other M a bit more of a organic feel.

CG Cutscenes, handled by Studio D-Rockets, are incredible and some of the best instances of story present within the game. The intro sequence is entirely CG and is a spectacular re-imagining the final battle with Mother Brain at the end of Super Metroid. They are used throughout the game, however they correlate so nicely with the in-game graphics that you'll barely notice the transition between CG and in-game graphics.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the transitions between the gameplay and cutscenes are brilliantly smooth. Whilst I did notice a few load-screens whilst *playing* the game (when opening doors), not once did I suffer a load screen when entering a cutscene or in the midst of the story – not even when transitioning to a CG clip. A great example of the transition is from the beginning of the game. You're just guiding Samus down a corridor when you hear noises, the game smoothly shifts into first-person mode (just as if you'd pointed the Wii Remote at the screen) and bam you're already in a cutscene. This effect melds the story cutscenes and gameplay together very nicely – now if only the story itself was better…

Sound effects are all appropriate and contribute strongly to the atmosphere of the Bottle Ship. The voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag. As I've stated, Samus' voice is fairly monotone and bored most of the time, although she does have her moments, and the other characters are similarly hit-and-miss. Adam and Anthony were probably some of, if not the best voices in the game – consequently they were the only two other characters I cared about. The only really terrible voices I remember are the guy that conducts the tutorial and the Galactic Federation general – their voices just sounded out of sync and completely wrong for the characters.

It can sometimes be quite difficult to hear what characters are saying over the top of the music/sound effects. There's no option to change the sound levels, and so it'd be nice if the dialogue wasn't overpowered by everything else. Subtitles shouldn't be mandatory.

The music is basically non-existent. Unlike…well, every single other Metroid game in which we had great catchy tunes that remain as some of the most memorable anthems in gaming, Other M sticks pre-dominantly to beats and sounds to try and build up a tense atmosphere. That's not to say there isn't music, it's just brief and not very catchy. I think I remember about 5 short pieces of music…three of which are remixes of old tunes, and are, once again, a mixed bag. This fact really disappointed me. Music is one of the cornerstones of modern story-telling and has always significantly added to the atmosphere of the Metroid universe, so the way in which it was handled in Other M just truly baffles me.

Lasting Appeal
Metroid Other M is a short game. The main story took me 8 hours to complete, the post-game content and item collection taking me up to 10 and a half hours. Completing the game 100% unlocks an art gallery – which is nice, but you'll only ever look at it once – and a hard mode. The hard mode removes all expansions and ramps up the difficulty of enemies, making the game more in line with the higher difficulties of the Ninja Gaiden games – in other words, very hard. However, there is no bonus for playing through hard mode so it's kind of frivolous. In the end, there's really no reason to re-visit Other M.

Final Thoughts
Metroid Other M is in no way, shape or form a bad game. It's got a unique control scheme which is easy to pick-up and actually works; a great cinematic combat system (and well-designed enemies and bosses to accompany it); great graphics which push the Wii hardware and demonstrate that realistic graphics can be done well on the system, as well as some incredible CG cutscenes; and finally, some decent exploration. That said, it's got its share of negatives – the story is sub-par and poorly told; music is almost non-existent; exploration is limited and the game sometimes suffers from an overly linear progression; only one new power-up is introduced; textures are sometimes blurry and overblown; the voice-acting ranges from bad to decent; and it's fairly short with little replayability. However, the core of the game, that is its gameplay, is rock-solid and Other M is home to some incredibly cinematic and memorable gameplay sequences that every fan of action games should experience eventually. Is Other M the Metroid game we were all hoping for? Absolutely not. Is it a good Metroid title? Well, that depends on your concept of what a Metroid game is, but no probably not. Is it a great action game with elements of Metroid? Definitely.

I give Metroid Other M 7.0 out of 10.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/19/10

Game Release: Metroid: Other M (AU, 09/02/10)


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