Review by Ian_Kovich

"What makes a fun game? A reward system. Other M doesn't have one."

Metroid was a series that followed a fairly similar formula to Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise. In both series, you'd start off with virtually nothing, but then get stronger as you played the game, obtaining weapons and items as you navigated levels and beat bosses. This formula is what gave both series a long lasting appeal, because they gave you instant, tangible rewards that let you know that you're making progress. It's one of the oldest, most fundamental forms of gameplay that enticed the player to keep playing.

Not only does Metroid: Other M ditch this form of rewarding gameplay, but it fails to replace it.

An Action Game with No Reason to Fight

The one topic you'll hear me refer to a lot is 'reward.' After all, that's why we play games: to feel rewarded. Whether it be through overcoming challenges, achieving unlockables, progressing in a story, or discovering more in the game world, our favorite games are those that give us a true sense of accomplishment.

As previously mentioned, Metroid had the formula of starting the player off with virtually nothing. As you explored the game, you'd be teased with blocked off passages and locked doors. Then you'd encounter a power-up, either by finding it or achieving it by defeating a boss. Then you'd realized that that blocked off passage you saw is suddenly an obstacle no longer. You head back at your own pace and discover the world at your leisure.

However, Other M drops this formula of gameplay and instead opts to be a fast-paced action game. This would have been acceptable if the gameplay had been a worthy replacement or, more preferably, better than what we had before. After all, Resident Evil 4 barely has anything to do with the original titles, story, gameplay, and whatnot, but is often considered to be one of the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, not only does Other M's switch make it worse than other Metroid games, it puts it below every other game of its kind.

Simplicity Leads to Compensation

Part of this has to do with the strange decision to have the entire game played with only the Wii Remote. Though this doesn't mean that the controls are broken by any means, what it does mean is that the gameplay is almost entirely automated. After all, you're playing an action game with only a D-Pad and three action buttons, as well as a pointer.

In order to dodge, you hit the D-Pad as the enemy attacks, making Samus auto-dodge, which is called Sense Move. This is certainly more simplified than other action games where you had to time dodges, especially on higher difficulty settings, by hitting the proper button. What's worse, there's nothing stopping you from just mashing the D-Pad until you pull off a Sense Move. To top it all off, you're completely invincible as you dodge. It doesn't matter if you dodge towards or away from an enemy; you won't take any damage, and as long as you're hitting the D-Pad constantly, you're guaranteed to almost never take damage.

To attack enemies, you hit the 1 button. This fires your arm cannon. You can hold down the 1 button to charge your shots, but when you dodge attacks, you gain an instant charge. I'd like to go into more detail, but this is as simple as the game gets. You wait for an enemy to take you, mash the D-Pad until you Sense Move, then fire your charged shot. You don't even need to worry about aiming, because, as I said above, the game is so automated that it does the aiming for you. The only real time you have any control is when you enter first person mode by pointing at the screen. This allows you to fire a homing missile at an enemy, but you lose your ability to move.

Ultimately, the game proves to be insultingly easy. Your main method of attack, or rather, your only method of attack, grants you almost complete invincibility while simultaneously hitting enemies with your strongest attack; as soon as you gain the beam upgrade that causes damage over a wide area, which is very early on, you're virtually unstoppable.

No Penalty for Deserters

With the gameplay being this simple and easy, I wound up wanting to avoid fighting enemies as much as I could. The sad part? You actually can. There's nothing stopping you. In most rooms and hallways, you can run right past enemies without any penalty. Another element that's dropped from the Metroid franchise is enemies dropping health and ammunition. Instead, you recover both by reaching save rooms, which there are a lot of, and by using a move called 'Concentration,' where you hold the A button and tilt the Wii Remote up. This also recovers a tank of your health if you're in the red. That said, you're not missing out on anything by avoiding fights: no recovery items, no power ups, nothing. You only need to fight when the doors lock on you. Though Other M may be more combat friendly than its sidescrolling and first person counterparts, it loses any reason to fight at all.

With no real, tangible reward for fighting, combat immediately loses all purpose. That's why games like God of War and Devil May Cry use experience points, currency, or a combo system. It's not just for show; it's to act as a marker to show players visually how far they've progressed. You can see how much stronger your character got over time, and you have control over your character's growth. That's how those games make players feel compelled to keep fighting, even if you use similar tactics on each enemy. In Other M, there is no progression. You use the same tactics on every enemy throughout the game. What's worse, the only thing Other M retains from the franchise, mainly the older titles, is that your abilities stack, meaning you don't need to worry about switching between weapons to accommodate for various situations. But it doesn't end there: most power ups act as a deus ex machina just to get Samus out of dangerous, scripted, and sometimes improbable situations, which I'll go into further detail later. Power ups barely serve any real or practical use in combat, and by the end of the game, you don't feel any stronger than you did when you first started.

A Complete Lack of Anything Metroid

As I said earlier, Metroid games were usually about Samus starting off with very little, then ending with a whole lot, obviously becoming more powerful than before.

In this game, however, Samus is fully equipped with all of her weapons and abilities, but doesn't use them because her ex-CO told her not to. I'm not going to complain about this plot point, but I will come back to it later. Though this may mix up the usual 'Samus loses her abilities' scenario that happens in almost every Metroid game, what this inadvertently does is create yet another sense of unsatisfying gameplay.

In Other M, you don't get stronger by defeating powerful enemies or navigating life-threatening areas; you get your abilities when you find yourself in a pinch, a trap where you can only escape by activating the piece of equipment you already have. As I mentioned previously, usually these events are highly improbable and obviously implemented at the last minute. In one instance, Samus gets her wave beam, the weapon that penetrates physical objects, because three glass walls shoot up out of the ground in the space lab's hallway, preventing her from escaping incoming enemy fire. I'm not going to go into detail about how unlikely this kind of situation is, but that's just how the power up system works throughout most of the game.

There are only two instances where you gain power-ups by defeating enemies, but the disappointing part is that these enemies don't make up for the lack of bosses. You get the diffusion beam, a beam weapon that causes area effect damage, by destroying three small robot enemies. You also get the seeker missile by defeating this one enemy that you encounter a few times throughout the game; unlike most enemies, this one will retreat and return to attack you somewhere around three times, but you use the same tactics on it during each confrontation. I'm probably going to repeat this in my story section of the review, but these two items create a story problem: near the beginning, Samus' ex-CO restricts the use of some of her more deadly weapons until he authorizes them, but he doesn't seem to have a problem with her using area effect weapons that she finds on the ship.

Another staple in the Metroid franchise that's now gone is exploration, having large, somewhat blocked off worlds that become more open as you explore and figure things out. Other M basically throws that aside and puts you in one long hallway. Generally, each room only has two doors: the one you came in and the other where you leave. Sometimes the door behind you locks, preventing you from going back. This kind of linearity actually leads to a game-breaking glitch where, if you backtrack through one particular door, it will lock on you permanently, forcing you to either restart the game from scratch or send your save file to Nintendo. In short, whereas previous Metroid games, even Fusion, gave you the opportunity to deviate and explore at your leisure, Other M ensures that you don't. The only time you get to explore is after you've beaten the game, after you've seen every room in the game.

Arbitrary Mechanics

Probably the worst aspect to Metroid: Other M, as far as gameplay goes, is the inclusion of gameplay elements that serve absolutely no purpose. That is, they serve no purpose to the gamer, but instead serve solely to pad out the game's length as much as possible.

The first element is the over-the-shoulder segments. During some instances in the game, the camera locks itself over Samus' shoulder, Resident Evil 4 style. This would have been a really interesting perspective to explore for gameplay, but that's not what it's there for. When you find yourself in this mode, you can't jump, you can't shoot, you can't enter morph ball mode, and you can't even move properly. Samus goes from a lightning quick run to a painfully slow crawl, and to make matters worse, you're controlling Samus like a tank. You can only move forward, backward, and turn while moving forward. In other words, the controls are more restrictive than the aforementioned Capcom title. What purpose does this mechanic serve? Truthfully, I have no idea. I wanted to say that it was meant to bridge gameplay sequences to cutscenes, as that happens a lot throughout the game, but there are some instances where the camera moves to this position for no real reason. Probably the most annoying aspect to this is that there's one instance where you have to navigate a two and a half minute long hallway in this mode, and once you're done, you do it all over again. Regardless of what this mechanic was added for, all it does is annoy you.

Then you have the scanning sections. I've heard people complain about them in Prime, but never understood why. It's not like you had to scan every individual thing in the game unless you wanted to unlock all the bonus content. At the very least, Prime had the decency to show what you could scan and what you couldn't, as well as what needed to be scanned as opposed to what didn't.

In Other M, not only does scanning return, but it's forced on you in the middle of cutscenes, and you can't proceed with the game until you find what it is the game wants you to scan. However, the game never tells you what you're supposed to scan, and the only way to find out is to hover the pointer over the target spot for a few seconds while trying to lock onto it. Basically, it really is a game of 'Where's Waldo' where you don't know who or what Waldo is. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not, and the fact that the game prevents you from continuing until you find that arbitrary item is annoying. What's worse, it's completely unnecessary: it's not fun, it's not rewarding, and all it does is make the story continue. To add insult to injury, you aren't really 'scanning', per se; you're not scanning something to get data on it like in Prime, you're just making Samus look at something. You don't learn anything about it, and it doesn't reveal anything important. Again, it's just an arbitrary attempt at adding gameplay elements. If that's not bad enough, sometimes this element nudges itself into gameplay, and you're left totally clueless as to why you can't continue or why the game ends, not knowing that you were supposed to manually go into first person and scan something despite not being in a cutscene. It's just one of many instances where the game establishes certain 'rules' about the gameplay, but then goes against it entirely without letting the player know. Speaking of…

Rules are Apparently Made to be Broken

The biggest no-no in game design is to tell the player that the game must be played one way, but then throw a twist with no heads up. That's exactly what Metroid: Other M does.

Going back to the aforementioned example, scanning was set up to be a series of set pieces. If you need to scan something, you're forced into first person. However, there's not one, but two instances where this rule is broken. The first is when you have to manually go into first person, and the second is during a boss fight that isn't actually a boss fight.

I should mention that, at one point in the game, you fight a boss entirely in first person, because Samus is pinned to the ground. I would point out the inconsistency that, somehow, Samus isn't able to throw this boss or kick it off, because it's actually a common enemy you've encountered before that Samus can whip around like a lasso, but that's not the important thing right now. Near the end of the game, another supposed 'boss' appears along with several enemies and they begin to attack. Samus is protecting someone, and you're forced into first person. My first thought was that this was another fight like the one where Samus was pinned to the ground, so I attacked. However, once I died, I realized that wasn't the way to win. By complete accident, I figured out that you were supposed to scan the boss, who spends most of its time hidden behind a cluster of enemies, which triggers a cutscene that, sadly, shows Samus standing back as other, non-important characters kill it. The main character to this story doesn't even get to kill the mastermind behind the whole affair.

I'm beginning to complain about the story again, so let's go back to this rule-breaking fault in the game. Another instance of this actually happens quite close to the end of the game. At this point, you see Samus activating her equipment every time she's authorized to. The game will cut to a menu screen showing her weapons and items as each one is activated along with an explanation on what each one does. You're in that mindset that, whenever you obtain something, you actually see it. Not so for the second to final boss. In order to kill it, you need to figure out within the span of a few seconds that the needed weapon is available, or else you die. There is absolutely no indication whatsoever that you can use it. Not only do you have to guess that you have it, but if you don't, you have to fight the boss all over again. It's annoying, and it's stupid. There's absolutely no excuse for it.

GAMEPLAY SUMMARY

Ultimately, Other M tries to be an action game but fails to incorporate the necessities to make it work. Not only does the gameplay fall short of every Metroid game, it also falls short of action games in general, even those that came out more than five years ago. The gameplay mechanics and formula in prior Metroid games were just far more solid, purposeful, and rewarding. Though combat was never a focus, you still had a reason to fight: to obtain health and ammo to keep you going. Though there are many reasons why people call Metroid Prime 3: Corruption the weakest in the Prime Trilogy, one big reason (my big reason, at least) is its stronger emphasis on combat without any elements to make it worthwhile. Other M takes this fault and pushes it to a much greater degree.

Combine all this with a game that just feels so empty with very few boss fights, very few enemies, and so little content, and Other M is just a colossal let down as far as gameplay goes. For a series that sets the bar in terms of gameplay and content, it's disappointing that it can't even outdo third party efforts on other consoles.

A Very Static, Artificial-Looking Game

The Metroid series has always set the bar when it came to visuals, at least on Nintendo platforms. Entries like Super Metroid had so much attention to detail that Samus even had two sets of sprites, one for her left side and one for her right, to give a sense that she's a physically three dimensional character. The Prime trilogy had a fantastic art direction, making every location from decrepit space ships to frozen wastelands feel real and organic.

At first glance, Other M may look like a fantastic game. Character animations are much more fluid now that they use motion capture, and character details are much more sharp thanks to the inclusion of what looks like bump and normal maps. But that's really as far as the presentation goes.

No Art Direction

To put it simply, Other M just looks flat. The game takes place entirely in a decrepit space station and makes very little effort to make the place look interesting. Super Metroid and Metroid Prime started off with exploring a decrepit space station, but added tons of detail, sound, and effects to push the atmosphere. Other M's space station is just one long, gray corridor after another with the occasional simulated environment, and it really does come off as only simulated.

It doesn't help that the game is just so dark and desaturated. There's so little color on display that it's just depressing to look at, even during the instances that are supposed to simulate flora and forest scenery.

Too Many Presentational Transitions

Games have become really sophisticated over the years, delivering fairly solid presentations as far as story-telling goes.

But there were speed bumps along the way. The most prominent example I can think of came from Final Fantasy X. In this game, there were a total of three different presentational styles: real-time, post-processing, and CGI. The first is the gameplay presentation, where the character models from the gameplay segments are used for cutscenes. The second was a technique that allowed developers to use higher poly, higher res models in controlled environments that would otherwise not work in gameplay. The last is CGI, the pre-rendered sequences meant to showcase everything in detail so high that not even the most powerful home computers today could run them in real-time.

In Other M, you have all three of these presentational styles, as well. It's not the fact that they're there that bugs me, but rather that the story to gameplay ratio is so great that that you jump between the various looks all too often, way too quick. It's very obvious at some points when a graphical change occurs that that's all I notice.

But what's worse is the complete mishandling of CG cutscenes. CG needs to be used sparingly, to show off fantastic cutscenes to ‘wow' the viewer. The first cutscene is a good example, because it's filled with explosions and dazzling effects, but the ‘wow' factor wears off once the CG is used just to show Samus walking down a grey, empty hallway. This kind of thing happens very often throughout the game, making the CG more of a distraction than a visual treat.

GRAPHICS SUMMARY

To put it simply, Other M is the polar opposite of what Metroid Prime could achieve. Although Other M has much better cinematics and animations, the game is just very depressing to look at. There's very little on display to differentiate one area from another, and the enemies, and to some extent, the character models themselves, have a very artificial look to them.

The Mark of the Auteur

This is the story section of the review. Be warned: this part is going to be very lengthy and address a ton of aspects in no particular order. Considering how long the game has been out, I don't believe I need to add spoiler tags, but I'll avoid giving away certain plot elements unless I believe they absolutely need to be addressed.

But I want to get one thing out in the open first: I have heard people say that having so much criticism on the story is unfair and detrimental to its other elements like its gameplay. That is completely untrue. Considering how long and pervasive the story is as well as how many gameplay elements had to be sacrificed in order to make the story work, Other M practically begs to have its plot carefully examined and dissected. Let's not forget that you can't skip the cutscenes during your first go. On top of that, I already gave plenty of reasons why the game doesn't hold up on its gameplay alone. The story itself is now fair game.

A Story That Tells, Not Shows

In juxtaposition to Nintendo's epic E3 reveal trailer, the game itself has a lot of dialogue. Generally, a good story can tell a tale, an emotional one at that, just through its visuals. Pixar's 'Up' had a five minute long opening montage showing Carl and Ellie's life after they got married up until Ellie's death. Without a single word being said to each other, everyone knew that these two characters loved each other, and we understood why Carl took up the insane task of flying his house to South America.

Other M isn't capable of doing this, however. Instead, it ops for telling the story through spoken dialogue. This would be okay if the characters talked to each other more often and grew and developed through their interactions. However, there's almost none of that in the game. Instead, we hear Samus narrate everything. I really mean everything. During the instance where she meets up with her ex-CO and friend Anthony, instead of hearing them talk, she narrates in the past tense about their meet up. When a traitor appears, she narrates about how she coined the nickname 'the Deleter' for him. Trust me, I'll have more on this subplot later, but the fact of the matter is that this is how the story is told to you throughout the game. We never even learn what the narration is supposed to be, if she's telling a certain someone about what happened or what.

It doesn't help that the writing is, to put it simply, bad. The game is just bloated with overdramatic dialogue, most of which is just characters stating the obvious or restating things that happened only seconds prior. Couple this with subpar acting and the entire experience is almost unbearable.

Authorization Produces Weak Gameplay...

I've already discussed how the authorization mechanic doesn't work from a gameplay perspective, so I won't dwell on it too much, but it needs to be stated once more: obtaining a power up after overcoming a challenge is far more satisfying than getting one just because you were pushed into a corner. By the end of Other M, you don't feel stronger than you did before, but that may be due to the fact that most power ups don't serve any practical use: not for exploration, and rarely for combat.

…Weaker Story…

But even if we were to excuse this gameplay flaw, we run into another issue: the authorization system produces a story problem. Adam says Samus can't use her equipment unless authorized to do so because her weapons may pose a threat to innocent bystanders on the ship. That, I can understand. What I don't understand is everything else that happens afterwards.

For one, Samus can't use her non-lethal equipment. There's absolutely no reason to explain this. Secondly, once Samus is authorized to use certain pieces of equipment, she continues to use them. If her weapons are too dangerous to use with civilians running around, wouldn't she be told to stop using them once she's out of a particular pinch? Lastly, there are two weapons Samus finds on the ship, both of which are area-effect weaponry, but she's allowed to use them without authorization.

…Weakest Character

It's very clear exactly what this whole authorization system is meant to be, but before I get to that, I need to explain the third, and possibly biggest, problem that this whole thing entails: it makes Samus come off as a weak and possibly stupid character.

As I just mentioned, she's not allowed to use her non-lethal equipment: this includes her Varia Suit, Grapple Beam, Space Jump, and Gravity Suit. The reason I say she's not allowed to use them is because there are several instances in the game where you run into either a dead end or a life-threatening area requiring said items, but Samus doesn't activate them because Adam hasn't told her to. At one point in the game, you enter an area called Pyrosphere, a room filled with magma and heat so intense that it slowly but surely drains Samus' health, as we see her suffering inside her suit at one particular point. There's another instance where you run into a dead end where the only way to advance is to use your Grapple Beam, but you can't. Instead, in order to advance in the game, you leave the room, in which Adam chimes in and tells you to take the elevator to another sector.

What these instances tell us is that Samus won't use her equipment, even if it's solely to protect herself, unless Adam tells her to. She doesn't even ask if she can use them, even during one instance where she needs a certain power-up to save a friend. Either that, or she didn't remember that she had these pieces of equipment ready for use. This tells us that Samus is either a submissive character that doesn't take any initiative or is just stupid.

But like I said before, there is one explanation for this: the authorization mechanic is meant to mimic finding items in previous games where you'd move through restrictive, and possibly life-threatening, environments before you get the equipment to make traveling easier. That said, it simply doesn't work. From a gameplay standpoint, it's no fun. From a storyline perspective, it makes no sense. Sakamoto clearly did not take the time to think about the repercussions of having a storyline-heavy game and how it affects, and gets affected, by the gameplay.

Subplots that Go Nowhere

About a quarter of the way through the game, Samus learns that someone within Adam's team has betrayed the group. This person, which Samus starts calling 'the Deleter,' manages to kill one soldier and slowly proceeds to erase other members of the squad.

Ignoring the completely pointless nickname, I really can't say much about this subplot other than it never gets resolved. Not only do you never learn who the traitor was, but everyone also seems to forget that he even existed.

In the end, it just feels like an excuse to have some of the characters killed off. However, considering that one of them gets killed by an alien creature, there's no reason why that could have been the reoccurring event. Having this Deleter subplot only leaves holes in the overall story.

An Old, but Apparently More Frightening, Nemesis

For those that aren't in the know, Metroid: Other M is the second to last title in the timeline. Samus must have encountered her nemesis Ridley at least three times at this point, five if we're counting the Metroid Prime Trilogy.

This may be a tired out point, but considering how much I'm putting into the story section of this review, I feel obligated to talk about it. At this point, everyone should know that Samus has a little freakout after seeing Ridley in this game. She freezes up to the point that her suit actually falls off, Ridley grabs her, and she gets rescued by her friend Anthony, who winds up dying for his heroic effort.

I'm not sure where to begin here, so let's just get it out: you don't freak out over seeing an old foe that you've killed, or at least defeated, about five times. I've heard the ‘PTSD' excuse, but it doesn't add up: it's not just something that appears randomly. It's something that sticks with you for a long time. Even going by the Metroid manga canon (which was never localized and thus very difficult to reference), the characters themselves say she doesn't have PTSD, just showcasing similar symptoms that she gets over almost immediately after defeating Ridley for the first time. Speaking of, if it really were PTSD, Samus gets over it in Other M all too quickly for it to make any sense.

The point I'm getting at is this: this scene was just an excuse to shoehorn Samus' backstory into the plot and to put her friend Anthony in harm's way. You're about three fourths of the way through the game, but haven't learned anything about Samus' past outside of the military. It was clearly meant to tell us that Samus encountered Ridley as a child and that may have left lasting impressions on her ever since. This would have worked if not for a couple reasons. One is that this scene barely lasts a couple minutes and is probably one of the only times where the story is actually told through visuals instead of words; it's left entirely up to interpretation and is never clarified. It's too fast and confusing to take in. Secondly, it's just another inconsistency. Samus has defeated Ridley enough times that she shouldn't be scared of him anymore. Again, it's just a last ditch effort to get Samus' backstory into the plot and to knock off Anthony.

Had we gotten more foreshadowing, maybe a less dramatic showcasing of Samus' fear, or at least some reflection on the event, it'd be easier to take in. As of now, there's plenty of reason to call out this scene.

An Undesirable Relationship

Metroid Fusion introduced us to Adam Malkovich, Samus' ex-CO and apparent father figure who died due to unknown events. Other M was meant to show us who this person was, how he died, and why Samus looked up to him as much as she did.

Unfortunately, not only do we never get any reason why Samus considers him a father figure, but we're given almost every reason to believe that he shouldn't be, only proving further to be detrimental to Samus' character.

When Adam first appears, he doesn't say hello or give any kind of greeting. He says, "What are you doing here?" in a cold, upset manner. Samus monologues about how this is a 'typical' response from him, telling us that this is how he always behaves around her. He proceeds to call her an 'outsider,' and continues to speak to her in a condescending manner, telling her that she doesn't do anything unless he says so: “you don't move until I say so, you don't fire until I say so.” Even when he asks for Samus' help, he doesn't sound too happy about it.

In other words, Adam is your dime a dozen, stereotypical, stoic male lead. He never gives any reason for us to believe that he's someone to like, let alone consider a role model. However, Samus constantly hammers home that this is the case, and it simply does not add up.

Adam never once shows any form of compassion or emotion towards Samus, constantly treating her like the unwanted member of the group. As mentioned before, he practically latches a ball and chain onto her as she's forced through the space station without her equipment, which almost causes her to burn to death. If that's not bad enough, he actually shoots her.

Before I go any further, I need to put this event into perspective: during one instance in the game, Samus encounters an old, familiar type of enemy, and after a brief pause, she tries to shoot it. Before she takes the shot, she gets shot in the back with a Galactic Federation ice pistol. Ignoring the fact that the most powerful bounty hunter in the galaxy gets taken down with a single shot from a side arm, at this point, the Deleter subplot hasn't been resolved yet. This was clearly an attempt at making the player think that whoever shot her was the Deleter. But when she wakes up, it turns out to be Adam. Is he the Deleter? No, he was just trying to stop her from shooting the enemy she was about to kill… so he could kill it himself. He claims that these enemies are reengineered so that Samus couldn't kill them, but since Samus was about to shoot it with a more powerful version of Adam's sidearm, this makes the whole event completely pointless, an incredibly weak attempt at creating a twist.

As I said, not only does this make Adam come off as more of a jerk than an actual father figure, it makes Samus appear incredibly submissive and weak overall. Not once during any point in the game, not even at the end, does she reflect upon everything that's happened to her and questions it. She just takes it, no matter how nonsensical it is. In the end, after all is said and done, we're just supposed to accept it, that this is how Samus has always been and this is how she was always treated by Adam. And she respects him and calls him a father figure?

This is, quite frankly, a relationship that can't be justified.

An Ultimately Unrewarding Narrative

I said the subject of 'reward' would reappear throughout this review, and this is ultimately where Other M falls short. It's abundantly clear that the narrative makes up the bulk of the game. Everything else is so underwhelming that the only thing that could save it would be a strong story with a cast of likable characters. I've pushed my way through games with weak gameplay but strong storylines because I was anxious to see what happened.

But as stated above, the story is possibly the weakest aspect to Other M. What's worse, you're forced to take in the story. You can't skip cutscenes on your first playthrough, and one of the only things you unlock outside of a Hard Mode is a Theater Mode that lets you watch all the cutscenes with pre-recorded gameplay stringing them together.

That said, Other M's story wasn't just added because the developers could; the story was meant to be one of the key features of the game. It was meant to be appreciated even by itself. Not only can I not appreciate the story, but I just want to outright reject it. The story is so prevalent that it strips out the core gameplay that made the franchise great and is so poorly written that it makes one of gaming's oldest female heroines a completely unlikable character.

STORY SUMMARY

The story is easily Other M's weakest element, but considering that it's the key feature to this entry in the Metroid series, it brings the game down even further. It's clear that Sakamoto had penned the story before even beginning to think about how a game could come out of it, or if it would even work at all. The gameplay suffers terribly to the plot's pervasiveness, and Samus suffers even more to the plot's incoherency.

But now to address a question that I've seen tossed around here and there: do I think this game is sexist? At this point, the only way to know is to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. I write as a hobby, and I can say without hesitation that it's not easy; some of my very first stories are so hilariously bad that I'm glad I never shared them with anyone; I may do so at some point for laughs, but I'd never publish them. Looking at Sakamoto's track record as a game designer, Other M may have very well suffered from just being an inexperienced writer's first work. Even if that's the case, it's simply inexcusable. In this day and age, I expect solid writing in games, especially when they're coming from some of the biggest studios in the industry.

REVIEW SUMMARY

I can't recommend this game to anyone. No matter how hard I try, I can't figure out who this game would appeal to. If you like good stories, you should hate this game for its embarrassing writing and acting. If you like good action games, Other M sets the bar for being an incredibly shallow, repetitive, unrewarding game, somehow worse than other games of its kind that came out more than five years ago. If you like Metroid games, Other M is a no brainer: you need to stay as far away from it as possible. Exploration is gone completely in favor of ramrod straight linearity, combat serves no purpose other than being tiny, but frequent roadblocks, and the power-up system is a joke.

Again, the more I think about it, the less I can understand why anyone would like it. I could understand non-Metroid fans liking it since there's almost nothing in common, but to hear people say that this is ‘like Super Metroid with a story' still baffles me. The only thing Other M does more than its previous entries is show Samus outside of her suit, and boy, do you see her outside of her suit. The voyeuristic camera shots of Samus give the B&B characters from Metal Gear Solid 4 a run for their money.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 04/05/11

Game Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)


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