Review by ChronoShot
Perhaps the most controversial Metroid yet. How does it end up?
The Metroid series is no stranger to controversy. In 2001, fans freaked when they learned that not only would the first 3D game in the series be developed by rookie American developer Retro Studios, but it would also take place in first person. At the time, it seemed like blasphemy. However, Metroid Prime was released to significant fanfare and retained everything that made the original Metroids great, successfully transferring the series into the third dimension. Three games later, Nintendo has passed the next console Metroid to Team Ninja, the developer of the popular Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive franchises. Fans were once again skeptical. Could Team Ninja, with the help of series creator Yoshio Sakamoto, deliver the goods?
Metroid: Other M is a direct sequel to Super Metroid on the SNES. The intro of the game showcases the last few minutes of Super Metroid, showing the infant Metroid sacrifice itself to save Samus from Mother Brain. Samus wakes up in Galactic Federation hands, and soon sets off on her own. Not much time passes when she receives a distress signal from a nearby space station, known as the Bottle Ship. She decides to investigate, finding her former commander, Adam Malkovich, in the process.
The story in Other M receives far more attention than any of the previous Metroids. CG cutscenes, voice acting, it's all here. However, this game isn't Metroid Gear Solid in any way. Cutscenes rarely last more than 5 minutes and most of the story sequences compliment the game nicely. There are even some legitimately surprising plot twists. It may be a bit cliche at points, and some lines of dialog might make you roll your eyes, but it's actually quite good for the most part.
A major point of controversy regarding the story is that Samus has now been given a voice and a personality. With a character as historical as Samus, many fans have their own idea of what Samus's personality should be. If you read the Metroid manga released a few years ago, you will have a much better idea what to expect from Samus in Other M. If not, you may be confused by some of her actions.
Metroid: Other M is one of the better looking games for the Wii. You may find some ugly textures here and there, and some of the environments can look a bit bland at times, but the overall look is quite nice, with plenty of special effects complimenting all of Samus's gear and great looking enemies. However, there are some framerate drops when things get hectic.
The sound in Other M can be amazing at times, and other times can be a bit lacking. While the sound effects, especially involving Samus's abilities, are spot on, the music and voice acting can be inconsistent. The voice acting can range from pretty good to mediocre at times, and the lack of music in many areas is a bit strange, especially for a Metroid game. What's there is good, I just wish there was more of it.
Probably the single most controversial part of the game is the gameplay, to the point where it's actually hard to describe. If you thought it would be like the 2D Metroids, you would be right. Kinda. If you thought it would be like Metroid Prime, you would be almost completely wrong. Kinda. You see, the game takes place in fully 3D environments, but the fixed camera is positioned in such a way that it's borderline 2D at certain points. But the real kicker is that at any time, you can point to Wiimote at the screen and shift from third person to a first person perspective, similar to the Prime games. This way you can look around and see something you couldn't see before in third person. Team Ninja also smartly put in a half second of slow motion right when you enter first person, just enough time to reorient yourself without feeling like bullet time. It'll take a while to get used to, but once you do you'll be switching back and forth with no problem at all.
The game features a new dodge move, allowing Samus to jump out of danger if the player presses the d-pad just before they're hit, which will also fully charge your beam instantly, making it extremely handy against bosses. In third person Samus auto-aims at the nearest enemy in front of her, but you can also switch to first person and use the Wiimote's IR pointer for more accuracy. First person is also the only way to fire missiles, as you must be locked on to use them. You cannot move while in first person, but you can dodge by shaking the Wiimote. Overall, the controls work well and are very responsive, although you may occasionally have problems using the Wiimote's d-pad in a 3D space.
You have all your standard abilities from past Metroids in this game, from missiles to the morph ball and many more. What's different in this game is that you don't actually find all your abilities. Rather, Adam will authorize them when you need them. It's a bit strange, but it makes just as much sense as a random explosion making your suit malfunction.
Of course that's not to say you won't be searching for things. Far from it. The game has a host of hidden items, from energy tanks and missile tanks, to the new accel charges that make you charge your beam faster. Many of these are well hidden and require you to return later with a new ability, so the classic Metroid item collection is still here. However, the game follows in Fusion's footsteps by occasionally locking doors simply because that's not where you're supposed to go. So if that bothered you in Fusion, it will bother you here. Fortunately, the ship is completely open to exploration after you finish the main story, and there may even be a surprise or two waiting for you.
Every now and then during the story, the game will actually force you into first person to "investigate," meaning you have to find and lock onto whatever plot important item the game wants you to. Sometimes these are fairly obvious, but sometimes they're hard to spot. It slows things down, and for the most part, is just plain annoying. Thankfully, this only happens a handful of times.
The game will last you around 8 hours your first time through, and about 11 hours if you plan to do 100%. Shorter than the Prime games, but about on par with the 2D Metroids. Theater and gallery modes will unlock once you beat the game, and a hard mode will unlock after you finish the game 100%.
Metroid: Other M is not perfect by any means. The lack of music in certain areas is a bit disappointing, some of the design choices are questionable, and if you're a Metroid purist you may be turned off by some of the changes Team Ninja has done. However, it is a fantastic experience that should not be missed by Metroid fans. The story is engaging and fills some holes in the Metroid canon, and the gameplay is classic Metroid, with a few interesting twists to the formula. Even if you've never played Metroid, or maybe disliked the previous games, Other M is a unique enough experience to warrant a try. Team Ninja's first take on Metroid may not be quite as good as Retro's, but it's still a more than worthy addition to the series.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Metroid: Other M (US, 08/31/10)
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