Review by CrimsonGear80

Reviewed: 09/22/10

Samus Aran + Human Emotions = Ruined Franchise?? Not even close...

Nintendo fans DEMAND perfection form their Nintendo first-party titles. After seeing what happens after an 8.8 is dared to be awarded to one of their games, this should come as no surprise. That’s why when I heard that Nintendo would be teaming up with Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame to create an all new Metroid game that not only takes the series back into third person and gear it more toward action than exploration, but also adds in an extension plot that reveals the past of series heroine Samus Aran…and also gives her a VOICE….with EMOTIONS!!! A voice and those human characteristics we call emotions….with a NINTENDO character?? I saw all this and said to myself “my god….this game is going to be HATED by the Nintendo elite! It’s going to be torn apart even if it’s a fantastic game!” Well Metroid: Other M has finally been released and judging by the other reviews on this page and by reading various video game message boards, it seems that this, predictably, is the case. Nevertheless, I calmly remember the same type of flack that Metroid Prime got when it was announced (Metroid FPS? Blasphemy!) and went into Other M with one simply thought: is this game fun? Probably not surprisingly, Metroid: Other M is a fun game, but it’s not without it’s flaws.

The Past Is Prologue…So It’s Just A Prologue Then?

Other M takes place right after the conclusion of the SNES classic Super Metroid, as evident by the fantastic opening cinema depicting the final battle between Samus and Mother Brain, and the sacrifice the baby Metroid makes in order to help Samus rid the galaxy of MB, Planet Zebes, and the Space Pirates once and for all. Some time later, Samus has resumed her bounty hunting and is flying somewhere in the galaxy when she picks up a distress signal coded as “Baby’s Cry”. Answering the signal, Samus finds it originating from a huge “Bottle Ship” lying dormant and, as Samus lands in it’s hanger, very deserted. Investigating further, Samus runs into a small team of Galactic Federation Soldiers who also answered the distress signal, and Samus is surprised to see her old commanding officer, Adam Malkovich, in charge of the unit. Adam is initially cold to Samus, who feels she is a “deserter”, but eventually allows her to join the mission in the Bottle Ship after it becomes apparent that something very bad happened there (as evident by the many deadly creatures that seem to inherit the ship now). Samus feels as if she owes something to Adam, and agrees to help as long as she follows his orders. The reason why Samus decides to do this is revealed throughout the game as flashbacks to her past and her time with the Galactic Federation, while in the present the situation on the Bottle Ship becomes increasingly mysterious.

Well, let’s start off with Samus, and how Nintendo and Team Ninja has handled her character here now that her system programming includes “emoting“. The truth is…she’s pretty cool. She’s everything you’d think a badass space bounty hunter to be: cool, cold, calm, and deadly. Now some people may say that the fact that she decides to follow Adam’s orders thought the game lessens her character (she had character before?) and some may even go as far to say it’s “sexist”. Eh….OK, unless my military theory is greatly lacking, I’m pretty sure that the soldiers have to follow the orders that come from the top of the command chain, here represented by Mr. Malkovich. Of course, Samus CHOSE to follow his orders, for reasons from her past that I don’t want to spoil here, but rest assured that they actually make SENSE! Also rest assured that the other points in the story that Samus decides to show an emotion other than “grunting female” also make perfect sense. What I’m trying to say is that I really had no problem with the way Nintendo and Team Ninja portrayed an iconic game character, and Samus is no less of a badass at the end of the game then she was going into it. As for the overall story in Other M…it’s just simply passable. There are a lot of clichés, most of the supporting characters are throw-away, and it simply isn’t as interesting as you think it should be. Nevertheless, it will keep you going till the end simply for the fact that it does something drastically different with a iconic character and for a story that was partially spearheaded by Team Ninja…that’s a pretty commendable feat.

Lock and Load, Dodge and Roll, Sit and Spin, Aim and Fire

Other M’s action brings us back the old school by taking place in the third-person (well, for the most part) with static camera angles similar to a God of War game. Thanks to walls that become conveniently transparent, the fact that you can’t control the camera in third-person view isn’t a huge problem, which is surprising considering the camera problems Team Ninja has with it’s Ninja Gaiden games. Further bringing back the old school is the fact that Other M is controlled by holding a Wii-mote horizontally, mimicking an NES controller…a NES controller with a few extra buttons. You move Samus around with the surprisingly responsive d-pad, while the 1 button fires off her power beams and the 2 button causes her to jump. Pressing the A button activates Samus’s morph ball mode, good for going through conveniently sized tunnels and laying bombs to blast away debris. Speaking of power-ups, Samus will get to use most of her classic arsenal here to take out enemies and advance in the bottle ship. The crazy thing here is that Samus actually starts off with all her power-ups, but once she is under Adam’s command he orders her to put her toys away until he allows her to use them. Yeah, kind of a lame plot device, but that’s what happens when you decide to become a soldier and follow orders. Wouldn’t it be awesome though if there was a Metroid game that let you use every single one of Samus’s power-ups from the start? Now that would be a true twist to the franchise. Anyway, in normal third person mode Samus will be able to unlock and use all four of her power beams (power, ice, wave, and plasma) to incinerate enemies. The beams special abilities (freezing, shooting through windows) stack on top of each other as you unlock them, so don’t worry about having to choose beams. Other M features an auto-aiming system that has Samus automatically fire at the closest target, and for the most part it works out fine, but don’t be surprised if every once in a while you have to adjust Samus’s position so she can fire at the enemy you want her to fire at. By holding down the 1 button, you can fire a charge beam shot when the gauge below Samus’s life points is full. Other tricks Samus can use in third person include the speed booster, which allows her to run at break-neck speed through some obstacles, the Shinespark, which allows her to perform powerful jumps when speed-boosting, the ever popular screw attack, activated by repeatedly pressing the jump button, and the all-powerful Power bombs, which nuke the entire screen when Samus lays them in morph ball mode.

Also featured is a first-person search mode, basically bridging the gap between this game and the Prime games. To enter the first-person view, all you have to do, now follow me here because it’s kind of confusing, is point the Wii-mote at the screen. You can switch between first and third-person view at anytime during gameplay by switching Wii-mote positions, which is pretty cool. Samus can’t move while in first-person view, but you can aim freely and fire the power beam ala the Prime games and holding down the B trigger will allow you to freely look around the environment and scan objects of interest. Scanning is important when you come to an obstacle you can’t get through, whether it be a lock on a door or an environmental object blocking the way, when you scan it Samus’s visor will let you know which power-up you need to get through it. Other actions taken in first-person view include firing off missiles, super or seeker, at targets that have been locked on to, and to use her grapple beam on grapple points to swing across chasms and pits of lava.

Samus’s adventure in Other M sees her exploring the giant bottle ship and it’s four decks. Excluding the main deck, each of the other three decks features a different biosphere used in whatever experiments the bottle ship was used for, so deck one has a Biosphere (tropical forest), deck two has a Pyrosphere (volcanic area) and deck three has a Cryosphere (ice area). While there are a few open areas on the decks, for the most part Samus will be running through various corridors, which makes some sense since she is exploring a ship and not an entire planet like she usually is. Those looking for an abundance of environmental puzzles like the ones featured in the Prime games will probably come off disappointed here. While there are a few clever morph ball puzzles, for the most part platforming takes the place of puzzling as Samus will be kick-climbing up plenty of shafts, screw-attacking across open spaces, and shooting icicles of walls to create walkways, among many other things. For the most part the platforming is well done, considering the static camera and Team Ninja’s track record with platforming (once again, see the Ninja Gaiden games). Samus gets the use of a mini-map in the top-right of the screen that gets updated when she reaches a new save station, and also points out the location of her next objective. Like the Prime games, it’s a nice thing to have. In another cool little twist, the map will also point out the locations of missile and energy tank upgrades in the area when Samus clears it of enemies. A great addition that makes upgrading a lot easier (although you still have to determine exactly HOW you collect said upgrades).

But being a Team Ninja game, it comes as no surprise that combat takes center stage in Other M. Combat can take place in either view mode, but for the most part it dominates in third-person. A variety of strange and deadly creatures that now inhabit the bottle ship come out to play, including flying grubs, clawed armadillos, giant chameleons that can turn invisible, and much more strangeness that would make me embarrassed if I even tried to describe them. These guys don’t play around either, as some can take off close to a full energy tank’s worth of energy off Samus if she’s not careful, and unlike the Prime games enemies do not leave behind health and weapon pick-ups when they kick the bucket. Samus can reload her missile supply and recharge a tank’s worth of energy if she reaches a danger zone by going into concentration mode by holding the Wii-mote straight up and holding the A button, but the only way to fully recharge her health is to reach a save station or get an energy tank upgrade. Thankfully, Team Ninja has employed the SenseMove system to help Samus save her hide, and it is activated by tapping a direction on the d-pad right before an enemy attack connects. If done correctly, Samus will roll out of the way and be in a position to counter attack. If you press the 1 button at the same exact time you dodge an attack, then the charge gauge will automatically fill and you can unleash a full charge beam blast right into Samus’ un-expecting opponent. Some of the larger enemies also open up some close-quarters combat options for Samus. If a large opponent has been downed by continual attacks, you can run up to them and hold the 1 button to perform a lethal strike, which is just as it sounds, a sweet finishing maneuver that sees the enemy meeting the power beam face to face. Futhermore, Samus can perform an Overblast on some enemies, which is done by jumping right on top of them and pressing the 1 button once the charge gauge is full to make them eat a full-on charge blast. The morph ball doesn’t really come into play in combat all that often, leaving most of the above as Samus’s main combat choices. While it seems like it would be very shallow, especially compared to the Ninja Gaiden games, I actually found dodging attacks and blasting fools in the face to be quite entertaining. A good combat system doesn’t need the depth of a fighting game to be fun, and I found Other M to be quite fun to play, thanks to the tight controls and challenging enemies, including the very awesome boss fights.

On the other hand, there will also be times when combat in first-person view in necessary, and here is where the fun stops. There will be times when first-person view must be entered, mainly because a hive that constantly respawns enemies can only be taken out with a few missiles, or a bosses weak point can only be exposed by a super missile. Since Samus can only look and not move in first-person, you can probably tell that looking out for and dodging enemy attacks is a huge pain in the ass. She can still SenseMove in first-person by waggling the Wii-mote before an attack hits, but if an attack comes from anywhere but the front chances are Samus is going to have to take it. There is no way to turn fast enough to look for attacks, and that makes first-person combat a crap-shoot if your health is low and some parts of some boss battles a hassle. Another thing the game seems to do is NOT tell you what you have to do. More than once I found myself in a few difficult positions in battle wondering how I defeat a foe, and the answer is that Samus just unlocked one of her power-ups to use…yet the game gives you ZERO indication that this has happened. So while you’re sitting there not knowing you can finally use your Power Bombs, you’ve died 20 times asking yourself “why…..WHY!?” How about having a forced first-person view battle where common sense tells you that you have to take out all the enemies? Nope…you have to do something else…and the game doesn’t give you any hints as to what. Nice, Team Ninja. I thought you might have left the cheap deaths behind but I guess I was wrong.

Bug Guts Look Great Plastered Over a Bright Yellow Power Suit!

Visually, Other M is impressive. The art direction keeps in line with the series, some of the environments can be nicely detailed, and Samus’s Power Suit is very, very shiny. Character models are good, enemies are imaginatively designed, animations pass the grade, and special effects and such are very impressive. Although the games framerate can dip a little with a ton of action on screen, for the most part it ran at a blistering 60fps, which is the norm for Metroid games nowadays. Finally, Nintendo weren’t kidding when they wanted a cinematic adventure as the CGI cut-scenes presented in Other M are very well done and among the best on the system, if not THE best. Although I don’t believe this is a better looking game than Metroid Prime 3 (Prime 3’s levels were more open and much more impressive looking), this is still one of the best visual presentations on Wii, and kudos go to Team Ninja and Nintendo. Not much to complain about on the sound side either, as effects and the music score (orchestrated or synthesized) come in crystal clear in dolby pro logic 2. Voice acting, on the other hand, can be hit or miss, but thankfully the actress playing Samus does a decent job for the most part, bar some lines that sound very monotonous.

The Past Is Now The Present…Then The Future…Then I Go To Bed

Like all Metroid games, you can search for cleverly (and not so cleverly) hidden Missile and Energy Tank expansions throughout the game. You can also find pick-ups that increase your power beam charge speed and pick-ups that allow you to restore more energy when you use the concentration ability. After you beat the game, which takes around 8-10 hours, you’ll unlock a theater and gallery mode, as well as the ability to freely explore the bottle ship and collect every power up. Collect 100% of power-ups and you’ll unlock more gallery pages and a Hard mode for the bounty hunter who wants a true challenge. That’s about it for replay value, though.

Well, there it is, Metroid: Other M. Love it or hate it with a passion, most won’t deny that Tam Ninja and Nintendo took a chance with a beloved franchise and for the most part came up roses. What they did story wise and character-wise to Samus will definitely tear fans into different categories, but I can say with confidence that the gameplay part of the game was nailed. This game was fun from beginning to end, and really isn’t that the main thing we look for in video games. Isn’t it? It is right? Please…

+Interesting enough story, with Samus still a badass despite added emotions
+Easy to use, tight control scheme
+Combat is simple, yet fun as hell
+Some nicely designed platforming sequences
+Excellent graphical presentation
+Excellent sound
+Decent replay value

-Story falls back on some typical clichés now and again
-First-Person combat is borderline awful
-I can use power bombs now? Well, I only died 20 times…
-Voice acting can be hit-or-miss
-Decent replay value doesn’t make a LOT of replay value

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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

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