Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 09/24/10

Space Marine Jane

Nintendo is a company built on franchises. It tends to create one or two new series per system, and then creates sequel after sequel, spin-offs, and creates epic franchises like Zelda and Mario. One of Nintendo's top series, Metroid, has been famous in the realm of video games for keeping one solid continuity since the 80's, and for being one of the first games to feature a female protagonist. After the genre-defining and highly mimicked Super Metroid was met with vast amounts of critical acclaim on the Super Nintendo, Metroid wasn't seen on consoles for a long time. That was until Nintendo acquired Retro Studios and had them create Metroid Prime for the GameCube, one of the most critically successful games of all time. After a few entries in the Prime series, Nintendo has handed the Metroid helm over to Team Ninja, the company behind the Ninja Gaiden remakes and the Dead or Alive fighting games. With Team Ninja's head ninja gone, are the developers up to the task of handling one of Nintendo's premiere franchises?

Metroid: Other M caused quite the stir when it was announced at E3, and despite its flaws, it does indeed live up to the hype. I can safely say that Metroid: Other M contains gameplay that has made it one of my favorite Metroid games so far. Blasphemy? To some. But hear me out.

Other M is a departure from Metroid's gameplay roots, but it also is a return to some of the gameplay elements of the side-scrollers that came before Prime. It's really hard to describe what Other M primarily is. It's sort of like a side-scroller, but there are moments when you are running around a three-dimensional plane, and there are first-person shooter elements thrown into the mix as well. It's weird, and takes some time getting used to for sure, but if players are willing to invest the time to get past the learning curve, Metroid: Other M is definitely a game worth seeing through to the end.

Players hold the Wii remote sideways in a manner similar to the very successful New Super Mario Bros. Wii. While this may make the sections that are more based on running around in ways that perhaps the nunchuck would have been better suited for, it tends to work.

Samus's main mode of combat is her gun-arm. Button mashing happens a lot in this game when just running through a corridor is smarter than trying to take out all the enemies, but she can also charge the beam by holding the two button to unleash a more devastating attack. By pressing the A button, Samus turns into her morph ball form, which is useful for platforming segments in the game as well as a handful of the puzzles.

As the game progresses, Samus has access to more and more of her abilities that she earned by the end of Super Metroid. A lot of people have complained that the reason for her not being able to use her equipment, because a military officer said so, is lame, it doesn't really matter. They had to take away the powers some how, and perhaps the developers thought it would be nice to deviate from the routine of Samus having all of her powers drained during the first hour of the game only to regain them back again. Regardless, it's a gameplay mechanic, and the gameplay is far more important than the storyline.

Previous games featured a lot of back-tracking. I hated this aspect of the series. Running around blindly through the cave systems of alien planets wasn't something I thought was very fun, and while Other M is far more linear in presentation than its predecessors, it's a lot harder to put down the controller. The way the game progresses is basically save point to save point. There are a variety of puzzles and mind-bending situations to work through on the way to these save points, so the exploration and adventure elements of the series definitely aren't abandoned. Actually, the game's puzzles featured an almost survival-horror like feel to them, and I think that would be an interesting path for Nintendo to explore in the future for the series.

Back-tracking is still an option, though, and there are rewards for players that check every nook and cranny, and revisit old areas once they have access to new powers. These rewards are essentially mundane things like increasing the capacity of Samus's missile supply or increasing her energy bar, but the point is that there's a lot for gamers to do, or for gamers to completely ignore if they so wish.

First-person elements have been present in the franchise since Retro created their blockbuster of a game, Metroid Prime, that set a new standard for the Metroid games. Other M tries to implement these elements, but the result is probably the most annoying gameplay mechanic in the game, and also one of the strangest, yet interesting.

There are enemies and doors that need to be destroyed, and the only way to obtain that precision is by pointing the Wii remote at the screen. This makes Samus go into a first-person point of view, and allows free aiming with her weapons. While this can be tricky, especially when there are a multitude of enemies attacking, it's manageable. The thing that makes this especially annoying is the only way that is possible to move Samus's visor around is by holding the B button, meaning that quickly taking out bombarding enemies with blasts is nigh impossible to pull off. Some segments in the game demand the player to hold the A button to charge their weapon, and then fire it while in first-person mode. However, whenever an enemy attacks, the charge completely resets, and occasionally the game will yank the player out of first-person. As you can imagine, this will cause hair pulling and wall-pounding. Thankfully these moments aren't too freuqent, or else this game would have fared considerably worse.

Boss fights offer some of Other M's greatest gameplay moments. The boss fights are full of variety and are actually entertaining and challenging. This is a breath of fresh air in a generation of video games that seem to have largely abandoned the idea of epic boss battles (Fable II, I'm looking at you). Many of the boss fights are accented with specific gameplay strategies, like simply aiming for weak spots on a boss's body, or by dodging a series of moves in succession and firing a fully-charged beam in their face.

Yes, Samus can now dodge attacks. This is done in a manner quite familiar to Platinum Games's Devil May Cry-clone Bayonetta. Right before an attack lands, pressing a direction on the d-pad will have Samus smoothly dodge it, and offer a few seconds of slow-motion to connect with a blast. This isn't the only thing borrowed from popular action games, though. When enemies are down, running up to them while holding the 1 button will trigger a stylish cinematic kill. QTEs are also present in Other M, but they aren't like you'd expect. Instead of demanding a button press, the game simply asks that you respond to the event displayed on the screen, generally by using the dodge functionality. It's an interesting way to do QTEs, and helps keep the screen uncluttered and keeps gamers immersed in the world's unique atmosphere.

Motion controls and the like are what set the Nintendo Wii apart. Developers can use these features to create brand new gameplay experiences that are impossible to replicate for the other two major consoles. Unfortunately, Other M doesn't really take advantage of the Wii's unique features. The sounds that come out of the Wii remote speaker are cool, sound good, and are fitting, and the pointer is used in the first-person mode, but that's about the extent of it. The only other time motion controls are really used is when you need to recharge your health or resupply on missiles. By holding the Wii remote straight up and holding the A button, this is achieved. Metroid Prime 3 managed to do pretty interesting things with motion controls, and there's no reason that Other M couldn't follow suit.

The main point of criticism by many people, including me, is towards the storyline. It's not so much the actual plot, as Other M actually has a pretty decent storyline that includes plenty of twists and turns and connections to the older Metroid games, but it's with the characters. Samus Aran comes across as a whiney baby. The other characters in the game are cookie-cutter anime-inspired people as well. They wouldn't be nearly as bad if their dialogue wasn't god-awful. There are lines in here that would make Resident Evil blush. For example, one of the characters says (extremely minor spoils for the rest of this paragraph), "They were developing bio-weapons!" And Samus calls her superior and says, "Do you think they were developing bio-weapons here?!" Perhaps if more time was spent ironing out the game's character issues and if Samus's personality and reputation wasn't completely abolished, then more people would go easy on Other M.

However, the graphics are gorgeous. Metroid: Other M is one of the best looking games on the Wii. The character models are gorgeous, the cinematic effects are awesome, and the monster designs are as equally amazing. The environments look wicked, and while I did experience one glitch, the game is, for the most part, very polished. My little brother was watching me play, and it actually took him a few minutes to realize I wasn't playing the Xbox 360, I was playing the Wii. I implore anyone who feels that the Wii isn't capable of achieving good graphics to play Metroid: Other M and be proven wrong. The cut-scenes, by the way, are gorgeous, and work seamlessly with the actual in-game visuals.

Classic tunes from the older games in the series return, as expected. The audio is mostly fine, and the sounds that come out of the Wii remote's speaker function are neat. The only issue here is the voice acting. A couple of the characters are acted fairly well, but Samus is, once again, irritating. Her voice sounds robotic and uncaring, but at other times, whiney as hell. When she tries talking in her suit, it occasionally has a muffled effect that seems thrown in there at random for no reason at all, and it makes it hard to understand her.

Running five to eight hours, Metroid: Other M is about as long as your average action game is nowadays. However, there is a lot to explore and do after the credits roll, and a hard mode is unlocked upon beating the game. The achievement-like system that Metroid Prime 3 used isn't present in Other M, which is a tad disappointing, but the replayability is there for hardcore Metroid fans.

I do believe that Other M's length is a bit of a detrimental factor, and perhaps it is better suited as the perfect rental. The first-person segments of the gameplay are frustrating, the voice acting is fairly bad, and the characterization of one of Nintendo's greatest icons is shot straight to hell. Despite all this, the plot still holds merit, the gameplay is solid and fun, and the graphics are absolutely gorgeous. If you're a Nintendo nut, then I suggest buying this baby right now. If you're not so much a Nintendo dovetee, then Metroid: Other M becomes the PERFECT rental -- a game that is worth the time to play, but not long enough to warrant the $49.99 purchase price.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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