Metroid: Other MDeveloper: Team Ninja/Nintendo
Release Date: Aug 31, 2010
Pros: Stunning visuals for a Wii title, Finishers are always satisfying, Boss fights prove enjoyable, fights are fast paced, 1st to 3rd person transitions are smooth, plenty of save spots
Cons: Auto-aim works against you at times, Dialogue is lost in translation, Depiction of Samus is unfavored, Hard to judge platforming at most angles, transition to 1st person loses reticule on occasion, Rather short if you do not favor 100% completion
Metroid: Other M was one of the biggest shockers at last year's E3. With Team Ninja at the helm (developers of such titles as Ninja Gaiden), it was sure to not only be a different approach to Metroid but possibly a new genre of gaming. A first/third/shooter/platformer/puzzle game....title needs work. While some attempts at a new approach work well in the technical aspect, other areas of the game tend to hold the title back from greatness.
A Diamond in the Rough
This game is possibly the most gorgeous title to grace the Wii. We are talking on-par if not exceeding Super Mario Galaxy 2. The pre-rendered cutscenes are what we come to expect from Team Ninja; over-the-top, shiny, and a joyous break from the action. Even sudden snap transitions from pre-rendered to in-game are done smoothly. Textures of the environment are sleek and give each Sector it's own feel. Samus's armor is finely detailed, as many close "over the shoulder" moments are cause to appreciate the finer details. The edges are not as smooth as the PS3 or 360's capabilities with a few noticeable jagged features, but as far as the Wii is concerned, this game is one of the "prettier" titles available.
Are You There God? It's Me, Samus....
The biggest complaint about the game that I can agree upon is giving voice to Samus. Since the original Metroid first hit, Samus has been a bit of a mute. With only text or grunts, she has never talked/narrated/monologued about her adventures. Taking place after Super Metroid and the Prime saga, she obviously has had a lot on her mind, as she constantly spills out dialogue through the entirety of the game.
Taking place after the last known Metroid had been destroyed along with Mother Brain, Samus finds herself responding to a distress call codenamed "Baby's Cry". Upon her arrival she runs into her old unit from the Galactic Federation and agrees to fall under command once again to figure out what happened at the facility. She goes so far as to agree to restrict certain weapon use until told to do so. It is actually a welcome break from the typical "Oh no I rolled into another explosion and lost all my powerups again!" intro, but seems silly when dashing through high temperature environments begging the commander to let you turn on your suit's AC.
Probably the worst thing about the game is the dialogue. On more than one occasion does Samus think something in her head, then proceed to say it out loud. The soldiers also tend to state the obvious, bring about cliche' ridden responses, or are just utterly annoying. There were two members of the team that I recognized when shown, all the others were the typical un-interesting soldier. All the talking reminded me why I enjoyed killing Space Pirates alone in Super Metroid.
Team Ninja attempted to delve into the character of Samus and shine light on her past role in the Galactic Federation. They cue up the reason she left, relationships with her commander (She's the one who gives thumbs down at the end of the meeting! So renegade!), and experiences that remain with her to this day. While it is an interesting thing to attempt to dissect the character, it is also very dangerous ground as this has been a well established character that players have had well over 10 years to lay their own assumptions into. So here comes Team Ninja to take your idea of the character of Samus and give their own version. While I respect the attempt, it ultimately confused me given the accomplishments Samus has had prior to this game.
Despite the character background I refuse to accept and cringe worthy dialogue, the game's story itself proves enough to hold your attention to the end.
Metroid: Other M takes the typical Metroid formula and flips it, then shakes it violently, then throws it at the wall. The main thing you notice is that only a Wii-mote is used for this game. No nunchuck, no Metroid limited edition attachment, just a Wiimote. You hold it sideways as the default for traversing the map and flipping around in third-person, then point the Wiimote at the screen when you wish to switch to first-person mode to shoot missiles and investigate your surroundings. The good news? This works. I had no trouble waiting for my enemy to give me a window, then switching, shooting a missile, and flipping back to dodge. The Wii does an excellent job at reading this.
The bad news? Without a joystick, trying to go diagonally becomes a chore with the D-pad. Platforming led to many misses as the camera remained stuck at an overhead angle and the D-pad was less than helpful in compensating. Though it works for the most part, this minor discrepancy was enough to irritate me at a few parts.
Another interesting aspect of the game is the "concentrate" ability. To recharge your missiles or heal yourself when in the red you point the Wiimote up and hold the A button for a set time. This refills your missiles and health....do not get into the physics of the thing, it just does. Samus has gained the amazing ability to heal herself through positive thinking! Like collecting floating orbs for health/missiles wasn't weird enough. Still, it acts as a nice "one less thing to look for" deal, and can save you in a pinch if you are quick on the draw.
Leap Frog is Better with Plasma Cannons
The combat in the game acts as the high point. In 3rd person view the game aims for you and with the simple tap of the D-Pad before a move lands, you dodge in slow-mo. These blend together to make some truly entertaining fights. By no means is the game a breeze, as some fights have you constantly dodging bullets as you figure out where to fire and who to attack next. The boss fights are also incredibly enjoyable. Each boss is more menacing than the last and some prove pretty challenging.
If you charge at the enemy that is stunned with a charged up cannon, it initiates a "finisher". These are the main things you want to go for, as each is more stylish than the last. There is no law of diminishing returns with noogie headshots. On top of the finishers you can actually plop right on time of some enemies' heads and lay one into their noggin. It can be tough to pull off though, as you must be fast and you must also hit them just right or suffer a knockback.
Turn Left at the Next Space Pirate
When you are not shooting enemies in the skull, you are pushing forward in traditional Metroid fashion. Unlike previous Metroids, the amount of backtracking has substantially decreased. Most of the time you will end up pushing forward. Sure the game has you return to sectors multiple times, but rarely did I stop playing to go back and get an item ping I missed. This is due in part to most of the items being sealed behind a door that can only open with a power you do not receive until close to the end of the game. It is almost as if the developers encourage you to finish the story, THEN go back and get everything.
I did love the transition from room to room. Most of the time you end up in a big box room you can move around completely. Enter a hallway and it can shift to 2-D side scroller. Move up a hallway and it gets thrown back over your shoulder. This constant switch keeps traversing the Bottle Ship interesting, as it never keeps you in one situation too long.
The missile tanks and energy tanks can be tough to get. Some are hidden very well, while others are dangled in your face behind a super missile door early on. After a room is cleared of enemies a blue "blip" appears to signify the item location. It is up to you to locate the item and find a way to get to it. These act as nice breathers from the fighting, and are worth investing time to collect for an added boost.
VerdictThough the game has its faults, it is not nearly as terrible as many critics have complained about. This is a different direction for Metroid and one that essentially works, but just did not deliver that typical experience I came to know and love from the series. Right when I began to truly enjoy what it had to offer, the game was over. Clocking in at about 7-8 hours without too much concentration on items, it's not exactly a lengthy ordeal.
However the game does allow you to return and collect any items you miss upon completion with the reward of...Hard Mode, something that should have really been standard from the get go. You can also unlock art galleries and FMV movies, but after completing the game 100% and playing through Hard there is not a huge amount of incentive for replay value.
While Metroid: Other M will not be taking any "Game of the Year" titles from me, it still provided a generally enjoyable experience worth any time from Metroid fans.