Metroid, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s quite a big Nintendo gaming franchise; it’s just that it isn’t as big as some others like Zelda, Mario or Pokémon. Alright, so we’ve all heard of it, but how many of us have truly experienced it? Until a few weeks ago I hadn’t, and judging by sales figures, a lot of you haven’t either. Metroid’s newest installment, Other M, really caught my eye at E3 last year, and I know – I’m a bit slow to have taken this long to get my hands on it – but finally I met up with Samus, Ridley, Mother Brain, Galactic Federation, some Metroids and the rest of the bunch. What can I say – if you haven’t yet it’s about time that you did!
Let me start off by talking about the action of the game – it was superb. Fighting and combat portions were addictive. With Samus pulling out kicks and kip ups amongst all of her beam firing and calculated head-finishers, it was in-game action and fun I’d never experienced before. I’m really not usually like this, but Other M managed to do it. Usually story comes before gameplay for me, which can lead to endless debates, but with Other M I found a balance. Sure, the critics say that Other M was too much about the story, but I feel it was the perfect trade-off between addictive gameplay and an emotive plot.
Action stood out to me just as much as the story. A story with twists and turns, moving cutscenes and a very emotive and moralistic overtone. The animated cutscenes were a highlight, but many have pointed out that when a 10 hour game has 2 hours of animated cutscenes why not just make a movie? Interestingly, throughout I had the thought of how awesome a fully animated movie produced by Nintendo would be, only to discover that upon completion of the game a movie version of Other M is unlocked. Awesome! Not only that, but both the game, and the movie, have an epilogue. Sweetness.
With due praise of the story and animation rightly comes criticism, as is fair. The narration of Samus throughout is very monotone, which fits narration, but this monotone does force its way into some pretty important cutscene dialogs where the moment seems a tad ruined. First time players might also find themselves lost as to whether Samus is performing a soliloquy or actually talking to someone in the game, but these little gripes are forgivable and very minor in the big picture. Overall it’s a very dramatic, emotional, and – may I say – scary environment. It’s no Resident Evil, so there isn’t going to be scares jumping out at you, but the overall eerie environment of mystery, dead bodies, and a little freaky-looking furry guy called ‘little birdy’ (pictured right) following you around adds to an unnerving environment. Yet again, maybe that’s what I get for playing at midnight.
Earlier mention was made to the action portions of the gameplay, but what about other aspects of the gameplay? For instance, take the controls – a Wii Remote held like in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Given that this isn’t a sidescrolling game, I’m really not sure how using the directional-pad over a control stick works, but it does – in a way – as did the automatically controlled camera. A nunchuck would have been preferable, to avoid an aching thumb – or maybe if I’d followed Nintendo’s recommendation to take regular breaks this problem could have been avoided. The aiming system also somehow manages to work in this 3D game with 2D controls. Given, the game does a lot of the work for you if you’re facing in the general direction, and there can be a lot of button mashing at times – but Other M is one of those games that takes some skillful button mashing.
There were other aspects of the gameplay such as the switching from third person to first person perspective. The first person aim was good at times for aiming at enemies, however there were sections where you were forced to use first person to search for minuscule details in the environment. Deemed by critics as ‘scanning’ sections, they did do a good job of slowing down the action and building suspense, but they were also just plain annoying after pointing your remote at the screen looking for something for five minutes. By no means a bad idea, but sometimes there was no real hint or clue of what to be looking for.
Moving on, the gameplay possibilities of morphball mode – where Samus basically becomes a ball – were great, as was the game’s overall progression. Upgrades, or ‘authorization’, of equipment usage kept a nice feeling that you were getting stronger, as did the fact that earlier bosses appeared as common enemies later in the game to show how much stronger you’ve become. On the topic of bosses I only have positive things to say. Many were very alike to those of Monster Hunter Tri – in behavior, animation and perhaps, or perhaps not, in difficulty. Each had different techniques and weaknesses and so provided new challenges, and a challenge is what the game was. A fun challenge, at just the right difficulty level. There were some spots where I was so lost, maybe it’s because I’m new to Metroid, but there was some genuinely tricky puzzles. New Zelda fans say this about Twilight Princess, but us veterans say Twilight Princess was easy – so this might be a case like that.
What always makes me content in playing a game is seeing a regular and healthy amount of game over screens. Not so many that I feel like a failure, but just enough to know that I’m progressing without the game being handed to me. Other M delivers. There are a few more little niggles that I have to get off my chest, such as the game’s linearity, which also leads to some extensive backtracking. It’s not too bad though, as new bosses, story elements and shortcuts are available while backtracking. To be honest, the linearity fits, given that it all takes place on a bottleship with ‘sectors’, but it can be limiting at times. The empty corridors and expanses are occasionally a letdown as well. Length really wasn’t bad. Being a Zelda fan I’ve come to expect insanely large play hours on first playthroughs, but at a time where there’s so many games out there to play, Other M delivers an appropriate length at around 10 hours for the main sotry – not too long and not too short. There are collectibles beyond that and the temptation to play it over and over, so there’s plenty of value in this purchase.
It was a real journey. Every moment of playing was spent longing for the next cutscene, but also being so engrossed in the current gameplay action that I didn’t want the cutscenes to interrupt it. No matter what was going on, it was enjoyable. I’ll dare say it gave me feelings that games haven’t given me since Mario Galaxy slightly did, and Ocarina of Time surely did back in the day. Critics will say that the story is too overbearing, but the story and gameplay was a perfect balance. It was unprecedented in gaming, and I hope the future brings more games like it. Other M seemed to be a rare Nintendo game in that it focused on story, had intense action, and tasteful amounts of blood and violence (for Nintendo) to go with its rating. I’ve never seen this side of Nintendo before and I like it!
In retrospect, all of my complaints about little aspects of the game are just iron boots in a far greater game. What I mean by that is that everyone criticized Ocarina of Time for its way of equipping the iron boots, but none deny it is a fantastic game. Other M, with its little iron boot annoyances, still delivers one mighty fine experience overall. All gripes are minor and are not reason to give this title a miss. Critics say this and that, but who really cares – it’s a great game, plain and simple. Sorry, Disney Epic Mickey, and even Kirby’s Epic Yarn – but Other M actually is epic.
Metroid fans always say that Other M is nothing compared to Metroid Prime Trilogy, which as of today, sits on my shelf, beckoning to distract me from university with its apparent awesomeness. Metroid now, more so than anything, makes me think of all those brilliant games for sale that we’ve probably seen and heard of, but just never purchased and experienced for whatever reason. There are so many missed opportunities and underloved games out there. They are right under our noses, yet we ignore them. Metroid was that to me, but no more. If the other games in the series can live up to Other M, then Metroid just very well might be my second favorite gaming franchise – to Zelda of course – and that’s saying a lot. I could go on with more and more praise, but if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got Metroid Prime Trilogy to play – let alone the Nintendo 3DS.
It doesn’t seem right to write (try saying that aloud) a Metroid article without mentioning Zelda Informer’s sister-site Metroid Wiki – the online encyclopedia for everything Metroid, that is run by the fans, for the fans and with the fans. They’ve cruised over the 850 article mark now, so keep an eye on Metroid Wiki because a big announcement, along with a very big change, is coming very soon. Intrigued? You should be. In the meantime make sure you play Other M if you haven’t yet.