Even with awkward controls and a bad representation of Samus, Metroid: Other M is still worth checking out if you are a fan of the franchise.
Metroid: Other M was the Metroid game that caused uproar in the Metroid fandom over the characterisation of the bad ass, space bounty hunter, Samus Aran. I’ve decided to brave the Bottle Ship and find out just what this Other M is and just what it’s done to Samus. All I know is I’m bound to run into some Metroids, hidden missile and energy tanks and some contrived reason as to why I can’t use Samus’ full arsenal from the beginning of the game.
Nintendo decided to hand over the development of Other M to Team Ninja due to Yoshio Sakamoto being impressed with the Ninja Gaiden games. After Retro Studio’s success with the Metroid Prime series I guess they wanted to see if lightening could strike twice and if another externally developed Metroid would be as critically and commercially well received.
Metroid: Other M is heavily focused on the story, a first for the Metroid games, and gives a much more detailed look at Samus and her past than any other Metroid game. It all starts off with a recap of the ending to Super Metorid, the final fight with the giant bipedal Mother Brain and how the baby Metroid saved Samus by sacrificing itself. Samus is then in a Galactic Federation base to give her report on the events and to get checked out to make sure her suit and herself are in top condition. She then leaves in her ship but before she gets to wherever she was heading she intercepts a ‘baby’s cry’, a high priority SOS coming from a Galactic Federation ‘bottle ship’. It’s here she runs into her old commanding officer Adam Malkovich and a team of Galactic Federation. Throughout the game Samus explains to the player her past, her relationship with Adam and past missions before she became a bounty hunter all while also exploring the mysteries of the bottle ship and why Adam and his team are here.
The story itself isn’t too bad, it has some pretty good twists but my main problem with it is the characterisation they have given Samus. The game makes Samus out to be a delicate lady full of doubts and fears and worries about what Adam thinks of her. That just isn’t Samus to me. Granted I have not read the Metroid manga which apparently humanises Samus a lot making all this characterisation believable, but it was never mentioned in the games so Samus has always been a bad ass bounty hunter who doesn’t take shit and has blown up a lot of planets and annihilated a race of deadly space jellyfish. There was one part, around 60% of the way through the game, which just had me fed up with what they’d done to Samus. She is in a fire area and taking damage from the heat but doesn’t activate the heat protection ability until after Adam gives the go ahead. Another annoying thing with Samus in this game, she just doesn’t shut up. When she gets going in a cutscene she drones on and on explaining things and how she feels about them and wondering what Adam would do.
The voice acting also isn’t too hot, especially Samus’ voice. It comes off as monotonous and disinterested during her monologues and she saves what little emotion she has for one or two lines in the game when something bad happens. The voices for the rest of the cast are decent enough though, nothing great but not really bad enough to comment on or ridicule.
The good news is that the story is easily the worst part of the game. The graphics on the other hand are pretty great. The models look amazing and while the textures aren’t the best they get around that but not including too much detail in them giving the world and the characters a very clean, futuristic feel. Samus’ suit in particular looks fantastic. The FMV cinematics are also great looking and you can tell a lot of time and effort was put into them. The area designs are also great in this game with your typical variety of lava area, ice area, forest area etc. They all look like believable
habitats for the creatures kept on the ship. If you are wondering why there is a lava area on a space ship it’s because the bottle ship can be looked at as a giant holodeck from Star Trek. This is a great way of explaining why this ship is full of animals and different environments. Oh, and speaking of designs I have to mention this giraffe/tree/dinosaur thing that shoots plasma balls or something, such a crazy and great alien creature design.
Metroid: Other M is like a hybrid of Super Metroid on a 3D plane and Metroid Prime. It playd like what you’d expect a 3D Metroid game to have played like before seeing the Prime series. The bottle ship is split into many rooms and there are hidden pickups scattered around and some doors only open to missiles or super missiles. The game is played with the Wii remote held on its side like an NES pad with the d-pad for movement, 1 to shoot, 2 to jump, and pointing at the screen to enter first-person mode to shoot missiles, get more precise aiming and to grapple onto things with the grapple beam. The game plays well enough this way but I can’t help feel the game would have played better with the nunchuck used as movement. The game thankfully auto-aims at the nearest enemy in the direction you are facing, this makes killing enemies enjoyable and when you’re at the end of the game and using all your suits beams it feels great running through the corridors annihilating every foe without stopping. The first person mode isn’t too bad; it plays like a stationary Metroid Prime. This is the only way to fire missiles so can be a bit annoying in a heated fire fight as you cannot move and have to lock on to fire missiles. You can also fire your basic beam or charge beam in first-person mode for when you need extra accuracy like hitting a switch. The worst part about first-person mode is the lack of mobility; it leaves you vulnerable to attack. There is a way to dodge out of first-person when attacked so you can still avoid some damage.
Metroid: Other M add a few new moves for Samus to play around with including Finishing Moves and jumping on enemies’ heads. Finishing moves are performed by fully charging the beam and running into a downed enemy. This looks cool and most definitely inspired by finishing moves from the Ninja Gaiden series. Dodging is done almost automatically; just press the D-pad in any direction when an attack is close and Samus will skilfully dodge the attack. If you are charging your beam when you dodge you will instantly get a full beam charge as a reward. Concentration is a way to get back missiles and health as there are no item drops from enemies in this game. You just hold the Wii remote straight up and hold A. This replenishes your missiles and gives you back some health when you are in critical condition. Finally there’s the move where you can jump on certain enemies heads and shoot them. You need to have a full beam charge and then just jump on an enemy’s head. It’s harder to do than it sounds thanks to the D-pad controls.
One of the Metroid series staples that seems more contrived than in other games is the acquisition of Samus’ powerups. Instead Samus losing her suit in an explosion or due to damage from her last mission she starts the game with all the power-ups from Super Metroid. The way the game limits your abilities is by forcing you to listen to Adam’s orders and only use what he authorises. It makes sense for the Power Bombs as Adam provides a very good reason, they blow shit up real good, but with other stuff like the Varia and Gravity suit powers Adam gives no reason why he makes you run around in a lava filled environment without the heat protection on. I have no real problem with this sort of progression, the powers given to you at certain points instead of you finding them, but what annoys me is the way they go about it by having Adam authorise what you can and can’t use. Many times Samus could have died due to not being authorised to use a suit function that could save her (like in the lava area) and it just makes Adam seem like a bastard. One of the powerups you are
authorised to use near the start is the morph ball and the morph ball segments seem like the ones in Metroid Prime, just a bit simpler due to lack of Morph Ball upgrades.
Sadly, the game is quite linear until the very end. Usually you have to follow a set path as doors are sometimes locked behind you or just locked to prevent you from straying from the path. There are also a few more… bad things in this game that are not necessarily horrible. The music is very bland. I honestly can only remember one piece and that was the jingle you get for loading up a game (the classic jingle). I suppose you could say the music blends so well with the game that it not standing out is a good thing as it doesn’t break immersion, I don’t think that though. I just think the music was so bland that even going back to the game I can’t remember the pieces. Another bad thing is the ‘Where’s Wally’ segments after certain cutscenes. These are first-person segments where you have to find usually obvious things shown in the cutscene right before. Sometimes though the area you have to look at is so small and precise that you’ll find it first time, not get it to register and then spend ten minutes looking everywhere else just to find out you were a pixel away the very first time. These investigation parts are few and far between so that’s good but there are a few that get really annoying the first time you play though. It took me around 8 hours to beat the game with 70% of the pickups. I went out of my way a few times for things so you could take longer or shorter depending on your play style.
All in all this game is a great Metroid game if you can forgive the story, dialogue and contrived suit progression system. It plays just like a 3D Super Metroid with some Metroid Prime inspiration. It’s a decent length for a Metroid game and I had a lot of fun with this one. I personally would love to see more Metroid games in this style, maybe with refined controls and a more bad-ass Samus like she used to be in all the other games.