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Wii REVIEW – Metroid: Other M

Posted October 15th 2010 by Adam Grayson.

Metroid: Other M

Another year, another Metroid... The question that seems to be on everyone's mind is whether they should buy it or skip it. With the return to "traditional sidescrolling" after so many years of the Prime adventure/FPS games, people are very skeptical and cautious about Metroid: Other M. Hopefully after reading this review, your minds will be set on, at the very least, renting this game.

For the past three Metroid games, development studio Retro has shown us gamers that old sidescrollers can in fact be rebirthed in the current generation of gaming. Joining the ranks of the Mario series, the Metroid Prime trilogy not only showed us how the 2D to 3D transition should be done, but it also demonstrated the full graphical potential of both the Gamecube and the Wii. However, with the recent release of the trilogy pack for Wii, Retro has left the Metroid series to move on to other projects. Enter Team Ninja. Team Ninja is the development studio known for the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series (you know... the games with the generously proportioned women...). Team Ninja is often given a lot of flak due to the Ninja Gaiden games being too hard, the Dead or Alive games focusing more on the boobs than the actual games, or other such criticisms. Team Ninja's somewhat notorious past is reason one why so many people are wary of the newest Metroid.

Did you know Samus has a beauty mark? Team Ninja did.

Reason two is about the transition back to sidescrolling. With the Prime games being such a huge success, people are being overly cautious about returning to sidescrolling. I too was one of the many to think this. However, after only a few minutes of playing, my worries were set to rest. It seems the main point of confusion is about how Samus actually moves within the world. Many of the trailers and other videos lead one to believe that the game is a straight-up sidescroller; it isn't. While the camera is mostly set at a side angle and most of the level design is based around moving left and right, the world is actually a 3D environment that the player is allowed to move around freely. The movement is similar to most sidescrolling beat-em-up games.

While left and right movement is the focus of this room, you can move closer to those windows or closer to the camera with Up and Down.

The game has two ways to control Samus through her galactic journey. The main means of controls is by holding the Wiimote sideways and using the D-pad to move and the 1, 2, and A buttons to shoot, jump, and use the morph ball respectively. While in this control scheme, we see Samus through a third-person view. The other control method is to point the Wiimote at the screen. This enters a first-person view (nearly identical to that in the Prime games). This allows a reticule to be moved around the screen according to where the player is pointing the Wiimote and shoot objects and enemies by either pressing the 1 or A button. By holding B, players can lock onto targets. However, when Samus is locked onto an enemy (and most objects), she can only shoot missiles and not her normal plasma-based weapon. This is also the only way in which Samus can fire her missiles.

FIRE ZE MISSILES!!!

You would think that both control schemes present some problems, but really the game is tailored around the limitations created by the controls -- quite spectacularly in fact. Because the D-pad is used to move, players can only move Samus in eight different directions (four cardinal directions and diagonals). Due to the environments' layouts, this is really all the player needs. Team Ninja could have had us use the joystick to move, and certainly it would feel better on the thumb, but all those degrees of movement really aren't necessary for the game. One included feature that helps relieve some of the stress of the limited movement is that when rooms, hallways, etc. curve, Samus follows that curve without the player having to change directions. For example, if a hallway is shaped like a semicircle, the player can hold up (to go forward), and Samus will turn with the hallway, allowing the player to simply just keep holding up.

This room is circular, but instead of readjusting the direction you're holding, you can simply hold left or right to circle the room.

As I mentioned, the only way for Samus to shoot missiles is to enter the first-person mode. What I did not mention is that Samus cannot move while in first-person; she can only rotate her head. This also would seem to present problems. It does, but not as much as you would think. As with the degrees of movement, first-person mode isn't really needed during most of the gameplay. Whenever you actually need to switch, it's either for puzzle solving (in which case the room is devoid of enemies) or for a boss battle. For the bosses that do require first-person mode to defeat, they are specifically designed for players to be able to make the switch without too much hassle. For example, if you hit an enemy enough, it will become stunned, giving the player adequate time to swap to first person without having to worry about getting hurt. The same is true for missile usage -- you only ever need to use them for puzzles or bosses. I emphasize "need" because you are required to use them at some points, but you can certainly use them whenever you see fit. For example, missiles do more damage than Samus' normal attack, so players may just want to use them to dispose of enemies quicker.

This looks familiar...

Even in the situations where you don't need to switch to first-person, flipping the controller and losing your means of movement rarely presents a problem -- perhaps it presents a challenge, but certainly not a problem. One greatly appreciated feature is that when you do switch to first-person, time is slowed down for a second or two. This allows you to find your bearings, turn, lock onto enemies, or what have you as well as make sure you have the time/room to stop moving. Plus it looks cool. The switch itself is fast and fluid; there is nothing clunky about changing views. Switching back to third person is just as easy -- simply flip the Wiimote back on its side, and you're done.

Technically, the game's controls are incredible, especially considering the limitation on buttons. Everything moves and flows very smoothly, and you never feel hindered due to the controller. That said, it is somewhat of a mystery as to why Team Ninja decided on the Wiimote alone rather than using the Nunchuck accessory as well. While, again, I never felt hindered by the controller, I did constantly find that my thumb was killing me. It's great that the Wiimote can be turned on its side to emulate an NES controller, but it's just that -- an emulation. The D-pad is much smaller than that of the NES and it's raised more. You have to push down harder in order for the controller to register the button press, and in a game that has you constantly holding the D-pad, this can get very tiresome. It would have felt much better to just be using the Nunckuck's joystick. It really seems that the only reason for the final control scheme was just to emulate the (S)NES. The move back to sidescrolling would be both visual and physical that way. Perhaps that's not the actual reason, but it's all I could think of. It's beyond me why they didn't at least support multiple control schemes like Smash Bros. for example. Again though, the game isn't hurt by the controller, but your hands probably will be.

For most enemies, you can jump on their heads to perform a sweet looking finishing blow.

Another major change from the Prime games to Other M is the addition of story. Prime 3 had some story, but no where near the same amount as Other M. Other M is also fully voice acted, including our (previously) mostly mute heroine. In fact, much of the game's story is told by Samus' narration. In the Prime series, the story was mostly told through written pieces of information found through the visor's scanner ability; it was a very passive way of story-telling allowing the player to put the pieces together for himself or herself. In Other M, there's character interaction, cutscenes, and narration, again, all with voice overs. Mimicking the action-oriented gameplay, the story-telling is much more active and common than it was in the Prime games.

Samus reminisces on her past.

The game starts by showing us the end of Super Metroid in glorious, shiny 3D. We then find Samus waking up in a Galactic Federation recovery room. After "reminding" Samus how to use her suit's ability's (teaching the player the controls), a few months pass. One day, as Samus is flying through space, she picks up a distress signal from a nearby space station. Upon investigating the signal, she finds a team of Galactic Federation soldiers already searching the station. Among the soldiers is Samus' old army buddy, Anthony Higgs, and her old superior, Commander Adam Malkovich. Samus decides to help the marines to find the source of the distress signal, but because this is a Federation mission, she must do so while following Adam's orders.

I don't think the end battle looked quite this back on the SNES...

Aside from the occasional order from Adam and bumping into the others while exploring the station, the majority of the story is told through flashbacks. The flashbacks inform us of Samus' relationship to Anthony and Adam as well as characterize Samus more than she has been in previous games. Through this characterization, we see sides of Samus that fans could only have guessed at previously. Mainly, we see a more feminine side of Samus rather than the usual kickass bounty hunter. This is likely to be received differently by different players. Team Ninja definitely snuck some of their style of woman in there (making more appearances by Zero Suit Samus, tweaking her proportions, showing butt shots, etc.), but they didn't do so to the point of totally changing Samus' previous characterization. She's still a badass, that's for sure. However, due to the emotion she shows and the way she acts, she seems more human rather than just an emotionless killing machine. Going through the game, I felt that the way Samus reacted to the events surrounding her were the way someone in her position would react. Even though Samus has saved the galaxy multiple times, that doesn't mean she's a Terminator; she's still human. Though, admittedly, there are a few moments where Samus' reactions seem completely out of character. The most obvious of which is when Samus runs into Ridley. Despite our heroine defeating Ridley multiple times in the past, this time, she has a violent flashback to when she saw Ridley as a child and is completely immobilized by fear.

Samus decides to help the Federation troops in investigating the BOTTLE Ship.

But remember, readers, Samus has never really been characterized before, so all the complaints about this over-feminization (while understandable) are almost completely based on players' interpretation of Samus. Team Ninja really had free reign in regards to developing Samus' character. With that said though, they could have done a better job at it. Not too terrible but not too great either...

Sexy Samus is sexy.

Following the (now) traditional gorgeous looking Metroid games, Other M looks fantastic. Unlike the Prime games, Other M not only makes use of great in-game graphics, but it also includes pre-rendered cutscenes. As with any other game, the pre-rendered scenes look great, though the in-game graphics are definitely nothing to frown upon either. There are moments in the game where Samus is running along a corridor, shooting down baddies, and I'm just floored by how good it looks. Not only does it look amazing, but also it just feels right. This is exactly how a 3D third-person Metroid should look.

This is what sidescrolling Metroid should look like.

More like this, please.

One last comparison to the Prime series is the shift from a slow, exploratory adventure game to a fast-paced action platformer. The Prime series always felt like I was undertaking a grand adventure; one that would take me a few weeks to complete as I explored every nook and cranny looking for hidden items, story elements, and extraneous information with a few baddies thrown in there to spice things up. It felt much more focused on the exploration aspect rather than anything else. Other M, however, feels almost like an arcade game -- very fast-paced and action-oriented. They way Samus runs, the movements she makes when shooting, and even the power-ups all lead it to feel this way. I played the Prime games to death, playing them multiple times as well as getting 100% in each game. However, within the first hour or so of playing Other M, I found that I was having more fun than I did in the Prime series.

Though Other M shies away from exploration, big, grandiose environments like those from the Prime games still remain.

Metroid: Other M has been getting a lot of varying criticism. Many see the gameplay and realize its near perfection but slam the game for its story and characterization. I don't disagree. However, I will say that these negatives didn't bother me as much as it seems to have bothered others. Yes, I would have liked a better story (particularly one that linked the Metroid games together as much as Team Ninja said it would), but this one is fine for a first attempt. There's already rumor of a sequel which is fantastic, because when you get right down to it, this is how a 3D sidescrolling Metroid should work. Sure they can tweak and polish some of the other elements, but the gameplay itself is amazingly solid. I would heartily recommend this game if for nothing else than the gameplay. Even if the story, narration, etc. bothers you, you should not let that stop you from playing Other M. In the end, Other M is a triumphant return to the "traditional" Metroid, and I cannot wait to see another from Team Ninja.

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Tags: Other, Metroid, M, Samus, Wii, Team, Ninja

Posted in: Gaming, Reviews

Comments (4) | Permalink | Digg | Reddit

User Comments

Modijoe

Another year, another Metroid? Last I checked, a console Metroid (of all things) doesn't come out all that frequently.

Friday, October 15th 2010

J. Edison

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There have been 9 Metroid games released in as many years since the series was revived, 6 of which could be considered proper adventures.

Friday, October 15th 2010

Modijoe

I just think it sounds a little ridiculous, especially considering in the past 3 years we've gotten a re-release of the Prime games and that's it.

Friday, October 15th 2010

Brandon

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Check out podcast 13 for further discussions on the game.

Saturday, October 16th 2010

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