• Metroid: Other M Review - Nintendo Wii

    Atmosphere can be described as the dominant tone or mood of a work of art. Perhaps initially the Metroid series eschewed over-the-top storytelling because of the limitations of its host hardware. Yet by the time Samus Aran had reached the Super Nintendo her adventures were intentionally being told in an isolated, claustrophobic and alien way. This method of presentation was so well received by gamers that when Samus had her first reboot, courtesy of Retro Studios, they kept the feeling of isolation amongst devastation despite the shift in perspective to the first person.

    Team Ninja have decided to blend two perspectives together in, what one can only assume to be, a more classic approach to the Metroid series. In that, they have succeeded. Samus now moves about on a third person pseudo-2D plane, switching to a first person perspective only to fire missiles. In recreating the atmosphere of Metroid, however, they have failed on nearly every other level.

    Samus has a voice now, a first for the series. The problem is that, for the first few hours, you will hear her droning on about uninteresting and largely unrelated (to the actual story told within the game) aspects of her character, emotions and relationships with the rest of the cast. So bored is her voice actress that you could type the text into a voice recognition programme and it would yield an eminently more emotive response. This wouldnít be so tragic if Team Ninja had decided to keep Samusí character in line with every clue dropped over the past 20 years as to her true nature.

    Samus is a warrior; silent, effective and strong. Yet Team Ninja have decided that she is a (now overly chesty) sex puppet in a shiny suit of armour. She displays traits of emotional dependency on father figures that verge on the completely submissive. She reveres one particular enemy to the extent that she is unable to move in the heat of battle. She isnít weakened, she isnít at a tactical disadvantage, Team Ninja have just decided that she is a scared little girl. It is wrong to state that one interpretation of a character is so fundamentally incorrect that it should be stricken from the collective conscious of the world, but here it is hard to think of any alternative course of action.

    It wouldnít take a hackneyed cynic to see the repetition in the openings to Samusí previous adventures. She rolls around all fully powered at the start of the game to give you a glimpse of her abilities. Then a huge catastrophe befalls her and she is forced to upgrade her suit with the power-ups hidden about her terrain. That structure led to the creation of a whole new genre; its precise name is uncertain but its influence is not. It led to a hugely successful re-invention of the Castlevania franchise and it suited the Metroid franchise even more. The problem with Other: M is that Samus has all her abilities from the start of the game. You donít unlock any new powers. There are still hidden power ups to collect and, as usual, this is a key part of the experience the game has to offer but Samus doesnít gain anything from the experience. She is literally being controlled by a third party telling her when and where she can utilise her pre-existing feature set. Even when you are running around a volcano, burning to death, you canít press the switch to turn on your heat resistance because Daddy hasnít said so.

    The actual story the game decides to tell is largely dependent on the central theme of Motherhood. While this gives the player one of the best opening cut-scenes of all time (a 3D CGI recreation of Samusí final battle with Mother Brain from Super Metroid) it also follows through to an ultimately contrived central villain and a limp squib of an ending that is a massive anti-climax in comparison to the preceding boss fight.

    What Metroid: Other M does add to the franchise is an updated combat engine that does a good job of actually involving you in fights with regular enemies. It stops them from becoming simply cannon fodder. Team Ninja have thoughtfully added some artistic flair to Samusí new finishing moves as well as an updated charge beam mechanic that adds to the flow of the combat well. This is remarkable considering the game can only be played with the Wii remote held sideways, just like a NES (cue muted applause for lack of proper control scheme mapping)! The downside of this is that the first person mode is engaged by pointing the remote at the screen which, for all its cleverness, remains clumsy and unintuitive.

    The graphics are passable but the artistic design is laughable when compared to the majesty of the Prime series. The central space station on which the game takes place is achingly muted; the four individual areas (yes, that is far less than any recent effort) are different enough such that the player can tell them apart but yet are so clichťd that they never strive to be anything other than passable. The sound effects are largely fine but, once again, the music is not up to scratch. There are no hauntingly memorable tunes to accompany areas; music from classic boss fights return but the spin Team Ninja have put on them isnít exciting enough to warrant any praise.

    It is disappointing to have to explain Other: M in this way. It should have been so much more than it is. The problem is probably one of two things: it is either rushed development, squeezed out early to hit a key date in a barren Wii release schedule, or a deep misunderstanding on the part of Team Ninja as to what it is that makes the Metroid franchise great. If this interpretation of one of gamingís greatest heroines is to continue under its current curators, let us hope that it is the former.

    Score: 5/10
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. nakamura's Avatar
      nakamura -
      Extremely harsh. The plot can be rightly criticised but the game was very playable and the combat was excellent. Some superb boss battles too but the game does feel merely good but better than the average shown here.
    1. teddymeow's Avatar
      teddymeow -
      Bloody hell! I agree with Martin.

      I thought this game was great when it was released. Certainly more than 5/10!!
    1. rmoxon's Avatar
      rmoxon -
      I don't think the combat was great at all. It seemed really automated and like I wasn't doing much of anything, it almost seemed to be killing things for me it was that shallow.

      The combat was definitely what disappointed me most, but it was also just a crap metroid game, which means its the only crap metroid game. So it stands out for the wrong reasons.
    1. J0e Musashi's Avatar
      J0e Musashi -
      I thought it was awesome myself. I only played it recently. At least it wasn't more of the same.
    1. Wil's Avatar
      Wil -
      Still haven't finished it. I found the whole holding the pad horizontal and then pointing it at the screen a bit awkward. The story was hilariously bad and the voice acting was almost Resi 1 standard.
    1. nakamura's Avatar
      nakamura -
      Agree the story was pants and the controller pointing was naff but everything else I enjoyed. Combat was far from automated.
    1. Wil's Avatar
      Wil -
      I might have another bash at it this weekend.
    1. Shozuki's Avatar
      Shozuki -
      Really enjoyed this personally, yes the story was a bit naff and the control switching can be awkward, still a real blast though...