Ever wish you could hear Samus’s voice in a Metroid game? Metroid: Other M (MoM) makes those wishes come true.
Metroid games have traditionally been about solitary exploration and incidental narrative through found logscanning, but MoM represents a distinctive departure for the longstanding franchise with it’s heavy emphasis on cinematic storytelling. Virtually every character is voice acted as well, which is something Nintendo doesn’t often do for their games.
I almost felt guilty for indulging in MoM’s lengthy cutscenes at Nintendo’s E3 booth. It felt a little unsettling at first, but I quickly became accustomed to this New Metroid Order.
Without giving away story spoilers, MoM sheds a spotlight onto Samus’s origins. Here’s a character we know almost nothing about over the past 25 years other than her gender and profession. It’s kind of weird to all of a sudden learn where she came from and how she’s felt about her adventures so far. I’m not ready to pass judgement on this game design choice yet, but I can say that I’m intrigued enough to see the whole thing through.
From it’s initial announcement at E3 last year, I always envisioned MoM playing like Ninja Gaiden meets Super Metroid. The playable demo at E3 more or less confirmed this assumption. MoM shifts between 2D and 3D planes depending on what part of the map you’re in. If you’ve seen last year’s Shadow Complex, you have a good idea as to what the 2D corridors look like.
In a surprising move, no nunchuk is used while playing this game. The default controls are similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii where you tilt the controller on its side. <insert obligatory snarky comment on the uselessness of motion controls in games>
Gameplay didn’t throw very man curveballs at me. If you’ve played a metroid game before, this game will feel very natural for the most part. I found the way MoM handled “crippling” Samus at the start to be novel. At the start of the game, Samus works with one of her friends from the Federation. They haven’t “authorized” her to use missiles or heavy weaponry yet, so that’s how her starting ordinance loadout is explained.
I do have to draw attention to how annoying the first-person aiming system is, though. At one point in the demo, I had to fight a boss that could only be damaged by missiles. Problem is, you can only fire missiles by switching into first person aiming mode and pointing the Wiimote at the screen. In theory this sounds intuitive, but in practice it’s awful. I felt like an invalid fumbling around with the Wiimote trying to defeat this particular boss.
The problem lies with the fact that you have to completely change the way you hold the controller in a pressure-filled twitch action sequence. It’s just doesn’t feel natural to be flipping around the controller when you have a 2 second window in which to flip, aim, and fire. Novel exploration mechanic, sure. Twitch boss fight mechanic, HELL NO. Sadly, I fear we may be too close to launch for any significant control changes.
Despite this, I’m too much of a Metroid fan to let this completely derail my enthusiasm for MoM. The game does contain Team Ninja’s signature movement fluidity (other than the aforementioned first-person aiming issue) and the cinematic cutscenes and voice acting are a fascinating new wrinkle for the series.
Metroid: Other M releases for the Nintendo Wii this August.