Let’s get one thing out of the way first. The worst Metroid game is better than 90% of all the single player action-adventure games out there. The sense of discovery, progress, and frenetic action that you get from playing a Metroid game offers a feeling of fulfillment that few other gaming franchises can.
That being said, Metroid: Other M is definitely one of the weaker entries in the series. (Metroid Prime Pinball nonwithstanding)
It’s a little odd because Other M looks and smells like a Metroid game, but somethings a bit off with it. Perhaps part of it is the game’s focus on “storytelling and character development.” It’s the first Metroid game to utilize CGI cutscenes and voice acting heavily. And I do mean heavily. Some of these scenes clock in upwards of ten minutes.
Now, the length of the cutscenes isn’t so much the problem as the content. As the story was unfolding, I couldn’t help but feel like it was as awkwardly written and campy as Resident Evil. For example, one of the introductory movies explained at length why everyone in Samus’s old military unit gave the “thumbs up” sign after hearing mission orders. Then, in an incredibly melodramatic fashion, we got a very solemn monologue voiced by Samus as to why she gave the “thumbs down” sign instead as a symbol of independence.
At least, that’s the gist of what I remembered. Frankly, the entire thing played out to me as “blah blah thumbs up blah blah thumbs down.” I welcome engaging storylines and characters in my games, but Other M just reeked of B-Movie quality/self-aggrandizing-Japanese-Video-Game-Director-aspires-to-write-best-space-epic-ever. As I played through the game, I found myself pitying the poor localization dude who had to translate pages and pages of melodrama into English without making it into a complete joke. He tried his best, but putting frosting over poop is still poop.
That’s not to say the cinematics were shoddily presented; they actually look quite amazing for a 480p Wii title. The voice acting is also well done, with Samus sounding exactly like how I had imagined her. However, this leads to another problem, which is her characterization.
Other than some hints dropped here and there (she’s a girl!), the character of Samus has largely been left up to the imagination for the last 24 years. I’d wager that many people would consider her a badass no-nonsense bounty hunter who leans towards the side of angels, if anything. Making Samus’s past the focus of Other M‘s story ends up weakens the character because it pulls back the curtain to reveal one person’s interpretation of her (the director who thinks he’s a better storyteller than he actually is). She comes off as petulant, juvenile, needy, and emotionally inferior to her male counterparts. Instead of feeling like I was playing as an unfathomably hot Boba Fett, I began to feel like I was babysitting a needy girl who’s in way over her head. Not cool.
As for the actual game itself, the best thing I can say about it is that it kept my full attention (well, other than the cutscenes) throughout the 8 or so hours it took to complete. It’s a Metroid game so there’s thrilling shoot outs, timed escapes, tricky platforming, and creepy atmospheres. While some purists may cry foul at the forcefed waypoint directions, I did appreciate their purpose in keeping the game moving along at a nice pace. Rare was the case in which I was genuinely stuck.
However, the most egregious offense on Nintendo/Team Ninja’s part was shoehorning in a hybrid 1st person mode into the game. I’m talking about the gameplay mechanic where you have to constantly flip the Wiimote from a horizontal position in your hands to a position where you’re pointing and aiming at the screen.
In three words: It. Doesn’t. Work.
Not only is this motion awkward, it must be done in the middle of frenetic action moments! So you’re not only performing a complicated motion with your hands, you have to shift from a 3rd person view to a first person view on screen where you’re completely rooted! I don’t know about you, but this took a heavy cognitive toll on my brain. It wasn’t so much the concept of swapping back and forth, but the frustration I felt in having to run around an enemy, stop, flip the controller, get the aiming reticles right, and press the right button. More often than not, by the time I got the complex series of motions done, I had lost my opportunity to damage the boss’s weak point or had to reposition because enemies had caught up to my rooted position. It may have sounded like a good idea in the brainstorming session, but I can’t believe that this got through any sort of hands on testing.
It may sound like I’ve spent the last 900 or so words just blasting Metroid: Other M on its faults, but understand that it comes from the viewpoint of a series fan. The game is still worth playing if you’re into the series; just dont expect something on par with Super Metroid or Metroid Prime. If you’re a newcomer to the franchise, you could do a lot worse than Other M, but I strongly recommend you play the aforementioned first as a better showcase of what a Metroid game is really capable of in both 2d and 3d. Playing through either one of those games should leave you with the feeling that you’ve experienced some of the best titles the medium has ever produced.