Metroid has come a long way in recent years. Though it has always been somewhat of a third wheel when it comes to Nintendo games, the Prime series brought in many new fans, and though it was quite different from the 2D counterparts, it still managed to bring that sense of isolation and loneliness we've come to expect from the series into a new realm. With the Prime trilogy completed, many gamers wondered what was next for the series. They didn't have to wonder for long.
At E3 2009, Reggie Fils-Aime unveiled Other M with a teaser trailer, and fans couldn't wait. Now that its finally here, the game has met with much criticism, and has received a very mixed response. Here is what I think.
Other M is an attempt to “return Metroid to its roots”. It utterly fails in this department, as it is nothing like any other Metroid I've played. You still have your exploration, and your item collection, but Metroid is far from the only game that has this. You can't slap energy tanks and missile packs in a game and say “There, now it's just like Metroid!”
The game tries to combine 2D and 3D elements, but ends up just being 3D in the end. This isn't really a problem, but considering they were attempting to return the series to it's roots and all, shouldn't they want it to feel 2D?
Then there is the combat. I'm torn on this one, myself. Although it is cool to see Samus dodge a charging beast, and then shove her arm canon down its throat, combat just feels too tacked on. The game has an auto aim system that is extremely flawed, and it is almost impossible to pick one enemy over another when in 3rd person. By aiming the controller at the screen, you switch into an first person view, letting you aim with the wii remote to pick certain enemies, and lock onto them. This is also the only way to fire missiles. While in first person view, you cannot move, and this can sometimes be extremely frustrating.
Which brings me to controls. The game is controlled using a single wii remote held on it's side like an NES controller. This would have been an excellent choice had they actually made the game as if it were 2D like they were supposed to. This game, as much as it doesn't want to be, is a 3D game. 3D games need analog control! As I mentioned, you can enter first person by aiming at the screen, and this is just a frustrating way to handle that.
The game also likes to throw in segments where you are forced in a first person view and must play a game of Where's waldo to find God knows what, because they never tell you what it is you're supposed to be looking for. This wouldn't have been so terrible if they weren't so vague 90% of the time, and if it weren't so game breaking. You could be thrown into one of these segments after a lot of combat, or immediately after an action packed cut scene, and it just doesn't work well.
Speaking of things that don't work, lets talk story. Samus has just woken up some unspecified time after defeating Mother Brain in Metroid III(Super Metroid). During her time in this facility, she had a dream or flashback, depicting the end of that battle, and how the baby metroid sacrificed it's life for her. After going through some training to make sure she was healthy enough to be let go, Samus hops into her ship and goes on her way. While traveling through space, she receives a distress signal from a vessel called the 'Bottle Ship”. Because of it's annoying high pitch, she names this signal “Baby's Cry” and zips down to help. After entering the vessel, she runs into her old father figure/love interest/who gives a crap what he is, Adam, as well as his crew. Now, Samus Aran is a pretty amazing person. She is strong, has a suit made by an ancient warrior race, and is allegedly one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy. You actually start this game with EVERY ability in the game. This is true for most game sin the series, and every time, she loses them due to some sort of explosion or similar effect. Apparently, they were getting sick of that idea, and instead, she now simply refuses to use them until Adam authorizes them. This is stupid and goes completely against her established character. While somewhat understandable in some cases, I refuse to accept that while traveling through a high temperature, magma filled room, and effectively dying of heat stroke, Samus would not activate her varia suit defenses because she was not told to do so. As for the crew that was with Adam, we never really learn much about any of them, because most of them are there to serve no purpose aside from dying. Of course, no one cares that they are dead, because no one cares about them as characters. Except for Anthony Higgs. He deserves his own series.
The game isn't all bad though. The graphics are pretty, and it is in fact, one of the best looking wii games. Unfortunately, this has no bearing on the game play. The music is kind of nice, but there are hardly any of the classic Metroid songs or jingles, which is a real drag. Even the classic item noise is absent. In fact, the most recognizable song I heard was a remix of the Ridley battle song, and that was a little late to the party. It still brought back memories, though.
The voice actors are pretty flat and horrid, and the absence of an original Japanese voice option is disappointing. While this doesn't quite feel like a Metroid game, and certainly is not the Metroid you know and love, it is still a pretty enjoyable experience in the wii's library. I'm not sure why it's still fun despite all of these complaints, but it is. Let's hope Samus has a better outing next time, but in the mean time, Other M is still worth a buy even given all it's problems.
I think Other M is destined to be the equivalent of Starfox Adventures. It would've been that much more passable had it not had the name “Metroid” on it. But it did. And those are some big shoes to fill.