Metroid: Other M
Wii | Nintendo / Team Ninja | 1 Player | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote (sideways)
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8th October 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
The game begins by presenting a pre-amble by means of a beautiful cutscene that touches on Samus' past. Team Ninja decided to effectively re-create the moments leading up to the extinction of the Metroid race, which culminated in the last of its kind getting annihilated my Mother Brain. Seeing this scene depicted so well not only gave me the creeps, but it set the stage for what was to follow very nicely. The player learns that Samus is still struggling to come to grips with the Baby Metroid's death, and the apparent peacefulness in the galaxy. Moments of calmness are soon disrupted, however, when a distress signal comes through on the ship's on-screen computer. This takes her to a special Galactic Federation station of sorts that serve as the setting for the entire game.
Shortly after arriving, Samus meets up with a team of special operative units who have been sent in on a top-secret mission. Interestingly enough, she recognizes two of the team members which then sets in motion a series of flashbacks that provide some back story. You soon discover that a large portion of the game surrounds the character Adam - the Commander for a team that Samus was once a part of. What initially starts off as an awkward reunion between two long-separated individuals, soon serves as a source of empowerment for Samus to keep moving forward, despite lurking suspicions. But more details on that later.
Controlling Samus feels great. What the developers did was make use of the Wii Remote in two different ways: sideways for normal side-scrolling action and vertically for a first-person search and shoot function. You'll find yourself shifting between the two control schemes on the fly, and thankfully, the controls are very much up to the task. When under normal view, playing Metroid: Other M feels like a retro game with a new facelift. The D-Pad is used for movement, the 2 Button is used to jump, and the 1 Button fires a shot from your main arm cannon. When held down, this shot can become even more powerful into a Charge Beam shot, a much more effective way to inflict damage.
When in first-person view, you'll get to see everything on-screen through Samus' helmet. Aiming the Wii Remote at the TV allows you to look around the area with relative ease. Rather than using the 1 Button, pressing the A Button will execute your basic shot. When enemies are in the vicinity, you can target them with your pointer, and then hold the B Button to lock onto them. Once this has been achieved, you can then fire missiles by holding and releasing the A Button. When you run out of missiles, aim the Wii Remote towards the ceiling to replenish your supply. This also doubles as a quick healing feature when your HP is near total depletion.
One of Samus' trademarks is her Morph Ball ability which transforms here into a compact ball. When in normal view, pressing the A Button will execute the transformation. With this mode active, you can drop bombs by pressing the 1 Button, and later on, you can hold the 1 Button for more devastating effects. The Morph Ball is also very useful to access passageways that you'd really only expect a mouse to run through. Rolling through vents and other confined areas is a lot of fun, especially when travelling at high speeds. All things considered, the controls work great. I mean sure, using the Nunchuk would've afforded more fluid movements, but what they've done here works well enough that I'm not longing for a different control scheme.
Gameplay can be broken down into basic platforming, and a mix of side-scrolling action and first-person shooting. You'll constantly be switching between these multiple styles of 2D and 3D play, and thankfully, the game executes these transitions in a smooth, impressive manner. While Samus is running along a straight path, for example, the camera will pan back and tilt in one direction to add atmosphere. I truly loved the camera angles in this game, because they effectively created tension and helped give the game a feeling of grandeur. Further to this, what's cool is the way the developers implemented cutscenes. They're organized in such a way that feels almost natural. For instance, you'll be running along a set path approaching unexplored territory when the game will take over Samus' movements, and a cutscene will initiate as you enter a door. As you make your way around the enormous Bottle Ship, you'll begin to appreciate the fluidity that much more.
There are lots and lots of areas to travel to and explore. Initially, the game feels quite linear, but slowly some branching paths are formed as you go along your quest. Many times you'll have locked doors that won't open up until you beat the enemies in the area, or activate a terminal nearby. If you start to lose your sense of immersion, you'll be totally caught off guard at certain points in the game. The developers threw in a good number of surprises to keep players engaged. So for example, you may be crossing a glass tunnel set above a raging volcano when suddenly a creature emerges from the ground to devour you. Or you may have a set focus on where you're going, and just as you're about to pass through the next door, a monster pounces from the shadows. I applaud the developers for all these moments of excitement in what already is an action-packed game, as it kept things from becoming too rudimentary.
The map in the top-right of the screen is an invaluable tool for helping you stay on track towards your goal. Plus, it alerts you to items in the area through flashing blue markers. Every time you encounter a Save Point, a yellow marker will move to another spot on the map to indicate your next destination. Save Points abounded in this game, and you could argue that there's some hand-holding there. Yet at the same time, this comes in handy when you have to backtrack to certain areas. And trust me; you'll be doing more than a fair share of that, especially towards the end. So if you're not a fan of backtracking, expect to be annoyed when you're forced to do so across long distances.
Of course, traversing through this vast environment won't be an easy task. There are tons of alien creatures residing here, and you'll be seen as a threat to their survival. Other M has a good sense of variety in the kinds of enemies you'll encounter, from a whole colony of insect-like creatures, oversized worms, spawn-spewing formations, underwater piranhas, fire monsters, and many more. The Bottle Ship has fire- and ice-focused sectors where their climate dictates the kinds of enemies and challenges you'll need to contend with. Gravity plays a role in some of the rooms you'll enter as well, but this doesn't present itself until the end of the game. And honestly, it felt a bit tacked on just for the sake of doing slightly different since it wasn't used that much. You'll really need to pull out all the stops when you come face-to-face with bosses, in whatever area you find yourself. With the exception of one or two really annoying ones (one happens to be the final boss), the boss fights in this game are really cool.
Samus has some pretty awesome move sets that she can use to take out the more ferocious, bone-chilling monsters. The Overblast feature allows you to jump on the head of a monster, and deal large amounts of damage using your Charge Beam. To execute the Lethal Strike move, you simply press the D-Pad in the direction of an enemy. This will cause Samus to grab and throw them about, and this too deals near-massive damage. There's also the Sense Move feature, where pressing the D-Pad while pressing or holding the 1 Button will allow you to do an aerial somersault in slow motion to dodge an attack. When you get the timing down, it's quite fun to use.
As the need calls for it, Samus will unlock upgrades for her suit and her weaponry. You'll gradually unlock improvements to your beam, missiles and bombs. You'll also unlock a special Speed Booster power-up which allows you to travel in a straight line with increased power and speed, accompanied by neat special effects. Then there's the Space Jump which allows you to jump multiple times in the air, and the Grapple Beam. There's quite a bit, albeit not as many unlockables as you might expect. But almost every single one of them makes a notable difference in gameplay.
t goes without saying that Metroid: Other M is easily one of the best-looking games on the Wii. The levels show an impressive amount of detail and care to them, and the visuals look rather remarkable in many places. Everything on the overhead display is well organized, from the health you have to the low battery warning. The music isn't very intrusive, which can be seen as good or bad. There's a soft ambience that slowly picks up into something more forceful as you approach key areas and battles. Some may long for tracks that are more in-your-face, but I think what they've done works as a nice companion to the well-developed, mounting tensity throughout.
On that note, it's important to note that the game's focus on story is big love/hate sort of deal. Either you'll commend the developers for the surprising amount of depth, or you'll just see it as garbage that clutters the rest of the experience. I, for one, really enjoyed the storyline, as it tied everything together quite well. The game does reach a point where things get really suspenseful and "juicy". Once you've learn a great deal about Samus' past, a couple new twists enter the equation. Specifically, the mysteries surrounding the identity of the "Deleter", Adam's reasons for bringing the team to this location, and Madeline Burgman's true intentions. Suspicions are likely to raise in your head concerning all of the above points, and as time goes on, the player begins to piece things together.
There's definitely a good deal of character development, but this isn't extended to some of the team members which makes their presence seem a little superficial. Sometimes, as Samus' suitable voiceover narrates the situation at hand, you get a glimpse into her head. As a result, you might even find yourself manifesting feelings towards her actions and emotions. At certain points, the story did go off into the nonsense category, and even by the end of the game, there are still some things left unexplained. But overall, I found the plot to be really engaging and it definitely helped move things along, not severely hindering the sense of flow.
When you look at Other M as a whole, there's a lot to like. But at the same time, depending on your attitude towards certain aspects of the game, there could be an equal number of things to dislike or hate. Let me go into some detail on some of the issues I had with the game. First, some segments felt very predictable, like when lava started rising in a crater and you're forced to tread up a spiralling pathway. This along with other examples gave me the impression that there was a lack of creativity here beneath all the beautiful visuals. Although I didn't realize it at first, looking back, I can definitely say that the game could've been more challenging. The fact that you can recover missiles and heal health yourself on the fly when you're in danger is a bit of a wasted opportunity. Even if you need to look for the right opportunity to use it, there's very little strategy involved in doing so. It's much in the same way of reloading in an arcade shooter right after the first shot with no consequence whatsoever. Pick-ups would've been a much better way to go.
I also didn't like the whole idea of needing authorization to use items. It didn't feel right from the standpoint of Samus' character, and it felt plain stupid at times. For example, the Commander only permits use of the fire-resistant suit after you nearly kill yourself trying to get through rock masses surrounded by lava. That's just silly. Also, when you reach (what appears to be) a dead end, the game offers no help whatsoever. You need to try everything from firing missiles at a certain spot, or looking for an open vent to crawl through with your Morph Ball. Other times, there really was no way out, so you had to backtrack to the room you just came from, which would get Adam to actually speak up. One minute the game holds your hand tight, and then when you really need the help, the game lets go of your hand and expects you to figure it out. It seemed very hypocritical, as if the developers were confused on when to help the player and when to let them see things for themselves.
There were certain portions within cutscenes where Samus would freeze in place and you'd have to point at the screen (without any sort of prompt) and look for an unknown element on the screen. Honestly, even if you were paying attention to what sort of dialogue was just exchanged a minute ago, sometimes you won't have any idea what you're looking for. And that was a poor method of trying to encourage interaction and involvement on the part of the player. And finally, there aren't many areas or branching paths where you can explore to your heart's content. For the most part, the level design is fairly linear, with a few exceptions. And that's not a good decision for a game of this nature. You know, when I think about it, each and every one of these issues I had with the game say a lot on the kind of focus they wanted to have with this game. Masquerading as a game for the hardcore audience, many of the decisions they made here are very much tailored to casual gamers, and it comes across as inconsistent and flawed.
When it comes down to it, even with those issues listed above, I found it incredibly hard to stop playing this game. In fact, I haven't been this addicted to a game in a very, very long time, which says a lot about how much the developers really pulled me in with the choices they made. I ended up clearing the game in less than 8 hours, and I honestly expected the main game to last longer than this. Still, I felt the plot was concluded nicely by the end of the game, even if there were things left unsaid. Following the credit roll, you'll unlock Gallery and Theater Mode, allowing you to view concept artwork and in-game cutscenes. If you load up your file again, you can continue playing to tie up a few loose ends that Samus wants to investigate. But what else can you do after this? Well, there's always going off to collect all the items in the game, and doing so will unlock Hard Mode. But I personally was not compelled to go through such a ridiculous task just to unlock something that doesn't carry much weight with me.
Look at the big picture and Metroid: Other M is a great game, but if you were to take a microscope and examine the finer details, there's a lot to find fault with. The silly authorization of weapons, lack of creativity, and senseless points of interaction are just some of many questionable elements. The entire game feels inspired more by older games than anything else. In effect, it's a step backward, rather than being something totally unconventional. If you start to nitpick at everything, then the game's conflicting substance values start to seep through the glitter of its presentation. Still, I can't deny that the level of immersion I experienced here was remarkable. The storyline and the narration were great assets to the experience, the controls were great, and the transitions between the multiple styles of play and camera angles worked really well. While it may not have hit all the targets dead on, the amount of risks they took is still very praiseworthy. At the end of the day, Metroid: Other M carries a strong sense of quality, enjoyment and memorability that Nintendo always manages to deliver one way or another.
27/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 8/10 - Two different styles of play merge to create a memorable experience, great controls, some design choices bring it down
Presentation 10/10 - Stunning graphics, smooth gameplay transitions, gorgeous movies, incredibly detailed levels, great atmospheric music, truly impressive
Enjoyment 5/5 - Sense Move is fun to execute, undeniable connection between Samus and the player, very addicting thanks to the engaging storyline
Extra Content 4/5 - Hard Mode unlocked by locating every single item, a very laborious process, Gallery and Theater Mode, not a lengthy game
Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)