$18.00 - $29.95
1 Store89 Reviews
Pros: very cinematic, fun boss battles, cool power ups
Cons: camera sucks, first-person mode lockdown, underwhelming level design
My first experience with cosmic bounty hunter Samus Aran didn't happen until Metroid Prime came out on the Gamecube. The original Metroid came out in 1986, the same year I was born, and even when I owned an NES when I was younger I only played a few games, two of them continuously. With Mario and Donkey Kong both getting a new "old school" face lift, Nintendo handed over the development for a new Metroid game to Team Ninja, the development team responsible for the Ninja Gaiden series, to try and breathe some new life into the series. Retro studios did a great job with Metroid Prime bringing it into a first person action game, but Team Ninja goes back to the side scrolling roots to create Metroid: Other M.
Much like New Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid: Other M is a 2D platform action game set in 3D environments. Other M plays like one of those "Behind the Scenes" kind of features in movies, only we're taken behind Samus' mask and seeing a much more personal side of her and her history. I can hear tons of fan boys crying out with disdain, but coming from someone who didn't play a Metroid game until the Prime series, the cinematic focus on one of video game's most iconic characters is interesting. As safe as Nintendo tends to operate, this grand gesture is welcomed and I hope that they do more productions like this in the future on the Wii U. The beginning cinematic picks up right at the ending of Super Metroid, showing the final moments of the game in full beautiful full motion video that even the stingiest Metroid fan can enjoy and appreciate. The game starts with Samus receiving a distress signal originating from an enormous space station. When she lands and begins to check out the ship you can see that something devious has been going on, and soon you run into a troop of Galactic Federation soldiers that include her previous commanding officer Adam and friend Anthony.
Though Samus is a bounty hunter and works alone, she decides to join Adam's squad to find out what happened on the space station and who or what sent out the distress signal in the first place. You probably don't have to have played any of the previous Metroid games, and this game really focuses hard on the story through FMV cut scenes that goes beyond Samus' suit and explains a little bit about her past and how she came to be the bounty hunter that she is. It's interesting the direction that Team Ninja took, and I enjoyed the story for the most part even though I was a little lost throughout most of the game.
That leads me to the game play. I wouldn't say that I rushed my way through, but I finished the game in about 9 hours or so. Team Ninja returned to side-scrolling fundamentals, except the level design is in full 3D so you can move up and down through treacherous corridors as well as side to side. The problem with this is the camera. Since it's fixed and have no way to control it manually, there are many instances where you have no idea what's ahead of you and so you'll just be shooting something that you can't even see. You play Other M with the Wii remote on its side so that it resembles the NES controller (though a little more comfortable) and jump, shoot, and roll through various level designs inside the massive space station. Starting out you only have the basic unlimited ammo rifle beam and the ability to roll into the legendary morph ball, but as you progress you'll be allowed to use stronger beams with various secondary abilities and rockets. New to Metroid is the ability to use different melee attacks when you're close enough to enemies. Whether you're grabbing a monster and flipping it over your shoulder, or my favorite when you jump on their head and you can blast a charged beam shot into their skulls for maximum damage. I remember doing this in Ninja Gaiden on Xbox, so there's the inspiration for that. I mean why not? You're rarely confronted by one enemy at a time and these melee attacks spice up the gameplay a little bit.
One thing that I didn't like was how the stronger power-ups come about. Instead of finding them after some searching and having a sense of accomplishment, Adam "authorizes" you to use each power-up as it becomes necessary. Because of this, many of the power-ups only have a few uses, and the scenarios where they're required are short. Samus has many of her abilities like different rifle upgrades, a suit upgrade, and missiles - but the more advanced ones are scarcely used. One of the power-ups that had a lot of promise is the power boost ability that fires up once you're running in one direction long enough and shoots you barreling down the hallway destroying everything in the way. Instead, there are only two parts in the game that require it to progress, and the rest of the space station doesn't' have sufficient straightaway hallways that allow it to be used more often.
There's one power-up that you don't even get to use until the very end of the game, but even after finishing the main mission you're allowed to go back through the game and access previously unreachable parts of the space station. At the beginning of the game you start with only like 10 missiles to use and a limited life energy bar. As you explore the space station and traverse through the various corridors there are tons of missile and energy upgrades that are cleverly hidden in various nooks and crannies. Many of them require using the morph ball to reach. They're easy to locate because they flash blue on the map, but are MUCH more difficult to actually find.
Compared to the original Metroid on the NES, which had no map or any real direction; it's cakewalk. Unlike Metroid Prime's 3D rendered map, Other M's map is 2D. This makes it a lot more difficult to find the upgrade and forces you to make a thorough search of the area. It's possible to beat the game with collecting as little extra upgrades that you can avoid, which adds a layer of difficulty to the boss battles. I finished the game with 43% item completion and had little difficulty with the game. If you're Super Missile happy though you may want to collect as many upgrades as you can because they cost 5 missiles each time you use one. The overall difficulty is a little underwhelming. The only time I ever lost health was during boss battles; normal enemies leading up to each boss however are no challenge at all. The boss battle themselves ranged from easy to tediously difficult, but overall satisfying and fun. For those who want to go further for a challenge, collect all of the available upgrades and a Hard mode is unlocked.
One of the biggest downfalls in Other: M is the first-person mode. By pointing the Wii remote at the screen you'll enter the first-person. This would have been a great feature had Team Ninja not made it so that you're stationary in this mode and can only pivot around. It makes sense because they created the game with the side-scrolling action in mind and I'm sure people would have used the first-person view more than what Team Ninja wanted gamers to. It would have been nice to be able to at least move around a little, but instead you're forced to use the quick move feature and switching the remote from pointing at the screen to sideways back to the screen again. Most of the boss battles require you to enter the first-person mode to shoot rockets or a grapple beam at them, which gets pretty hectic while you're waiting for a rocket to charge and you can't move without reverting back to classic view. Other than the stationary annoyance, the first-person mode is controls well and is responsive. Much better than using the Wii remote in Goldeneye007 that put a bad taste in my mouth, so I was unsure at first about how well it would be handled in Other M.
The art direction was more different in Other M than I expected. First of all there aren't any massive lava planets or dense overgrown jungles to explore. It feels like you're on a different planet during the lava and snow levels, but really you're still inside this giant research space ship. The fire and snow sectors in the ship are more on the boring side, but the biological sector of the ship looks fantastic; corridors are overfilled with plant life and makes you feel like something really bad has gone wrong and you're all alone. There were a couple moments where I was stuck and had no idea where to go, only to go into first-person mode and scope around and see a crack in a wall that I would have missed had I not looked around more. While a lot of games have a neon sign pointing to a wall saying "blow up this crack!", they're not so obvious here in Other M and they blend in with the environments much more naturally. There are moments where you walk through a room or corridor and get a chill, like something really creepy is about to happen, or a huge monster is completely frozen in terror and you wonder how much bigger the thing is that made it that way. Team Ninja did a great job of tapping into the power of the Wii, producing some high quality full motion video cut-scenes that transition to and from gameplay almost seamlessly. I didn't expect the kind of production out of Other M before I first started playing, so the fact that it turned out to look so good was very welcome.
For the first time in 25 years, Samus has been given a voice. Even in Metroid Prime she was the silent protagonist. The voice acting sounds good, and Samus' voice has that vulnerable yet highly determined and military edge to it. The soundtrack was orchestrated and really helped set the mood. It was fast and intense when the action got heated, and full of slow calming stringed instruments during more passive moments.
I enjoyed Metroid: Other M quite a bit, though it's not without its faults. The camera angle can get annoying when you're running off screen without being able to see anything. Power-ups and abilities seemed vastly underused and the feeling of achievement from finally being able to use an ability is nowhere to be found due to the way that they're presented. Any Nintendo and especially Metroid fan should check this out. It's a very ambitious project, I just felt underwhelmed. There's plenty of action and the boss battles are interesting so it's definitely worth at least one play through.