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Sep 07

Game Review – Metroid: Other M.

Metroid Other M Box Art

Metroid: Other M

Wow, Nintendo have an exciting line up over the next few months. Donkey Kong Country Returns has a release date, 007 Goldeneye’s re-make/re-imagining/re-whatever is soon to follow and Nintendo’s 3DS is also just around the corner. These are interesting times for a Nintendo fan. We have already had a new Mario Galaxy and now we get Samus’ soul-bearing new adventure Metroid : Other M.

The Metroid series is one that I personally hold dear. It has spanned over every Nintendo platform, barring N64 and is one of the longest standing franchises in gaming history. It has even spanned genres, starting as a side scrolling shooter, to adding exploration, then they jumped to 1st person shooters and a pinball game, hell, Samus even appears in the Smash Bros fighting games. All these games brought high critical acclaim but only a small cult following of fans can be found. It’s almost unfair for such an illustrious series.

Metroid : Other M, the oddly named latest of the series, is set immediately after the events of Super Metroid from the SNES and tells a story that no other chapter has really opened up: the back story of Samus. Whilst there was a little peek into her history in the Chozo lore of the Metroid Prime saga, Samus has remained largely silent except for grunts of pain when damaged. So, Team Ninja, the company that created both the Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden series, have teamed up with Nintendo to flesh out the gold and red intergalactic bounty hunter.

Other M is a mixed bag of gameplay with the bulk being very oldschool platforming shooter. Those that have played the early and Gameboy Advance Metroid games will feel very at home here. The similarity to the Ninja Gaiden games is also very obvious. The controls are all achieved by the Wii remote alone. Held sideways, the directions control Samus in 3D movement but turning the remote around to point brings the screen into a 1st person perspective for precision aiming. At first this motion is uneasy but after a while it does become quite manageable. The controls overall are quite rigid but stable and they do their part although aiming difficulties and problems with the semi-fixed camera angles arise all the time. It’s almost as if they foresaw this and made the dodging system extremely easy with just a push in the desired direction, Samus is moved out of harms way but covering an issue by making it’s consequence simpler to avoid doesn’t fix it. The combat is very reminisce of the old 16-bit shooter. Think of Contra but on some really mad acid. With some cool, brutal up close and personal moves, Samus can eradicate all sorts of sci-fi monsters with finesse and it balances out the other shortcomings with sadistic bliss.

Graphically, Other M is amazing. The CG sequences are of top notch quality and the gameplay visuals aren’t too far off. All the monsters have a great deal of detail and the environments are dazzling, to say the least. Concept-wise, they have kept very true to where Super Metroid left off. Enemies are very iconic and the boss battles are epic. Even the power-ups you collect have the same style as it’s 16-bit counterpart.

Along the course of the journey, Samus gains new abilities. I say gained but really, she already has these powers but is not authorized to use them until given the order to. This is all tied into the storyline. Normally, I’m against reviewing the story in fear of spoiling any preconceived ideas but since this games purpose is to tell the story of Samus and her background, it’s too big a part of the game to leave out.

In the opening sequence, they show the final moments of Super Metroid. In utterly brilliant CG, I might add. With Samus’ voice being very melancholy but still managing to sound like a teenage pop singer. This turned into a problem for me, as Samus has never spoken a word before, suddenly she is bombarding us with her thoughts, feelings and observations with an, at times, teenie girl perspective. She has, even at this point, committed all sorts of genocide and been to the brink of death yet she talks of longing for feminine recognition, her almost motherly obsession with the last baby metroid and her daddy issues with her former commanding officer which borders on a form dominatrix as she only uses vital abilities as he allows her to. Even though she isn’t technically obliged to withhold her powers. Maybe it’s just me but I think the quiet, bad-ass Samus worked a tad better.

Metroid : Other M is a very competent game that will please the oldschool buffs like myself who have played all the previous Metroids and miss those old side scrolling shooters of yester-year… if the story doesn’t make you grind your teeth into powder. The sad truth is that we didn’t need to know Samus’ past. We are happy with her staying mute, provided we are blowing up entire planets while she doesn’t talk. Newcomers may find this game too rigid and might find the combat system confusing. It’s a hit and miss affair, I’m afraid that only caters to the hardcore fan. The Metroid Prime series will offer much more entertainment and less conflicting concepts, especially of the emotional kind from Samus. It’s a shame really because the game itself is a really good return to form. Oh well… how long until Donkey Kong Country Returns?

– Grant