I would never have considered myself to be a long-term Metroid fan. I didn’t play the original until close I was about 9, never understood why folks got excited about Super Metroid until four years ago, and I absolutely love Metroid II on the old Gameboy despite the rest of the world hating it. I also think that Metroid Prime was the first first-person shooter that got the genre to work on a console. These thoughts have been swirling around my head as I’ve been playing Metroid: Other M. It’s not as bad as many players claim, and many of the criticisms are misplaced.
Metroid: Other M takes place a few months after the events of Super Metroid. With the last metroid destroyed, Samus was grieving over the baby metroid’s death as she gave an uninspired speech to the government that the mission was a success. As she was randomly exploring space, she receives a distress call known as “the baby’s cry” from a space station known as the Bottle Ship. Racing there to rescue its crew, she runs into her old space army crew who received the same call. It quickly becomes apparent that something is critically wrong in the station as it mimics a jungle, magma filled crater and the icy artic. And what’s with all of the life forms running around the ship?
And it’s a downright fascinating plot. Team Ninja should be commended on creating a game that keeps the tension high while providing a fun arena to explore. And their portrayal of Samus is multifaceted as woman struggling to stand her truth while putting her personal demons to rest. It’s an interesting and memorable characterization of her and, thankfully, it will be not because of the jiggle physics that Team Ninja is notorious for using.
There are two main problems with the plot. The first is its translation. For example the sentence, “Mother ... it’s time to go!” doesn’t fit. There are other instances throughout the game, though they are not as severe. The other big complaint I have with the plot is that Samus sounds like she spent far too much time at the spa. I’m not watching a mystery unfold before my eyes; I feel like I’m sitting next to her at a local coffee shop while she regales the patrons with her tales. It just doesn’t feel right considering the dire situations she describes and experiences.
So how does this affect the gameplay? On the surface, the answer is “not very much.” At the game’s core, this is still a modern take on the traditional Metroid formula. Samus runs around what feels like a massive world, hunting for missile tanks, energy tanks, reserve tanks, charging aids and parts of energy tanks (find four parts and her energy level increases, just like heart containers). Furthermore, instead of Samus discovering hidden Chozo statues with the technology needed to progress, she has access to them all right at the start. There’s a simple catch: since Samus is unofficially working for the Galactic Federation, she willingly follows the commands of her old commanding officer and only “powers up” on his command. This means no super missiles, special beams or super bombs until Adam gives the OK. Some have considered this to be sexist while others don’t care. In the context of the story, it doesn’t feel forced nor does it seem to be used in a degrading manner. It seems to also say something about Samus character: She likes to challenge herself.
What is new is that the game only needs the Wii-mote. She responds surprisingly well to the D-pad, though I would much rather use an analogue stick since the environments are set-up in a side view of a 3-D world. Firing missiles is done by aiming the Wii-mote at the screen and there is a slight delay. While it doesn’t always spell “doom,” it can be frustrating to wait a few precious seconds or be able to strafe to avoid attacks. Worst yet, sometimes the game doesn’t properly lock-on to opponents. Perhaps the weirdest addition of them all is that by pointing the Wii-mote up and holding down the A button, Samus can refill her missile supplies and, when in critical condition, recover some health. With this addition, I often wondered the point of having a missile count when I could easily refill it by finding a lull or a quiet spot away from the action.
Speaking of action, this has to be one of the technically prettiest Wii games I have played. The space station areas look mechanical and sterile. The jungle areas are lush with foliage and occasional stormy skies. The glacial area is filled with ice, snow and, of course, snow storms. Perhaps the most stereotypical area is the lava rooms, complete with lava biomosters and scorching heat. I was most impressed with the overall lack of loading times during exploration. Usually, what’s the next room in the sequence is already loaded — thus allowing you to explore uninterrupted. As such, it’s rare that the game pauses to load an area.
So what about the sound design? In fact, it’s the most Metroid part of the entire game. Many of the same themes that players know and love are present in all their glory. This means that the music is highly reminiscent of their original tunes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it is quite enjoyable to hear. The voice acting is quite solid. I was quite surprised to discover that Samus voice grew on me. The other characters’ voices are also well done.
So those are my thoughts on Metroid: Other M. Yes, it’s a fun game and it’s well-made. However, there’s no way I can justify to others to drop a full $50. There are just too many flaws, such as the quickly rechargeable missile tanks, and slowly feels like a repeat of other Metroid games. I grabbed this game in nearly mint condition for $4. I feel that this game is not worth more than $20. If you’re looking for a fun traditional action game, feel free to grab a copy. It may just suck away your free time.