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Jarrod Mawson
08 Sep, 2010

Metroid: Other M Review

Wii Review | Something old and something new, but is this marriage a happy one?
What do Metroid and Ninja Gaiden have in common? Nothing. So then, imagine the thoughts running through the minds of Metroid fans over the globe when, at E3 2009, Nintendo announced that they’d be partnering with developers of the latter game for the next big adventure of Samus Aran. Famed Metroid co-creator and director Yoshio Sakamoto was back at the helm for the first time since Fusion, talking about exploring the past of Samus and his vision of the character, and a return to classic gameplay in what would be his debut 3D game. Some were intrigued, others were concerned, but most everybody had no idea what to expect. Now here we are, more than a year later, finally able to behold what this unusual collaboration of developers and design has crafted for this legacy franchise.

Heralded as the first 3D iteration of Metroid from a third person perspective, Nintendo unusually chose to confine character movement to the Wii remote’s D-pad. From observation alone, it seemed irrational to restrict a 3D dynamic to basic digital controls, but thankfully what could have been a disaster instead works wonderfully. Outside of a few unfortunate exceptions, most rooms and environments appear to have been designed around the limitations of digital navigation rather than digital control forced into traditional 3D design. Even with uncontrollable panning, locked camera perspectives, and a fast movement speed, the task of navigating Samus down corridors, up platforms, and over obstructions is made intuitive and effortless. There are a handful of instances where tricky platforming coupled with a skewed perspective makes for clumsy interaction, and some thumbs will wrestle with the tiny size of the Wii remote’s D-pad, but for the most part it’s a surprisingly adaptable method of control, and a comfortable hybrid between modern 3D interaction and classic 2D gameplay of old.

We hope you know the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow.

We hope you know the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow.
Close
Other M brings a particularly significant change to the series in its combat. Clearly influenced by Team Ninja’s experience in the action genre, there’s far less emphases on accuracy of shots, largely due to beam fire automatically homing in on nearby targets. Instead, there’s a shifted focus to athletics, with Samus given three new agile abilities: the ‘Sensemove’ lets you rapidly dodge out of the way of incoming enemy attacks with the tap of a d-pad, ‘Overblast’ has you grapple atop an enemy to deliver a deadly blow, and ‘Fatal Strike’ delivers a crippling shot to an enemy’s weak point. Missiles too have been given an overhaul. Whereas they were traditionally used as a versatile high damage attack, they are instead shaped into a weapon and used more sparingly. Functionally, they can only be fired when in first person and locked-on to a target, which involves shifting the Wii remote to point at the screen, and are usually reserved exclusively for stripping away enemy shielding and beam invulnerabilities. This is all accompanied by a revised health system; instead of fallen enemies dropping health and missile ammunition, players will have to make do with whatever resources they’ve got until they either refill at scattered navigation rooms, or use the new ‘Concentration’ move to recover depleted missiles and, should they be close to death, an energy tank or two.

All of these changes are seamlessly integrated into the control scheme, for most part. There’s a moderate learning curve on the shift to first person perspective, which will initially feel unwieldy for some players, but once mastered the experience come together wonderfully. There’s great exhilaration in switching to first person to break away an enemy’s shielding with a well placed rocket, sensemoving into a fully charged blaster shot, and then grappling them for a close-quarters blast into oblivion all in a matter of seconds, and there’s a heightened intensity in trying to pull off a concentration while a lumbering boss towers overhead. The end result is something much more visceral than any past Metroid, and Other M presents arguably the most agile and deadly incarnation of Samus yet.

...and Wrestlemania was changed forever.

...and Wrestlemania was changed forever.
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But enough of the controls, what of the adventure? Fans familiar with the franchise will find that Other M progresses at a similar pace to Fusion, for better or worse, as the pure isolation and exploration found in the likes of Super Metroid is diminished in favour of a more streamlined, linear approach. Just as Fusion gave a clear indication of where to find your next objective, so too does Other M, sticking a waypoint marker on your radar to keep you pointed in the right direction. It goes even further, with the necessary pathways through rooms much more evident than previous games, and a reduced emphasis on backtracking as you make your way through the story. Yet even with this more focused direction there’s still a great deal of familiarity to classic Metroid gameplay. Iconic suit and beam powers collected throughout the game are all versatile and used effectively, for battling the population of both new and old enemies, and for exploiting the many doorways, crevices, and secrets areas that litter most rooms. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding a morph ball hole, or blowing open a door with a rocket, while other secrets are much more demanding, requiring the mastering of skills and abilities such as a well timed shinespark. Successful exploration will net rewards in the forms of classic items as the energy and missile tanks, as well as a few new ones like the ‘Accel Charge’, which increases the rate at which your bream charges, and the ‘E-Recovery Tank’, which allows you to recover even more health during concentration. It is during these moments of discovery that the core of the Metroid formula is still well and truly present, even when dressed more streamlined and approachable presentation.

The usual free exploration and pacing is occasionally broken up by scripted story sequences, mostly composed of slower over-the-shoulder tension building scenarios, and forced first person scavenger hunts. Neither work particularly well, with the over-the-shoulder segments unnecessarily highlighting the limitations of D-pad control, and the first person Where’s Wally nonsense frustrates as you try to figure out what, exactly, the game wants you to look at. Luckily they’re rare occurrences that only make up a fraction of the entire package, but nonetheless intrude on otherwise solid pacing. As for length, a single playthrough should take around seven to eight hours, while going for 100% should bring you into double digits. There are unlockable art galleries and a cinema mode, and a special post credits sequence gives players a chance to embark on one last adventure and collect any missed items during the first playthrough, as well as a few big surprises.

The forest certainly is wonderful. Let's look for treasure!

The forest certainly is wonderful. Let's look for treasure!
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Artistically, the game is chiefly a direct translation of Super Metroid, with enemies, characters and environments spearheaded towards more colourful and quirky looking beasts over the pragmatic direction of Retro’s Metroid Prime series. On a whole it looks reasonably nice, a crisp display and wide colour palette, but it lacks the alluring enchantment and believability so well known with Prime. It doesn’t help that much of the Bottle Ship’s architecture is that of murky greys corridors, and the more inventive areas are let down by muddy texturing. It is thankful then that majority of characters and creatures, particular bosses, are rather spectacular looking. High poly counts and a number of shaders dazzle, but it is their lively animations that really bring them to life. It should be no surprise that it is in these areas that Samus herself steals the show. Other M is graced with one of the nicest looking and detailed Samus models yet, and her athletic prowess is convincingly portrayed with a wealth of captivating animations. These highlights help ease the disappointment of some graphical oddities, which are further obscured by gorgeous particle and special effects, and the entire package blitzing by at a near consistent sixty frames per second.

If there’s one significant criticism to the game’s presentation it has to the music. A departure from the iconic and moody themes associated with the franchise, the soundtrack is instead a handful of orchestral tracks and digital mixes, some subdued and barely noticeable, and others that would be more at home in a generic space opera. Occasionally the music will suitably fit a scene, particularly during climatic boss fights, but as a whole it’s sadly forgettable. Sound effects all work well where appropriate, but much like the music are absent of anything truly memorable.

Deadliest Catch presents 'Space Fishing'.

Deadliest Catch presents 'Space Fishing'.
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Lastly we come to what will undoubtedly be the most divisive addition to the Metroid franchise; the story. A series well known for using minimalism as a means of driving the plot, the seeds of narration sewn by Fusion have grown high. Other M is chock full of film clips, some pre-rendered and others in-engine, most of which are narrated by Samus herself, who will melodramatically repeat herself with excessive use of adjectives during bloated monologues, and while learning about her past is interesting, sometimes you’ll wish she’d just shut up and get on with it. The core mystery of the Bottle Ship is itself intriguing, but conveyed nowhere near as well as it should have been. Nods to past and future Metroid titles, as well as additions to the Metroid lore, are well valued highlights, but the presentation and flow of the story are simply the epitome of average.

It’s difficult to finger where it went wrong; it could be a translation issue and cultural story difference between East and West, it could be the questionable acting or fault of the cinematic director, or it might be that the writing at its core just plain stinks. In a medium rampant with average writing it won’t seem too bad to some, about on par with the quality of story and writing of many other popular games, and the production values of the cinematics are impressively high, but for a good few people the story will be frustratingly intrusive, made all the worse by the lack of a ‘skip’ button until you’ve already completed the game. It’s a tolerable addition to the Metroid norm, but unfortunately not one that will sit well with everybody.

Samus, darling, we need to talk.

Samus, darling, we need to talk.
Close
So what, then, do we make of a title with so many polarising features? With one hand it draws heavy inspiration from what makes Metroid so great, yet on the other it upturns and rebuilds the formula for a new generation. What we’re left with is an experiment. An idea that is totally Metroid, but presented as something fresh. At its worst, Other M can be a jaded beast of questionable design and confronting direction, yet at its best it is extraordinarily memorable. Sure, not everybody will like the cinematics and story, and yes, the lack of impressionable music and sometimes bland art direction is disappointing, but slick pacing and control, brilliant battle and navigation design, all topped with exhilarating boss fights and great extras all come together in a package that's more than deserving of the Metroid title. It could have been better, but it’s still fantastic in its own right.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Nintendo and Team Ninja, and the two go on to expand the formula evident here, because while Samus might not be the most interesting person to listen to, she sure is a lot fun to play with.
The Score
Experimental by design. It might not always work, but when it does its an experience hard to forget, wearing the Metroid tag with pride with its head held high. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Metroid: Other M Content

Live action Metroid: Other M commercial
21 Aug, 2010 From the United States.
Metroid: Other M trailer
14 Aug, 2010 Not long now!
E3 2010: New Metroid Other M Gameplay Trailer
16 Jun, 2010 The latest from Team Ninja, still with less breast.
20 Comments
3 years ago
Excellent review icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
Indeed, excellent review. It's like you went into my head and mentioned everything I wanted to say!

PALGN wrote
forced first person scavenger hunts.
Oh gawd... I was stuck on one of these parts for 15 minutes or so! Not very fun Sakamoto/Team Ninja!

Agreed with the music... but as soon as I heard that 'Ridley theme' my Metroid fanboyness came straight out.

Awesome game though, no matter what anyone says!
3 years ago
Jarrod wrote
We hope you know the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow.
You may have my babies, sir.
3 years ago
It's games like this that make me regret giving my Wii to my parents... oh well.. I'll live..
3 years ago
Man I knew the storyline writing was going to be horrible ever since that trailer came out with the line "The past is prologue"

seriously that's one of the worst lines of dialogue I've ever heard.
3 years ago
I'm really enjoying the writing and the more cinematic/story driven experience. I think its a nice addition to the series and apart from some control issues, its a fun game.

Nice review Jarrod, very well written.
3 years ago
It really is a shame about the music. Nintendo's musical score card over the years has been nothing short of phenominal and SSBB compilation/remixes of so many themes has highlighted how good it actually was.

Here's to hoping that Skyward Sword (or whatever the next major 1st party IP comes out next) has some brilliant tracks in it.
3 years ago
This game certainly does not translate well. It is way too Japanese and I agree, some of the dialogue is really painful.

PALGN wrote
forced first person scavenger hunts.
I HATE THEM SO MUCH PLEASE MAKE THEM STOP!!!!!!

Does the Wii's D-pad hurt anyone else's fingers?
3 years ago
@tbenton, don't be such a big baby!

We mature gamers used to play games UNTIL OUR FINGERS WERE RAW AND OUR BLISTERS BLED AND WE LOVED IT - warface etc

(but i agree somewhat, especially when playing VC SMBLL for 4 hours straight, and dying 9000 times)
3 years ago
David No.1 wrote
Agreed with the music... but as soon as I heard that 'Ridley theme' my Metroid fanboyness came straight out.
That track is great for the most obvious reasons, and there are a couple of other cool ones, but I think its that the whole package is really weak in terms of music. None of it is technically bad, and some scenes work a lot better than others, but in the end its all a bit generic and unmemorable, which is so strange for a Metroid game.

ANDYBALLINA wrote
I'm really enjoying the writing and the more cinematic/story driven experience. I think its a nice addition to the series and apart from some control issues, its a fun game.
Yeah, look, as I said in the review the writing and cinematics will leave a different impression on different people. I didnt think it was anywhere near as bad as I heard it would be, but I can see how some others will hate it with a passion, and I can also see how some others wont mind at all. After all, the Metal Gear Solid franchise suffers from many similar writing issues and people seem to love those.

My main issue with Samus' monologues is that they're written to be read, not to be spoken. Writing spoken dialogue is much different than writing reading dialogue. The latter is usually full of a lot more descriptive terms, and that is one thing Samus does a bit too much of.

But thanks for the comments all. The review turned out a lot longer than I intended it to be :/.
3 years ago
@waz79 I'm sorry, I will now drink my cup of concrete and harden up.

For the record, I did play Guitar Hero 3 way to much and received RSI in my wrist, but that's another story...

I agree with you for the Lost Levels, that game is insanely hard. No wonder Nintendo didn't want to release it in the US.

Does anyone else think that Samus sounds a bit like Gillian Anderson?
3 years ago
Story and voice acting are utter garbage.
Samus is not at all the strong and silent badass that explores untamed woulds and blasts Space Pirates by the dozen that I imagined her to be. Not quite sure why they felt they needed to take her character in this direction but I guess I couldn't expect much more from the team that bought us sixaxis controllable boob jiggle in Ninja Gaiden 2.
Gameplay is fun enough to be redeeming however, still a good sense of exploration and the combat is fun. As long as you mute the cutsences, it still feels like Metriod.

Picture related however.



http://images.memegenerator.net/EmotionalSamue/ImageMacro/2372989/MICROWAVE-BEAM-ACQUIRED-MAKE-DINNER-FOR-ADAM.jpg
3 years ago
I'm not seeing an image?
3 years ago
HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable.
3 years ago
Also, does anyone else think the new "no health pick ups" system just sucks? I seem to die way more times in this game than previous metroids. Perhaps I just suck at it?
3 years ago
Nic_231 wrote
Story and voice acting are utter garbage.
Samus is not at all the strong and silent badass that explores untamed woulds and blasts Space Pirates by the dozen that I imagined her to be. Not quite sure why they felt they needed to take her character in this direction but I guess I couldn't expect much more from the team that bought us sixaxis controllable boob jiggle in Ninja Gaiden 2.
I'm pretty sure Sakamoto wrote all the dialogue, so blame him. I didn't really think her character was as weak as others seem to think she was though. People seem to have forgotten the crappy narrative of Fusion, and that Samus has been under Federation orders for every mission except for Super and Prime (ironically the best Metroids).

tbenton wrote
Also, does anyone else think the new "no health pick ups" system just sucks? I seem to die way more times in this game than previous metroids. Perhaps I just suck at it?
It would be too easy with the health drops. Once you get the sensemove down pat you can avoid getting hit very easily. Later in the game you become pretty much invincible.
3 years ago
@tbenton, in general im really dissapointed with the whole "lets make this game easier" ethos of Nintendo in the last year or two. Metroid OM has this simplified structure slapped all over it, and it feels much less rewarding because of it.

Infact, SMG2 pissed me right off because they actually made the first half much easier, and less exploratory, than the first one. WELL Miyamoto not only said it would be harder, but he also said it was made for fans of the first one.

I can't wait to see what they're new approach is going to be with their "more core orientated handheld", the 3DS. I guess it will be worse, since theres alot of money in making games for everyone.

(Sure i wanted Pilotwings, but did i want Pilotwings set on Wahu island, with Miis and the prospect of simplified mechanics and controls? FU** NO)
3 years ago
waz79 wrote
Infact, SMG2 pissed me right off because they actually made the first half much easier, and less exploratory, than the first one. WELL Miyamoto not only said it would be harder, but he also said it was made for fans of the first one.
I'd question the skills of anybody who says SMG is harder than SMG2. SMG2 wasn't all that difficult (EXCEPT FOR THE LAST GREEN STAR FUCK YOU BASTARD), but it was definitely harder on average than the first.

And cutting down the larger, exploring based worlds is not to make it easier, but to refine the platforming. I, personally, found the bigger worlds in SMG to be by far the weakest.
3 years ago
@Jarron, well i know my opinion on SMG2 is unpopular, you're certainly not alone there, but i still think this refinement just reminded me that SMG2 wanted to be 2D, like NSMBW, rather than 3D, like Mario 64.

And i prefer the latter.
3 years ago
No Yamamoto = Metroid soundtrack fail.
He was unavailable due to him composing music for DKC Returns, thus they had to get some other guy to do the music for this game.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  15/06/2010 (Tentative)
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  1

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