Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Metroid: Other M (Review)

NOTE: This post was later added and is based on my German review for the game, which I've written in my forums, when the game came out. You can read the German review here. Now I decided to add an English version of the review to my blog for the sake of completion. But this version has the Zelda series stronger in mind and offers some new points, while others are ignored.

With the amazing Metroid Prime Trilogy and two great Metroid classics on the Virtual Console the Wii became a platform that should make every Metroid fan more than happy. However, Nintendo didn't stop there and created yet another Metroid game for the Wii and all this while a Zelda game exclusively made for the Wii still has to be released. The title is named "Other M" and is a matter of controversity among the community with its storyheavy and linear design.

This game was not made by Retro, instead Sakamoto, the director of all the previous 2D Metroids and the author of the Metroid Mangas, assembled a team to continue his vision. They worked in cooperation with Team Ninja, known for the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, who did some beautiful work with the cutscenes. So much about the origins of the game.

Cover and Boxart

First of all I want to express my disappointment again about the European (and US) cover, it looks like a bad design for a Star Wars/Trek novel, but not like a good cover for Metroid game. The Japanese version with the red helmet slip cover is much cooler.


This game is quite good looking, maybe one of the best looking Wii games yet. Some of the environments could have used some polishing, but overall the visuals are very solid. Especially the cutscenes made by Team Ninja are simply beautiful and the transition from cutscenes into gameplay is flawless.


The Metroid series so far had a much more consistent and better story than the Zelda universe, at least in my opinion, but the story was always completely secondary to the games with the exception of Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The story was told over booklets or scans. But not in Other M, this is probably the most story-heavy Metroid game so far with a story told in many cutscenes over the course of the game. The main problem is that the story isn't that good. Actually it's really uninspired, because it's too similar to Metroid Fusion. Use the exact same setting and conspiricy plot, remove the X and the SA-X, replace computer Adam with still living Adam, add more cloned creatures from Zebes as fanservice and voila, there's your Other M. The Bottle Ship is very similar to the B.S.L.-Station from Metroid Fusion and that the Federation is actually performing experiments on Metroids isn't a big shocker anymore. In fact it doesn't even fit the story of Metroid Fusion, which takes place after Other M and where this revelation still was supposed to be a shocking plot twist. Now Samus' reaction in the GBA game should have been more like "uhh, again?".

Talking about Samus' reaction, that's a critical point to many fans. Because she normally doesn't have any. But in this game she's having monologues all the time telling the player about her memories and feelings, about her relationship with Adam, her past and everything. While this can be interesting, not everyone likes how Samus is portrayed. Samus, like Link, used to be more like an avatar for the player. In the original Metroid most players didn't even know that Samus actually was a girl. And it didn't really matter. In later games it was simply nice to play a strong female warrior. Since Samus was a silent protagonist and you weren't told much about her, her personality was left to the player's imagination. Now everything is set in stone and it's very likely that Sakamoto's vision doesn't meet yours. For the same reason I somehow disliked the Link in Twilight Princess - he expressed too many weird emotions with his face, I didn't share his devotion to Ilia, while her character didn't care about Link and I didn't care about her. I am Link, you're Link, everyone who's playing Zelda is Link at that moment, so each time Link does something without the player's command he fails in his role as an avatar. Of course in Other M it's much more extreme. Samus talks to you like you're an outsider. You're not Samus, you're basically just watching a movie, where you take control over the action. Most modern games are exactly like that, but usually not good Nintendo games.

Funny enough, there's a gallery in the game, where you can watch the game as "Metroid Other M - The Movie"... it's pathetic.

World Design and Exploration

The whole story heaviness comes with another big downside: linearity. The game is extremely linear, you'll follow a straight line on your course through the Bottle Ship and closed doors constantly prevent you from free exploring and even back tracking. And all this just for the sake of telling a story. You can't freely explore the Bottle Ship until the end of the game, where all the optional upgrades to find don't matter anymore.

The world itself is very similar to the one from Metroid Fusion, just with only three larger sections instead of six smaller ones. There's Jungle, Ice/Water and Fire/Sand, the typical uninspired elemental themes present in most Nintendo games today. Just because it was awesome back in Ocarina of Time, doesn't mean you should use this in every single game, Nintendo. However, I liked the Holodeck effect and those gigantic outdoor areas inside of a even more gigantic space station really had a crazy overwhelming feeling to them.

Controls and Action

What I really like about Other M, is how the game is played. The controls with the sideways Wiimote are supereasy and supersmooth, it just feels great. And I like how you go into the first person mode by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. I don't know, it's just a very simple control system, yet very effective for this game. I love it.

Some might say, that the auto-aiming, the dodging via "sense moves" and finishing moves are cheap, but it adds to the smoothness and stronger enemies like the door bugs can still be very tough, probably impossible to beat with "normal" controls. And overall the fighting is very cool. I had so much fun with the smooth controls and stylish fights, that I shortly replayed the whole game after finishing it once, despite all the linearity and bad story factors.

The stationary first person view is mostly used to explore the environment, however it's also the only way to shoot missiles. But you can still dodge in this view and the game usually gives opportunity windows to switch into first person and fire missiles if it's really required for beating a boss or enemy.

New is also the Concentration move by pointing your Wiimote upward and pressing A. Unlike in all other Metroid games there are no health or missile pick ups dropped by enemies and this move is the only way to regenerate your health and refill your missiles outside of save stations. However, the healing can only be used once you're low on health and is very slow. So, once you're down on health, you will be constantly on the edge until you reach the next save station (luckily there are many save stations). Refilling your missiles on the other hand is a much cheaper process, you can perform it all the time and it's really fast. So you'll practically never run out of missiles in the entire game, not that you'll use many missiles anyway... however, I'm the kind of guy who always wants a full inventory all the time in games like Zelda or Metroid. "Uhh, five arrows are missing... I... need... to... find... arrows...." - so, this refill move was very enjoyable for me.


Another part of the game negatively influenced by the story telling is collecting the main items, which are used for progressing through the game. You can't actually call this "collecting" anyway, Samus still has all her items from Super Metroid in her inventory, but she isn't allowed to use them. She has to wait until Adam authorizes the use, since her weapons can be a threat to other team members or survivors. Makes sense first, but why she has to deactivate completely harmless items like the Varia Suit and then run through super heated areas taking damage doesn't make any sense at all. Adam should've authorized it long before sending her into Sector 3 or Samus should've activated it on her own. Where was Adam during all that time, taking a dump? And it's not until communication with Adam is lost until Samus decides to use her own brain...

This again takes away control from the player. What if I don't want to comply these commands? What if I want to use that Plasma Beam whenever I want? What if my Samus is a rebel, who doesn't take orders from anyone? Also, this takes away the great feeling when finally discovering a new item. In Super Metroid, if you'll find a new item you're excited and happy, here you're just frustrated and yell "was about time, you cretins!!" at the TV, because they really wait until the very last second before a new item can be activated. This was a very bad choice of game design.

Most items from Super Metroid are in the game, only High Jump Boots and X-Ray Visor got cut and the Spazer, which was originally incompatible with the Plasma Beam anyway, got replaced by the Diffusion Beam. This one only works when you use the Charge Beam, so no constant zone fire for you this time. And the Seeker Missiles upgrade from the Metroid Prime games got added to the list of items. Seeker Missiles and Diffusion Beam are luckily two items that can be traditionally found and don't have to be authorized for some reason. And that's it. No Boost Ball, Spider Ball, Ice Missiles or any new additions to the franchise.


If you master the controls with the Sense Moves, the game isn't all too hard. At first I tried to dodge manually using jumps and I didn't care about using any finishing blows, but that was punished with some heavy damage and quite some deaths. If you play this game like your traditional Metroid, you won't come far. In this game, there are many strong enemies in your way, it does make Metroid Prime 2: Echoes look like a walk in the park and it wasn't until I started to use the Sense Moves that the game got less frustrating for me. But if you make good use of the Sense Moves and Lethal Strikes, this game can be very easy. On my second playthrough only Ridley could kill me, but that again was simply because I didn't use a Lethal Strike on him...

However, there are also some cheap scripted kills in the game, probably patented by Team Ninja. If you don't know what's coming, it can be a shocking Game Over. Just watch this video and see for yourself.

Metroid Confusion

One of the most weird parts in the game were the scanning sequences. There you're stuck in first person view and you have to scan an object. Unlike in the Metroid Prime games there's no hint on what is actually scanable. You have to find it for yourself and often it's just some pixels. One time you had to scan some green blood on grass, it took me forever to realize what I should do here. And this stands in extreme contrast to the rest of the game, where you're constantly guided, but now you suddenly have no clue what's going on...

Music and Voice Acting

Bland. No, really, the voice acting is mediocre and the music is mostly just some collection of ambient sounds. The music fits the overall depressing and dark atmosphere of the space station, but compared to Kenji Yamamoto's great soundtrack for the Metroid Prime Trilogy this is really nothing.


One of my favorite things in games like Zelda or Metroid are collectible items. I can't just get enough of those Gold Skulltulas or Missile Packs. And this game has enough. 70 Missile Expansions (giving you one additional missile each), 5 Energy Tanks, 16 Energy Parts (they work exactly like the Pieces of Heart in Zelda), 6 Accel Chargers (makes you charge your beam or Hyper Run faster) and 3 E-Recovery Tanks (for the Concentration Move). 100 items alltogether. However, since the locations of the items are all displayed on the map you don't have to try all too hard to find them. And it's not until the Epilogue part of the game, where you can finally move around freely and collect everything.


Best part of the entire game. After you've beaten the story mode and its final boss, you can return to the Bottle Ship and explore it freely with all your items. You'll unlock some new areas with the Power Bombs, collect all items and there's even an additional boss fight after a long passageway filled with the strongest enemies from the game. And like this isn't awesome enough, they added a Zero Suit escape sequence. I hated the Zero Suit part of Zero Mission, but this one was done very well.


Metroid: Other M is very linear and too focused on a bad story, it tries to be a movie more than a game and this results in damaging the overall experience. Bland voice acting and music, as well as the stupid unlocking of items didn't help either. However, the smooth controls and action, the many collectible items and the enjoyable epilogue part prevented the game from becoming a complete failure. It's by far not as good as the Metroid Prime Trilogy or Super Metroid, but in my opinion it's on par with Zero Mission and Fusion.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Metroid: Other M Preorder Bonus

I got the game today but also the preorder box. Since nobody actually preordered the game, the preorder boxes were still available and sold for the low price of 50 cent, so I couldn't resist. It's basically the same DVD box again with a Metroid: Other M keychain inside. Here's a photo:

I'm currently playing the game right now and I really like the controls, expect a review as soon as I'm finished.

NOTE: This was a previously unreleased blog post, which now got released just to fill some gaps, so don't be confused. I hadn't release the full post until later because my digital camera was broken at that time and I couldn't take the picture.