Saturday, September 9, 2017

Metroid: Other M Revisited

Let's revisit another Metroid, before Samus Returns gets released... After playing various 2D Metroids on the Wii U Virtual Console, I was in the mood for another round of Metroid: Other M. Or two rounds, to be exact, because I did both a 100% run and a Hard Mode run. With that I've beaten the game now six times in total - four 100% runs and two Hard Mode runs. And more runs might follow in the future. I've already beaten Hard Mode once two years ago and at that point I felt like I was completely done with the game, only to be drawn back in now.

Next to Super Metroid it has been for me THE Metroid game with the highest replay value. Yes, the game's story was badly written and doesn't shine a good light on Samus' character. Yes, the level design is too linear and the authorization feature was so wrongly executed that nothing made much sense whatsoever. I mean, why would Samus deactivate her life supporting Varia and Gravity Suits to begin with? All of this angers me every time, when I replay the game, because the game could have been so much better. But it never stopped me from enjoying, how the game feels and plays.

I thoroughly enjoy the hybrid 2,5D Metroid style with its simplistic controls, its auto aim, the Sense Moves, the Lethal Strike and the Concentration. It's even what makes this game work in Hard Mode to begin with. I couldn't imagine beating any other Metroid game with just one Energy Tank and no Missile Expansions (even though Zero Mission encourages you to do so with its different unlockable endings). But here it can be quite a lot of fun.

It's still challenging, so it's not that the game is just really easy. You have to master the mechanics and know when to dodge and when to shoot. The enemies are all very versatile and it can be quite tough at times. Even so that playing Normal Mode partly can feel like Hard Mode, sometimes when you simply try to get to the next Navigation Room alive and you have lots of strong enemies in your way. Getting to the Speed Booster in Sector 2 would be a good example for this. Concentration only gives one Energy Tank at first (you can upgrade this later) and you can't find any pickups like health orbs, so you're basically stuck in Hard Mode for a while.

Groups of Zebesians can be quite troublesome, especially if they shoot those green grenades around. And the Griptians (those spiked armadillos) also gave me more trouble than they probably should. Hardest parts are of course the bosses, but here at least the game is very forgiving, because it lets you restart right at the beginning of the boss fights.

Best boss fight certainly is Ridley and he can take a while in Hard Mode, because he can easily kill you with a single hit. But despite this it never gets frustrating, it never stops being fun, so I keep going, until I finally beat him. It's like learning a dance, with the right move in every step of the fight. And it's super satisfying to finally best him.

The Metroid Queen on the other hand is a little bit more frustrating, because you can't dodge her ridiculous fire breath (that she probably stole from Ridley) with Sense Moves, despite Samus doing the exact thing in the sequence before the second phase. At least the game is even more forgiving here and puts you at the beginning of the 2nd phase, if you die. If you had to beat all the Metroids again and again, I probably would have lost motivation.

But beating the Metroid Queen in Hard Mode is certainly a nice finale for my tour through the classic Metroid series, before Samus Returns gets released in less than a week, where we will meet the Queen again.

Hard Mode doesn't have the Phantoon fight, but the whole epilogue part of the game is about backtracking and getting all the expansions that you might have missed on the Bottleship, where it would miss the point in Hard Mode... Still, it would have been interesting to phase this as well.

In general I enjoy traversing the Bottleship quite a lot, because it has such a nice atmosphere. It feels quite eerie at times. And while the music isn't all that melodic, it certainly creates a fitting ambience. Downside is that the whole level "design" is based on long tunnels, which gets boring fast.

Overall I would really like to experience another Metroid game in a similar 2,5D style on the Nintendo Switch. There are things to improve like the usage of the first person perspective, which in itself is done fluidly, but the way it was integrated and forced in the game for Missile usage and those weird pixel hunts wasn't very good. It should be mainly used for looking around and scanning things like in Metroid Prime. You can compare this to the motion controls in Skyward Sword. In itself they worked quite well, but what the game made of them with all the "slash in the right direction" puzzles and fights wasn't all that enjoyable and sometimes even frustrating... With a new game on the Switch they could put Missiles on a button and implement the first person view differently.

But for now let's see, how Samus Returns will fare next weekend! Maybe this will become my new Metroid game with the highest replay value.

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