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Review: Metroid Other M has solid gameplay, poor story

September 6, 2010

It’s been a long time since Samus Aran last explored the caves of planet Zebes way back on the Super Nintendo in 1994. Since then, the galactic heroine has taken players on romps through her eyes of several alien worlds in Retro Studio’s Metroid Prime trilogy.

Through a cooperative between Nintendo in Metroid Fusion head honcho Yoshio Sakamoto and Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame, Metroid: Other M combined 2D platforming the series is renowned for and incorporated 3D similarly to the Prime series, producing an interesting hybrid of first and third person perspectives in a game using only a Wii Remote tilted on its side.

But is it enough to meet the high standards Retro Studios set with the Prime games or Nintendo with fan favorites Super Metroid and Gameboy Advance’s Metroid: Zero Mission?

Other M begins right where Super Metroid left off, Samus reminiscing over her battle with Mother Brain and the death of a baby Metroid as it tried to protect her. Some weeks after, Samus is still in a slump when her ship intercepts a distress signal from a research space station called the Bottle Ship. When she arrives, she encounters her old unit from her time in the Galactic Federation including her former commanding officer, Adam Malkovich.

Meanwhile, strange happenings are occurring across the ship as aliens begin to appear in the research areas, making the mission of finding survivors critical.

Other M will feel very familiar to players of Super Metroid, Fusion and Zero Mission, capturing a similar style in its 2D segments while incorporating a 3D plane into the mix. First person aiming, used by pointing the remote at the screen, allows missiles and scanning the surrounding environment easier.

The switches from 2D to 3D and from first-person to third-person perspectives are smooth, keeping disorientation down to a minimum. Attacks have a slight homing feature, which helps with combat in the game’s larger 3D areas, though players are still expected to roughly aim in the direction of the creature they’re attacking.

One thing to give Nintendo applause for is their exploration into uncharted waters for the company with one of their larger franchises. Nintendo usually likes to keep their protagonists and world devoid of acting. While the idea was toyed with in Prime 3, Other M embraces the idea of a game lead by narrative more, offering some very nice looking full motion video sequences that blend in very well with the game.

However, as it is one of Nintendo’s first serious attempts, the plot to the game itself suffers from a case of being too melodramatic, with Samus often breaking the gameplay to monologue about why she would give thumbs downs at meetings or why Malkovich called her “Lady”, sometimes running on long winded.

The environment itself, while keeping to the usual video game tropes of a jungle, a volcanic wasteland, and the arctic among a few others, have a good amount of detail on them, though still feel lacking to the Prime series of games. This may be due to a larger emphasis on 2D the game has. Still, this is a very good looking Wii game and it likely suffers from the system’s lack of supporting 720p display.

Nintendo and Team Ninja also took enough care to make sure that the experience on board the Bottle Ship’s many locales, at least at first, will have players on edge about what creatures lie in wait.

It may not be at the same level as Dead Space, but the threat of some large mother hubbard tearing a superfluous new hole in your behind is just enough to keep players on point.

To keep those aliens in check, Samus employs a much faster combat system. While the familiar blaster and charge shot are back, Samus often has to deal with swarms of creatures.

Samus’ new moves in Sense Evasion, where she avoids an attack at the last second, and in fatal strikes, where she instantly kills a downed opponent with a charged blast, add a flashy kick to combat and are fairly easy to pull off.

One traditional aspect suffering here is exploration. In order to keep the game in line with story progression, players are kept on a very tight leash in terms of where they can or can’t explore and what weapons can be used.

This is worked into the story by showing Samus following Adam’s orders to not use parts of her arsenal until authorized to do so, leading to some strange impracticalities such as running through lava infested caves without any sort of protection until reaching a boss. While it’s certainly a better explanation than Samus looking back at an explosion and losing her abilities, its execution still feels a bit awkward at times.

First person investigation sequences are also worked into the game which can leave players stumped at times as to what they’re looking for due to not so obvious indicators. The game spends so much time holding the hand of the player that sequences like these and an instance with the final boss can confuse players as to what needs to be done to advance.

Another unfortunate short coming is in the audio department. While the game does feature an orchestra-composed soundtrack, the music is either drowned out by the mediocre voice cast or from the sounds of combat, leaving a majority of it entirely unmemorable. These tracks are usual saved for story sequences or bigger combat sequences, like boss fights.

Other tracks are nothing but ambient noise for environments, which works in favor of the levels in keeping the feeling that the player is all alone with aliens ready to strike at an elevated level.

Round Up Time:

Other M is a departure from the series’ largely silent roots, offering a more narrative driven experience than past games in the series. While the story falls flat at times and will likely leave players cracking jokes instead of sympathizing with the characters, the game play itself is solid. The story could have been gutted entirely and the game play would not have suffered. The adventure is on the short spectrum, a full run possible in about 15 hours, leaving it open for additional quick plays, though with how tightly restricted the game play is to keep in line with the plot, the journey may not be as compelling a second time around.

SCORE: 7/10 – Rental

Metroid: Other M was completed by the reviewer with a final time of 15 hours and 27 minutes with 100% item completion.

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