Parent Talk: Other M is the next entry in Nintendo’s long-running Metroid franchise, starring famous gaming heroine Samus Aran in her mission to battle aliens and discover the plot of the Galactic Federation. There are large doses of violence which admittedly look realistic, but it’s toned down thanks to the sci-fi presentation. Samus doesn’t kill humans. The “T rating” is rightly appropriate. Parents should know their children’s play habits to determine whether or not they are mature enough to handle the game, but OM is a far cry from ultra-violent, realistic shooters like Call of Duty.
Metroid fans have waited a long time for Other M. Relieving Retro of franchise development, Nintendo opted to co-develop the game with famed Team Ninja. The end product is difficult to describe, but satisfying to play and a spectacle to watch. OM also moves away from the series’ usual non-linear worlds. The game’s primary goals include presenting a cinematic story and focusing on Samus Aran as a character. Combat is more intense than ever thanks to extreme new abilities and interesting use of camera angles. What does this mean for the long-time Metroid fan? Is it an insult, or a sign of new and wonderful things to come?
Wonderful presentation. First party Nintendo franchises emphasize play over plot. That’s not necessarily bad, but gamers haven been yearning for serious narratives, especially for the history-rich Metroid. I would never slander past Metroid games, and particularly the arguably perfect Super, but they’re light on story and focus more on exploration. Samus now narrates her escapades and behaves like a legitimate character. The plot takes place immediately after Super Metroid and before Fusion, an incredibly interesting prospect. Fans may question aspects of Samus’s character (more on that later), but the attention to detail is admirable. The game even attempts to explain that Samus maintains her abilities, but requires authorization from her CO. It sounds groan-inducing, but the concept is integrated in an intelligent way. It’s interesting how Samus reacts. There’s a scene where she usurps Adam’s authority and activates powers, but other outlets ignore this fact.
+ Voice acting. While unimpressive at times, the voice work is generally plausible regarding Samus and her [former] CO Adam Malkovich. The lip-syncing is slightly off, but it’s hardly an egregious offense. The actors decently portray each persona as a whole, but no performance is memorable. Still, it’s respectable and a huge step for the series. Given Nintendo’s reputation for avoiding voice talent/heavy plot, Other M is a breath of fresh air.
+ Visuals. Other M is beautiful in motion and runs well. Load times are lightning-fast and accessing new areas is quick and easy. Doors no longer require constant blasting to open. Samus’ model looks classic and animates beautifully. She enjoys a wide array of attacks and her motions are rendered well. It’s a nice change of pace to actually see Miss Aran in action. Bloom lighting, varied environments, detailed and well-designed enemies combine to make a visually-satisfying game for Wii.
+ Action-packed. Metroid: Other M is difficult to describe on paper. Taking cues from Ninja Gaiden and the 2D Metroid games, Other M is an intriguing combination of both. First-person shooter elements and QTEs are thrown in, making for varied and intense gameplay. Cinematics blend seamlessly, with quick camera changes and fast-moving combat. It’s all manipulated with the Wii remote. There is a learning curve (more on that later), but the game is fun and engaging. Parts are reminiscent of the classic side-scrollers. You can quick dodge with the D-pad at the right moment, and shoot and jump respectively are mapped to the 1 and 2 buttons. Unlike previous games however, enemies don’t drop health and missiles. Instead, players “recharge” Samus’ missile count or regain some health by “concentrating”, but she must be in critical status. This provides a different experience. It might seem to make the game easy, but some fights are still difficult, especially since not all enemies afford the chance to recharge.
+ Music. The quality is excellent. Several themes are redone versions of those heard from Metroid games past, which should please long-time fans. The soundtrack is well-arranged and fits the campaign well. Effects are equally great.
+ Secrets. While Other M doesn’t highlight exploration, there are still plenty of secrets. Discovering several items and hidden routes require backtracking and detective work. Items include energy packs to boost your charge speed, since Samus doesn’t have to reacquire her power-ups. Missile expansions and life tanks also make obvious appearances.
– Stiff control. The developers mapped everything to the Wii-mote, without utilizing the nunchuk. This may lend to a simple game, but controlling a 3D game with 2D input can be cumbersome. Movement feels as though it’s meant for a 2D side-scroller still. It’s bizarre, but practice will help you learn. The most jarring change is switching to first person. By pointing the remote at the screen, players can “scan” the current area, use missiles or the grapple beam. Initially the new mechanic is awkward, but it feels natural in due time. Some become acclimated, while others struggle. This design makes sense given the developers’ intentions, but I wonder if the game would’ve worked better with nunchuk utilization. I became disoriented using the grapple beam, but that wasn’t the case after several uses. It’s worth mentioning though.
– Character changes. There’s the controversy. This may very well be the first time a more concrete stance has been taken on Samus’s character. Some may disagree and refer to her past behavior. Samus has always been painted as a stoic, brave figure. She spoke little and did her job. In Other M, she narrates, hesitates, exhibits more emotion, bravely storms into battle and even breaks down. She’s usually calm and composed, offering [mostly] intelligent observations that support her status as a strong, female lead. Occasionally the game emphasizes Samus as a woman first, then a bounty hunter, which can come off as sexist. One scene in particular shows her confidence crumble. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say how or why specifically. It provides an emotional dynamic not present in past games, but it can be interpreted as demeaning. At the end, I’m satisfied, even if the writing could be better.
– Lack of exploration. Other M is significantly more linear. Other games in the series, especially the originals, encouraged exploration and discovery. Areas were inaccessible due to lack of power-ups, forcing you to backtrack and find them. Other M rather forces your hand. Often after plot progression, you have to follow the game even if you want to look elsewhere. Then even when it seems feasible, locked doors step in the way. To be fair, this trend has been introduced moreso in other recent Metroid games, and Other M is fun regardless.
The “glitch”. I never encountered it and don’t think it’s widespread, but it’s been reported and is worth noting. In Sector 3, after you leave the desert refinery, the door may be locked. If so, you’re stuck, requiring a revert to an earlier save or a total restart. Nintendo is aware of the issue, but hasn’t announced plans to address it. It’s not clear what triggers the glitch, so proceed carefully.
Core fans could spend all day picking apart Other M and its series changes. While stiff control is the largest flaw, it doesn’t break the game nor should it hold you back from playing a legitimately great title. There are several minor issues that I hope are addressed for a sequel in this style, but I’m very pleased with the experience in the end. The attention to detail is unprecedented and the action awesome. Still, past games remain superior and some core fans may feel a twinge of disappointment. While a Metroid missing our highest honors may seem ridiculous, Other M is hardly a failure when it comes to providing an entertaining experience. My recommendation is to Buy It.