Metroid: Other M review
Variety seems to be the model that the Metroid series sticks very closely to. From her side-scrolling NES days to her first-person adventures on more recent consoles, Samus Aran has always been at the forefront of variety. An evolving series, Metroid seemingly takes a different route with every few entries, and the latest game in the series, Metroid: Other M, is no exception. Combining a deep story with engaging first- and third-person gameplay, Team Ninja has crafted a unique experience on the Wii that doesn’t quite reach perfection, but certainly leaves a lasting impression.
Samus sets out to investigate a distress signal referred to as “Baby’s Cry.” The heroine goes to the reported area and finds herself on an abandoned space station known as the Bottle Ship. Here, the lone bounty hunter runs into the Galactic Federation. She meets her old friend, Anthony Higgs, and encounters her former commanding officer, Commander Adam Malkovich, who is also something of a father figure to Samus. Though there is some awkwardness between the two, Samus decides to help the Federation. Malkovich accepts her help, but not before putting down his conditions. Thus begins the journey throughout the Bottle Ship to uncover the source of the distress signal.
The moment you watch the first cut scene in Other M, you immediately realize that this game is a highly cinematic experience. Designer Yoshio Sakamoto wasn’t kidding when he said that Other M would be a “synthesis” of everything he’s learned thus far, both from his own work and from his biggest cinematic inspirations. The whole thing has a dark feel to it, and the various camera angles, manipulation of color, and unique sound all combine to create what can only be called a powerful story-driven experience.
As you guide Samus through the Bottle Ship, camera angles shift constantly and create a film-like gameplay experience. One moment you’re following Samus closely, the next you’re looking at her from the side. There are even instances where the camera stays fixed at a certain location as Samus runs deeper into an area and further away from the camera. All of these camera angles are as much a part of the gameplay experience as shooting down enemies and traversing through different areas.
Much like its predecessors, Other M creates this haunting feeling of solitude. You can’t help but feel an almost saddening isolation as you run through the dark corridors of the Bottle Ship. And just when you think you’re alone, you find yourself surrounded by a swarm of enemies. Everything then goes from quiet and lonely to dynamic and intense. That’s where shooting becomes an integral part of the game. Samus relies almost entirely on her arm cannon to take out enemies. She can shoot rapidly or charge her shots for some extra oomph. She can also take on her Morph Ball form and squeeze into tight areas.
Unlike previous games in the series, Other M doesn’t require you to collect weapon upgrades. Instead, Malkovich contacts Samus and allows her to use previously restricted weapons such as the ice beam, plasma beam, and so on. While this definitely derives from the formula used in previous games, it makes sense here because Samus starts out with all her weapons intact. This isn’t like previous titles where she loses all her weaponry and seeks it out throughout her adventure. So while it’s not the most traditional means of acquiring weapons, it fits within the context of Other M.
As you play Other M, you constantly switch between first- and third-person perspectives. While in first-person mode, you can focus on key items or people, aim at targets, and open special doors by shooting missiles at them. This takes a little getting used to at first, but it should quickly become second nature. It’s an interesting dynamic, but it never really becomes problematic. There are a few instances, however, where you can’t progress until you’ve spotted a certain item onscreen. The only problem you might find here is that sometimes you won’t know what to scan until you’ve looked all over the entire screen, only to discover that you were supposed to look down at the green goop in front of you.
Visually, Other M isn’t as stunning or groundbreaking as, say, Mario Galaxy 2, but it’s certainly no slouch. Though cutscenes are featured in beautiful CG animation, the in-game graphics are a bit simpler. That’s not to say the game looks bad or even average, though. Locales have a distinct look, and there’s a good level of polish to everything. There are a few rough textures here and there, but these only become apparent if you literally seek them out while in first-person mode. Overall, the in-game visuals get the job done, and quite well at that.
It’s very likely that Other M won’t win any awards for ‘most gripping soundtrack’ or anything of that nature. Having said that, it’s impossible not to mention just how effective the game’s sound is. The music is faint and simple, but it creates a vibe that only emphasizes that feeling of desperate isolation even more. And it would be impossible to overlook the game’s voice acting. Samus sounds like a truly disturbed individual, and her nearly emotionless voice is very reminiscent to that of Max Payne’s. She exudes a feeling of determined disturbance, and she comes off as being very human.
The one area where Other M falls severely short is in its length. Getting to the end of the game can last anywhere between 12 and 15 hours, but that’s really only if your goal is to collect every item and earn 100% completion of the game. Gamers who just want to play through to the end will easily get through Other M in less than 10 hours. There is an unlockable hard mode that adds a nice degree of challenge to the game. It’s just a shame that Other M doesn’t feature more areas to play through, because what’s here is amazingly designed; there’s just not enough of it.
Other M is a great entry in Nintendo’s long-running sci-fi franchise. It tweaks some of the gameplay elements that have become staples of the series, but it still manages to feel like a Metroid game. The storytelling is beautiful and cinematic, and the gameplay is enthralling and wonderfully crafted. Unfortunately, the game’s short length really takes away from what could have been an outstanding title. Despite that minor setback, though, Metroid: Other M is a solid Wii game worth playing whether you’ve played a Metroid game in the past or not.