The dramatic final battle of that SNES masterpiece, Super Metroid, remains seared in my memory as one of the most emotional climaxes in video game history, all without a single word of dialogue spoken. As a fan service, the opening cinematic of Metroid: Other M faithfully recreates in full CG glory that confrontation with Mother Brain and the “Baby” Metroid’s sacrifice to save the series’ heroine, Samus Aran. This time there is a bit of dialogue. I think there is something to be said for certain things are better left to the imagination.
Metroid: Other M marks the first time in the series long history where fully voiced cutscenes lay out the iconic bounty hunter’s back story. The voice acting, though competent, is a tad on the dull side. I guess I always imagined Samus like Ellen Ripley from Aliens, telling Mother Brain in that scene something to the effect of “Get away from her, you bitch!” Instead she says: “Mother, time to go”, as if she were informing her elderly parent that it was time to leave for a doctor’s appointment. But the main story delves into Samus’ past as a soldier of the Galactic Federation Army under the command of a man named Adam Malkovich and how she eventually went off to become the independent bounty hunter we know today. It begins when Samus responds to a distress signal from a Federation “Bottle Ship”. After a little investigation she meets up with some former comrades as well as Malkovich, who assumes command of the mission. It’s a little weird that Samus has to take orders from him, but don’t worry, she’s still left to her own devices for the most part.
I don’t really play Metroid for the story anyway, and this latest edition definitely delivers in the gameplay department. I don’t remember ever dying so much in a Metroid game, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Team Ninja’s stamp is all over this title-because Other M sure is focused on action. Samus moves with striking speed and somersaults with grace. Holding the Wii Remote horizontally puts you in third person mode, controlling Samus as if she were in a classic 2D game. But all the backgrounds are in 3D and she traverses forward and back as well as left and right. In this mode she has the ability to auto-aim, which makes taking out multiple enemies hassle-free. Survival is dependent on Samus’ dodge function which is thankfully simple and intuitive. Pressing the D-pad in any direction makes her dive out of the way of incoming projectiles and other enemy attacks. It’s also essential in the intensely fun boss fights. She can even COUNTER some enemy grabs, which is both surprising and damn cool. Another addition to Samus’ new bag of tricks is a lethal finishing move in which she grabs a downed enemy in a headlock and unleashes a full charged blast to the creature’s head. After blasting through hordes of familiar enemies in the beginning, one thing stood out: why aren’t they dropping energy orbs and missiles like they’re supposed to? That’s because holding the Wii Remote vertically allows her to refill her missiles. When her energy is at critical she can also refill her energy with the same action, as long she’s not attacked while doing so.
So is this Ninja Gaiden in a sci-fi setting? Not at all, Other M is at its heart and soul still a Metroid game, and there’s plenty of its signature exploration and platforming. You’re still enticed by that area you just can’t reach, until you obtain the power up that allows you to reach it. There are still a lot of hidden narrow passages that requires Samus’s Morph Ball ability. You’ll still bomb every area in sight when you’re stuck. Pointing the Wii Remote at the screen puts you in first person mode a la Metroid Prime; it is here where you scan your surroundings and fire missiles when you lock on to targets. You just can’t move though. Switching between both views is necessary to defeat some monsters. But it is in this mode where I ran into some problems. Certain parts of the story force you into this mode, unable to advance until you scan that one obscure thing to move on. I suppose I don’t have much of an eye for detail because I would find myself sitting there for ten minutes twirling the Remote around to hopefully lock onto something…anything. After a bunch of “WTF am I supposed to be looking for!?” I would stumble upon, say, a green splotch of blood on a field of GREEN grass. Infuriating.
Another difference from what I’m used to is obtaining power ups. You still find hidden missiles and energy tanks like normal, but power ups like your beam weapons and suit upgrades are activated…when Adam gives you permission to do so. So basically Samus has all her power ups but respects Adam’s authority too much not to use them until authorized. It’s a very contrived way to introduce them story-wise. For example, Samus is allowed to activate her heat resistant Varia Suit AFTER she escapes the crater of a volcano (yes, a volcano aboard a spaceship). So after running through LAVA filled chambers, escaping LAVA monsters, and jumping out of a crater that’s quickly filling with LAVA, now I can activate my Varia suit that protects me from the heat of the LAVA? Thanks, Adam. By the way, you’re a dick. Mechanically I know it’s the same as eventually finding the power ups as items, but you can see how ridiculous “activation authorization” is in that context.
Metroid: Other M has a lot that I love and not too much that I hate. It’s not jaw dropping like Metroid Prime, but it doesn’t deviate too far from what makes it Metroid to be a completely different game. Metroid: Other M is worth checking out, if only to see the return of the Screw Attack.
- Intense, fast-paced action
- Visceral finishing moves
- Core Metroid gameplay still intact
- “Forced” scanning sections
- Graphics not as richly detailed as previous titles
- Contrived item activation
Confused about our score? See our Ratings Guide.