Metroid: Other M
So that's that busted then. Not wishing for the 11 or so hours we spent on the game to be completely wasted we thought we'd fire our thoughts about the game into the ether because, you know, there are millions of people out there wanting to read a two year late review of Metroid: Other M. Its those millions that keep us going.
Well for those of you who made it to this bit, we've got some exclusive behind the scenes stuff right here where we talk about our feelings and stuff. We're letting you see our soft squishy innards rather than the darksteel exterior of our shared internet persona. We find ourselves as the unlikeliest of Nintendo fans. If you could turn, turn back the hands of time to the PS2 days we'd happily bet money on the fact that we wouldn't (well I wouldn't) be playing a Nintendo home console pretty much exclusively. See there's nothing wrong with Mario, with perhaps the exception that almost everything has a smiley face and eyes, but we weren't fans of most of Nintendo's stable of go-to franchises. There's something genetic in the Legend of Zelda games that means I just can't see the appeal. I don't care about Link or his adventures with boomerangs and fairies. It frustrates me when the N64 LoZ top the 'best games of all time' lists and I must have fired up every game in the series to give it a try only to feel at best apathetic to the point of boredom. I never got on with F Zero, purely on the shallow grounds that it never felt like a driving game, it felt like a road bending game. Oh, and that horrible music makes me suicidal. I never really played any of the Starfox games so I never had much interest in that series. As for Metroid, I spent hours watching friends play through Super Metroid and much like the Legend of Zelda couldn't see the appeal of it. I didn't care about Samus the robot and her adventures with space pirates and super missiles. Plus, the morph ball thing was stupid. How does that even work?
Years later and playing through Super Smash Brothers I felt like perhaps I was missing out on the history of these characters and so I resolved to give them all another shot. Link and co. can still get to fuck, I recently bought F Zero GX and I'm happy to see that you now drive future space cars rather than bend the road in front of it. It is gruellingly hard though. Scratch that, make it frustratingly hard. I've still not had much playtime with any of the Starfox games. As for Metroid, I played through Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (MP3) and loved it (and sort of reviewed it). And that sports fans is what we call foreplay.
So we said we might write something about Metroid: Other M (MOM). We're not beholden to that. We could just not post this and you'd never know and our honour in your eyes would be maintained. Having enjoyed MP3 so much we didn't snap up MOM largely because many reviews took issue with the game. It was on out to play list but way down there. Fortunately, the gods of diminishing third party game pricing smiled upon MOM and you can now pick it up for a fiver.
Straight off the bat, right up here in the preamble, we're gonna say that if you can find it for up to £12.50 it is totally worth it. It's fun and highly playable but as you can see from our professional shaky cam screenshot above, we've 100% it but don't feel compelled to ever play it again or play it again in hard mode. It goes without saying but we're just gonna go and say it anyway, the Metroid series has quite a following, particular amongst Americans, and some of the complaints against the game were that it messed with the Metroid chronology. The Metroid series sort of holds together, Nintendo are a bit more precious about continuity with this series than they are the James Bond alike Legend of Zelda series and are practically fastidious with the Metroid series when compared to how Capcom regularly messes with what might be considered a Resident Evil overarching """plot""". The fanboys can squinny about MOM's inconsistencies all they want, it didn't particularly taint our playthrough. Having said that we're not claiming the plot makes any sense at all.
Samus the, rarely-do-I-actually-hunt-for-bounties, bounty hunter receives a distress signal from a ship called the Bottle Ship. So far, so every single sci-fi space based fiction ever. She rocks up at the ship and coincidentally meets up with her former unit, including a father figure type person, in the imaginatively titled Galactic Federation who have come to the Bottle Ship on a secret directive. Samus is asked to help out the Federation unit by her father figure, Adam Malkovic to explore the Bottle Ship. The rest of the story is a nonsense, the faults in which can only be summed up in spoilerific bulleted list:
- Through flashbacks, we're supposedly convinced that Samus is supposed to be close to this Adam figure but all that comes across is he doesn't care about her at all and that Samus was a bit of a dick in her younger days.
- There's a hilarious scene about a not mentioned before brother of Adam who died under his command and that we're led to believe Samus was possibly sexy times with.
- Turns out there's a double crosser who starts killing the rest of the generic unit. Adam sits for most of the game directing Samus about the ship. We're explicitly told and shown that Adam has a live feed of what Samus sees but he doesn't offer a single comment when Samus comes across the still fresh corpses of the unit he is supposedly leading. Later on this plot point is completely dropped leaving the player to guess which one of the generic soldiers was traitor and trying to remember which one of the generic soldiers is still alive. The only thing they have to distinguish them is that one of them has a moustache, one of them has glasses and the other one doesn't have a moustache or glasses at all.
- One of the things that bugs us about the LoZ is that inexplicably Link discovers a new tool just before he is about to enter an area that demands the use of it. Just found the Boomerang? Welcome to the Boomerang dungeon. The same is true of the Metroid Prime games. They aren't quite so bad in that Metroid requires you to do a lot of backtracking to get to areas you couldn't before but the way that it worked in MP was a bit of a stretch. In MP3 it was clumsily explained that power ups specific to Samus' suit were strewn about the place in really hard to reach and obscure locations because her presence was 'foretold'. In MOM they try a bit harder, Samus is only allowed to use gear when it is authorised by the commanding officer of the operation Adam. This is still a bit tenuous but would have been fine if the right gear was authorised when you first need it in the story. However, in one bit of the game, Samus is ordered to pursue a futuristic space monster around the Bottle Ship. She enters one sector and chases it until she gets to a lava pit that can only be crossed with the grapple gun. Rather than Adam authorise the grapple gun, instead he hails Samus and says "Well I guess it must not be in this sector". Even though he can see what Samus is seeing and in my game she spent ten minutes rebelliously staring at grapple gun hooks in the hope that he might figure it out.
- After the traitor in the group bit is abandoned the plot goes from schlock to schlockier. I'm not going into it but there's a rogue AI and cloning galore. On its own this might cause a mild rolling of the eyes but according to the Metroid neckbeards there's a lot of similarities with the plot of Metroid: Fusion which is set after MOM. Maybe Samus is just always shocked when the Galactic Federation clone Metroids?
Who plays games for stories anyway right? So what if a five year old could write a more compelling story and create characters who personalities extend beyond whether they wear glasses of have a tash? Gameplay wise, Team Ninja have actually done a really great job creating an entire game that can be played in 2D but is fully realised in 3D. Playing the game only requires a wiimote; for the 2.5D navigation it is controlled with it held like a classic controller but at any point you can point the wiimote at the screen and enter first person mode. What might appear gimmicky at first becomes second nature and it is quite a feat that every environment can be viewed from both angles. As ever, Metroid is strewn with hidden shafts and crannies and using the different perspectives there's a lot that is hidden in plain sight. After a while you do get a sense of convention, rarely is anything that you need to look at, navigate, collect or interact with on the sixth surface that is 'player-side' and invisible in the 2.5D sections which is a bit of a missed opportunity. For us, item collection, remains a great way to add hours to the game's length. There are hundreds of hidden power ups (missiles and various energy units) across the sectors of the Bottle Ship. Some are just laying about to be collected, others are hidden behind force fields leading to a frantic search for a hidden access point and others are hidden away in blink-and-you'll-miss-them ventilation shafts. On the first play through, if you beat all the enemies in a particular room, your scanner will occasionally ping an item on the map leading to the aforementioned frantic searching. Once you beat the main, ahem... 'story', you can return to the Bottle Ship for an epilogue and bonus boss fight and all the items you missed the first time around are shown on the map. One slightly annoying thing about this is that some items are hidden behind doors you couldn't access at all before the credits but there's nothing in the epilogue that requires say the difference between having 50 and 70 missiles or ever so slightly more energy making it feel a bit redundant collecting them all (we still fucking did it anyway because who can sleep at night with only 94% of items? Not us).
Lastly although some of the music themes of the series make a comeback here (the MP save music) the soundtrack is nowhere near as affecting as Metroid Prim's. We won't for example be
hunting down MP3s of our favourite tunes on the Internet buying the Metroid: Other M OST even if it existed in the first place.
It's not nearly as good as we found the Metroid Prime Quadrilogy to be but it is fun to play and backtracking to progress the story and collect items is significantly less painful, moving Samus through the Bottle Ship once she is powered up is very slick. It still maintains the sense of isolation of the other Metroid games and fulfils childlike fantasies of really exploring a massive ship floating about in space. Team Ninja have done very well to give Samus and the Bottle Ship a real sense of reality and presence. By giving the player the right mix of 2.5D freedom and tucking in hundreds of square metres of hidden areas, they've masked the fact that most of the game is a series of linear corridors so well that it doesn't feel like you are shepherded down a bunch of corridors lined with invisible walls a la Final Fantasy XIII or Gears of War and it doesn't feel shallow like a series of pretty boxes for you to run and gun through a la Shadow Complex. The story side of things does let the game down a bit if you like a narrative to compel you along (we're just suckers for collecting items). The morph ball thing still makes absolutely no sense though.