Samus, the hottest bounty hunter in gaming, is back for another adventure, this time built by Nintendo w/ Team Ninja. With Other M having a big focus on story, can Metroid add an intriguing story to supplement the classic gameplay of the series, and will Team Ninja do justice to Metroid with its own brand of action?
Metroid: Other M takes place after the events of the SNES game Super Metroid, as Samus Aran gets a distress call from the Bottle Ship. Other M does what previous Metroid games haven’t done, and that’s tell a story with depth. Without going further into story details, thanks in huge part to dialogue from both Samus and all the NPCs in the game, Other M tells a story that is fitting for the Metroid franchise and has depth while not overreaching. The twists are small and, while maybe not shocking to some, are good and didn’t make me disappointed in the direction the story went. The voice acting is good-not-great, as sometimes lines can come off a little flat, but Jessica Martin (as Samus) does a good job and the NPCs are serviceable across the board. Nintendo is famous for not giving their characters dialogue more than “Its-A-Me, Mario!”, so it’s really refreshing to hear Samus actually talk. It really goes a long way to develop Samus as a character.
Unlike the Prime series, Other M is viewed in 3rd-person. While I am a huge fan of the Prime series, it’s great to see a Metroid game, in 3D, from the 3rd-person perspective. Retro provided the blueprint for Metroid in 3D, and Team Ninja ran with it fairly well. All of the Sectors of the Bottle Ship look great, Samus and all her special abilities look fantastic (the Screw Attack and Speed Booster, especially), and the big bosses are very cool with a side of ugly. I did spot a few moments of slowdown and you will still occasionally run into a door that is “Now Loading”, but on the whole, Other M runs just fine. The cutscenes (unskippable) look great and standout from the gameplay. Characters not named Samus Aran don’t get quite as detailed, but Metroids and everything else looks sharp. There are a couple of moments late in the game when you get some lengthy cutscenes, so sit back and enjoy.
Because the development team chose to use only the Wiimote for its control scheme, the controls for Other M are basic, and that can be considered as much of an issue as it can be considered simple and intuitive. Other M borrows the first person viewpoint of the Prime series which can be done by pointing the controller at the screen; you are not able to move Samus in this viewpoint. There is a period of time where you will be getting yourself acclimated with the controls and the process of switching from 3rd-to-1st-person view. I personally never was too fond of the concept of holding the same controller two different ways in a game where enemies are fast and aren’t so forgiving. It’s a control mechanic that feels clunky and doesn’t really get any more comfortable the longer you play.
In 3rd-person, the Wiimote is fine for movement and action. Team Ninja, known for the fast-paced, camera-damning Ninja Gaiden series, bring some awesome action pieces to Other M. To quickly get this out of the way, the camera works a-ok. Samus now has a dodge move to avoid enemy attacks, which she can charge her blaster and shoot enemies. Samus also has some cool melee-style attacks, and whether you jump on the enemy or if it’s writhing in pain on the ground, she can pull off some flashy/violent techniques to finish off her foes. As for the shooting, the game helps you out in 3rd-person mode by way of a auto-targeting system that works well. Hint: the Screw Attack works wonders on enemies once you unlock it.
Exploration is, as always with Metroid, a key component to surviving. In addition to energy tanks and missiles, you’ll find 1/4th energy parts, accel charges (which increase your rate of charge), and E-tanks (if your health runs low); you will be finding yourself backtracking to areas you remember the instant you unlock the Super Missile. As for the classic assortment of Samus abilities, unlike past Metroid games, you have all your powers with you in Other M. Sounds fun, until you find out you will need to wait for authorization from Adam Malkovich. When the situation calls for it, Malkovich will patch in and allow use of the plasma beam, grapple beam, etc. This is an interesting take on unlocking abilities for Metroid, but also takes away the sense of accomplishment of beating a boss. There are also moments where you would think Adam would prepare you at appropriate times, such as walking around Sector 3, where it’s incredibly hot and Samus’ default suit can not handle the heat. Only until you get to a big boss in Sector 3, maybe after 10-15 minutes of walking around in the heat does Adam unlock the Varia Suit.
The big question for hardcore Metroid fans like myself is: Is this a game Metroid fans can enjoy and be proud of? I consider Metroid not only my favorite Nintendo franchise, but my most favorite franchise across all games, and I can happily report, on my end, that the answer is a surefire yes. The exploration element is still great in spite of the unusual ability authorization method, the action in Other M is unique and extremely cool, and we finally get to hear Samus speak and have a story about the world of Metroid told to us. While I do question the control choice for Other M, the story shines here and is, in my opinion, an important evolution for the Metroid franchise. Players that don’t have a flare for exploration can complete the game in under 10 hours, but going for 100% items should get you close to 15 hours. A hard mode unlocks once you reach 100%.
The commercial below is a pretty good one, with a live-action Samus walking and showing off some of the gameplay of Other M.