Metroid has always been the dark horse among Nintendo’s stallions. As the likes of Mario and Zelda are playing nicely with everyone, Samus Aran remains the disobedient child that simply just refuses to do so, sitting in the corner defiantly, as if she doesn’t belong alongside the rest of the family, which reflects on her personality considerably well. But of course, with Nintendo being the old hounds in the dark they are, Samus has never been much more than a one-dimensional character that gamers gawk at. And that’s where Team Ninja’s Metroid : Other M comes in. Not just to play around with Samus’ huge cannons, but to make some pretty noble additions to franchise such as voice acting and a through narrative.
Things kick off promisingly as well, the events of Super Metroid are beautifully recreated in a masterful CGI sequence at the start of the game, after which Samus receives a distress call codenamed “Baby’s Cry”. When arriving at the cry for help’s source, Samus meets up with a former squad of the Galactic Federation we learn she used to be apart of, which provokes the memories of her (up until now) untold past. For the most part, it’s an interesting story too, especially if you’re a long time Metroid fan, it’s great to finally see some in depth character development after such a long time of her not speaking a word. Unfortunately though, it’s let down by a mediocre script and at times, the strangely poetic ‘hit and miss’ manner Samus narrates in. Of course, she isn’t alone, the Galactic Federation squad also become victims of the team’s writing ability. Most, if not all of the characters lack any sense of human charisma or personality, which almost begs the question why they even bothered with voice acting in the first place.
Traditionally though, Nintendo talk through the medium of text, so I suppose at the very least, these voice acted cut-scenes are a significant step-up from the usual story, a brilliantly presented and immensely detailed step-up, but painfully wooden nevertheless. However, what the previous iterations of Metroid lacked in narrative they made up for in extraordinarily designed gameplay, which just isn’t the case with Other M. It has more of a “Story first, gameplay second” attitude, like a comedian telling his life story whist you wait patiently for the punch-line and forget half of what’s said. This undeniably makes the game more of an attempt at going that step further rather than actual, genuine progress, in which it inevitably slips up and falls down a few stairs in the process.
That’s not to imply the gameplay isn’t great, it’s just that the bar is set a lot lower than previous instalments have placed it. The level design feels more like an actual environment riddled with game mechanics and long corridors rather than the vice versa method of structuring game design so it’s integrated within the surroundings. Leading onto the problem of flow, or to put it simply, the lack of it; one of the best things about Metroid Prime is how well the game was structured, it’s extremely immersive due to the level of exquisite design that illustrated the path of going from A to B seamlessly. Other M on the other hand just tends to aimlessly meander round and occasionally hit standstill. Any attempt at fluidity is dismantled by awkward interface or mind-numbing cinematic sequences.
Furthermore, its constant interactions with the crew spoil the series’ sense of isolation, the game suffers from holding your hand a little too much for experienced players and its soundtrack is just ambiance rather than being both atmospherically suiting and magnificent standalone. I could go on, but I think it’s clear that this just isn’t your conventional Metroid game, and it’s certainly one of the weaker titles of the series. It’s bizarre when you think about it simplistically as well – Other M is an inventive, ambitious game that successfully blends third person platforming action with first person shooting, the two cornerstones of the franchise’s heritage. Its faults lie within the realms of execution; Team Ninja’s heavily influenced gameplay really shows through the art of lethal finishers to obliterate some of the game’s terribly uninspired foes, although the dodging technique doesn’t translate very well bearing in mind the basic controls…The 2D-esque gameplay is intense and frantic, yet somewhat inept to control, and turning the Wii remote to enter a first person perspective has some wonderfully inspired uses, yes, but can become a cumbersome nuisance in particular situations.
You may have noticed a pattern here, for everything Other M does splendidly, it diminishes itself somewhere along the line. It’s like attaching rockets to a pig; sure it’s great to finally see one fly, but when it comes back down to Earth it’ll make a hell of a mess and there won’t be much left to feast on afterwards. What Team Ninja have done here is taken every essence of the series’ legacy and mixed it all in along with some new flavours. In the end it’s a product that tastes delightfully sweet at first, but leaves your palette with a somewhat bitter aftertaste. Let me clarify my statements by saying that Metroid: Other M is by no means a bad game; it’s a fantastic title by itself hindered by some poor development choices and implementation, but it’s only a good Metroid.
I digress, but I’d like to think the “M” in the title refers to the game’s quality, an other mother, and no, before you think this is a needlessly long stab at your own mother, it isn’t – Metroid’s Other Mother is different to your usual mother, she looks stunning in make-up, but her age tends to show without it; she’s mature and sophisticated, but has a habit of being awkward and difficult to please. You get the impression she’s trying to do everything your actual mother usually does and more, but she just isn’t quite the same and lacks that necessary X-factor. In conclusion, I’m not entirely sure what note to end on. While I like Other Mother due to her innovative concepts and I wish the narrative morals she embraces were acknowledged, I don’t think I’d want a sequel. It’s as inconsistent as I am indecisive, basically if you’re a long time Metroid fan or just generally want something new and interesting, you could do a lot worse than buy Other M. On the other hand (yes, I’m sick of all these contradictions too), if you’re hoping for the same old classic 2D Metroid and thought the franchise took the wrong turn with Prime, then go back to bed and complete Fusion for the fiftieth time, I’m sure your mother will appreciate the company. Zing.