I have always been a bit ‘late’ to the Metroid games. I didn’t play the first one for the NES until the ‘surprise’ that Samus was a female was old news by a year or two. I never completed the SNES or Gameboy versions, playing them at friends’ houses but never getting my own copies. I thought Metroid: Prime for the Gamecube was awesome, but my buddy beat it before I did and showed me the ending, and I never got around to finishing it. Truth be told, the last Metroid game I actually played through from start to finish was the original. It’s odd, since I’ve always liked the series, so when Other M was announced, I was determined to finally sit down and play it through, and overall – I’m glad I did.
The game is clearly a Metroid one, featuring our bounty hunting heroine, Samus. Many of the creatures from the first game are re-imagined in this game, but instead of being a 2-D platformer or a first-person adventure, this game is set in a 3D world with some first-person elements. You will travel in every direction – up, down, left, right, forward and back. The first-person elements come in the form of some limited ‘research’ storyline moments, and when you point your Wii remote at the screen you enter a first-person view where you are stationary but have access to some powerful attacks and locking mechanisms like missiles. Sometimes the battles require this mode, other times it is just more convenient due to the weapons/view angle – and sometimes it is a hindrance, especially since you don’t really have the ability to move around.
Similar to the other games, you slowly add to your abilities – though there is a story mechanism in place for this. Unlike the first game where you have to find improvements for your gear, you have most of them already in place but you are not allowed to use them.
That was perhaps the biggest chance taken with this game, and one of the most controversial. Nintendo games are known for great gameplay, but not really for quality narrative. The Metroid series has been no different, but in Other M they have a fairly involved storyline in place, and for the most part I think it works pretty well. There are some quibbles that can be made over how Samus’ character is portrayed, and that she allows someone to tell her when she can use the powers of her suit, but overall I found that the storyline really kept me engaged in the game.
Graphics – 9:
I would say this is one of the prettiest Wii games I’ve played to date. There is a pretty good variety of environments and they look great. Samus looks good in action and seeing some of the classic creatures brought to life was fun. The cutscenes were quite good as well. In fact my oldest at one point asked me what system the game was on, and when I said “Wii” – she was suitably surprised and equally impressed.
Sound & Music – 9:
I thought the music was great – it fit the action and areas really well. There were plenty of good sound effects and for a game with a lot of ‘shooting’, it never seemed to annoy my wife the way games like Halo or Gears of War does. The voice work added to the already great visuals of the cutscenes. Even if you didn’t care for the story itself, the presentation was among the best, if not the best, I’ve seen on the Wii, and the voice acting was a big part of this.
Gameplay: – 7:
A bit of a hit here. I thought the first-person view was a cool idea that could have been a bit better polished in execution. In some of the investigative scenes I would sweep over my target option 4 or 5 time before it would register and lock in. The camera worked pretty well the majority of the time, but there were times it was hard to target what I wanted to unless I went first-person, but that also made me a sitting duck.
Also, the game has a great exploratory feel to it, but it sometimes felt like the ‘rules’ were not clearly explained. For example I got stuck at one point for a good long while before I happened to jump up near a round hole in the wall. Samus grabbed on with one hand and hung there, and then I was able to morph into a ball and role into it, but I never noticed any tutorial or demonstration of this jump, grab and morph tactic, but it was used quite a few times in the game. At first I thought maybe I just missed something, but my son got stuck at the same part until I pointed it out at him. It was also annoying to sometimes see items that you wanted to collect, and that you could see and would show up on your map, but try for a long time to get them only to realize later on that you needed a specific item (like a wave gun to shoot through the wall and activate a trigger that was otherwise inaccessible). The first person mode is very cool in some of the details it gives you, but this was a pair of areas they probably could have explained better – perhaps through that mode.
Now, despite those ‘bad’ points, the combat is fast and smooth for the most part. You auto-adjust and shoot at things no the fly, and there are times where you just feel like a very dangerous bounty hunter. I especially liked some of the finishing moves Samus can put down on guys, like when she jumps on a creature and charges a blast to the head at point-blank range. You just feel lethal in those moments. Also there are frequent save/heal points, which is nice. Menus are easy to get around and there are multiple difficulty settings for people who want to try the game a few times.
Intangibles – 7:
The game is well-made and it is a lot of fun to play. I dislike when games rely exclusively on quicktime scenarios for things like boss-fights. You’re offered these things in Other M, but you seldom have to use them – but doing so would make your life easier. There was a lava dragon I fought at one point and there were some cool scripted events during the fight that could be used to amp up the damage done, but I missed most of those and just gunned him down traditionally. I hate when you fight a boss, miss the quicktime event and he gets 1/4 of his health back.
Once you beat the game, there is an option to use your collection of powers to try and gather all of the items in the game. Cool for completionists, but honestly once the primary story was done, I didn’t personally have much interest in that. I’m really big on completing stuff/gathering everything I can along the way, but once I reach the conclusion of the main story, I don’t usually go further with it (Fallout 3 after the expansion packs is a good example of this. I did everything along the way, beat the game and didn’t bother with the remaining side quests – just my preference).
Also, the game takes a hit with how short it is – I beat the game in like 12 or 13 hours. Not bad, but with no online and no New Game+ or additional story elements to hook my interest, it loses some value there for me.
Overall – 8:
This game is an interesting one, and its reception was just as interesting. For every person I find online bashing Other M, there’s another singing its praises The ‘professional’ sites could not seem to agree either, with IGN scoring it quite high (8.5 I believe) while Gamespot and Gameinformer ranked it much lower if memory serves me right (6-something range I believe).
I for one found the game a lot of fun, and my son did too. Both of my daughters watched me play through large chunks of the game. They were invested in the storyline, and I enjoyed it too. I’ve always liked Metroid games, but as this was the first one I had beaten since the first, it just felt like they got a lot more right than wrong.