For over a year now I’ve been asking myself, what is Metroid: Other M? Is it a side-scrolling adventure similar to the original games, or is it a first-person adventure/shooter like Metroid Prime? Even though I’ve played through it, I still can’t definitively answer that question.
What I can say for certain is Metroid: Other M feels like a Metroid game I’ve played before, but also feels like something completely fresh and new. It’s a bold new take on the series that some people will find refreshing, and others will find frustrating. Unfortunately, most will probably fall into the latter category.
Metroid: Other M follows in the footsteps of all its predecessors by bringing a little bit of each of the previous games into the mix for an all-encompassing Samus Aran experience. There are side scrolling segments, first-person shooter portions, and a couple of familiar boss battles. And of course Samus’s entire arsenal of weapons and suit power ups makes its return.
The control scheme also harkens back to all the older games. During the side scrolling/third-person 3D segments, you hold the Wii controller sideways and use the D-pad to move, the 1-button to fire, the 2-button to jump, and the A-button to transform into a ball. To enter first-person mode, which you can do at any time, you simply point the controller at the screen, similar to Metroid Prime. In this mode you use B to lock on and A to fire, but you can’t move your character except to look around.
Unfortunately there are a lot of problems with this new control scheme that can cause major headaches. First of all, while the game is mostly a sidescroller, it’s played in a 3D plane you must move around in, which is not the easiest thing do using a D-pad. There were many moments where I wish I had the precision and control of an analog stick.
The first-person shooter controls have issues as well. It can be very difficult to lock onto the desired targets if a lot of enemies are on screen at once. Panning the camera is also a painstakingly slow process, making it impossible at times to keep up with fast moving enemies, adding an artificial level of difficulty to the game. I would prefer if I never had to go into FPS mode, but doing so is the only way to fire missiles and solve multiple environment puzzles.
Not only are the control schemes themselves poorly executed, but switching between them can be extremely aggravating. When you are in the middle of an intense boss battle that constantly requires you to switch between the two modes of play, it can be difficult to transition from holding the Wii remote sideways to pointing it at the screen.
What’s really confusing is most of these control issues could be eliminated if the Wii nunchuck were utilized. You could then use the analog stick to more precisely control Samus in either mode, and simply press the Z-button and C-button to switch between modes and jump. I don’t understand why the developers didn’t adopt this simple approach instead of coming up with the convoluted control scheme implemented now.
Another problem is since the D-pad is used to move your character around in the 3D space, you don’t really have control over where you aim. The game deals with this by auto aiming at targets in the direction you’re facing, but this feature does not always work as you intend. When there are only a few enemies on screen it works great, but when there are tons and you are trying to hit a specific enemy, the AI has a tendency to choose the wrong target. This gets annoying fast, and can cause intense fights to end badly.
One thing that is very different from all the previous Metroid games is that the enemies do not drop health or missile refills. You can only replenish your health at save stations, though missiles can be refilled at any time by pointing the Wii-mote up and holding the A button for a set period of time. If your health gets extremely low, you can also use this method to refill a little bit of your health meter. Unfortunately you can’t be hit the entire time you’re holding the Wii-mote up in the air, otherwise you die. Having no health refills makes the game very difficult, but this is offset by the inclusion of more save stations.
Another major difference between Metroid: Other M and all its predecessors is its attempt to include a deep and meaningful story. You’ll find out more about Samus Aran in the 10 hours you’ll play this game than in all the previous games combined. You would think that finally discovering more about the galaxy’s most kick-ass bounty hunter would be a good thing, but you would be dead wrong.
For decades I’ve thought of Samus as a cold, calculating killer who looks danger straight in the face and rushes in with guns blazing. Instead I discover that she’s actually very fragile, emotional, and even a little whiny. There’s one scene in the game that completely showed a side of her character that made no sense to me, causing her to come off as weak and mentally traumatized. I’m not sure I’ll ever look at Samus the same way again, and that’s not a good thing in my opinion.
Not everything about Metroid: Other M is bad though. For starters, the game has more style and flair than all the previous titles, and it boasts some of the best action sequences experienced in the series. The boss battles are also numerous, challenging, and extremely intense.
I should mention that the visuals are absolutely stunning. Sometimes I think that Nintendo secretly unlocks a little more graphics power in the Wii every time a new first party game comes out, because I didn’t know the system could produce graphics this good. Samus has simply never looked better, especially in the CGI story sequences.
Metroid: Other M is really a mixed bag of tricks. The developers decided to try out a bunch of new and different ideas, but they aren’t all executed properly and they don’t all meld together well. The biggest hurdle holding it back is the poor gameplay, which could be solved with a better control scheme and a more accurate aiming system. I could do without the emotional story as well, but some people might enjoy it. What I do know is Metroid: Other M feels like an experiment into what a Metroid game could be, and while some will love it, others will downright hate it. I would recommend that even the most hardcore fans rent it before making a full-blown purchase.
Samus has honestly never looked better. The 3D camera is especially used to infuse a level of style and flare not previously seen in the series.
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The convoluted control scheme is one of the most aggravating things about Other M, which could easily be solved by utilizing the nun-chuck.
While the soundtrack and sound effects feel right at home in a Metroid game, the voice acting is horrendous. To put it bluntly, Samus should have never opened her mouth.
At only 10 hours in length, the game is a bit short compared to the Metroid Prime games. There's is an epilogue though, for players who want to go back and get a full 100% completion.
While Metroid: Other M is infused with a dose of style and flare the series has been lacking, the horrible control scheme and overly emotional story ruins the whole experience, making the game extremely aggravating to play.