Metroid: Other M Review

By Abbie Heppe - Posted Aug 27, 2010

As the 11th game in the series, Other M is a bizarre collaboration between the Metroid series co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto and Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame. Indeed, "odd pairings" becomes the common thread throughout the game and its clashing dualities extend to the storyline, control scheme and onscreen action.

The Pros
  • Secondary plotline is interesting, engaging
  • Graphics are very pretty
The Cons
  • Samus has more daddy issues than Montana Fishburne
  • Control layout is awkward and interrupts combat
  • All the game elements feel disjointed and not fully developed

As the 11th game in the series, Other M is a bizarre collaboration between the Metroid series co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto and Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame.  Indeed, “odd pairings” becomes the common thread throughout the game and its clashing dualities extend to the storyline, control scheme and onscreen action.

Time-wise, Other M is tucked in between fan-favorite Super Metroid and the critically beloved Metroid Fusion -- the first game that showed a hint of Samus's personal history and the introduction of Adam Malkovich, a core character in its newest iteration.

This makes Other M the second-to-last game sequentially, as the bulk of Metroid games have wedged themselves further and further into the early years of Samus Aran’s story. Ironically, Other M feels like a prequel to the franchise while attempting to be the culmination of everything Metroid has been and become.

 


 

But I’m a Bounty Hunter

In the world of Other M, Samus stumbles upon her old Galactic Federation squad mates while answering a distress call on a seemingly abandoned vessel. Among the people she encounters is her former captain, Adam Malkovich. In the most contrived manner possible, Samus loses her special abilities. How? She opts not to use them. Why? She wants to show Adam she can follow orders.

Yes, that’s right. The woman who in the first five minutes of the game gives the squad access to the ship by using her missiles is restricted from using her abilities -- some which could open a path or save her life in the future -- until a bland male character dictates it to her. She does this because she likes him, but only as a friend.

No matter what way you rationalize this mechanic, when you're 10 minutes into the lava sector and you can't use your Varia Suit yet, you will understand how painfully stupid this plot device is.

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Are you there God? It’s me, Samus

There are two plot lines to Other M. The first is a detailed trip through Samus's psyche, with emphasis on her weaknesses and vulnerability, as she is enveloped back into her old Galactic Federation squad. The second is a twisting tale of military obfuscation and betrayal that fits perfectly into the established universe. Unfortunately, most of the jarring choices used to characterize Samus stem from the first plot line, and the two stories can't be reconciled within one fell swoop.

In short, you're asked to forget that Samus has spent the last 10-15 years on solitary missions ridding the galaxy of Space Pirates, saving the universe and surviving on her own as a bounty hunter. Instead, Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man.

 


 

What is presented would be a brilliant prequel to Metroid, documenting Samus as she departs the Galactic Federation and sets out on her own; however, at this point she could easily be considered a veteran with more combat experience than half the galactic army combined. The payoff to her self-doubting modus operandi is her becoming the powerful icon we have all loved since the NES though it's a great origin story and little more. And even then, there's the simpering VO work and narration that betrays all the aspirations of character development.

Yes, Samus uses the phrase “confession time” like a 12 year old girl scrawling in her Lisa Frank diary but really, the Alan Wake-meets-Lifetime Channel Original Movie narration gets old faster than you can say “daddy issues.” Until Other M, Samus has existed as a silent protagonist with only the personality that we have bestowed upon her in our own imaginations. Regardless of whether or not the interpretation in Other M can be reconciled with your own perception of her, there is a moment later in the game that cannot be justified…ever. Confronted by her longstanding nemesis, Ridley, she is spliced into flashes of a little girl, crying and afraid, despite the fact she has already defeated Ridley at least FOUR times already, once when he was a powerful robot. Terrible.

 


 

10 Things I Hate About This Game

Now, once the game is underway and the insipid cutscenes come to a thankful rest, a bevy of other problems arise. Other M forsakes the perfectly acceptable use of the Wii remote in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and adopts a control scheme that has the user holding the Wiimote sideways then pointing at the screen to use missiles or “scan” the environment. “Scan” is in quotation marks as the first person mode is also forced on the player in several illogical sequences when it doesn’t need to be because the scan dynamic is hardly used in the rest of the game. You’d never think to do it yourself as the environment offers almost nothing in the way of information.

If you didn’t resent the first person mode enough already, think about having to recalibrate your reticule every time you want to use a missile attack.  Since most of the boss combat involves firing charge shots until you can find the time to go into first person mode and get a missile off, it gets old really fast. You also have to hope that the auto-targeting of Samus’s beam hits the right target, which is infrequent, even if there’s only one enemy on screen.

Perhaps even more egregious is the procedure for replenishing missiles and health. When either one is low, you can tilt the Wiimote up and press “A” to regenerate either one. This means stopping down completely mid-combat and that Samus can replenish missiles by thinking really hard. Miracles.

 


Can’t Hardly Wait…To Use My Super Missile


Even with the control problems, the combat isn’t all bad. The Ninja Gaiden-meets-Metroid action works when the auto-aim does (which is sometimes), and the close combat (though it seems to trigger arbitrarily) can be satisfyingly teen-rated fun. However, none of it is enough to make up for the puzzle solving.

The most satisfying part of the game came once the credit sequence rolled and I could go back for some proper Metroid-style exploration. You can’t actually revisit areas once you acquire abilities in the game because it would hinder the storyline, and thanks to needing Adam’s authorization to progress through each area, the line between “puzzle you can’t figure out” and “dead end” becomes increasingly blurry. Most of these situations involve backtracking till you hit a cut scene and earn your upgrade.  Baffling.

 


 

Diary of a Wimpy Bounty Hunter

So, is it all as soul-crushingly terrible as it sounds? Yes, yes it is. There are some great moments in the secondary plotline, if you can turn off the volume and ignore Samus’s voice entirely, but that’s not really the point of the game. The point is to flesh out one of the most iconic (and nonsexualized) female characters in gaming history and yet the outcome is insulting to both Samus and her fans.

When she isn’t submissive and obedient, the flashbacks portray her as bratty and childish and the whole mess smacks of sexism. Almost every other aspect of gameplay including character design, sound and level design is mediocre. I’m sorry Metroid fans, because this isn’t what I wanted either. I also didn’t want to hear the phrase “fledgling girl’s heart” in anything but the phrase “I disintegrated the fledgling girl’s heart with a plasma beam,” but with Other M, no one gets what they want and half a good story with a smattering of acceptable decisions is far below the bar Nintendo has previously established for the series.