Metroid: Other M Review (Wii)
Posted by Jim Cook, Sep 13, 2010 02:20
Messing with a classic formula is a big risk; do it right and you can reinvigorate a franchise without upsetting its fans, but if you mess up you’re going to catch a lot of flak. Other M is bold enough to take the typical Metroid formula and give it a new third-person-shooter perspective (yet played with simple NES-style controls) while also adding an in-depth story. These are things Metroid has only toyed with in the past, but not to the extent it’s done here. While this game makes some mistakes, on the whole Other M does more things right than wrong.
Set within a large research station/ship, Other M puts you in the role of Samus as usual, tasked with investigating a distress signal. However, you’re not alone this time around; several Federation soldiers are also investigating, and they insist that if Samus wants to tag along she’ll be following their orders. This leads to a potentially interesting situation; when their commander (and Samus’ former commander, at that) points out Samus’ weapons have a huge potential for collateral damage, he has her deactivate most of her suit’s special equipment and will only authorize their use if he sees a need for it. This works at first; I was willing to play along when it was ’no missiles or super bombs, you might ruin the ship’ but this applies to defensive equipment as well, things like the Varia gear to protect you from fire. Samus will not use these things until her commander says it’s okay, which takes what was a reasonable plot element and goes too far.
This results in a third-person shooter where you gain new abilities every so often, usually just after facing a problem where one of your classic weapons or abilities would have been helpful. Surprisingly, the camera angle and controls work very well for this; a generous auto-aim system makes shooting enemies simple, and the NES-style controls work since the camera is usually firmly rooted behind Samus so it’s easy to see where you’re going. That’s a pretty impressive feat, making Metroid’s classic controls and game motifs work in a whole new perspective. Wii motion controls are involved to some extent, as you can hold the Remote vertically to enter a ’recharge stance’ that refills your missiles after a few seconds, or you can point at the screen to enter a first-person aiming mode. This all works surprisingly well once you’ve had a few minutes to get used to it.
It has to be noted that Other M is almost certainly the best looking game on the Wii to date, a huge step up from just about every other Wii game I can think of. Most of the time Other M runs smoothly and is genuinely nice to look at, though these impressive graphics do occasionally slow the game down. Not in the sense of ’slow-motion dramatic dodging’, but the game genuinely having its frame rate drop because the system can’t keep up. Thankfully these situations are rare, and the times they do happen are mostly during fights that aren’t too hard to overcome even with the slowdown.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the game’s audio. Many of the game’s cutscenes are given full voice overs, and primarily told from Samus’ point of view. The problem is that her actress doesn’t seem to care; she’s going for a ’remote and cold’ voice, but goes past that and well into being just flat and lifeless. Even the extras turn in a better performance than she does, and the result is that a plot meant to humanize Samus and show she has a caring side that drives this stoic warrior instead has no real impact.
On the other hand, all these faults are contrasted against some really enjoyable boss battles. Most of them are pretty big (and some are outright huge), with a variety of attacks that force you to think fast, move quickly, and switch between several weapons over the course of the battle. If the plot is something you have to tolerate, and the typical exploration and fighting against basic enemies is simply okay, then the bosses are definitely this game’s main appeal and every bit as satisfying as those from other Metroid titles.
The only other noteworthy fault Other M has is that there is a lot of ’pixel hunting’ involved. Sometimes it requires very careful exploration to find the way out of a room, and in other cases you’re locked into a first-person view and have to scan around to find the one very small object relevant to the plot or you cannot proceed. These segments bog down what is otherwise a well-paced game, and one can only hope that future installments avoid it.
Other M should last players for several hours, and even has another segment to play after the credits roll. After the main game, you may return to collect any items you missed the first time around before fighting an extra boss and getting a few extra scenes to cap off the story. The core of the Metroid experience is here, even with the new ideas being tried, and it is mostly enjoyable. On the other hand, the plot stretches some points too far and there are a lot of small, irritating flaws that combine to drag down what should have been a system-defining classic. The end result is instead just competent, and while that means Other M is more good than bad, ’just competent’ is not a phrase I wanted to use to describe a series like Metroid. If you come in with realistic expectations you’ll probably walk away happy, but do understand that Other M is unfortunately one of the weaker entries in the Metroid lineup.
Rating: 0.0, votes: 0