It’s a Metroid game developed by Team Ninja. When Nintendo dropped this (morph ball) bomb on us at E3 2009, I didn’t know what the guys who made “jubbling” a verb with their Dead or Alive fighting/volleyball games would do with our beloved Samus. Well, I’ve now played through Metroid: Other M in its entirety, and I can tell you this: they did too much to Samus.
The first thing I did when I sat down with Other M—besides removing the solid coat of dust from my Wii—the first thing I did—besides trying to find an option to crank my age up to 99—the first thing I did was sit through a long, melodramatic, boring, and unskippable opening cutscene. To the opening cutscene’s credit, it is the best cutscene in the game, but it’s also the cutscene that is there to train you, to let you know that “hey, there’s gonna be a lot of boring cutscenes.” It’s there to tell you that this isn’t the Metroid game you’re looking for.
And it’s ultimately sad, because all of the pieces are there. When you’re playing it, it feels like a Metroid game. There are missile upgrades to find. There are morph ball tunnels to traverse. There are lots of the same Metroid enemies to shoot lasers at that we’ve been shooting lasers at for the last twenty years. Everything that is there, all the things that you’re used to, they still work. Oh, but the changes…
The ability to switch into the first-person is an unnecessary novelty. It’s required in several boss battles, and although it takes nice advantage of the Wii Remote, it is always awkward, always clumsy, and always simply unnecessary. Similar to the boss battles in Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive series, the first-person element comes at you suddenly, is vastly different, and uses none of the skills that you’ve gained from playing the rest of the game. Worse still are the first-person hidden-object interactive cutscenes, where you are jarringly thrown into the first-person, can’t leave the first-person, have to find something weird in the environment, and more often than not have no idea what you’re supposed to be looking for. It feels like a broken old-school adventure game, and in almost every case I had to google for help because I just wanted to get onto the rest of the game part of the game.
Using the + Control Pad to control Samus is old-school in the worst possible way. If we were playing Super Metroid, it would make sense, but we’re not. Goddamn it, people, we are living in the year twenty-ten. This is a new game. We’ve all bought nunchucks for our Wii Remotes, so let us use the improved control of an analog stick. They’ve designed the game for the digital sloppiness of a + Control Pad, so guess what, the control of the entire game feels sloppy, like you’re wading through a pool of Jello as you try and line up Samus for a jump off a ledge. This is a Nintendo game, and Nintendo games have traditionally had the best, most intuitive controls of any publisher, but with Other M, instead of taking advantage of the diversity and functionality of the various Wii controllers, they let a solo Wii Remote hold them back. Did they think that Metroid: Other M was going to appeal to all of those families and senior citizens who bought a Wii, Wii Sports, but never any other games or nunchucks? “You can play this with that Wii Bowling box you already have!” It’s silly.
I have saved the worst tiny change for last. Are you ready? Here it is: when enemies die, they no longer drop health or missile ammo. Again, in what I can only imagine is an attempt to make the game appeal to a more casual audience, the player can now refill there missile ammunition by holding the Wii Remote vertically and shaking it for a few seconds. The same can be done to refill your health when it runs low. Awesome right? Now you don’t have to worry about dying all the time, right? No, well, you’ll probably still die just as much, because good luck waggling your health back in the middle of a tense boss battle, but do look forward to the rest of the game being pointless and not fun. Soon, you’ll be shooting a smaller enemy, and when it dies, and you find no health energy or missile ammo drop, you’ll get to think, “wait, why did I kill that thing?” And there isn’t an answer. Soon you’ll dread every new room you enter, as it presents a new batch of the same enemies you’ve been fighting the whole game, the same enemies you’ve been fighting for the last twenty years, only now there’s no reason at all to kill them.
And the big change – Story. I know what you’re saying: “But the other Metroid games had story!” Well, yeah, of course they did. The classic games had interesting enemies and upgrades and worlds to explore. The Prime series had interesting logs to read and things to scan as you traversed interesting planets. But Other M has STORY, you guys, you know, STORY — Boring handholding through boring maps, with boring objectives, and boring melodramatic cutscenes with horribly acted voice-work. Yes, STORY. Blurgh. And in the process of this “story,” they completely molest the character of Samus, one of the few strong female characters we have in videogames, by making her a whiny, emo blonde in a skin-tight “zero-suit” who just wants to make the older man in her life proud of her. At its best it’s trite, at its worst it’s outwardly offensive.
In the end, Metroid: Other M is mostly just boring. It made me want to play a high-def Super Metroid, one where they change NOTHING but the resolution. It made me want to pop in my Metroid Prime Trilogy disc. It made me want to turn on my xbox and play through Shadow Complex again. But most of all, it made me want to send it back to Gamefly, which as soon as I wrapped up the also-boring epilogue, I did.