Metroid: Other M review (Wii). Team Ninja tackles Samus Aran’s first 3rd-person action adventure in modern times

Metroid: Other M review box artwork (Wii)
Metroid: Other M is the long-awaited return of protagonist Samus Aran to a side-scrolling styled action-adventure game whose viewpoint is primarily that of third-person and not first-person.

After the highly successful Metroid Prime trilogy of games (which started on the GameCube with the original Metroid Prime and it’s sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and culminated in the Wii-developed Metroid Prime 3: Corruption), fans were still left hanging and clamoring for a Metroid title that was closer to the traditional side-scrolling roots of the series.

After all, Metroid fans were not given a side-scrolling title since 2004’s Metroid: Zero Mission and 2002’s Metroid Fusion. Both Game Boy Advance titles. The DS got two spin-off games: Metroid Prime Pinball and Metroid Prime Hunters, but neither offered the side-scrolling gameplay that fans desired, despite being great games, and neither was a console title.

Enter Metroid: Other M. After American Metroid Prime Trilogy developer Retro Studios (a Nintendo owned 1st-party developer) completed the trilogy, they moved onto the Donkey Kong Country Returns project. It was time for new blood for the Metroid series, and the reigns were handed to Ninja Gaiden developer Team Ninja. Who are considered masters of the modern action genre.

Metroid: Other M Japanese box artwork (Wii) Long-time Metroid series director Yoshio Sakamoto supervised the game’s overall production at Nintendo. He has been involved in all Metroid titles, directing the original 8-bit Metroid 1, Game Boy’s Metroid II: Return of Samus and the SNES’ Super Metroid along with deceased producer Gunpei Yokoi. While CG production house “D-Rockets” was brought on to produce top-notch computer generated cutscenes.

Nintendo, Team Ninja, Sakamoto, D-Rockets… new blood for an old-franchise. This time, the focus would be on story, character-development, and a third-person viewpoint that hearkened back to Metroid’s side-scrolling roots, but this time on a modern-day console platform.

Sounds like a definite concoction for success right?

Keep reading to find out how this game stacks up both on it’s own, gameplay-wise; And when compared to its forebear, the Metroid Prime series. As well as the long, deep Metroid past as a whole. Does Other M breath new life into this key Nintendo franchise? Or is this an experiment Nintendo will regret taking?

Metroid: Other M logo

System: Wii
Also Available On: None
Released: USA August 31, 2010 – EU September 3, 2010 – AUS September 2, 2010 – JAP September 2, 2010
Players: Single-Player Only
Genre: Third-Person Action Adventure
Save: Takes 1 Block. Three save files available.
Online Support? No
Controllers: Played using one Wii Remote held sideways (point at the screen to go into first-person). Cannot play using any other controller (GameCube, Nunchuck, Classic Controller not supported).
Developer: Team Ninja collaborating with Nintendo, D-Rockets (CG cut-scenes) – Together calling themselves “Project M”.
Publisher: Nintendo
Country of Origin: Japan
Rating: T for Teen because of “Violence and Animated Blood”.

Metroid: Other M is a solid action adventure game that mixes elements of side-scrolling gameplay, aiming or scanning a third-dimensional area from the first-person perspective, and third-person action adventure with a heavy emphasis on exploration after taking out enemies in combat.

The game is fast, generally fluid (at least as far as animation is concerned, control-wise is another matter entirely), and packed full of hidden items to locate and discover that power Samus up and make you stronger than before; Just as you’d expect from a new Metroid title.

Metroid: Other M Samus Eyes screenshot (Wii)

Other M truly plays in a unique way and really feels like nothing else out there. Gameplay-wise, the shooting actually reminds me of . . . . don’t hate me now, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, the videogame based on the film that I rated highly, scoring it an 8.0 in my review. And while I haven’t played that game since (even though I’ve been meaning too) I’m pretty sure that the gameplay in Metroid: Other M is nearly identical as far the shooting is concerned.

In Other M, you primarily will run down long corridors, as enemies obstruct your path, and simply hammer on the shoot button to fire as fast as possible. Meanwhile the camera will generally either be behind you from a third-person perspective, or zoomed out into a perspective that mimics side-scrolling, even though you are always in a third-dimensional space.

Probably the main reason this hasn’t really been done before and why Metroid Prime was shifted from it’s initial third-person focus into a first-person perspective (a decision made by Shigeru Miyamoto himself) is due to how difficult it is to target enemies and platform when things are 3D. The solution in Metroid: Other M, was to make the targeting ENTIRELY automatic. That’s right. You CANNOT target enemies. Dun dun DUN. And this works as well as you’d expect . . . That is to say, it almost is a gamebreaker, and in a negative way.

Fortunately for Other M, it falls just short of a gamebreaker because of the quick nature of the game and the fact that you are usually limited to fighting only one or two strong enemies at a time. And when you do face swarms of enemies, it really doesn’t MATTER a great deal that you can’t target. Why? Because the goal is simply to blast away as much as possible until all of them are defeated. So eventually you’re gonna kill that one you want to target anyway.

Metroid: Other M swarms of enemies screenshot (Wii)

Before I get too far into the complaints I want to talk about some other aspects. Although I do want to say that targeting is the MAIN and biggest gameplay weakness in Other M. Since it isn’t a gamebreaker, then you can surmise that the overall shooting gameplay is neither weak, nor strong. It’s above average.

As mentioned, Metroid: Other M plays unlike anything you’ve played before. That’s because most games focus on one-perspective. Other M on the other hand mixes things up, almost like Super Mario Galaxy 2 in a way.

But instead of walking on ceilings, up walls and around spherical planets, in Other M you will constantly be running down long corridors, and when you do so the viewpoint almost always shifts to a side-scrolling perspective. Right off the bat, this gives the game the “feel” of a classic Metroid title. Which is great.

The game is played by holding the Wii Remote sideways, like the original NES controller. You use the D-Pad to move Samus, you use the 2 Button (A on an NES controller) to Jump and the 1 Button (B on an NES controller) to shoot. Pressing the A Button rolls Samus into her Morph Ball mode where you can drop Bombs to blow up parts of walls or floors.

What makes Other M different, besides the above, is the first-person mode. By flipping the Wii Remote vertically from it’s horizontal position and pointing at the screen, Samus will enter first-person “Scanning Mode”. You can then look around by holding down the B Button on the Wii Remote while you point at the screen, allowing you to target objects of interest. This is also the only way you can shoot Missile, which you do by targeting an object or enemy and pressing the A Button. You can also use your Charge Beam and shoot a Charged Shot while in first-person, although combat from this mode is not generally recommended outside of a quick Missile blast.

Unlike Metroid Prime, you cannot PLAY the game from this perspective. That’s to say, you are immobile when on the ground in first-person, and can only target objects, you cannot move around as if it was Metroid Prime. Although while in first-person you can “scan” certain objects, although this only tells you what the item is, or what you can use to destroy a certain obstruction (Like a grating that can be blown off with a Missile).

Metroid: Other M first-person Missile screenshot

As you can imagine, this isn’t the most smoothly controlled game in existence. In fact, it can be a very clunky experience. Switching to first-person doesn’t always work simply because of how the Wii is designed, whether it’s not registering a full tilt or it’s an issue with the Balance Bar above or below your TV having issues, you’ll face times when the viewpoint won’t switch right away and this can make quickly targeting an enemy from first-person that’s attacking you a chore. Or even a pain. Expect to die on many occasions simply because you couldn’t switch to first-person fast enough to shoot a missile.

These control issues are compounded further by other design choices. Replacing energy left behind by enemies is a new move called “Concentration”. When you’re energy or missiles are low you can refill them by performing a Concentration move. This is done by tilting the Wii Remote vertically . . . what’s the different between tilting and pointing at the screen? Exactly. The first time you play or the first time you see people play, they likely will struggle with this very aspect of what is the different between a point and a tilt. The answer is that when tilting you hold the Wii Remote straight up vertically, as if holding an arcade stick. When pointing at the screen, the Wii Remote is not vertical but horizontal. It’s simply an orientation of the same position you have while playing with the Wii Remote held sideways, except now the sensor is pointed towards the screen instead of towards your left hand.

The very fact that it’s tough to explain highlights the difficulties with Other M, it’s controls, and, dare I say it, the awkward design of the Wii system itself; from the Wii Remote to the Sensor Bar, that makes it less than ideal to control. The Wii Remote is supposed to be a simple product, somehow it ends up being convoluted and confusing, and no game highlights that better than Other M. And this is the problem with fitting a traditional game into the button layout and design of the Wii Remote. Especially when you take away the Nunchuck, as in this case.

You may have caught it when I mentioned it earlier and groaned to yourself. And I’m referring to one of the other big control issues in Prime . . . you are playing a third-dimensional, polygon-rendered game with a 2D, digital-input of a D-Pad! While most of the time it is NOT an issue, since you do not need precise movement, you WILL wish that this game was controllable via a control stick and not a D-Pad. Even beyond the fact that the small D-Pad starts hurting your thumbs after a while, but the simple fact that you cannot walk if you want to is annoying. And this rears its head as a glaring annoyance in certain sections of the game where the perspective shifts to an over-the-shoulder, Resident Evil 5-style and Samus switches to a slow walk. Investigation, you see. The controls in these parts become annoying when you realize that you can’t control the pace at which she walks, and you can’t make precise movements due to a lack of an analog stick.

Metroid: Other M Over the Shoulder Investigation Mode screenshot (Wii)

It’s a minor issue though, and really all of the many complaints above are minor issues. But when you put them all together, it builds into an overall clunky control scheme that never quite works perfectly. Everything is solid . . . it works, but it doesn’t work as well as it should or as well as you wish it did.

Thankfully, Metroid: Other M excels in other areas. The gameplay as mentioned is extremely fast passed, you are generally running at all times (in fact you are, since you can’t control Samus speed due to the D-Pad) and typically you will be simply blasting enemies as you run past them down long stretches of corridor. This makes the game feel like a side-scrolling title as mentioned, and works in the games favor.

And like Metroid games past, you will often encounter enemies you must defeat to activate a door and proceed. In these cases, you are generally fighting a more powerful non cannon fodder enemy and that’s when Metroid: Other M’s new combat system kicks in.

Fighting in these cases is mostly done from a third-person perspective, with switching to first-person also a requirement to hit enemy weakpoints with missile blasts. Generally Missiles are your greatest weapon. The biggest new addition to the series with Other M in the combat arena comes from Samus’ “SenseMove” ability. Just as an enemy is about to attack you, Samus can swiftly dodge the attack if you press a direction on the D-Pad right as you are about to get hit. This allows you to easily counter attack by pressing the 1 Button to shoot or by charging as you SenseMove out of the way, and shooting with a full charged blast once your Charge Meter (Upper left) is full.

Building on the SenseMove are two other combat techniques. The first is called “OverBlast”, this is performed by leaping on top of an enemy. Once you do so, your Charge Meter will start to fill. Press the 1 Button again and Samus will shoot it’s head to perform a powerful attack that can usually take out an enemy in one or two strikes. Then you have what is called a “Lethal Strike”. A Lethal Strike is performed on a weakened enemy by simply charging your Beam to full (make sure the Meter is up all the way) and then running toward the enemy. Pressing the D-Pad (any direction as long as it’s “towards” the enemy) while charged with make Samus perform a cinematic take-down that will destroy the enemy.

While these later attacks would seem optional, they are in fact required in many instances and some enemies cannot be taken out (particularly the stronger ones later in the game) unless you perform a Lethal Strike on them.

When you combine Samus quick agility stretching from her SenseMoves, with the rapid fire of your gun shots, the cinematic nature of the OverDrive and the Lethal Strikes, and the fact that you can’t target, which means you’ll typically be hamming away on the fire button with fierce intensity; The combat condolences into a satisfying rapid-fire, generally intense and smally strategic smorgasbord melting pop that will generally put a smile on your face. And no “smally” is not a typo (Yes I know it’s not a word! I’m making it a word dammit, it fits!), the reason I use that term is because I would NOT call the combat “strategic”. Essentially all your doing is counterattacking by timing button presses to SenseMove out of the way and pressing the fire button as fast as you can with occasional charged blasts or first-person missile shots, then running into said enemy to take them out with a Lethal Strike or jumping on top of their heads to perform an OverDrive. Half the time you will not even MEAN to dodge with a SenseMove but it will happen simply because you are pressing the directional pad to RUN away/towards/to the side, etc. And don’t forget that you will often times be leaping about like a madwoman, jamming on the 2 Button to leap probably as much as you are to shoot.

However, even though the combat is quick-paced and jamming, leaping and running with abandon is generally how you are expected to play, there is a tactical element to the combat with stronger enemies that you are fighting one-on-one. This mostly won’t click initially but BETTER click by the time you face the dreaded “Desbrachian” enemies near the end of the game. These enemies, as well as some bosses, will devastate you if you don’t actually SenseMove at the proper times in accordance to their attacks, and likewise, time your Charged Shots and first-person Missile Blasts to hit their weakpoints or attack them when vulnerable.

Metroid: Other M Lethal Strike artwork (Wii)

The reason you can’t just say the combat is strategic though, is because MOST of the game you will not need to be this in-depth, nor will it be required. Therefore, the combat is a far tier lower than that of the developer’s namesake series, Ninja Gaiden, but falls somewhat above “mindless”. It’s not mindless, but it’s not exactly strategic either. But there is a definitely method to the madness (and it will LOOK like madness to those watching you play, as you both intentionally and unintentionally dodge attacks and take out enemies with cinematic Lethal Strikes) that makes the one-on-one combat in Metroid: Other M a step below attaining greatness.

And one big reason for the combat NOT attaining greatness is due to the lack of targeting available. Put simply, you will often times WANT to or NEED to target a specific enemy but the game will instead target a different enemy. This adds not only unnecessary frustration, but lots of unnecessary DEATHS that could have been avoided. Now dying in Metroid: Other M is not a big deal because save points (Marked as blue “N” icons on your map, N standing for “Navigation Booth”) are generously spread about and you should therefore be saving often, and also you are never punished for dying, you just try again. However it is annoying, and there are a few Mini-Boss fights or Boss Battles in particular (ESPECIALLY the end game boss) where this glaring targeting absence becomes a HUGE issue.

It is during these fights where I nearly threw the controller or was about to knock the game and the combat system as a “gamebreaker”, because it adds so much frustration when you CAN’T TARGET THAT DAMN ENEMY you want to. However, if you keep this aspect in mind and know that the targeting in the game will be an issue, then you should be able to look past it. And thankfully, these fights where it really becomes an issue are few and far between.

At least a highlight of Other M are some of the excellent boss fights in the game. While most enemies are small, you will encounter a few larger foes including a couple that will put big smiles on fans of the older Metroid games!

Exploration in Metroid: Other M is also definitely a highlight. And in a cool twist, hidden items do not appear on your map (Press the Plus Button to enter your menu which shows the overall map) or your Mini-Map (upper right hand corner) until you have defeated all of the enemies in a room. Once you’ve destroyed them all, your mini-map will flash and hidden items will appear on your maps as Blue Dots. This is implemented well because it makes you feel rewarded for battling enemies, and will make you want to fight them so you can see if there are any hidden items in the room, as opposed to simply running past them.

You’ll find hidden items in the form of Missile Tanks (add ONE to your max missile capacity. These are blue in color), Energy Tanks (Dark Red in color. Adds one new “slot” of 99 units of Energy to your health. Tanks are represented by blue icons on the upper left), Energy Parts (Light Red in color, they sit on a “tripod”. Think Pieces of Heart from The Legend of Zelda, collect four and you’ll create a full Energy Tank), Accel Charges (Yellow in color. Increases how fast your Charge Meter fills up) and E-Recovery Tanks (Purple in color. Increase how much energy can be restored through Concentration and how low, or high, your energy need to be to enter Concentration. Very useful).

It’s important to note that many items, in typical Metroid fashion, cannot be obtained until later in the game when you have access to additional weapons and abilities. Always keep that in mind. If you are doing everything you can think of trying to obtain an item and can’t do it, chances are that you literally CAN’T DO IT until later in the game. Every item can be accessed at some point later on in the game. And in fact, at the VERY END you will have a chance to go back through the game and collect any items you didn’t obtain. Not only that, but all items will also be shown without you needing to defeat enemies. So on your first playthrough, you may want to skip trying to get everything and wait until closer to the end of the game.

Items are located in all kinds of devious places, and there are many that I would have NEVER found on my own if it wasn’t for a strategy guide. I even had to resort to our Metroid: Other M walkthrough to find a few of them, as still images and text weren’t a big enough help. This is a good thing and fans of Metroid who have always taken pride in obtaining that elusive 100% will be happy with how it’s implemented in Metroid: Other M (not to mention that the map tells you how many items you have found).

Metroid: Other M Energy Tank item close-up screenshot (Wii)

While items are shown on your map, the map is 2D and NOT 3D like Metroid Prime. This means that while you can see the general location of an item, you won’t know where it is exactly or how to reach it. And unlike Prime, items do not make a unique whirring sound telling you where they are. You generally need to rely on your map to find them. However you can almost always find them with some experimentation as well.

I must point out that the map system in Other M is a PAIN. While Metroid Prime 2: Echoes had a confusing 3D map that was too convoluted for it’s own good (too complex), Other M has a different issue. The orientation of the map is backwards to where you are actually heading in the game. So often times you will head in what you think is the proper direction, only to check your map (press +) and discover you’re going in the opposite direction. This is frustrating.

Thankfully, fans will be extremely happy by the power-up assortment that appears in Metroid: Other M. I won’t ruin it for you even though they are ALL lasted in the instruction booklet and pretty much even told to you or shown to you in the game well ahead of you obtaining them . . . Even still, there is one in particular that marks it’s glorious debut in three dimensions and it is done extremely well here. Likewise, the return of another really cool power-up that made it’s modern debut in Metroid Prime 2 comes back for another round and is even more true to it’s roots here than it was in Prime. Metroid fans and gamers in general will also love how devious some of the hidden items are, and how they truly make use of Samus wide assortment of abilities.

And now for the strongest aspect of Other M. The storyline and character development of Samus herself. Other M is FILLED TO THE BRIM with kickass CG cutscenes that look absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, and give the cutscenes in Super Smash Bros. Brawl a run for their money. This is by far the best movie scenes have ever looked in a Nintendo game, and there is a whopping 2 hours of them!

A huge focus of Other M is on developing the character of Samus, and she is fully voiced from the beginning. Much like in Metroid Fusion, you will learn Samus’ thoughts as the story progresses, although this time everything is audible. While some people will find the personality or even the voice of Samus to be annoying, I am not one of those people. I think her voicework is just fine and it really grew on me by the end. I also love how Samus is, quite frankly, GIRLY in Metroid: Other M. She is a different beast than guys in her position would be, and the story goes very far in pushing that girly aspect of her, including how she struggled to fit in with the guys and her calling card of always giving her boss a thumbs down, instead of a thumbs up. A cool story point that the game delves heavily into and works hard in making you feel that Samus is a “real” person. I think they did a good job.

Metroid: Other M young Samus screenshot (Wii)

Metroid: Other M also delves heavily into Samus’ past and her childhood, although to series fans it doesn’t necessarily give as many revelations as you’d hope to see, and anything dealing with the Chozo, like what you saw in Metroid: Zero Mission, isn’t looked into at all in Other M. Which sucks, but still it is cool to see a young Samus, and the game focuses a lot on the personal experiences of Samus life that tie into her current relationship with Adam and the other crew members in the game, and seek to further develop the character of Samus Aran in interesting ways.

Unlike you’d expect from a guy bounty hunter, for Samus, all of her actions and the consequences of them weigh heavily on her mind and she is constantly questioning them or thinking about the broader implications, especially if it’s another human being involved. This kind of emotional weight, or as some might interpret it, drama, will either be something you love or something you hate and it’s pushed heavily from the very opening scenes.

There seems to be only those two polarizations to the game’s story and dialog (love it or hate it) but in my humble opinion it made Samus more likable and, as in Fusion, I enjoyed seeing the inner workings of the female mind hidden behind that badass armored exterior.
Although you can definitely make a strong case against Other M that it overuses this aspect and that Samus often repeats things. But this was only a very slight bother to me. Though I always take things at face value when it comes to visual media and I’m not one to question what I’m hearing or nitpick it.

Having said that, I must say that there is one aspect that bugged me. Metroid: Other M is paced and plays out like a dramatic anime. A lot of it, especially the few female characters you will encounter, have an anime-styled look to them that in my humble opinion feels out-of-pace in the Metroid universe. Sure, it’s a Japanese product, but Samus herself does NOT have an obvious or blatant anime-girl look to her, and that contrast between her and other females she encounters is one that did bother me.

Metroid: Other M Samus with crew screenshot (Wii)

The other area Metroid: Other M specifically expands on is additional characters that join Samus on her quest. Although “join” isn’t really the right word, it’s more like she’ll encounter them at set points. All of them are voiced, but none as well as Samus herself or her “commander”, Adam Molkovich (yes THAT Adam. Those who played Metroid Fusion will recognize Adam as the computer that speaks to Samus in Fusion); who you will learn much about as the adventure progresses.

While some have criticized this aspect as taking away from the “solitary bounty hunter on desolate planet” feel that the Metroid series has generally contained, I don’t think it’s an issue at all. As I stated, you will run into these characters but they don’t adventure alongside you, so in that way Samus is “on her own”.

Another criticism comes in the character development department. Or lack thereof. Outside of the buddy-buddy relationship she has with the big black guy named “Anthony Higgs”, none of the other characters are ever developed enough for you to care about them. Or, truthfully, to the point where you will even learn their names. That is a problem particular because . . . I’ll just say, something happens to them and it would’ve had much more emotional weight had there been any kind of character development associated with them to give the player a personal connection.

Instead, the focus is really on two characters, and a few others later on, and these characters are developed better. In fact, throughout most of the game the lack of a connection to these characters did bug me, but by the end I felt a REAL connection to Adam . . . and therefore this aspect is developed well in that, even though you don’t really realize it, the game does a good job in making you care by the end. And this is one aspect that went up a peg after beating the game. And it’s an area that you, as the player, will probably rate lower if you do not actually play all the way through the game.

The ending is also pretty kickass, and this definitely is one of the few Nintendo titles that actually feature REAL guns . . . a bit of blood, and actual shooting in a somewhat violent manner. While I was surprised to see the game rated T for Teen and didn’t think the ESRB content descriptors of “Animated Blood” and “Violence” were warranted, I did think so by the end.

As far as the storyline itself is concerned, I think it is a good story and Metroid fans are definitely in for some surprises that will make you happy. I think the game is paced well, even though many of the cutscenes are long with lots of self-dialogue and exposition that will turn off some. The storyline really builds towards the end and has some dramatic highs, some mystery and some intrigue that work in the game’s favor. It also ties into previous games very well.

In fact, not only does the opening directly continue the storyline from Super Metroid with elements of Metroid 2 as well, but the game is also heavily influenced by Metroid Fusion.

Not only because of Adam, but also the overall structure of the game world is straight out of Fusion. For better or for worse. As well as the fact that the game takes place on a space station . . .

And it is in part because of this that a few other complaints arise. Be forewarned that part of this will intersect with my “Metroid-fan complaints”, which I will continue in a separate list at the bottom of the review. What you are about to read would also still apply, I feel, to those who have never played a Metroid game before.

I feel like Metroid: Other M does NOT have memorable environments. Especially during the opening hours, where the game is simply metallic hallway after metallic hallway. Thankfully things do dramatically improve as you progress, and some much needed color is tossed into the mix, but the environments completely lack personality. In that sense, design ways, Metroid: Other M’s levels and environments cannot even begin to hold a candle to those in Metroid Prime. If the original Metroid Prime is a 10 in terms of environments, unique design, memorability and variety, Other M is a 5 in comparison. No greater than a 6. And this one area that I was greatly disappointed in.

Metroid: Other M forest screenshot

Thankfully though, you WILL eventually learn the layout a lot better by the closing portions of the game. This is not always the case in games or even in Metroid titles (*cough* Metroid Prime 2: Echoes *cough*) so that is a plus. But memorizing layout is different than actual design of areas, and I feel like Metroid: Other M is a giant-step back from Prime. I guess those “world-class” artists who work at Retro Studios (to quote Nintendo directly), are not easy to replace, eh. The Prime games were actually designed on purpose so that every room was “unique”, and thus Metroid: Other M feels very generic in comparison. And in truth, the rooms could really be from any game and you’d never really guess it was Metroid. A bummer.

Compounding that fact is the music. Metroid: Other M does NOT have good music. That is not to say that it has bad music either . . . but the truth of the matter is that the music in Other M is very understated. And there are almost no real TUNES to be found. Unlike Metroid Prime, which had pretty amazing music with many memorable tunes (Like Phendrena Drifts, which ranks up there with the best tunes in the series), Other M does not have ONE SINGLE great tune throughout the entirety of the game. The few “better” ones are actually remixes of past Metroid music. But don’t get excited, they pop up at about two points in the entire game.

Metroid has always been synonymous with great music that fit the design of the areas and levels to a tee (Norfair, Brinstair, Tourian, Crateria, Maridia, even Prime’s Chozo Ruins or overworld music . . . must I go on? Just the names fill you with great music), so this was a HUGE disappointment for me personally. Not only the fact that the game completely and utterly lacks any great original tunes (at most it has a couple “okay” ones, including a piano piece), but the utter failure of the developers to mix in classic remixes. I’d go as far as to say that music is half the experience of Metroid, and is one of the reasons why Metroid 2 and Metroid Fusion are lower on the lists of fan-favorites when it comes to judging Metroid titles, because those two games didn’t have great music. I’d definitely at Other M to that list, and while it has nothing to do with the gameplay, I feel that it does hurt the overall experience especially for Metroid fans.

While we’re on the subject of integrating classic Metroid elements, I must say that Team Ninja did do a good job of trying to take Prime back to the . . . suspenseful roots of Metroid. Sadly, the title only vaguely delves into “eerie” territory, something that the original Metroid 1 on the NES is infamous for. And something that I had always hoped would return. It DOESN’T return in Other M, especially given that Other M is set on a space station not a planet . . . but it DOES have it’s moments. In particular there is one amazingly eerie scene that perfectly captures the creepy, nearly horror nature of Metroid and some portions of Other M that I would’ve loved to see more of. I’ll just say it involves a cute creature . . .

Metroid: Other M suspenseful moment screenshot

That aspect of Other M is done well, and I did enjoy how the game switches from action-packed and quick-paced gameplay sequences, to CG or sometimes in-game cutscenes that offer a more somber and suspenseful mood, to the aforementioned RE4-style slow-paced investigation portions where Samus is slowly walking around . . . Although this can also be somewhat of an annoyance, for the D-Pad issue mentioned above, and for the fact that some portions of these “investigation” moments have you entering first-person, and then scanning a certain portion of the environment. For some reason, I had huge problems locating what it was I was supposed to look at (by moving your pointer over the object on the screen) and Team Ninja should’ve made it clearer what exactly Samus is supposed to be looking for. This was extremely annoying at the very beginning, where you really have no idea what you are doing and at one spent I spent like 10 minutes slowly scanning every portion of the screen and COULD not find out what I was supposed to look at. But once again, not a gamebreaker as these scenes only pop up once in a while.

Overall, Metroid: Other M gets a lot right, but sadly gets even more wrong. Or rather, and this is I think the best way of putting it, the game lacks the kind of polish and greatness that you associate with Nintendo. However, many of the reasons are core design issues, and I’m not just talking about the level designs themselves here, but everything from the lack of targeting to the lack of analog control to the clunkiness of switching to first-person. And that is a disappointment. I feel like the game could be much improved if the same basic design is kept for the sequel, but all these issues are somehow ironed out. Because it nothing you do in the game gameplay wise quite feels “right”. It’s all far from perfect and a step below “great”.

HOWEVER. Metroid: Other M is also a bold experiment that tries to really give more weight and depth to the Metroid series in areas that were not quite touched upon or expanded on in the same way as Metroid Prime. Mainly in the character of Samus Aran herself, but also in the realm of trying to offer a unique cast of characters, a better overall storyline with dramatic and emotional moments and tons of dialogue, and a gameplay system that generally flows in a way that takes all these separate pieces that would be separate games in other instances, and fits them into the same puzzle.

Metroid: Other M cinematic camera angle screenshot

In many instances in-game cutscenes will go into first-person mode, Samus will speak her thoughts, the game have you scan a particular item of interest, a cut-scene will take place where you learn more about the situation, followed by a slow-paced moment of suspense where Samus slowly creep down a hallway with an over-the-shoulder viewpoint, an enemy will then burst out and strike and the game will switch to gameplay where you combat the creature in fast-paced battle with a sprinkle of tactics on top, all of which culminates in an extremely graphically impressive computer generated cutscene. Like a reward for your had work . . . While I didn’t just describe any one moment from Metroid: Other M, that is how the game essentially tries to flow from one scene and one moment to the next.

Is it perfect? HELL NO. Is it clunky. Yes. But does it work? Also yes. My point being, Metroid: Other M is a hard game for me to rate. On one token, the game is not as polished or as immediately “great” as you’d hope. While playing, nothing really screams “THIS IS AN AMAZING GAME!” . . . but it does slowly build there and I think that all of the gameplay aspects are solid even if they can be clunky and lack polish.

Ultimately for our web-site, it comes down to how fun the game is. Well, over the course of 18 hours, I completed it 100% and now I feel like replaying it on Hard which you unlock after beating it on Normal (you also get additional art pieces as you get closer to 100% item collection and you can rewatch all the movie scenes in the Theater) and you can’t say that for every game.

Therefore, I’m judging Metroid: Other M as a higher rating that succeeds the sum of its parts. Because as a complete package, the game is very close to greatness . . . so close that I’m awarding it despite a few reservations. Overall, I think Metroid: Other M is an experience that you simply must play yourself in order to truly wager an opinion. Some will love it, some will hate it, most will fall into a place where they judge it as not great, but not bad. Had it contained some additional polish it could’ve been incredible. I fall into the latter camp and I hope that the game is improved upon in a sequel, where it’s issues are ironed out and it is a given that Nintendo sheen of polish that all great Nintendo games have. But even still, Team Ninja did a very admiral job, and the game is a fun experience that I urge you to check out, especially if you’re a Metroid fan. EIGHT.POINT.OH!

Metroid: Other M tries many different things, but doesn’t necessarily exceed at any one of them. However it incorporates a side-scrolling viewpoint and feel that hearkens back to Metroid’s past, while injecting suspenseful moments with tons of spoken dialogue, gorgeous computer-generated cut-scenes and a deeper storyline that is visual and not given to you through scanned documents. The gameplay is fundamentally flawed because of a lack of targeting, a lack of an analog stick to control Samus’ and make precise motions, and a clunky design that has you playing the game in 3rd-person with the Wii Remote held sideways one second, and pointing it at the screen to shoot from from 1st-person the next. It never works as well as it should, but the game overall is fun and will satisfy both longtime fans and those looking for a solid action adventure with tons of items to find and a satisfying story. Fans will also be torn on whether the Samus presented is the one they wanted to see. But that’s really a matter of personal opinion. I liked her. Fans will also have a laundry list of complaints of stuff they wanted to see incorporated from past games, but that doesn’t actually harm the core gameplay. As a complete package, the game is great and should be looked at with a non-critical eye. Enjoy the new Metroid!

Graphics: 7.5
For some reason, certain people were apparently impressed with the graphics in Metroid: Other M. I’ve even heard some say it’s one of the best looking Wii games. I don’t know what game they were playing, but I was hardly impressed. In fact the environments often times are so dark and seemingly muddy that I had to cover my window or play at night to even see what was going on. Likewise, the level-design does not hold a candle to Metroid Prime, and the environments never obtain memorable status. Having said that, the game is hardly bad looking and does look great at times. The first time I ran underwater I thought “Man, this game does look good!” but that, sadly, was not a sentiment repeated more than a couple times throughout the 15+ hours it took me to beat it. I think it can be safe to say that Metroid: Other M has no WOW moments as far as in-game graphics are concerned. And doesn’t hold a candle to Super Mario Galaxy in my humble opinion. Then again, the game has drop-dead gorgeous CG cutscenes and TONS of them. Which almost makes up for it. Almost.

Music and Sound: 5.5

This is one area where I am utterly disappointed. If you were hoping for something that’d eclipse Prime as a new standard for great Metroid tunes, take that proposed hope and swallow it now, because you are likely to be GREATLY disappointed. My main beef is that the music is so understated that it might as well not even be there as far as I’m concerned. Even now, I cannot think of a single tune in the game. That’s sad. Having said that, it does have a few highlights and a couple great uses of remixed music/classic tunes. But they are so very few and far between that it doesn’t really count. Having said that, the game does have good sound effects. But still, color me a disappointed fan.

Ingenuity: 9.0
Team Ninja tried their hardest to incorporate many different elements, and unique elements (name another game where you point at the screen to enter first-person from a seemingly side-scrolling viewpoint?), into a cohesive whole. Sadly the cohesive aspect is desperately missing, but I honor them for trying. I wouldn’t say this game innovates, but it tries unique things and works reasonably well but far from perfect. “Solid” is how I like to describe Metroid: Other M. But I applaud the effort. Let’s see a sequel that improves it!

Replay Value: 8.0

You’ll be kept busy trying to complete the game 100% and it is a doozy, just as you’d expect from Metroid. However there is not a ton to unlock here. Even so, you may find the game fun enough to give it a second run on Hard. Your main unlockables comes in the form of artwork under the “Gallery” setting. But that’s not exciting enough and most of it doesn’t even begin to approach the amazing artwork that was unlockable in the Prime games. So Other M is a bit lacking here.