From the people that brought you Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball (Team Ninja) comes the latest installment in Nintendo’s classic Metroid series, aptly titled Metroid: Other M. The game takes place after Samus Aran’s second encounter with the Metroid (In Super Metroid for SNES) and claims to tell the “Cinematic story of Samus Aran’s past.” Very much a throwback to both classic and more recent games in the series, Other M strives to provide an experience that young and old gamers can enjoy, with all the plasma shooting, morph ball rolling, and item collecting expected from a Metroid game.
To achieve this mixture of the archaic and new, Wii style, Other M introduces a new and “innovative” way to use the Wii-mote to control Samus. The game switches between a third person view with automatic aiming that allows the player to (somewhat) awkwardly control Samus’ movements with the D-Pad and a stationary first person view with full gun control firmly in the hands of the player, all depending on the orientation of the Wii-mote. Holding the controller sideways moves the camera to the third person view, often forcing Samus and enemies out of frame, while pointing it at the screen shifts to first person and allows the player to look everywhere along with the capacity to shoot missiles. While at first this sounds cool, the Wii-mote’s sketchy motion sensor can be easily confused when the player attempts to switch between these frames of reference, which does present a problem if the player happens to be in the middle of combat. This issue is somewhat alleviated as you become used to the control set, but can still be a problem even for an experienced player.
While flailing about with the Wii-mote, be sure to take in the world around Samus. The Wii takes every chance it can to show that it can be as gorgeous as other next-gen consoles. Cinematic cut scenes are filled with fantastic visuals of flowing Nebulas and wonderfully detailed interiors of space ships, along with a few shameless sweeps of Samus’ unsuited figure. Other M does, however, noticeably lower those standards when the player takes control. While still better looking than something you might find on Wii Sports, this does create an awkward impression as the game attempts to transition between game and cinematic, giving the same feeling as someone splicing handy-cam shots into a high-budget Hollywood movie. It flows, but gives a slight bump to remind they player that they are, in fact, playing a video game.
Sadly, the in game graphics are not the only lacking element of Other M. While the out of game backstory is fantastic, the in game story is noticeably worse. The game gets credit for being the first in the Metroid line to attempt to include plot somewhere besides the instruction manual, the writing will need to improve if Nintendo tries again. The two story lines to have one connecting factor that should be removed completely: Samus’ voice actor. I’m unsure if she was intentional or not, but The woman voicing Samus speaks in a monotone staccato that sounds like she is struggling to read and speak the words at the same time. (I know Samus is blonde, but not that blonde.)
Combine that with the fact that her voice is just plain annoying and you may find it better to turn on subtitles and mute the TV rather than listen to her deliver the majority of the dialogue.
One other thing of note are, what I have dubbed, look puzzles. After you experience a few of these, you will know instantly by the accompanying sense of terror of what you have encountered. The first thing that happens in these “Puzzles” is that you are locked into first person view and forbidden from continuing away from it until you convince Samus to lock onto whatever thing the game wants you to see. At first, they’re simple things. An obviously out of place emblem on a space ship, a weird shaking thing, but they get worse. Eventually, you are wasting 10-20 minutes playing detective trying to lock-on to the particular green stain that will advance the game. They serve no purpose but to waste time and could be easily cut entirely without anyone missing them.
Despite a few mild annoyances, Other M is like any traditional Metroid game. There’s plenty of 2-d platforming and morph ball rolling through questionably placed shafts for any diehard fan. It is, overall, too easy, compared with other Metroid games, especially when auto-aim does all the hard work for you. This does allow anyone, regardless of skill, to breeze through the game and experience the wonderful journey into the Metroid universe. This is a game for anyone, old fan or new to the series, and should provide at least a few hours of entertainment.