Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Metroid: Other M Review

In the interest of procrastination, I shall write a review for Metroid: Other M which I acquired a couple weeks back! Standard disclaimer, all of the following is an opinion (unlike all of my other posts...) but I'm happy to entertain flames.

First off, I liked the game. I'm not going to give it a score, because I can really only rank things two ways: like or not like, and like more or less than some other thing. I like it more than getting kicked in the face, I like it less than a million dollars. A bit more specific, I still think the Prime series, especially Metroid Prime 3, dominates this one, but in a way this is a nice refresher instead of a Prime 4.

Why do I like it? It has a pretty unique control system with the gameplay, and it works out. The Metroid team took a gamble with the Prime series, putting Samus in first person for the first time, and it paid off remarkably well. They took another gamble here, and while there are some issues I'll get to I thought it was overall successful. Nice 2D side-scrolling in some places, full 3D elements with depth in others; this is what New Super Mario Bros. Wii should have done, then it wouldn't have felt as much like a clone of New Super Mario Bros. DS.

The final release seems more like a final release candidate to me, since there are a few items that really shouldn't have made it past QC. Perhaps the most annoying of these to me personally were the little "Look around in 1st person and play 'I Spy' without any hints" moments that were placed between some cutscenes. I checked out the movie after beating the game (100%'ing it was too easy) and it shows the scavenger hunts as well, but they're automated. Why couldn't they have been automated in the game too? It does nothing but frustrate the player with non-action and algorithmic column-sweeping across the screen if you don't see what you're supposed to focus on. It's not fun.

The second major issue is the use of controls. Yes, the Wiimote can be used like a traditional NES pad with a couple extra buttons, we get it. I would have much rather used the nunchuck for the joystick. Basically, I wanted the controls for Prime 3. Yes, they would have worked in a 2D environment, and instead of somewhat awkward switching of the controller from two hands to one to point it at the screen, you could just hold one of the nunchuck buttons or something. But really, if you're going to use the Wiimote like an NES pad, you should at least map some sort of functionality to make use of the accelerometers, like New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Otherwise you're just being jerks.

The third slightly-less-than-major issue is really two sub-issues, which are Samus' personality (the big one) and the weapon upgrading system.

First let's consult Samus. Now, I'm not a hardcore Metroid fan and I've only really beaten this and Prime 3. (I've played the other Primes and Super Metroid.) Yet even I could tell this wasn't a good match. It's like if they made Link into Slippy Toad. Look at the Metroid in-game chronology for a moment: Notice that the entire Prime series occurs before Other M. Is this Samus the same one I kicked ass with in Prime 3? Hell no. I fought worse foes, tougher foes, and uglier foes in 3 than in Other M. Yet, spoiler alert, this new Samus freezes up exactly like a scared child when Ridley makes an appearance. Which she should have taken as granted considering how many times he's made a reappearance in the Prime series alone! And yet when she meets Phantoon she's not even phased, she acts exactly like the Prime 3 Samus and how she should have acted for the whole game. Imagine if Andross made yet another appearance in Star Fox: Assault. Should Fox be surprised? No! Then imagine him showing no emotion after facing the true final boss, the Aparoid Queen.

In short, they stereotypicalized "our" Samus and made her into an underconfident crybaby who could break down at any moment. The cutscenes showing her past tried to show how much she had grown since, but only revealed she hadn't grown at all. (The final scene with Adam being the most telling part of this.)

So with this characterization issue in place, the upgrading system sort of makes sense. It was really refreshing to play a game with a familiar character, and have that character retaining all the gear I had struggled to collect in previous games of the series! But the execution didn't succeed. Why not invent new weaponry to collect in the game for when the old weaponry isn't adequate anymore? Again, given the new Samus persona it's not entirely unbelievable that she will only use one of her features if approved by Adam, but this still clashes with common sense and the remaining feeling of bitterness at having the bad-ass Samus replaced. "Electrical interference with the suit's (nanotechnological?) morphing systems" even sounds better, where by destroying various generators you unlock various powerups.

A fourth issue can again be divided into two parts, with the main part being game difficulty. The fights were overall way too easy, and dying meant nothing. You were reset back to the beginning of the section at worst, though a particularly annoying and useless part was in fighting the Metroid Queen near the end. When it's on its side, you shoot it, then it comes at you and you have to grapple into its mouth before it kills you. (Failing to do so in time restarts you back to a few seconds ago and you just have to shoot it again.) After you're in the stomach, you have enough time to charge up a Power Bomb to win, but failing again puts you back only a few seconds ago. The actual sequence was tricky, so I died, but dying didn't bear any fangs. The game therefore feels like a run through on invincibility mode. Even the fight with Phantoon, arguably the toughest of the fights, was still easy since the combat system has the very nifty dodging tactic. It makes the fights look awesome, and I really liked the combat system (including the finishing moves), but dodging most everything was just too easy. Maybe they should have added a slipping feature similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

With the game being so easy, it's no wonder it was so short, which is the related problem. It took me roughly 10-12 hours to not only complete, but 100% complete the game. And you know what? The "Metroid: Other M: The Movie" feature of all the cutscenes put together is 2 hours long. This makes the gameplay cut down to 8-10 hours. First, I don't necessarily have a problem with long cutscenes in games; I still really like Metal Gear Solid and I'd probably like MGS4 if I owned a PS3. Second, I don't have a problem with short games, and I think shortness can be for the betterment of a game sometimes. Take Portal. Short and hilarious, pretty dang easy but still really fun, "it doesn't overstay its welcome", and it doesn't cost as much. Metroid: Other M, on the other hand, is short and doesn't overstay its welcome, but it's a major Metroid game (not a Pinball spinoff) for the Wii and at full price. Fortunately I have a nice job so the money doesn't mean that much to me, but still, this was a $30 game at most, not a $50 game. I think gamers should expect at least 18 hours from a major game, and without passing that mark, no matter how close you get, it still leaves a somewhat bitter taste.

Again, I liked the game, but there were just some annoying aspects about it that stood out so blatantly, even after adjusting for the fact that this game had to fill Prime 3's shoes. Overall the experience is a good one though, and so I'm happy to have it in my collection and will most probably check out the Hard difficulty whenever I get around to beating all my games again.

Posted on 2010-09-26 by Jach

Tags: games, reviews


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