Review by: Devin Monnens
Original Publish Date: Pending
Final Rating: 85% – respectable, but not mind-blowing.
Let me open my review with these words: while Metroid: Other M is a fun game, it is unfortunately not the ultimate Metroid – that title, as far as I’m concerned, still belongs to Super Metroid. In all, I would rank the game about on-par with Metroid Fusion.
This is in many ways a sobering experience. With all the hype this game has generated and the teams involved, I was expecting to have my pants blown off at every step of the game. While there are certainly a few jaw-dropping moments (particularly towards the end), there are also a few places that left me scratching my head.
First off, how does it play? Despite what others have said, I felt it played quite smoothly, with some caveats. Samus is slick, speedy, and most of her moves are automated. Hold the directional pad while spin-jumping into a wall to wall-jump; press the + pad to charge up your Speed Booster; press attack when moving towards an enemy to initiate a Fatal Strike; roll through elegant Morph Ball puzzles that feel right out of Metroid Prime; and the Space Jump works like a dream, proving that you CAN do it right in 3D. While the speed is a little jolting at first (particularly when you’re trying to activate a control terminal), you get used to these controls in less than an hour. The only downside is it is sometimes a little difficult to tell when you can execute Overblasts and Fatal Strikes, and the only place the controls actually feel clunky are the over-the-shoulder sections. Here, the slow speed and constrained movement makes Samus feel like a tank. It’s disconcerting and frustrating.
Switching to first person is at first a little awkward, and it takes a little longer to get used to. The biggest thing to keep in mind is you always want to turn to face your enemies before going to first-person – otherwise, you will get back-attacked. Once you get that down, the rest is practice to quickly get back out of first-person mode. Missiles have an acceptable rate of fire, and the reload animations makes you feel like a badass. Unfortunately, it takes an agonizingly slow time to charge Super Missiles, a problem that becomes evident in the late stages of the game. There are also several real-time sequences where you have to look around the room in first person until you find some often obscure object. These feel the most constrained and I wish they had found a better way of doing them.
Exploration and Gameplay
The best point of the gameplay is the exploration. The Bottle Ship is a huge place, with gigantic rooms that take minutes to explore. The game is chock-full of nooks and crannies with classic Metroid puzzles that will get your ‘Metroid sense’ tingling, and the game often presents new areas through environmental storytelling, subtly setting mood with music and having enemies appear in short scripted animations. The exploration is punctuated with some intense fight scenes that are loads of fun. I just wish the Bottle Ship didn’t feel so much like BSL, but there are some really fantastic moments where you will gleefully say ‘No way! They put THIS in here!?’
MOM supports this exploration with a great sense of atmosphere. The audio is surprisingly good, and while it lacks in a profusion of hummable atmospheric tunes ala Super Metroid, the minimal audio feels more along the lines of the original Metroid, with Samus’ boots crunch through the terrain of the Bottle Ship much like they did in 1986. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many new songs that will stick with you outside the game, but the audio that’s there works perfectly.
Sadly, MOM is far too linear, actually feeling more blatant than Metroid Fusion. Adam Malkovich gives you your orders, and he likes to lock down doors, preventing you from exploring on your own. He also refuses to give you all the necessary items (such as Power Bombs) until the very end of the game, which hampers exploration and is very frustrating at times, feeling more like an artificial barrier to gameplay than something that makes logical sense. Ultimately, something you do NOT want in Metroid.
The only other issue I have with the gameplay comes down to how weak Samus is initially. There are several miniboss fights that take agonizingly long. Thankfully, these same enemies are defeated quite handily with Screw Attack or Power Bombs in the final stages of the game, but it just feels like a chore early on. There are also a few scripted sequences where a false move will result in instant-death (such as the infamous elevator sequence). These are incredibly frustrating because the sequences feel cheap rather than logical.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag. Samus is incredibly well animated, in some ways even better looking than Super Metroid. The artists put a lot of detail into her suit, with all the right touches in all the right places. They gave Samus lots of little details too, such as the echoes she makes when wall-jumping – think Alucard from Symphony of the Night. Most of the enemies have interesting designs, too, as well as some little details like monster eyes glowing in the dark. Unfortunately, there isn’t much variety to the enemies, which makes things less interesting. Some of the rooms have excellent architecture, such as the ribbed spikes of the Cryosphere and the display cases and laboratories in the Biosphere; it’s tiny details like this that make the Bottle Ship feel like a real place. MOM is definitely not on par with Metroid Prime 3 though; it could have made do with more detailed textures. I also wish the Wii could output 1080p to smooth out the jaggies like in the promo screenshots.
Cutscenes and Plot
The next thing you are probably wondering about are the cutscenes. Many fans worried there would be a million cutscenes and you couldn’t play the game for more than five minutes without interruptions. Well, Metroid ain’t Metal Gear, and honestly, there are only three parts of the game where there are a bunch of cutscenes – the very beginning, right smack in the middle, and the very end. You will literally play for hours without seeing much more than a short sequence. The cutscenes for the most part are well done. Samus is absolutely gorgeous, coming to life through D Rockets’ magic with a gleam to her armor and a glint in her eye like you’ve never seen before. However, the NPCs leave a lot to be desired, and some of Samus’ monologues feel redundant. As for the voice acting… Well, you’ll either like it or you won’t. The North American release has English, Spanish, and French with subtitles.
This brings me to the plot. Now Nintendo has been keeping a tight lid on the game’s narrative, and with good reason: the game has several huge mysteries that will keep propelling the curious forward. What is the true nature of the Bottle Ship? Just who is the blonde woman in the white lab coat? And what’s with that fuzzy white creature found in Sector 1…? Most of what has been revealed so far through trailers is in the first four hours or so of the game, but the answers to these major questions are revealed much deeper in. The game really goes on a nostalgia kick too, in some places leaving me gleefully open-mouthed, going, “Wow! I can’t believe they added THAT!!” Yoshio Sakamoto knows what fans want to see, and he delivers – just not with the kind of flourish we’d expect. Also, in order to set up some of these sequences, the plot throws a major curve ball that left me scratching my head. I mean, I really enjoy the fan service, but it’s just not done very logically!
So, the final verdict. Metroid: Other M is a fun game, but it feels like it could have used a bit more polish. It’s by no means the ultimate Metroid game, the be-all, end-all of the series, but it feels like a fairly solid outing, a fun romp through the Metroidverse. I don’t think it’s going to win any awards though, and this is really where the game is ultimately for the Metroid fans. The game is pretty meaty, with a good 8-12 hours if you just blow through it and another 3-5 hours for finding all the items. I cleared the game with 100% in about 15 hours.
- Third-person controls smooth
- Great Exploration
- Excellent atmosphere
- Surprises and fan service
- Plot is a little hokey
- Over-the-shoulder is clunky
- Some frustrating battles
- Constrained, linear gameplay