I am a huge fan of Nintendo’s Metroid series dating back to the original game on the Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid-’80s. I am also a huge fan of Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden series on the XBox and XBox 360. Thus, when I heard that Nintendo and Team Ninja were collaborating on a new Metroid game for Wii, I was excited. Though I was disappointed that the first-person style of the Metroid Prime series was being scrapped, I figured a return to the series’ side-scrolling roots might be a good thing.
Unfortunately, my initial disappointment was the tip of the iceberg. Metroid: Other M is not only the worst Metroid game, it’s a bad game period.
The Metroid series has always been short on plot. The protagonist, Samus Aran, never speaks. She doesn’t need to talk – she’s a bounty hunter who’s out to kick alien tail. Nintendo and Team Ninja have changed that. They managed to take a bad-ass bounty hunter and make her a petulant, whiny brat. Samus now does things like give a “thumbs-down” to show displeasure with authority. It’s not just her childish actions; most of the game is spent listening to Samus do monotone voiceovers where she sounds bored and emotionless. It was like listening to the female version of Orlando Jones in Office Space when he pretended to be a crackhead to sell magazines.
Another staple of the Metroid series is exploration. As you progress, you access new weapons and skills that allow you to access previously inaccessible areas. This requires extensive backtracking and visiting areas over and over again. Most fans love the exploration element of the series; however, that element has been scrapped too. Granted, there are areas that can’t be accessed initially, but there’s no real incentive to backtrack when you get what’s necessary to get the items. And, in a completely idiotic move, instead of acquiring key powerups like new beams and armor from boss enemies, Samus has access to all of her weapons from the outset. Samus simply chooses not to use them until her military buddy (who plays a heavy role in the melodrama that ensues) authorizes her to do so. On one hand, I understand that Nintendo wanted to do something different because in every game, Samus has to acquire the same weapons over and over again. It’s silly – what does she do with all that stuff? Why doesn’t she keep any of it? But this move is idiotic and makes no sense. By way of example, Samus doesn’t activate her heat suit when she is in a lava stage because this guy who really isn’t her boss but she obeys anyway hasn’t given authorization, so your health drops quickly. It’s flat-out moronic.
Story aside, the gameplay is good with one glaring issue. The game is played using the Wii remote, held on its side. There’s not a lot to the controls, Samus autotagets the nearest enemy. Where the controls suck is the first-person mode. You have to point the remote at the screen to switch to first-person mode to shoot missiles. This is clunky and is complicated by your inability to move while in first person mode. Going back and forth between the two modes, particularly during boss fights, is frustrating. Speaking of bosses, this is another area where Other M fails. The Metroid series, particularly the Prime trilogy, features memorable, challenging boss battles. Such is not the case here, with one exception where Samus faces an old nemesis, but even that experience is shortchanged by Samus cowering in fear. Not what you want to see in a bad-ass.
And the ending is horrible. There is no final, epic boss battle. You don’t even see the titular creatures until the very end of the game. The end consists of a missile shoot-out that’s as exciting as pointing and clicking with a remote can be. You have the option to continue the game after the main story and you have access to weapons not previously available, which is stupid – why put them in the game at all? Frankly, I was so angry at the way the main story ended that I didn’t finish the rest of the experience, although there’s not much to say – there’s a few missiles and a boss battle. Why wasn’t that part of the main story? Why tack on a pointless epilogue where you access weapons that should have been part of the main game?
The environment is also not as memorable as other entries in the series. The game takes place on a spaceship that, aside from its general areas, has three distinct regions – a jungle, a lava area and a snow area. None of the areas are large and none have the lasting appeal of other areas in the series. It’s a shame, because the graphics are very good for a Wii game and the cutscene movies look really good. But, as Other M proves, it takes more than a shiny coat of paint to make a good game.
As for the sound and music, I didn’t find any of it memorable. There’s the familiar Metroid music and it’s cool to hear a remixed version of the original NES theme music at the beginning, but that’s it. As with all Wii titles, Other M suffers from not having stereo support.
I was excited for Other M but the product did not live up to the hype. Hopefully, Nintendo is smart enough to learn from its mistake and dump Team Ninja, whom I suspect was largely responsible for this mess. Unless you are a die-hard Metroid fan and must have this game, I wouldn’t waste your money. For less than what Other M costs, buy Metroid Prime Trilogy instead and get three five-star games for less than the price of one crappy game. Also, download the original Metroid and Super Metroid from the Virtual Console and relive the classics. — Pedro Moreno
Rating: 1.5 Little Goombas out of 5