Nukezilla Review: Metroid: Other M (Wii)
I’ve been a fan of all things Metroid ever since the days when “Justin Bailey” meant something. When I heard that Team Ninja were going to be co-developing a return-to-form side-scrolling Metroid game, my head spun. The team behind Ninja Gaiden, making a story-centric Metroid game? Surely this would be the new bar for which all future games in the series should strive!
Here we are, well past the launch of Metroid: Other M, and the game’s reception has been… mediocre, to be generous. Many have criticized the game for its poor writing, even worse voice acting, cookie-cutter gameplay and overall lack of soul, but what’s my take on it? As a longtime fan of the franchise, is it possible that I saw something in this title that other reviewers didn’t?
The first thing I’ll make note of is that for Team Ninja’s first foray into the Metroid universe, maybe starting off by recreating a scene from Super Metroid — hailed by many as the greatest game of all time — was a touch ambitious. Immediately, the player is forced to draw comparisons between this and the game it wishes so desperately it could be. You get a great taste of the game’s expertly-crafted cinematics, but you also get your first taste of what was my least favorite part of the game: the dramatization of Samus Aran.
One big thing Nintendo and Team Ninja could have done to improve this game would have been to keep Samus silent. Her drawn-out monologues and incessant insecurities do nothing to inspire the sense that she is a galaxy-bouncing bounty hunter who has literally seen worlds crumble before her eyes. Instead, you’re in control of a scared, unconfident, might-as-well-be adolescent with daddy issues. This serves to damage not only Samus’ character, but the entire series. If they make another Metroid game in this vein, they need to put someone else in charge of the story, and either ditch the voice actress entirely or hire one that doesn’t sound like she’s struggling to stay awake in the recording booth.
The gameplay in Other M begins as a bit of a mess. At the beginning of the game, when Samus finds a team from the Galactic Federation (led by the father figure she never had, Adam), she “decides” not to use any of her awesome weapons or abilities until Daddy authorizes them (which, of course, he always waits to do until you’re in clear mortal danger without them). There’s no suit malfunction, you don’t lose these abilities, it’s just decided on a whim that they won’t be used out of respect (?) for the mission. I think. I don’t know, maybe there was a really good reason hidden in there somewhere and I was just too deafened by the terrible voice acting to notice it. It’s just ridiculous to imagine that Samus decides to willingly run at half-speed through all water-filled areas just because she didn’t have explicit permission to turn on her Gravity Suit.
The game’s control scheme is just pretentious, too. I’m not sure whose decision this was, but forcing the player to twist the remote around every time they want to fire a missile is just ludicrous. It would have been nice to use the nunchuk for movement, but even without that, missiles could have easily been fired with the unused B trigger. This really is a step backward from the fantastic Metroid Prime series’ controls. When you’ve got a game whose predecessors were held on such a high pedestal — largely in part to their perfectly-honed controls — allowing a loose, imprecise system to act as the title’s backbone is ballsy, and in my eyes, stupid.
Aural and kinetic issues aside, the game’s atmosphere just seems off. The whole thing takes place in a derelict space station, but the sense of isolation that makes a Metroid game what it is just isn’t there. You run into these idiots from the Federation every half hour, and they’re always making some boneheaded decision that forces the story forward (and assuredly pushes Adam to authorize the use of a new weapon or ability). This really doesn’t feel like it was written as an entry in the Metroid universe at all.
It’s not until about halfway through the game that it starts actually getting fun, but when it does it becomes a passable action-adventure game with hints of Metroid scattered about. It never reaches the level of any other game in the series that I’ve played (all of them), but I did genuinely have fun playing it for a few hours near the end. There’s a pretty interesting plot twist at the climax of the game, as well, which isn’t enough to redeem the rest of the story but is enough to end the game on a sufficiently dramatic note.
After the end of the game, you’re given the opportunity to go back to the space station to retrieve [REDACTED]. I’m kind of indifferent to this section of the game — it doesn’t really add much to the story, but it does give completionists the chance to collect any items they missed. It also throws in the best boss battle of the game, whose optionality is a damn tragedy.
Looking back on Metroid: Other M, it’s not a bad game overall, it just has some serious weak points that keep it from coming within a mile of the greatness that is so consistently achieved by the other games in the series. It’s a disappointment through and through, but one that I don’t necessarily regret playing. Despite the complaints I have about this game, it starts to redeem itself in its twilight hours, but never enough to undo the damage done by the terrible writing, voice work and the developers’ overconfidence.