Friday, 24 September 2010

Game Review – Metroid Other M

Format: Wii

There is little doubt in my critic’s minds of Metroid’s place in history as one of the most iconic video game franchises of all time. Samus Aran, the deadly female protagonist has gone from one critically acclaimed title, to the next, each bringing something new to not only the series, but to the whole of the video gaming world. Super Metroid on the SNES is widely acknowledged as one of the best side-scrolling adventures of all time and inspired countless games in that genre including such franchises as Castlevania. With a brief hiatus from side scrolling, Samus took up a first-person shooter role on the Nintendo Gamecube and Wii with the Prime series. These too were an outstanding success, but to some like myself, did not quite feel like a true Metroid game. Other M continues directly from where Super Metroid ended and as a result, goes back to the roots of what most consider being Metroid at it’s absolute finest. Side scrolling action is once again the mechanic of choice in this experience, coupled hand-in-hand with terrific and fast paced close-combat action, a dramatic and well told story that dwells deep into the protagonist, while at the same time re-inventing the series, making it fresh and exciting while still showing off hints of what made Super Metroid so excellent. This could very well be the best action game on the Wii to date.

The story in Other M is a huge aspect of the package, simply because story has never been a strong point of concern for the series. For the first time, Samus has been given a voice to express her emotions, this is also accompanied by many flash-backs that allow you to grow attached to the female lead as she explains her relationship with characters you meet along the way, the Metroid parasites and her fears as she progresses deeper into the galactic mess she finds herself in. Each cut-scene is beautiful to look at, especially on the Nintendo Wii, but at times, feel a little drawn out. There is no option to skip them, but there is no reason why you should want to because they are all so dramatically told and all add something new to the story. If a complaint was to be made, perhaps they are a little too long, sometimes the fast paced action can be halted and almost abruptly stopped by one elongated cinematic. Regardless, this is of little concern because you will grow so fond of Samus and the Intergalactic Agents you meet on the abandoned space ship, that you will want to watch each and every segment.

As with all great action games, their strength lies in the combat. Other M implements the Wiimote in a very unique and intuitive way, allowing you to control Samus with the D-pad by holding the Wiimote sideways, shooting with the 1 button and jumping with the 2 button. The real creativity however, comes in the ability to flip the remote to point at the screen and as a result, switching you into a first-person view mode where you can fire Samus’ missiles. Most boss battles and larger enemies will require damaging your enemy enough and then having good timing to allow yourself a few seconds to go into first-person and finish them off with a missile. The draw-back of this system is Samus cannot move while in first-person, but she can still dodge if you flick the D-pad when something comes at you. This removes you from first-person and Samus performs a ‘sense-move’ the game’s dodging mechanic, giving you time to flip the pad back to the horizontal position and try again. This proves to be very smooth and a lot of fun to play around with.

Unfortunately, the sense-move mechanic itself is a little busted in Other M, almost no enemy will hit you if you’re quick with the D-pad, flicking it in any direction as an enemy attacks you will allow Samus to dodge out of the way. There is no timing factor so you can spam the D-pad and you will almost 90% of the time dodge everything that comes your way. Even if you sense-move into an enemy, you still don’t get hurt. On top of this, if you sense-move and hold the 1 button, you immediately charge up a power beam, so continuously dodging and unleashing a powerful beam counter-attack from your phazer makes the game quite simple once you master that simple concept. What is super cool is Samus has the ability to finish off enemies with a special physical move that is unique to each monster if she runs into an enemy with a fully charged beam, these make the fighting segments look and feel fantastic. Considering Team Ninja helped design the game’s fighting mechanics, the guys who made one of the most infuriatingly difficult next-gen experiences, Ninja Gaiden, it is very difficult to believe that they didn’t make this dodge ability harder to implement. To balance this out however, Samus does take a considerable amount of damage if you do get hit, that suit isn’t as powerful defensively as you would like, especially when bosses get a hold of you, if you don’t learn their patterns quickly you could find yourself in a heap of trouble.

Other M does very well to make you feel nostalgic towards Super Metroid, but it does omit a few key concepts from the series. The first of which is enemies do not drop health, missiles and bombs. Samus recharges her health at health and save stations and for some unknown and ridiculous reason, you have the ability to constantly reload your missiles by holding the Wiimote horizontally and holding the A button to perform a concentration. This identical concentration can also be executed to regain a tank of health when you are on your final segment of life. Normally however if you get to that point, you will find yourself in a fast paced battle and there won’t be enough time to concentrate, regardless, with skill you can avoid death. Missile tanks, accell chargers and energy tanks are all scattered across the map, just begging to be found, because they are pinpointed on the map. One of the biggest traits of Super Metroid was the idea of exploration and finding secret rooms by randomly bombing walls and so forth. Well here things are made ten times easier with all items actually being shown off on your radar. This definitely ruins the experience somewhat, but it is understandable as most items you won’t be able to access without power ups that you gain later in the game so you will have to come back and as a result, you are still exploring the vast space station. Speaking of power-ups, no longer are the days of the stereotypical ‘’oh no I seem to have lost my weapons and abilities at the beginning of the game, I need to go and find them!’’ Samus actually has all of her abilities ready to use, but she feels the need to hold back until given permission by the overseer of the mission, Alex. Horrendously irritating are the moments when you realise there is little to no reason why you shouldn’t be able to use your grapple beam to get over a certain ledge, but alas you must traverse the long way because Alex has not issued the order. There is even a section where you run through lava and almost die, after all that, Alex authorizes the use of the suit that protects you from fire, thanks Alex, nice one!

All of that side, the game plays at a furious pace, with boss battles coming in at just the right time with weapons and abilities being distributed at the exact right times to avoid boredom. Just when you think you’re done, another section becomes available for you to explore because of a new power-up. Due to this, it is sad that the game seems to be over all too quickly, most people say the game lasts between 10 – 12 hours, well I clocked in at 8:30:00 with a 60% completion ratio. Once finished, the game allows you to go back and find all the hidden items and areas where you will come across more enemies, a secret boss and the unlock for Hard mode. On top of that, a Gallery video mode is also available after completion that joins all the game’s cinematic together into one long movie that deserves praise in it’s own right. We must take into account that it is a Nintendo Wii title and as a result, this amount of content is actually quite credible.

Overall, Metroid Other M is a fantastic addition to an already legendary franchise. It takes the old and intertwines it with new ideas that makes Other M a joy to play through and be part of Samus Aran’s adventure. A few particular omissions and the game being a tad easy let Other M down somewhat, but with the inclusion of a Hard mode and some sticky situations thrown in every once in a while, it is a thoroughly entertaining and action packed adventure, the best of it’s kind on the Nintendo Wii.

Technical presentation – 8.0
Graphics – 9.0
Game-play – 9.0
Replay value – 8.0

Final score – 8.5 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl