Metroid can be found among the greatest and most popular of Nintendo’s franchises. Since 1985, the Metroid series has seen almost a dozen games and with a few exceptions, Nintendo have released at least one Metroid game on every system. Starring the mysterious protagonist Samus Aran, Metroid games are successful due to a couple of game-defining ingredients like massive open worlds, exploration and upgradeable equipment. In 2010, Nintendo took a gamble with their release of Metroid: Other M by allowing a different team of developers to create the game and changing some core elements. And though it’s still a quality game, with fast-paced combat, great graphics and responsive controls, it may have forever altered the future of the Metroid franchise.
Samus Aran is an intriguing character as well as a notorious warrior clad in impressive armour. The experienced bounty hunter lives the life of an adventurer, defeating foes and collecting bounties around the galaxy. Samus has established herself as a powerful and mysterious woman (this should be common knowledge by now) and underneath that armour we find a warrior who does her job silently and keeps to herself. That all has changed now. Nintendo have decided to lift the clouds covering her past and give us a look into her personality. As a game, Metroid: Other M puts its focus on story more than anything. But is this really what we want?
Other M starts not unlike other [i[Metroid games. After the fantastic introduction and a tutorial, you will join Samus as she is cruising in her ship and receives a distress signal coming from a Federation space vessel, a so called “Bottle Ship”. As she docks to investigate, she meets up with a special Galactic Federation unit she was part of before becoming a bounty hunter. Samus steps outside her comfort zone as she joins the team to investigate mysterious events happening on the ship. Under command by her former commanding officer Adam Malkovich, she sets out to unravel the mysteries of the Bottle Ship.
During the course of the game, Samus is sent out by Adam to complete various missions. She does work alone in this game, but every now and then she interacts with members of the squad or people she meets on the Bottle Ship. As Samus progresses through missions, the game is regularly interrupted by flashbacks and events from Samus’ past are played out in cutscenes. While these look stunning, they do interrupt the flow of the game. Eventually the cinematics begin to feel like a soap opera in space. During the game Samus will interact with more and more characters, which include a befriended generic black guy from the Galactic Federation special unit and a mysterious young woman known as “MB”. However, as Samus’ relationship with Adam is elaborated on and Samus opens her mouth and starts speaking in a whiny, monotone voice, you’ll probably want your silent protagonist back.
If anything, Other M is a looker; especially the surroundings look impressive overall. While, some areas are dark and lifeless, the different sectors present a varied array of landscapes and add to the typical Metroid atmosphere. As we can expect from a Wii game, the texture work isn’t the best, but other visual aspects such as the lighting and character models make up for that. In the audio department, everything is up to par. The soundtrack is very decent if lacking any new classic tunes. Instead we hear some well remixed pieces from previous games, which rarely feel out of place. The sound effects aren’t remarkable either, but do their job well.
Metroid: Other M is traditional in the sense that you explore dark corridors in uncharted sectors and battle a broad variety of enemies and encounter some impressive boss fights. Like any Metroid game, you can upgrade your arsenal by collecting pick-ups that increase your energy level, missile count and charge speed. The game’s pace makes for quick progress through the different sectors. And while the game lacks energy and weapon power-ups, there’s always a navigation room around the corner. Here you can save your game, and recharge your ammo and energy level. Your map will also be expanded.
The game is played with a single Wii Remote. By holding it sideways you control Samus and send her running and shooting through corridors in 3D, but with a forced perspective and no camera control. The simple controls (directional pad to move, 1 to shoot, 2 to jump) work really well. Shooting baddies is easy as you are continuously aided by auto-aim. Purists will cry foul, but this helps the pacing of the game significantly. Additionally, you can change to first person mode by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen. This mode helps you to look around to find hidden stuff, but it’s also the only mode in which you can fire your missiles. A downside to this mode is that you are unable to walk The challenge is to find the right balance between the two modes and you’ll get the hang of it pretty soon.
The gameplay is also enhanced by allowing you to execute additional moves. The biggest and most successful addition it the SenseMove. By tapping the directional pad in any direction before you would get hit by an enemy’s attack, you use the thrusters on your Power Suit to perform a quick dodge. When you press 1 while performing the move, you’ll be rewarded with a fully charged weapon when the move is completed. Learning the SenseMove is vital to your survival. It’s also a fun move to pull off.
There are several other moves to master as well. You can jump on certain enemies and blast them in the head with a charged shot to do some heavy damage. One of the coolest moves is the finisher. When you’ve damaged an enemy enough to stun him, you can perform a very satisfying finishing move to get rid of him. Other moves include various sorts of counterattacks. Next to the SenseMove, another important addition is Concentration. When you tilt the Wii Remote upwards and hold A, you will recharge your missiles. And when your energy level is below a certain point, you can use Concentration to replenish a limited amount of energy.
Samus is feared for her arsenal, but you won’t find many surprises in the weapon selection -- most weapons are taken from previous games. Actually, at the start of the game you’re fully loaded with weapons, which is unlike your traditional Metroid game. But here’s the catch: you can’t use a special weapon like a Super Missile or Power Bomb until you are authorised to do so! That’s right, because Samus is on a mission with the Galactic Federation, she has decided to not use her weapons until she has permission. Though this seems highly illogical, you can’t really blame the designers for this approach. Collecting weapons and upgrades is one of the series’ staples after all.
Other M is a fairly lengthy game; it takes plenty of hours to get through all the sectors. But when you defeat the final boss and see the credits roll, you are not done yet. Firstly, defeating the final boss unlocks Threatre Mode and Gallery Mode. The first allows you to rewatch all the cinematics (if you really want to), the second presents you with all sorts of concept art from the game, which is pretty nice. Without spoiling too much, there’s awesome extra content waiting for you after the credits and there’s also a Hard Mode to unlock.