The Metroid Prime trilogy that stretched across two consoles is regarded as one of the best in Nintendo's history. With Metroid: Other M, we're seeing a franchise reboot, a brand new imagining of Metroid that combines 2D and 3D gameplay.
There's a lot of differences this time around--some we liked, some we could do without. Read through for our take on Samus' latest adventure in space.
We were anxious to get our hands on the latest tale in the Metroid saga, mostly because of the radically different direction developer Team Ninja decided to take the franchise. Other M shares a lot of its core with 2D side-scrolling NES and SNES titles while being able to still keep things fresh. After just a few minutes with the game, it's abundantly clear how heavily Metroid influenced games like the Xbox Live Arcade game Shadow Complex.
Other M follows Samus and the events that take place after Super Metroid. If you're at all interested in the mythos that surrounds the female lead, you're in luck. The narrative aspect in Other M is unlike any we've ever seen in a Metroid game. Cut scenes are beautifully animated and rendered with tons of background information about Samus' early years. That said, these movies are pretty long and, more upsettingly, impossible to skip. Though we wish we had the option to do so, it is interesting to finally hear our main character speak for the first time--in another milestone for the franchise, Other M is the first game to feature a full voice over cast.
In terms of actual gameplay, those familiar with Metroid's early platforming years will feel immediately at home, with recognizable enemies, weapons, and sound bytes. There's a healthy amount of exploration and satisfying discovery in each world--the foundation to any Metroid game.
While most of the action takes place in a third-person view, Samus can enter first-person mode when the Wii remote is pointed at the screen. This mode allows for important hints to be uncovered as well as firing missiles. Unfortunately, entering this mode tends to break up the action, resulting in a clumsy race to reorient the remote to the right spot.
Overall, we had a blast with Metroid: Other M. It's a much-needed change of pace to the Metroid franchise that's worth the price of admission. If you've yet to play a Metroid title, this one might be the one to try because of its accessibility. Besides, odds are you've played a game influenced by the series at one point or another.
More of a series reboot than a sequel, Metroid: Other M is a rare idea in gaming in that it reinvents the Metroid franchise one more time after successfully showing us the 3D world of the Metroid Prime trilogy. It's also a retro step backward, in more ways than one: the game is a sequel to the SNES classic Super Metroid, and is controlled exclusively using the Wiimote without the nunchuck, which means it has no analog controls.
Action-focused and set across long corridors and platforms that cross over between 3D and 2D, the game largely involves controlling Samus from a third-person perspective and a first-person view that's triggered by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. It's an innovative idea, but not one that often feels necessary. The rest of the standard action is controlled via the directional pad, and this gets problematic; since the levels allow 3D movement unlike New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it's likely players will end up trying to work diagonal motions that just aren't as easy to pull off as on an analog stick.
Graphically, Metroid: Other M takes a step back from the Metroid Prime series, and feels more like the sort of downloadable budget games we've seen on the Xbox 360 and PS3, like Shadow Complex. Though the New Super Mario Bros. Wii felt like a refreshing and fun way to re-engage the Mario series, it seems like Nintendo has tried to apply the same formula to Metroid: Other M with lesser success. More disconcerting to us is the retro trend of Nintendo Wii games this holiday. Donkey Kong Country and Kirby 2D-style titles are also on their way before the end of the year. Retro can be great fun, but too much retro (in this case, sold as a disc at the same price as any other mainstream game) might end up giving Wii users a feeling of burnout. Metroid: Other M is a good game; it's just not a great one.