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Reviewed: Metroid: Other M
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: October 3rd, 2010
Page: 2

When the announcement was originally made that Nintendo had hired Team Ninja to work on a new Metroid title - one not featuring the first-person-dominant Metroid Prime storyline - gamers cheered. The classic side-scrolling adventures had long ago been relegated to the portable consoles, with classic competition Mega Man and Castlevania putting forth strong showings on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Nintendo had even pushed out a demo of Metroid Prime: Hunters with the DS to help sell the console.

Team Ninja, alas, seems to have not quite known what type of game they were trying to make. Different sections of the game, and a confusing if not downright counterintuitive control scheme, make a strong case that they started designing the game by breaking the studio into four teams, each team handling a different element, and then came back when each team was "done" to try to bolt them together.

The result is an absolute mess.

For about 45% of the gameplay, gamers are treated to side-scrolling corridors. It's all fine and good, and this is where the game really tends to shine; when it looks like a 3D rendered, 2D world upgrade to Metroid mechanics. For another 45% of the gameplay, Samus is a little more "free" to roam, with the camera locked into a perspective from somewhere behind her shoulder (assuming she's moving forward). It doesn't help that gamers are expected to control 3D motion with a D-pad in this mode, nor does it really help that in many of these sequences where players are exploring a new area, they're running towards the camera - not precisely conducive to seeing incoming enemies. In these two modes, players are limited to running around or tapping the D-pad to dive-roll and avoid attacks, while firing beams, charged beam shots, and the occasional small bomb. Certain enemies can't actually be defeated without a precisely timed shot to stagger them followed by running at them with another shot charged, setting off a minor "cutscene" kill. While rewarding at first, these actually get annoying pretty quickly - especially when, again counterintuitively, the Screw Attack will take most of these previously annoyingly tough enemies down in just one hit.

For the other 10% of the gameplay, including anytime the player wants to do something simple like fire a missile, the player is switched over to an interface that resembles the Metroid Prime visor interface, using the Wiimote pointed at the screen to target, but with an added insult of being completely unable to move from the spot. Given that the rest of the time, Samus is in duck-dodge-roll mode, planting for long periods is rather silly. The visor interface is also used in a couple of "hunt the pixel" scenes that exist seemingly only for the purpose of triggering a cutscene, but that really do nothing but make for an annoyance since accidentally bringing the Wiimote a bit too high or low means missing the trigger entirely and having to keep searching.

Also featuring are a few long, annoying cutscenes that probably will make a number of gamers very angry at what Team Ninja did to Samus's "tough girl" persona, and the addition of a fake ending with the option to then go back and "re-explore" the rest of the game to reach 100% completion; many of the game's items aren't even available until after due to the game refusing to let players use Power Bombs, and the exploration phase afterwards seems downright silly.

For storyline, Team Ninja got one thing right, and a whole host of others wrong. The storyline follows Samus after destroying planet Zebes in Super Metroid; Samus has recovered, been set loose by the Galactic Federation again, and begins following a distress beacon to a "bottle ship" research facility that, it eventually turns out, was trying to re-create in a controlled setting the conditions of planet Zebes in order to create bioweapons using the recovered splattered DNA that had been cleaned from Samus's suit - including Metroids, Space Pirates, and more. Rather than have the player have to hunt down suit upgrades, TN instead had the leader of a team of GF commandoes, Samus's old mentor Adam, order her not to use most of her arsenal till he gives approval - the upgrades all pop in at the storyline-appropriate moments, save for the Super Bomb, which isn't available at all until the "after game" exploration. So they get some small kudos for actually not breaking belief on the idea that Samus strips her arsenal down to nothingness after each game; it's too bad that the rest of the story, up to and including the restored AI-version of Mother Brain, simply can't live up to previous Metroid storyline force in trying to hold up a game with bad controls.

Graphically, of course the game is stunning. The enemies are all solidly created, the environments are all what one would imagine the re-creations of some classic stages would feel like. In a real, bizarre twist, very few Metroids are in the game at all - the fight against a Queen Metroid is pretty much all gamers are going to get, and that fight's relatively cursed with that annoyingly painful over-the-shoulder camera and need to rely on the "lock in place" missile firing mode.

Nintendo has also released a statement admitting that, yes, there is a game-breaking bug that will prevent the game from finishing. Nintendo's solution has been to ask gamers to mail in their savegames on an SD card to be repaired.

I'm sure there are plenty of die-hard Metroid fans out there who will buy Metroid: Other M anyways. For gamers who want to experience it just once, rental is definitely an option - it's short enough to complete in a single weekend, easily. If you're looking to introduce a friend to the series, however, your best bet is to point them straight to the Wii downloadable versions of the originals - though sadly, Metroid II: The Return of Samus isn't yet available for virtual console.

Added:  Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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