Thursday, May 17, 2012

[Review] Metroid: Other M

Before I start this review, it should go without saying that the Metroid series is one of my all-time favorites. I remember playing Metroid on the NES way back in the day, and loving every second of it. The exploration, the new, alien-like world and enemies, the sweet ass upgrades….

Pictured above: Sweet ass upgrades.
I’ve played just about every Metroid game, even rom hacks, and thoroughly enjoyed every single one of them. Super Metroid will hands down be my favorite forever. However, a new Metroid game is out! Words can’t describe how excited I am…

….to be done with this game!

Didn't see that coming...
 Yes, it’s a bad Metroid game. There’s never been a bad Metroid game. I prefer some over others definitely, but none of them would I describe as awful. I can disappointingly say that this game is awful.
Where exactly? Well, let’s break it down. This is the first attempt to flesh out Samus as a character, and it’s all downhill. The game’s introductory sequence is awesome and promising; recounting the last battle with Mother Brain in Super Metroid. It’s a nice nostalgia trip. Then you’re greeted with the game itself.
First, you control Samus by putting the Wiimote sideways. 1 and 2 shoot Samus’ beam and make Samus jump, respectively. It works, and isn’t a bad scheme when you see the way the game is presented. In a pseudo 3D style, the game still sticks to 2D elements. You might think, “HOW THE HELL does that work? The game is already bad!!” It works by being overly simple. You shoot in a direction, and Samus auto aims to her targets. Again, very simple…

 First thing you will notice is that you can’t switch to missiles. How is this achieved? By twisting the Wiimote back around, and pointing at the screen. The game goes into a first person mode, and it’s there you can fire missiles. I can’t even begin to explain how clunky and retarded this is. Not only can you not move in this mode, but in heated and intense battles, YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR SHIT LIKE THIS. Not to mention, you have to use the B trigger to lock on to the enemy first, THEN use A to fire the missile. It’s slow, and it subtracts from the otherwise acceptable combat.

This mode is also used for a variety of things in the game. You use it to scan the environment, which I’m using the term “scan” lightly because, unlike the Prime series where EVERYTHING could be scanned, this game reduces it to linearity for the sole purpose of continuing. For example, an hour into the game, I’m greeted by a cutscene which I accidentally skip, and then go into scan mode. Can’t move. Can’t do anything. So what am I supposed to do?

Turns out, I’m supposed to be scanning for something in the area, which happened to be a puddle of green liquid. I call these moments “pixel hunts” because that’s exactly what they are. You’ll swing the Wiimote all over looking at shit until FINALLY you get a confirmation that you’ve found something. I call it pixel hunt too because even if you’re on the object you need to scan, you need to be precisely on a certain spot with the cursor for it to register. These moments break up the intensity and do NOT belong at all. It’s a gimmick to add more gameplay but ends up being frustrating and only to move the shitty story along.

I’m saving the story for last, so lets focus on the graphics and gameplay some more. Graphically, the game is pretty great. Samus animates fluidly, as do her enemies, and the beams look awesome. The hud portrays everything quite nicely, and the CG cutscenes are gorgeous. However, the game’s settings are very subpar compared to the Prime series, and even Super Metroid. The Bottleship, the game’s main setting, is boring and generic. A lot of corridors look the same, and even when you get to go other locales in the ship, like the pyrosphere and snowsphere, they’re still lifeless. However, there are a few awe inspiring moments, like coasting a morph-ball passage along the side of the ship and seeing the whole galaxy in the background.
The gameplay is another thing though, and it’s here where story and gameplay go together, and the results break the game completely. There’s a move called the “sensemove”, and with it you can beast through this game without dying once. It’s done by tapping a direction on the D-Pad right before Samus is hit. The problem is, you can mash the D-Pad and NEVER be hit because this move requires no timing. Sure you can be late, but you will find it so easy to execute that never will you fail to use it. Along with this, you get an instant charge on your beam from executing the sensemove. This makes combat a repetitive “dodge, shoot charged beam until enemy dies” circle that continues the whole game, and is used on bosses as well. That’s ridiculous. The Prime series had bosses that required some pattern recognition to best, and clever uses of beams and visors to overcome. Other M however, you spam the routine “sensemove, charge beam” until the boss dies. It’s not fun, and it reduces big bosses like Phantoon to child’s play.

 Possibly the biggest staple in Metroid history is the way you upgrade the main heroine Samus Aran. Adding new abilities and beams is so rewarding, and it helps the gameplay by letting you access new areas once you’ve found said abilities. They’re cool to look at, they make you feel badass, and they add to the fun. Other M fucks this up with it’s plot device and, you know, IT FUCKING SHOWS YOU WHERE EVERY UPGRADE IS ON THE MAP. WHY???? Part of what made the games great was exploring every inch of it, finding powerups and growing your arsenal. It felt good finding stuff. Now, it’s in plain sight, and it’s a matter of spending time to get it.
In the game, you meet Adam Malkovich, Samus’ friend and father figure. The first thing he does when you meet him is be a dick, and tells you you can’t use any of your upgrades. That’s right…. you have everything to start with, but can’t use any of it until this asshole says so. Therefore, you’re exploration is marred by this system. You’ll pass many doors and passageways that you can’t open, and the whole time you will ask “WHY THE FUCK NOT? SCREW ADAM, SUPER MISSILE TIME!” Another part in the game, you seriously traverse a good 5 minutes of the pyrosphere without the Varia Suit, losing health until finally, Adam gives you permission to use the suit. What. The. Fuck. That doesn’t even make sense! It wouldn’t have been as bad if Adam authorized the use of it before this segment. “Hey Samus, high temperatures up ahead, better use your Varia Suit.” But no. In this same section, you encounter grapple beam points, and instead of authorizing the use of the grapple beam, Adam nonchalantly tells you to turn around, and take the long way around. WHY IS THERE A REASON FOR THIS?

Because I fucking said so.
 Story wise, it fucks everything up. People almost die because of this. There’s a part where one of the crew you’re with is getting attacked, but he’s all the way up on a platform. The only way up is to grapple beam your ass up there. 5 seconds into the scene, Adam gives permission to use it. The thing is, if you aren’t quick enough, he dies, and it’s game over! If I had the fucking beam ready BEFORE HAND, this stupid reason to game over wouldn’t even exist!

I mentioned earlier this game attempts to flesh Samus out as a character. It’s all wrong though…. When you played Super Metroid and the following games, did you think Samus was a whiny, wimpy little bitch? Of course not. Most people though she was a man, a clever easter egg. I thought she was badass destroying Mother Brain and the space pirates. This game makes her out to be everything opposite of that.
I’ll start with the fact she is submissive to Adam, and obeys his orders no matter what. You could be staring at an energy tank, wishing to use your grapple beam to get it, but you can’t, because Adam said so motherfucker, and Samus has no objections. It’s so stupid.

Our badass, Samus Aran
 Second is the Ridley fight. By this point in the Metroid timeline, Samus has killed Ridley like 5 times. So why the FUCK does she cower like a bitch and choke up when she sees him here? If you’ve killed him 5 times how could you be that afraid of him? The scene goes completely overboard with Samus as a character, and it makes you end up hating her. Again, because she cowers, a friend dies. This is not the Samus I know. Samus would have shoved her arm cannon up Ridley’s ass, fired a super missile, and shinesparked out of there with said friend safely.

The plot isn’t groundbreaking by any means. The Galactic Federation is creating Space Pirates and Metroids, and controlling them with a self-built Mother Brain. Yay. The subplot revolves around a traitor within Samus’ group, who she boringly and laughably calls “the Deleter”. I find this subplot to be more interesting, but the game never tells you who it is. They just forget about it. The third is Samus’ monotone monologues, in which she describes everything as it happens, and her boring opinion on it. When she talks you just want her to shut up, and that’s not what Samus deserves.

There you have it. My favorite series unfortunately has a bad game in it. I really wanted to enjoy Other M, but the boring combat, laughably bad story, and inexcusable design choices make this game worth missing out on. I think Nintendo should just make a Metroid game in the same style as Shadow Complex on the 360. 2D, but with 3D rendering. They can add all the abilities back. Shinesparking, and charging shinesparks, grappling, the whole nine… Just please, don’t give Samus any more character. I like her the way I picture her, thanks.

Oh yes.....

Read the picture-less version on my tumblr!