When Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo’s beefy president showed the brief teaser trailer for Metroid : Other M at 2009’s E3, I couldn’t help but elicit girlyish squeals. It looked like it would return the series – at least partially – to its 3rd person exploration roots, only with an adrenaline-fuelled kick in the junk, courtesy of Ninja Gaiden developers Team Ninja.
Now that I’ve had a chance to play through it, does it hold up – or were my squees for nought?
Metroid : Other M Kicks off right after the events of 1994’s Super Metroid on the SNES (and thus long after the “Prime Trilogy” you might be more acquainted with). Our heroine; the petit, but ass-kicking freelance bounty hunter Samus Aran is drawn to a large research ship called “ The Bottle Ship” after receiving a mysterious distress signal. There, she discovers a team of Galactic Federation soldiers, lead by her former commander Adam Malkovich, who have apparently responded to the same signal. Samus agrees to join up with them for the mission, begrudgingly taking orders from Malkovich. It’s not the only thing she’s discovered. For the first time in her gaming history, Samus has discovered her voice, shrugging off her traditional role as a cipher – and you’ll be hearing many of her wooden monologues throughout the game.
More than the main narrative though, Metroid : Other M is Samus’ story. It tells who she is, why she became a bounty hunter, and what haunts her thoughts – and why – as she hops from planet to planet. It’s a pity the writing and voice acting couldn’t be better, because as presented, the newly vocal Samus comes across as a bit whiney in the multitudes of cut-scenes that’ll break the game’s action. Thankfully the cut-scenes are both visually impressive and slick – but the fact that they’re rather melodramatic and unskippable, means you’ll care for them less than you should.
Metroid though, is about exploration and in this sense Other M is closer to a traditional Metroid experience than expected. The focus is very much on the Samus Aran’s isolation as she explores the abandoned, labyrinthine Bottle Ship. She will encounter swarms of alien creatures, leading to some exciting combat – and here it’s easy to see Team Ninja’s involvement. Combat is, for the most part, perfect. Team Ninja have made a daring – but inspired -Â choiceÂ regarding the controls. It’s an interesting control scheme in that you use the Wiimote held on it’s side – like a NES pad.
Using a d-pad to navigate through a 3D space in 3rd person view brings with it its problems – but they’re mostly accounted for in the use of some clever camera techniques and forced perspectives. There’s no target locking using this minimalist set-up, but the auto-aim feature is pretty capable. Combat can become quite intense when you’re swarmed by powerful enemies, the difficulty of which is alleviated by the ability to doge attacks by tapping a direction on the d-pad just before impact. this has the added benefit of charging your blaster to full destruction capacity, so you can use the opportunity to blast your the attacking enemy- like a reversal of sorts. It also comes in handy during the game’s many, varied boss sequences, most of which are unique and exhilarating. You can also execute flash ninja Gaiden inspired kill moves at certain opportunities, adding to the brutal feel of the combat.