Metroid Retrospective Finale: Other M
by Ryan C.
Welcome to the fourth and final instalment of the Metroid retrospective. This article is sure to cause a lot of controversy as I am going to focus on Other M. Now, I am going to say straight up that I love Other M, despite the flaws that it unfortunately has. While I do love it, I am not blind and have my problems with it that I am sure most of you can guess. I will discuss what I enjoy about it, what I have trouble with, and my the final word about the franchise as a whole.
The history of Other M started when Yoshio Sakamoto was interested in creating a new Metroid title for the Wii, but he knew it would be difficult, as his personal team did not have experience in 3D environments. He knew an outside party would be his best bet, and thus approach Yosuke Hayashi of Team Ninja for collaboration. The development team was dubbed Project M, including Team Ninja for 3D modelling and coding, Sakamoto and a few higher ups from R&D1 to do the planning, and D-Rockets for the CG cutscenes. The end result was a game high on action and story, yet lacked some traditional Metroid staples.
I cannot praise the gameplay enough, but I will certainly try. The idea of controlling a character in a 3D environment with a D-pad sounds horrible, but the environments are designed in a way where it is not a problem. Samus is controlled in corridors most of the time, either running left or right, or into or away from the screen. There are open environments too, but these too are painless to traverse. The platforming in all areas do not require a level of precision similar to Super Mario Galaxy, as it stays within the confines of the controller. It knows its limitations and never crosses those lines.
Another example of staying in its limits is that if the Wii remote is pointed at the screen, Samus will go into a first person mode to shoot missiles, and I heard a ton of criticism about this. The most common one being that you cannot dodge enemy attacks. Normally, if Samus is close to being hit, a quick tap of the D-pad will initiate a dodge, but the game does not tell you how to dodge in first person. While in first person, a flick of the remote will send her out of harms way, making that criticism wrong. Rarely does the game demand first person combat, but when it does happen, it was tolerable by having time to get the job done.
Another aspect I enjoy is the combat; it is flashy, intense, and most importantly, fun. The moves Samus can do with what is essentially a NES controller is astounding. Samus can do quick dodges with a tap of the D-pad, jump on enemies for an impressive attack, go in for finishers simply by walking up to them if they are close to death, and more. I never got tired of fighting in this game, but the highlight is the boss fights. This game has some of the most impressive bosses I have ever seen, with brutal finishers sure to impress everyone. I will not spoil my favorite encounters, but I will say if I ever to a top ten list for the best boss fights, I will have a hard time not filling the list with this game alone.
In case you cannot tell, I love the gameplay and combat, it steals the show for sure. I heard many complaints about it, but I have no idea why. It is a solid action game with simple controls. My problems with the game lies in everything else, like the flawed character of Samus and some concepts with the story.
With a focus on story, Other M is significantly more linear then any prior entry, often locking all doors besides the way towards the next cutscene. There will be a few times where I just want to explore and pick up health tanks or missiles, but I will be forced along a specific path. After the game is over, it gives the player the option to return to the space ship for free exploration and offers a little epilogue, which I think is a nice addition. It gives us the freedom to pick up every item we may have missed and fight new monsters.
I beaten Other M three times now, and each playthrough was like a different experience in regards to story. The first time, I was so excited for a new Metroid that I loved the story. I took it all in and my only problem was the voice actor who portrayed Samus, she sounded like a robot to me. The second time, I skipped all the cutscenes because over time, the story soured on me; I asked myself why I enjoyed it so damn much. By the time I played through it the third time, I heard so much hate for this game, that I was gonna take it for what it is, to hell with everyone’s opinion, I was going to decide for myself. To my surprise, I enjoyed the story very much. Bioweapons, betrayal, and the fact it leaves a side plot up to the player to figure out were all well told and acted. New character Anthony Briggs is enjoyable to interact with and I felt myself hoping he would make it out alive. It was also interesting in learning more about Samus. Seeing her go from a rookie space cadet to a bounty hunter was informative, and touched on subjects that I feel hold up very well. But that is also part of the problem.
The flashbacks showed a more vulnerable Samus, who has not quite yet matured into the badass we all know, and I am fine with this, as it does show that she is human. The problem is that Other M takes place after Super, making it the eighth story overall. Some scenes show us that Samus has not learned anything in previous games, and that she is still that rookie. Other scenes show her reacting understandably to certain situations, while the rest is the badass we all know. Everyone knows about the scene with Ridley. Samus thinks Ridley is dead once and for all, but upon laying eyes on him again, she has a mental breakdown. I understand that thinking your nemesis is dead and seeing them again is shocking, but by this point in the timeline, she killed him multiple times. The reaction was too overboard in this situation. One scene where she reacts reasonable is when Adam sacrifices himself to destroy the Metroids. Samus always looked up to him as a father, so it is perfectly understandable to see her cry at his death.
One last part about the story that received harsh criticism is that the story seemed to make Samus a week female lead, some even calling the game sexist. Gamers and reviewers pointed to the fact that Samus takes orders from a man, where up to this point she has been taking action in her hands. People seem to forget that Samus took orders in Fusion from a computer, and took her orders from a commander in Metroid Prime 3. The man she took orders from is Adam, the closest thing she had to a father since being a child. The way I look at it is this: Kratos took orders from the Gods of Olympus, yet no one declared him a wuss for doing so. In fact, many of the times someone tells Samus to do something, it comes off as them being scared or useless. One example is a monster is attacking, so the men tell Samus to deal with it while they fall back, and I took this as Samus is such a badass that she has to save the men, and not in the context similar to her making them a sandwich. Sure, she takes orders, but only because she has a deep respect for Adam.
Taking orders does affect the gameplay though in an awkward way. In typical Metroid fashion, Samus has to travel through the game before acquiring her power ups. In this case, she has all her power ups, it is just that she refuses to use them until Adam authorizes their use. Gameplay wise, it is no difference. Instead of travelling through the fire environment looking for the suit, we are travelling through the fire environment waiting for Adam to tell use to suit up properly. It is weird because Adam is worried about collateral damage, yet being in a suit will have no affect on that. The story is a poor excuse for why Samus does not have her power ups.
This article turned into more of a rant then I would have liked, but I felt it necessary to address the complaints of Other M, and since it is the only game in the franchise in this style, I could not fit it in with the other articles. To this day, I feel people have needlessly hated on this game, declaring a solid action game as sexist. The truth is, the game is not as bad as people make it out to be. It is fun, offers some of the best bosses in the franchise, and delivers an intriguing origin story of Samus.
With that, so ends the retrospective of Metroid. As with my Mega Man articles, I hope you enjoyed reading them as I have writing about them. One of my favorite things about Metroid is that it can take many types of gameplay and still be Metroid. Whether it is first person, side scrolling or 3rd person action, all the games are crafted in a way that each is a different experience that is still Metroid at its core; a feet that very few franchises can do. So whether we are hunting Metroids on Zebes, stepping out to Phendrana Drifts for the first time, or delivering finishing blows to monsters in space, Metroid will always deliver exceptional experiences.