Metroid: Other M is the latest instalment in the Metroid series and the second Metroid title designed from the ground up for the Nintendo Wii. The game is a co-production of Nintendo and Tecmo studio Team Ninja under the joint name "Project M" and was first unveiled to the public during Nintendo's E3 Press Conference on June 2, 2009. The game was released in North America on August 31, 2010 with an ESRB rating of T for animated blood and violence.
Other M is a third-person action-adventure that combines the third-person action of the earlier 2D entries in the series with the 3-D environments used in the Metroid Prime trilogy. Players use the Wii Remote on its side to control Samus Aran, navigate the environment, and fight enemies. As a result, Samus's movements are handled using the Wii Remote's directional pad rather than an analogue stick. The 1 and 2 buttons allow her to fire her arm cannon and jump, respectively, and the A Button is used to enter Samus's signature morph ball form. While in this gameplay mode, the aim of Samus's arm canon is handled automatically by the game.
At certain points in the game, the camera will shift to a fixed, over-the-shoulder view behind Samus as she explores the environment. While in this view, Samus cannot use her weapons, but she will also not encounter any hostile enemies. This viewpoint is mainly used for sections of the game where exploration is the only objective.
A first-person view is also available at any time by pointing the Wiimote at the TV screen. In this viewpoint, Samus is locked into one spot and cannot move around. However, the player is able to examine the environment for secrets as well as aim Samus' arm cannon manually while in the first-person viewpoint. The player can turn Samus' viewpoint in any direction by holding the B Button and shifting the Wiimote pointer's aim to move it.
The first-person viewpoint is also used for firing missiles at targets such as enemies and doors. There are points scattered throughout the game in which the player is forced into first-person mode and must perform a specific action such as blasting a door or locating an item in the environment before the game will proceed.
Power-Ups and Upgrades
Samus Aran still has a wide variety of weapons and powers at her disposal in Other M.
The Morph Ball is an ability that allows Samus to transform into a metal sphere capable of rolling around the environment and proceeding through tight spaces such as vents and air ducts. She can also jump a limited height in Morph Ball form, as she could with the use of the Spring Ball upgrade in past games and in Metroid Prime 3.
Samus's Charge Beam allows her to fire a more powerful blast at enemies than a standard energy shot. Samus begins the game with this as the only weapon in her allowed arsenal.
An extension of the Charge Beam, allowing damage to cover more than just a single enemy at a time, and acts more like a spread shotgun, with the ability to hit multiple enemies in a close range at once.
The Ice Beam allows Samus to freeze smaller enemies with ease, stick bigger enemies to the floor for an easy Lethal Strike and allows her to destroy fire pods in certain areas of the game. Once later beams are acquired, the freeze mechanic only works when her Charge Beam is fully charged.
The Wave Beam is a purple, electrical beam that can travel through clear materials. This can help Samus shoot panels that need charging, even if they are on another side of a wall.
The Plasma Beam is a green beam that has all the attributes of Samus's previous beams, but is also more powerful.
Missiles/Super Missiles/Seeker Missiles
By locking onto an enemy, Samus can fire a single missile at enemies at a time to knock them down for a short while, setting them up for a Lethal Strike. Once Super Missiles are authorized, the player can charge up one similar to a Charge Shot and fire them at enemies. Seeker Missiles act in the same way as Super Missiles, but can be locked onto multiple targets at once. Super and Seeker Missiles each take up 5 missiles a piece to use once. All missile types are only usable in first-person mode.
The Grapple Beam allows Samus to attach to and swing from grapple points to reach areas she couldn't before.
By running over a large flat surface without any obstacles, Samus can build up energy to perform a speed boost. Use of this ability allows Samus to not only break specific barriers by colliding with them, but run up steep slopes with ease as well. The Shinespark is a technique associated with the Speed Booster; by holding and releasing the 2 Button, Samus will disperse the speed boost energy in order to launch herself up or across high or wide distances.
In Morph Ball mode, Samus can drop up to 3 bombs at a time, which can allow her to deal damage to enemies and break open certain areas in which to travel through.
Power Bombs are restricted from use for Samus by Adam Malkovich due to their danger towards the rest of his team. When usable, Power Bombs can be dropped by charging a bomb drop in a manner identical to charging a beam shot.
The Varia Suit prevents Samus from taking damage in areas where there is extreme heat. It also reduces the amount of damage she takes from getting hit.
The Gravity Suit's design in Other M appears as a purple aura around Samus when she is either underwater or in an area experiencing a powerful gravitational pull. The suit allows Samus to move freely in these areas without being impeded, making the Speed Booster ability usable in them. The Gravity Suit also reduces the amount of damage Samus takes from hits.
Space Jump/Screw Attack
The Space Jump allows Samus to continuously jump across long gaps while the Screw Attack acts as protection for her if enemies get in her way.
Unlike previous Metroid games, each Missile Tank acquired adds only one missile to Samus's maximum capacity. They are identified as thin, blue containers.
Expand Samus's maximum health. They give her an additional 100 health when picked up.
By collecting four Energy Parts, Samus will gain an additional 100 health. They are similar in nature to the Heart Pieces of the Zelda series. They are smaller in size compared to Energy Tanks, but share the same light pink color.
These items expand the amount of health Samus can regain in Concentration Mode by 100 units. These are identified as being in purple diamond containers.
These pickups allow Samus to power up her Charge Beam more quickly. They are identified as yellow containers.
Weapon and item acquisition works somewhat differently in comparison to previous Metroid titles. Rather than having to hunt down new weapons scattered about the map, Samus begins with a number of her weapons already acquired. However, because she is working under General Adam Malkovich for the purposes of the mission, she must follow Galactic Federation Army protocol and is only allowed to use weapons and equipment that he has authorized. As the story progresses, Adam gradually authorizes the use of more of Samus's arsenal.
Another new move Samus can perform is a quick dodge maneuver known as "sensemove." By tapping the directional pad in third-person or the A button in first-person just before an attack hits Samus, she'll perform a quick evasion move to avoid taking damage. If the the 1 button is held while performing a sensemove, the Charge Meter will fill instantly, allowing for immediate retaliation with a charged beam shot (or Super Missile in first-person mode). Samus can also use special melee attacks dubbed "Lethal Strikes" to finish off enemies that have been stunned. The attack animations for these melee strikes are contextual to the enemy type.
A new element of gameplay in Other M is Concentration Mode. When Samus is not being attacked, she can stand still and concentrate in order to replenish her missile supply. To do this, the player must point the Wii Remote up at the ceiling and hold the A Button until the process is complete. When at critical health, concentration also regenerates Samus's health gauge just enough to allow for continued survival. This new gameplay feature has the benefit of allowing the player to restock missiles without having to farm them from defeated enemies.
During the 2010 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Metroid designer Yoshio Sakamoto described how the design of the game had changed from his early vision to the final product. Originally, the game was intended to be designed more like the older Metroid titles, with Samus's movements restricted to a 2D plane.
However, Team Ninja experimented by implementing a system of 3D movement that remained adherent to Sakamoto's desire that the game be controlled using only the Wii Remote. Upon seeing a demonstration of the 3D movement system in action, Sakamoto changed his mind and gave the go-ahead to design the game around Team Ninja's control mechanics.
The game begins shortly after the end of Super Metroid, with Samus waking in a Galactic Federation medical facility. It is here that the game stages the basic tutorial as a doctor asks Samus to go through some basic combat exercises. After she's been cleared, she is sent to report on the mission's outcome. In her review, she states that the mission was complete; the space pirates were stopped, and all Metroids had been eliminated.
Some time later, Samus is flying in her gunship when she receives a high-priority distress signal from a spaceship and rushes to investigate. Upon her arrival, she crosses paths with a squad of Galactic Federation army soldiers led by Adam Malkovich, a general in the GF army and Samus's former commanding officer. It soon becomes apparent that the GF soldiers and Samus will need to cooperate in order to restore order to the ship and investigate the cause of the crew's deaths. Adam allows Samus to work with his team under the condition that she follow his orders for the mission's duration.
As the investigation progresses, Samus and the others learn that the Bottle Ship is a Galactic Federation research vessel where research into bioweapons took place; bioweaponry is illegal under Federation law. They also learn that the lead researcher is a woman named Madeline Bergman, and with that information, they set out to find her.
Over time, members of the GF squad begin turning up dead. The first casualty, Lyle Smithsonian, is found just outside the building where the discovery regarding the Bottle Ship's purpose took place. Samus later finds Maurice Favreau dead; his corpse frozen in a snowy landscape. Catching sight of a woman in a nearby window, Samus gives chase and learns from the woman that the Federation did not actually mount a rescue mission; she witnessed another Federation soldier kill Maurice. Soon after, a figure wearing Federation armor attacks Samus and the scientist with heavy lifting equipment. Samus separates from the woman and stops the attack, but isn't able to learn who the assailant is. She only knows that one of the remaining squad members may be a traitor working under Federation orders, and is systematically eliminating the rest of the squad in the process.
Samus eventually meets back up with Anthony Higgs, another squad member and a friend of hers from her own days as a GF soldier. After coming to his rescue, the two split up only to meet up again in a chamber where they're attacked by Ridley. Having thought that she had killed him on Zebes during the events of Super Metroid, Samus becomes alarmed and freezes up as she suffers through a traumatic childhood memory; the day that Ridley and his space pirates massacred her home colony, resulting in the deaths of her parents and everyone else. As Ridley takes advantage of Samus's moment of weakness, Anthony distracts him and gives Samus enough time to recover. However, he is unable to withstand Ridley's assault and he is killed before Samus's eyes, knocked into a pit of molten lava.
Samus manages to injure Ridley enough that he retreats. It is then that she realizes that she's lost communication with Adam, who in a cutscene appears to be ambushed by the traitor. On her own, Samus begins her hunt for the one she dubs the "deleter." By the process of elimination, she knows that the traitor must either be the squad's computer specialist James Pierce or recon soldier K.G. Misawa.
Upon returning to the main sector, Samus follows a figure clad in Galactic Federation armor to Sector 1. After giving pursuit, she loses the trail, but instead encounters the woman she met earlier, this time in the Bioweapons Research Lab. The woman introduces herself as Madeline Bergman, the scientist in charge of the facility, and then explains the purpose of the research; to create a special forces unit based on the space pirates.
To that end, wild Zebesians and other creatures were grown in the Bottle Ship's labs, and the Zebesians were further enhanced with cybernetics. However, more concerning to Samus is Madeline's revelation that Metroids are being raised on board the ship, and an AI patterned after Mother Brain named MB was constructed in order to control them. When Samus questions how it was possible for the Federation to grow Metroids, Madeline tells her that samples of the baby Metroid were taken from Samus's armor while she was undergoing examination following the destruction of Zebes. Other genetic material belonging to Ridley was also taken from her armor, explaining how he too was able to return to life.
Madeline explains to Samus that the Metroids are being raised in a secret sector of the Bottle Ship, Sector 0. She then informs Samus of one last disturbing detail; the report used to authorize the Metroid experimentation was authored by Adam. Determined to destroy the Metroids, Samus leaves for Sector 0 and tells Madeline to hide.
Upon reaching the entrance to Sector 0, Samus feels the ship rock as its thrusters kick into action. Just inside the sector, she encounters a baby Metroid. Distracted, she is unable to defend herself when she is shot from behind and knocked unconscious. When she reawakens, she finds Adam watching over her. Adam explains that the Metroids in Sector 0 can't be killed by her weaponry; the scientists' experiments have rendered them immune to being frozen. Samus demands an explanation from him regarding the report he wrote, and he explains that he was asked to author a report on the use of Metroids for military purposes. The report he wrote gave a detailed explanation of the reasons why such experiments and use should not be attempted, and that while GF Headquarters listened, a dissenting group used his report as the basis by which to carry out their experiments.
As Samus recovers, Adam gives her new orders; to hunt down Ridley and find a survivor located in the Bioweapons Research Lab, while he enters Sector 0 and triggers the sector's self-destruct sequence. As a final warning, he also tells her not to trust Madeline. Samus protests and demands he let her take care of the Metroids herself, but he refuses, and Samus watches as he enters Sector 0 and seals the door behind him. Before leaving, he turns back to her; for one final time he asks if she has any objections, and Samus gives him the thumbs down she had always responded with, knowing perfectly well what it is that they each have to do.
Holding back on her grief at Adam's sacrifice, Samus escapes the tunnel to Sector 0 as the self-destruct is triggered and heads straight for the Bioweapons Research Lab. In the room she had left Madeline, she discovers the corpse of James. As she explores further in, she receives another surprise; the dried husk of Ridley's corpse. She eventually finds a woman cowering inside a locked room, but upon trying to communicate with her, the woman panics and opens a passage to a containment room. When Samus enters the opened door, she finds herself face to face with Ridley's killer; a Queen Metroid.
Upon destroying the Queen, Samus catches up with the woman, who reveals that she is the real Madeline Bergman. The other woman that Samus met earlier is actually MB, the Mother Brain-inspired AI in android form. Madeline then tells Samus of how MB was created to telepathically control the feral creatures on board, including the Metroids. She also helped the other scientists conduct experiments. Madeline treated MB as a daughter, and even gave her a human name; Melissa Bergman.
The one thing that MB did not have was emotions. The human form of her android body was designed so that when a baby Metroid saw MB for the first time, it would imprint MB as its mother, just as the hatchling on SR388 had done when it saw Samus. However, after this point, something seemed to trigger within MB, causing her to develop emotions, possibly due to an attachment with the baby. MB began questioning the decisions of the project's scientists, and eventually her dissenting behavior became too much for the research staff to bear. They chose to modify MB's personality by force.
As the research staff dragged MB away, Madeline rushed in to try and help her, but was held back. Her inability to provide support for her "daughter" was then perceived by MB as a betrayal. Unable to cope with the behavior of the humans, MB defended herself by using her telepathy to drive the wild creatures on board the station berserk, and after killing the crew, furthered her revenge by setting the Bottle Ship on a course to collide with Galactic Federation Headquarters. Madeline, that is, the real Madeline, was the one that sent the distress signal.
As Madeline concludes her explanation, MB appears, and Madeline raises a gun to her. However, before the situation can be brought under control, a squad of Federation soldiers appears, and as a result, MB summons powerful creatures to her aid. Samus fends them off to protect Madeline, and the Galactic Federation soldiers kill MB.
With the primary threat eliminated, the Galactic Federation soldiers attempt to apprehend Madeline. Their superior informs Samus that she is to not interfere because for one, Adam and his squad are all dead, and thus she is an outsider; not a Federation soldier. And secondly, he reminds her that she had once transported illegal cargo, the baby Metroid, potentially giving cause for her arrest. As the commander orders the troops to take Madeline away, one of them protests, and greets Samus with a familiar "princess."
Anthony, as it turns out, survived his attack from Ridley by using his freeze gun to stop his fall. He then shut down the Bottle Ship's engines before hiding among the squad that had come to capture Madeline. Because he's still alive and present on Adam's orders, he has jurisdiction over the situation and along with Samus is allowed to take Madeline away to safety. After the mission is over, Samus takes time to reflect on what happened, and on the father figure she had lost with Adam's death. For the first time, she gives him a thumbs up, believing that he's watching over her.
Following the end credits, an epilogue chapter becomes playable. The day before the Bottle Ship is due to be destroyed by the Galactic Federation, Samus returns to the ship in order to locate an irreplaceable item that Adam left behind. At this point, Samus is free to explore the entire ship at will in order to locate any and all power-ups that were not found in the main play-through. She also has free access to Power Bombs, allowing her to enter sections of the ship that were previously inaccessible. Notably, in the epilogue, K.G. Misawa is still listed as unaccounted for in his character profile because his body was dumped in lava and thus could never be found.
During the epilogue, Samus encounters Phantoon, originally from Super Metroid, as a bonus boss fight. Shortly after, she makes her way into the command room where Adam had stationed himself for most of the game and locates his helmet. Samus removes her power suit before picking it up, and a flashback from Adam's perspective plays, displaying his reaction as MB tricks Samus into entering Sector 0. Concerned for her safety, he rushes out of the command room in order to stop her.
When the flashback concludes, an alarm sounds and informs Samus that the ship's self-destruct mechanism has been activated. With only five minutes to escape, the player must guide her to the exit. However, she remains in her zero suit, and thus cannot use any of the power suit's abilities. She is also limited to only 99 health and her only defense is her emergency energy pistol. After reaching her ship, she escapes as the Bottle Ship is destroyed with Adam's helmet safely in her possession.
Other M features far more emphasis on narrative than past entries in the Metroid series with fully animated and voiced cutscenes. Samus herself is also fully voiced. This is a first for the Metroid series, though Samus did voice exertion sounds in the Metroid Prime trilogy and spoke limited lines in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The games Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion gave Samus narration and dialogue, but this speech was in voiceless text format.
The stronger emphasis on narrative was the focus of a Kotaku interview with long-time Metroid developer Yoshio Sakamoto of Nintendo and Team Ninja's Yosuke Hayashi. In it, Sakamoto speaks of how the game is set chronologically between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, and his desire to bring more character development to Samus:
"With Fusion, that game was very story-driven. In that game, I believe I was able to explain Samus as a character, as a person, not just somebody in armor. And I was not only explain Samus but the characters around her… with Super Metroid I showed, through her relationship with the baby Metroid, some of her maternal instincts. Between those two stories I feel I was able to explain Samus as a person. But because Metroid equals Samus, I'd like to develop her character further, as a soldier, as a human, also as a woman. That's what they're hoping to do with Other M."
In a separate interview with Chris Kohler of Wired, Hayashi revealed that a team from D-Rockets led by Ryuzi Kitaura, a frequent Team Ninja collaborator, developed the game's cinematics. As of E3 2009, the make-up of Project M involved Sakamoto and three other Nintendo staff members, and roughly seventy staff members from Team Ninja. With the inclusion of the D-Rockets staff, there were approximately a hundred people working on the game at the height of development.
When asked about the future of the Metroid series, Sakamoto stated that what comes next, particularly in terms of the story after Metroid Fusion, will largely depend on the outcome of Other M. "In terms of the Metroid series stories that I’ve told, the games that I’ve been involved in, I started with the NES Metroid and took it through Fusion. I’m hoping to tie the Super Metroid and Fusion stories together, and until I do that I can’t think about what happens after Fusion, but if the concept does come to me I’d like to continue the story and see how far it can go."
Upon completing the game, players will unlock a special Theater Mode feature. This special feature plays the game as a two-hour movie, with all cutscenes linked together with prerecorded snippets of gameplay. Players are thus able to revisit Other M's story as a whole without necessarily having to play the game again from start to finish. A similar feature is available in the special edition of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. In addition to this, cutscenes can be skipped on subsequent playthroughs by hitting the minus (-) button on the Wii Remote during any of them.
Upon completing the game, players will unlock a special Gallery Mode feature. The gallery features over eighty pieces of concept art from the game. The percentage of the gallery unlocked depends on the item collection completion percentage at the game's end. Completing the game with 100% item completion will unlock the entire gallery.
Once a player achieves 100% of item collection, Hard Mode will be unlocked. In Hard Mode, enemies are stronger and take longer to kill. Furthermore, the energy and missile expansions are removed, forcing the player to complete the entire game with Samus limited to a maximum of 99 energy and 10 missiles at her disposal. This limitation effectively forces the player to complete the game with a "zero percent" run.
Yoshio Sakamoto created the initial plans for Other M, and co-operated with Tecmo on the gameplay and cinematic aspects of the game. Heavy emphasis on cinematic elements were placed on the project, with carefully chosen dialogue and the careful integration of the cutscenes with the gameplay.
Sakamoto's design concepts for Other M were initially considered "outrageous" and "pipe dreams" by others at Nintendo, like creating a steady 3D space while only being able to move horizontally, or his desired manner of integrating gameplay and story elements. After testing it out, he soon realized that what he was asking for did indeed seem 'outrageous', becoming way too complex to control, and would probably not work well at all. He became very discouraged, but when he played Ninja Gaiden, he found out a different way to achieve it based on Tecmo's idea of a 3D game; a game that was very focused in motion, yet simple enough to play.
In an interview with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, Hayashi and Sakamoto both compared the final gameplay design of Other M to being like that of an NES game built with the latest technology. This concept is in reference to the fact that the game is only played using the Wii Remote. When Sakamoto initially approached Hayashi with his concept, he asked him if they were willing to make a Metroid game that could be played with only the Wii Remote. The idea initially made no sense to Hayashi, until with a little more explanation, he understood Sakamoto's desire to create an action-packed 3D game that remained as simple to play as a NES game.
Since Other M was planned as a very cinematic game, the project had two separate directors; one for the game itself, and one for the cinematic production. Hayashi directed the game side, while TV director Ryuzi Kitaura helmed the cutscenes. The staff of Team Ninja quickly got excited to make the project a reality, an opportunity to debate on the philosophies and fixations of an action game.
To Kitaura, a collaboration between Nintendo and Team Ninja was bemusing, and saw Other M as an 'overwhelming' project. Kitaura's past experience with video game projects prior to Other M had been restricted to game cinematics that existed independent of gameplay. The task of creating cutscenes that fit seamlessly with gameplay, as well as being able to show the emotions of a female character in-game, was a far greater demand from a single project than he was used to. As a result, D-Rockets temporarily halted their television commercial work in order to devote the company's full resources to Other M.
Other M's unveiling at E3 2009 was among the most unexpected events of the show and garnered a great deal of positive press. The website Game Trailers awarded it with Biggest Surprise of E3 2009, beating out other announcements such as Hideo Kojima's involvement in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the unveiling of Sony's then-unnamed PlayStation Move motion controller, the announcement of Final Fantasy XIV, and Nintendo's own combined announcements of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Early reviews of Metroid: Other M were largely positive, lauding the game's presentation and gameplay, though most had some caveats. The most common thread among reviews was harsh criticism toward the game's stringent dependence on the Wii Remote-only control scheme. Another common criticism was aimed toward the game's script and voice acting; in particular, the at-times melodramatic nature of the story and Samus's largely flat delivery in her narration.
Despite these criticisms, reviewers were receptive toward the game's eschewing of the classic 2D gameplay in favor of 3D exploration and movement and the implementation of design decisions that reviewers such as Chris Kohler of Wired considered a "daring" combination of gameplay styles. In his Giant Bomb review, Brad Shoemaker notes that for everything that the game does differently, it still "feels like an honest-to-goodness Metroid game."
Of the professional reviews that the game has been given, Abbie Heppe's written review for G4 is possibly the most controversial. Awarding the game a score of 2 out of 5, she spends over half of the review criticizing the fact that Samus's portrayal in the game is sexist. The video review, narrated by Morgan Webb and Adam Sessler for the TV series X-Play, is seventeen minutes long, and like the text review, spends a large amount of time criticizing Samus's sexist portrayal.
In her review, Heppe writes, "In short, you're asked to forget that Samus has spent the last 10-15 years on solitary missions ridding the galaxy of Space Pirates, saving the universe and surviving on her own as a bounty hunter. Instead, Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man."
As of September 10, 2010, Metroid: Other M has an aggregate score of 79 out of 100 on Metacritic.
Post-release, a progress-halting bug was discovered in the North American, Japanese, and European first-run editions of the game. If the player should defeat a certain boss in Sector 3 and then backtrack to the room where the Ice Beam was acquired before entering the door that unlocked upon the boss's defeat, the door will relock with no way to open it. If the player saves the game after triggering this bug, further progress becomes impossible. The bug does not occur if the player enters the unlocked door before backtracking.
As a solution, Nintendo's Japanese and American offices launched a mail-in program within a week of the bug's discovery. Players that encounter the issue may copy their save files to SD cards and send them to Nintendo by mail so that a fix may be applied.