I sometimes think I throw the word disappointment around too much, mainly because it is the type of headlining word that can encompass pretty much any negative feelings on a video game. And not just downright scathing for crap like “Survivor” or “Limbo of the Lost” either, a game that is disappointing you usually have high hopes for. You are expecting something amazing, and you receive something mediocre, like constant Madden sequels not changing much. Sadly, “Metroid: Other M” falls into this category, a game that I was looking forward to, only to have hopes dashed once the first cut-scene began to roll.
“Metroid” is one of the flagship franchises of Nintendo, and has always contained one of the best represented female protagonists in the video game world. A simple mechanic of building up the weapons and abilities of your intergalactic bounty huntress while fighting space pirates, Mother Brain and arch-nemesis Ridley, all in a sprawling, maze-like world that has actually influenced other franchises such as “Castlevania.” Even the “Prime” games, which brought Samus into the world of 3-D, offered this mechanic by changing the perspective to first person, adding a new dimension to the game.
But “Metroid: Other M” is a strange girl in regards to the franchise history. For starters, this is the first Metroid game that has cut scenes and lines of dialogue by both Samus and her compatriots. These scenes could have been an excellent change of pace, a branching off of the silent, stoic protagonist that pretty much encompasses all of Nintendo’s characters. But the game dropped the ball on this, becoming a convoluted, plodding chore that Hideo Kojima would be proud of.
Yes, this game tries it’s hardest to be “Metal Gear Solid” in terms of narrative and story elements. There are moments that try to give contrived plot twists that any gamer can see coming for miles. The cut-scenes are heavy handed monologues by Samus, whom is always questioning her worth and her experience, and always in admiration, almost a Twilight-esque obsession for a fellow officer Adam Melkovich, a primary, driving motivation for Samus’ actions.
The biggest disappointment of the game is how it virtually ruin’s Samus’ character. In the games she is portrayed as pretty much a cold hard space marine, quick to act and fast on the draw against her adversaries. In “Other M” she acts fragile and vulnerable, freezing in combat and quick to impress Melkovich by acting hastily and hinging on the whim of his words. All of this is conveyed in inner-monologues as cut-scenes film, giving us the most cinematic “Metroid “yet. But as I have said, the heavy-handedness of these cut-scenes drag on, becoming a chore to watch.
Now I am fine with interpretations of character, but Samus in this game is too meladramatic. I never thought I would say this, but she act's like the perception of a woman too much, something that you can honestly say is not one of her main traits, being a positive symbol, for me, a twenty-something adult male, for a strong, modern female. There is nothing wrong with vulnerability, but when it is your only character trait with no real growth, with no real resolution to your own capabilities and obsessions, it comes off as a character assassination to me.
And the other problem is that the game is put in the backseat. Nintendo let Team Ninja, the development team behind the “Ninja Gaiden” series, to create “Other M.” Team Ninja did a lot well, the controls work well, despite some jumping problems here and there, the boss battles are tough and epic as they always are, and the mix between the old-school side scrolling and the first person perspective using the visor mode works rather well, blending the two versions of “Metroid” almost seamlessly.
The problem is the game is criminally short and rather easy, clocking in at about six hours of gameplay in it, making it an ideal game for speedrun junkies out there. The game is also too easy, and for a “Metroid” game that is saying something, considering the endless hours of exploration and backtracking you do in previous games. While you do backtrack here, it is kind of in controlled spaces, and instead of finding weapons out in the field, you are given authorization by Melkovich at opportune times during the gameplay. It seems arbitrary and unnecessary, since this time around you have possession of your weapons from the get go.
I know normally the gameplay makes up for the flaws of the game itself, but the lack of gameplay here is more of a determent. The cut-scenes make up around equal, if not more, time the gameplay aspect itself has. And considering how unbearable the cut-scenes can be, it is frankly inexcusable. And when the cut-scenes are that disappointing, it really colors the perception of the game itself.
I will say the graphics and sound effects are amazing though. The textures in the game, even the pre-rendered cut scenes, look fantastic, easily one of the best looking games on the Wii in terms of graphical prowess. It has a nicely detailed world that brings a good throwback to the somber, almost horror like corridors of “Super Metroid,” the game that precedes “Other M” in terms of chronology. The sound effects are really impressive as well, again reminiscent of the “Prime” games this time around,with ambiance and orchestral music. The voice acting, however, is terrible. Very terrible. The voice actors have no feeling or emotion; it is pretty much devoid of any drama because of the melodrama that is presented in the cut-scenes.
I applaud Nintendo for mixing things up a bit. Frankly, I wish companies would do this more often because it does stop stagnation. But the game was so lackluster thanks to the complete destruction of Samus Aran as a character, the Kojima-style cut-scenes, the short game time and the bad voice acting, I can honestly say that “Metroid: Other M” is the most disappointing game I played this year. And honestly, I have nothing else to say that can convey this, so if you are a die-hard Nintendo fan, give it a play. Otherwise, it might be best to leave “Other M” lost in space.
Final Score: C+