wess's Metroid: Other M (Wii) review

Any Objections, Adam?

I've been an on-again off-again fan of the Metroid series, which really means I like most of the games in the series that I've played, but it's not really a franchise that keeps me yearning for the next one, so I tend to forget about it between releases that catch my interest.  Nevertheless, when it was announced that Other M would take the series in a new, more action-focused direction I was definitely hopeful, and thought that if anyone could bring intense, demanding action to the Metroid brand, it would probably be a group like Team Ninja.
The surprising thing about Other M to me was the focus on telling a specific story through narrative - something that hasn't really ever happened in a Metroid game.  The strange thing about this isn't that it was attempted at all, but that it was attempted by Team Ninja.  When I think Team Ninja, I think Ninja Gaiden, and when I think Ninja Gaiden, I think bad/nonsensical story, but amazing gameplay.  For Other M, however, the focus seemed to be shifted primarily to story-telling, and unfortunately many of the gameplay aspects were snubbed.  The most obvious (and possibly most egregious) of the problems is the lack of full analog control over Samus.  While you move through a 3D environment, the d-pad controls only allow for 8 directions of movement, which just feels awkward, and feels even worse when trying to shoot enemies as they zip around you.  Some attempts made by the developers to compensate for the lack of control work fairly well, but really the controls feel like they are simply limiting a serious level of precise action.
Of course, Metroid games have never been defined by amazing combat mechanics.  The real crux of the franchise has always been exploration and finding the multitudes of upgrades scattered around the environment.  Other M still has many of the standard upgrades, including multiple suits, beams, missiles, energy tanks, etc. but there is much less exploration involved to find them than in previous games.  Without ever really leaving the main path you will find more than enough upgrades to  satisfy, and even finding every item in the game doesn't seem to be particularly challenging.  Other M definitely feels more linear than, say, Super Metroid or Metroid Prime.  While this doesn't really hurt the game as a standalone game, it is just one more thing that it doesn't hit quite as well as many others.
Mainly what I've been trying to say is that Other M is not like most other Metroid games, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad game.  The action is still pretty fun, I would say more fun than most other games in the series, even if it is limited by some odd decisions by the developer, and traversing the environment and acquiring upgrades is still rewarding, if not quite as much so as in previous games.  The other main difference is the plot, and this is where I feel the game most deviates from it's predecessors, because it includes a full storyline with dialogue, flashbacks, inner monologues, etc.  For me, the story aspects of the game started off really bland and felt like they shouldn't exist at all, but as I got further into the game it felt better and better, and while I didn't love the overall story, I thought it added a lot more than it took away (even with the occasional incredibly emotionally awkward inner conflicts of Samus).  In the end, I really appreciate what Team Ninja attempted with Other M, and definitely think there is a place for a Metroid of this style, but some missteps kept this specific title from reaching what it could have been.

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