By TechnoSyndrome 56 Comments
Like many, I was incredibly excited for Metroid Other M after the game was introduced at Nintendo's 2009 E3 press conference. Unfortunately, this excitement slowly turned to doubt, and eventually horror, as the game came closer to release, and more and more details were revealed. By the time the game came out I had decided I had no interest in ever playing Other M, but after reading about that scene (SPOILERS) and watching the video in which the X-Play writer who wrote their Other M review defended their review, claiming the game was sexist and ruined Samus' character, I decided I had to see what all the fuss was about and rented the game from Blockbuster a couple of weekends after it had come out. After learning my Wii needed to be cleaned before I could get the game to work and going to Best Buy to buy the Wii Cleaning Kit (effectively doubling how much I spent on renting Other M), I started the game and immediately hated it.
I feel like I should explain now that I don't hate Other M solely because it's different, I hate it because it's poorly executed. The idea of a 3D Metroid that tries to take 2D Metroid's gameplay and move it into a 3D environment is great, but it didn't work out. Prime was actually originally going to be third person like Other M, but Miyamoto suggested to Retro Studios that they make it first person, and it was only after that change that the game really started to work. I love when games do something original, but I'd prefer a game that's more of the same and is good to one that tries something different and fails on every level.
The big thing I hate about Other M on a gameplay level is that it's about combat rather than exploration. Although Metroid Prime eventually told you where to go, it was still very much focused on exploration. Even when it showed you the location of the room you needed to get to it still took exploration to get there. There were plenty of branching paths and big open rooms with multiple routes and you had to figure out how to get through them on your own. It was an incredibly atmospheric game, and just walking through the environments was a thrill. Other M on the other hand never really has anything where you have to figure out your way through a room, and usually boils down to killing all the enemies to unlock a door. I give Metroid Prime a pass on having a lock-on even though I criticize Other M for auto-aim because Prime wasn't focused on combat. Prime was very much about exploring the huge world Retro created and figuring out how to get to your next objective. Even with lock-on Prime took more skill than Other M though because you had to manually dodge enemy attacks rather than just be pressing the D-Pad during an enemy's attack, and counter attack at certain points when facing certain enemies. It didn't take tons of skill, but it wasn't the reason I was playing that game. (Though the boss fights are all very fun and took more skill than picking off random enemies or space pirates) Other M on the other hand boils down to running down straight corridors or through small rooms, defeating all of the enemies, and then walking through a door to go and repeat that process. Combat is a part of Metroid, but it isn't its defining aspect.
Despite all of these flaws, most people saw no problems with the game, and it received good scores from most outlets, the only notable exception being the aforementioned X-Play review. However, sales weren't what Nintendo expected, and the company doesn't know why, implying that they see no problem with the game. This is what worries me. The original Metroid Prime was a fantastic game, and both of its sequels were great games, though I felt 3 started to get away from what I feel Metroid is. I'm not alone in my love of the Prime series, as the games were hugely successful in America and Europe, and Metroid Prime's success made what was previously thought of as a dead series into one of Nintendo's biggest franchises. Unfortunately Japan doesn't feel the same way, as none of the Prime games sold very well in Nintendo's home territory. Other M seemed to be Nintendo's attempt to make Metroid appeal more to Japanese gamers, ditching the Prime series' first person action and minimal cutscenes for a laughably simple character action game and a failed attempt at an emotional story. With Sakamoto in charge (a man who went so far as to say the Metroid Prime games were in a parallel world, or in other words non-canon, simply because he didn't have direct control over them.) and Nintendo seeing no problem with Other M both on a gameplay and story level I could easily see the series continue to head down this overly simplified and story focused path. I, and I'm willing to bet many others, would much rather see the series continue down the path that Metroid Prime started, or a true return to form with a new 2D Metroid in the same vain as Super Metroid. Until that happens, all I can do is pray for a true peace in space...