Cover an eye and pretend Metroid Prime never happened.

 This blog post contains spoilers for Metroid: Other M, and the Metroid series in general.  Do not read if you do not want to be spoiled.
 
In 2002, Retro Studios released Metroid Prime, the first 3D Metroid game, for the Gamecube.  Metroid Prime was a huge revolution; the Texas-based developer proved they knew how to make games, successfully turning a popular 2D game into an immersive 3D environment, all from a first-person perspective.  Metroid Prime remains one of my favorite games of all time, due to it being the first game to make me feel as though I was part of a living, breathing environment in a game.  Additionally, I have a soft spot for Metroid Prime 3; in my opinion, MP3 utilizes the Wii's motion controls better than any other game on the platform. 
 
However, let's go back to 2001, and pretend that Metroid Prime never happened.  Instead, give us Metroid: Other M.  The entire time I played through the game, it felt less like "another entry in the series", and more like a complete reinterpretation of how Metroid could be played in 3D.  In some aspects, Other M feels like a 3D remake of Super Metroid, which isn't that surprising.  After all, the game takes place immediately after Super Metroid, and Samus retains all the abilities she had at the end of that game.  While Retro Studios took a look at the Metroid series and tinkered with the mechanics until it worked from a first-person perspective, Team Ninja set out to keep all of Super Metroid's game mechanics intact in a 3D environment.  If you keep that in mind, it could explain parts of the game's unusual control system; holding up on the D-Pad to activate the Speed Booster is probably a lot easier than trying to keep steady using a joystick.  Hell, if the basic Wii Remote had more buttons, it's entirely possible Team Ninja would have scrapped the first-person missile sections all together. 
 
The more you look at Other M, the more it becomes clear that Team Ninja wanted nothing to do with the Metroid Prime series.  There are countless nods to the 2D games (Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid II, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion), but not a single game mechanic or lore from Metroid Prime remains.  Several bosses are ones Samus has fought before, only in 3 dimensions now.  The "scan" function from Prime is gone, and now Samus only scans when it's plot-relevant.  However, the biggest departure is in Samus's personality.  Samus barely says anything in Zero Mission, II, and Super Metroid; though she's rather talkative in Fusion (though that's only to an AI computer).  Fusion was released alongside Prime, so I'm not sure that makes a difference concerning Prime's development, but this is where it gets interesting.  Older games in general did not tell the stories that games tell today; Samus didn't talk because she had no reason to.  Is it because she's just a calm soldier who doesn't let her emotions get in the way, or would she be much more willing to open up if there was someone to talk to? 
 
In the Metroid Prime series, Samus is merely silent.  She had no reason to talk in Metroid Prime, but she encounters an entire race who needs her help in Metroid Prime 2, and is working alongside countless soldiers in Metroid Prime 3.  In both games, she doesn't say a word.  After the events of MP2 have concluded, Samus departs with a wave of her hand to say "See ya."  To her, saving the universe is just another day's work.  In the intro to MP3, Samus is nearly a celebrity; she's well-known for her adventures across the galaxy, but Samus isn't one to brag; she just follows orders.  Even after falling down a long shaft struggling with her nemesis Ridley, Samus isn't shaken at all; she's fought Ridley plenty of times, and isn't particularly surprised that he's there.  At the end, Samus does reflect on her adventures a bit, having killed three of her corrupted friends; it's really the only time we see her display emotion since she's wearing her helmet all the time, but after three hard adventures, it's understandable.  Samus is just that much of a badass. 
 
But Team Ninja saw that personality for Samus, and thought it really didn't suit her.  The baby Metroid who sacrificed itself for her at the end of Super Metroid weighs on her soul, and it's the only time that Samus has felt like a mother.  Those lingering feelings carry over into Other M, where Samus is self-doubting, and still shaken over what's happened.  Being reunited with her old mentor, Samus feels like she has to show responsibility, and prove that she's still capable of following orders.  This huge personality shift has left many gamers feeling bitter over Other M; it's a direct contradiction of the personality Samus displays in the Prime games, and especially comes to a halt when Ridley shows up.  Canonically, this is the fifth time Samus has fought Ridley, yet when he appears, Samus breaks down, feeling scared and lonely, screaming when he grabs her.  She still disposes of him in the usual manner (missiles), but that scene was a huge shock to many gamers.  Why would Samus feel so afraid of a foe she's dispatched so many times?  Well, once again, if you ignore Metroid Prime, this is only her third time fighting him.  His abduction of the baby Metroid in SM shows that he has his own agenda, while in Metroid Prime he gives the impression that he has something to prove; he has cybernetic implants to improve his capabilities, seemingly all to show that he's capable of taking down Samus.  In Prime, Samus and Ridley are arch-enemies, while in Other M, it's more the idea that their paths often tangle, so it's possible Ridley was just as confused about Samus being there as she was about him.  Just speculation.
 
Ultimately, Other M is less of a sequel to the franchise, and more of a reinterpretation of the game mechanics and the characters.  It's not a completely successful experiment (it features some bafflingly bad design features, such as the forced perspective pixel-hunting, and occasionally misleading directions), but it's an interesting game from a narrative point of view.  You can argue all you want over whether the story is any good, or if Samus needs a better voice actor, or whether it would have controlled better with a joystick, but despite all of those flaws, I feel the game is at least worth experiencing.

23 Comments
24 Comments
Posted by BigBob

 This blog post contains spoilers for Metroid: Other M, and the Metroid series in general.  Do not read if you do not want to be spoiled.
 
In 2002, Retro Studios released Metroid Prime, the first 3D Metroid game, for the Gamecube.  Metroid Prime was a huge revolution; the Texas-based developer proved they knew how to make games, successfully turning a popular 2D game into an immersive 3D environment, all from a first-person perspective.  Metroid Prime remains one of my favorite games of all time, due to it being the first game to make me feel as though I was part of a living, breathing environment in a game.  Additionally, I have a soft spot for Metroid Prime 3; in my opinion, MP3 utilizes the Wii's motion controls better than any other game on the platform. 
 
However, let's go back to 2001, and pretend that Metroid Prime never happened.  Instead, give us Metroid: Other M.  The entire time I played through the game, it felt less like "another entry in the series", and more like a complete reinterpretation of how Metroid could be played in 3D.  In some aspects, Other M feels like a 3D remake of Super Metroid, which isn't that surprising.  After all, the game takes place immediately after Super Metroid, and Samus retains all the abilities she had at the end of that game.  While Retro Studios took a look at the Metroid series and tinkered with the mechanics until it worked from a first-person perspective, Team Ninja set out to keep all of Super Metroid's game mechanics intact in a 3D environment.  If you keep that in mind, it could explain parts of the game's unusual control system; holding up on the D-Pad to activate the Speed Booster is probably a lot easier than trying to keep steady using a joystick.  Hell, if the basic Wii Remote had more buttons, it's entirely possible Team Ninja would have scrapped the first-person missile sections all together. 
 
The more you look at Other M, the more it becomes clear that Team Ninja wanted nothing to do with the Metroid Prime series.  There are countless nods to the 2D games (Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid II, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion), but not a single game mechanic or lore from Metroid Prime remains.  Several bosses are ones Samus has fought before, only in 3 dimensions now.  The "scan" function from Prime is gone, and now Samus only scans when it's plot-relevant.  However, the biggest departure is in Samus's personality.  Samus barely says anything in Zero Mission, II, and Super Metroid; though she's rather talkative in Fusion (though that's only to an AI computer).  Fusion was released alongside Prime, so I'm not sure that makes a difference concerning Prime's development, but this is where it gets interesting.  Older games in general did not tell the stories that games tell today; Samus didn't talk because she had no reason to.  Is it because she's just a calm soldier who doesn't let her emotions get in the way, or would she be much more willing to open up if there was someone to talk to? 
 
In the Metroid Prime series, Samus is merely silent.  She had no reason to talk in Metroid Prime, but she encounters an entire race who needs her help in Metroid Prime 2, and is working alongside countless soldiers in Metroid Prime 3.  In both games, she doesn't say a word.  After the events of MP2 have concluded, Samus departs with a wave of her hand to say "See ya."  To her, saving the universe is just another day's work.  In the intro to MP3, Samus is nearly a celebrity; she's well-known for her adventures across the galaxy, but Samus isn't one to brag; she just follows orders.  Even after falling down a long shaft struggling with her nemesis Ridley, Samus isn't shaken at all; she's fought Ridley plenty of times, and isn't particularly surprised that he's there.  At the end, Samus does reflect on her adventures a bit, having killed three of her corrupted friends; it's really the only time we see her display emotion since she's wearing her helmet all the time, but after three hard adventures, it's understandable.  Samus is just that much of a badass. 
 
But Team Ninja saw that personality for Samus, and thought it really didn't suit her.  The baby Metroid who sacrificed itself for her at the end of Super Metroid weighs on her soul, and it's the only time that Samus has felt like a mother.  Those lingering feelings carry over into Other M, where Samus is self-doubting, and still shaken over what's happened.  Being reunited with her old mentor, Samus feels like she has to show responsibility, and prove that she's still capable of following orders.  This huge personality shift has left many gamers feeling bitter over Other M; it's a direct contradiction of the personality Samus displays in the Prime games, and especially comes to a halt when Ridley shows up.  Canonically, this is the fifth time Samus has fought Ridley, yet when he appears, Samus breaks down, feeling scared and lonely, screaming when he grabs her.  She still disposes of him in the usual manner (missiles), but that scene was a huge shock to many gamers.  Why would Samus feel so afraid of a foe she's dispatched so many times?  Well, once again, if you ignore Metroid Prime, this is only her third time fighting him.  His abduction of the baby Metroid in SM shows that he has his own agenda, while in Metroid Prime he gives the impression that he has something to prove; he has cybernetic implants to improve his capabilities, seemingly all to show that he's capable of taking down Samus.  In Prime, Samus and Ridley are arch-enemies, while in Other M, it's more the idea that their paths often tangle, so it's possible Ridley was just as confused about Samus being there as she was about him.  Just speculation.
 
Ultimately, Other M is less of a sequel to the franchise, and more of a reinterpretation of the game mechanics and the characters.  It's not a completely successful experiment (it features some bafflingly bad design features, such as the forced perspective pixel-hunting, and occasionally misleading directions), but it's an interesting game from a narrative point of view.  You can argue all you want over whether the story is any good, or if Samus needs a better voice actor, or whether it would have controlled better with a joystick, but despite all of those flaws, I feel the game is at least worth experiencing.

Edited by TaliciaDragonsong

I think it was a great game.
 
Granted I am not the biggest fan of all the Metroid games but I really loved the Prime's, Fusion and Super Metroid.
I think in a way that also helps me experiencing this (and other franchises) game because I honestly care little about who/what/where.
Samus is a bad ass, but she's also human, and I welcomed the storyline and her personality.
I'll admit some parts were...crazy.
She fights some monsters without breaking a sweat and at other times she has a near mental breakdown.
It's not bad, but it could have been done better.
 
This really is a sidepath from the normal series, but not one that necessarily ruins the entire franchise (as some people tend to put it), it just adds another perspective. Lots of Nintendo games are silent, the story is explaining itself through simple situations and scenes, and most lead roles never need to speak much to get their point across. A real fairytale adventure as I'm used by Nintendo.
Metroid might be one of the few very mature games they have (or at least, it could be) and in this day and age there's a lot of people wanting spoken text and more story in those good old Nintendo games.
Which is not bad, dev's should try different things, but not everyone always agrees.
 
And that is where shit goes bad, as people can't stand it when things are not going their way and will bust down on the game.
For me Metroid Other M was one of the top games of this year, for others it will be a scapegoat for years to come.
Guess what matters more to me?

Posted by ArclightBorealis

Regarding Samus' personality in this game, I expected it to be the way that it was. Fusion was the first Metroid game I played, so I got to see a bit of her personality, as she narrates her thoughts while riding the elevators, or talking with her computer CO near the end. And there's the difference in tone compared to her actual and inner voice. Heck, I would say that her character becomes more like a video game equivalent to Ellen Ripley. They're both strong women and can kick ass, but there's something they fear, even when they conquer it many times, they still end up having to face it. Ellen fears the Xenomorphs, as she experienced first hand the horror it brought on the Nostromo, so given Ridley's connection to events in Samus' past, she has good reason to feel afraid. Especially when so much time had passed since Super Metroid, as she mentioned, and the threat of the Space Pirates had pretty much faded away.

Posted by normalpants

Great post! 
 
 there's a part of me that dislikes the characterization of Samus in Other M, but I went back to reread a good chunk of the dialogue and plot in the other games and came to the conclusion that the tone of Other M was remarkably similar to the text-based games, it's just that the big difference is the addition of an actual voice, which I actually quite liked.  Do you remember the bit of voice that played when you booted up Super Metroid? ("the galaxy is at peace...") How about your snarky and silly bounty hunter buddies in Metroid Prime 3? Space pirates? Ridley? Mother Brain? How are they related exactly? Other M is just as vapid as every other Metroid game, it's just that we're older now and our new multimedia options are putting in sharp relief how awful videogame stories really are.   
 
I also loved Prime 1, but I was sort of over it by the time Echoes came out.  Scanning was fine at first, but it quickly became chore.  Samus was sloooooowww in the Prime series.  The additional complexities of weapon and armor polarities in 2 and the crazy Wii control scheme in 3 also sucked out the joy in my opinion. I like Other M more because it's unapologetic about it being a game.  Everything totally falls apart when you apply real world logic to its presentation, but there's something kinetic and addictive in Other M that is missing from the Prime series.  My guess is that the gaming zeitgeist is moving further towards games as games-- which is to say abstract contests of skill instead of deep immersive experiences.  I'll chock that up to WoW taking over a lot of lives and people starting to get a taste for sunlight again.   
 
I dunno, just a theory I pulled out of my ass but maybe I'm onto something!

Posted by Hailinel

The entirety of the Prime series was produced with the notion in mind that whatever happened in those games would be self-contained and not have an inherent effect on the overall Metroid story arc; this was always the intent of Retro Studios from the beginning.  This is why all of them are set between Metroid and Metroid II, and also why the important threads of the storyline (Dark Samus and Phazon) are done away with entirely by the end of Prime 3.  Further, Sakamoto had very little to do with the Prime series outside of a supervisory role on the first Prime.

Posted by ryanwho
@Hailinel said:
" The entirety of the Prime series was produced with the notion in mind that whatever happened in those games would be self-contained and not have an inherent effect on the overall Metroid story arc; this was always the intent of Retro Studios from the beginning.  This is why all of them are set between Metroid and Metroid II, and also why the important threads of the storyline (Dark Samus and Phazon) are done away with entirely by the end of Prime 3.  Further, Sakamoto had very little to do with the Prime series outside of a supervisory role on the first Prime. "
Then the Prime series proved Sakimoto is far from an essential cog in making Metroid work. 
Posted by MrKlorox

I pretend Metroid Prime never happened every day of my life.

Posted by Dalai

It seems like other than the first-person view thrown in, Metroid Prime had barely any influence in Other M for better or worse. I truly loved the Prime series and Retro's take on the franchise since they kept that sense of isolation throughout most of the series, especially the first Prime. You can also say that the pseudo-spinoff is actually pretty isolated as a whole. I think having Samus actually having some sort of personality makes sense and so far the story hasn't really been my problem with Other M. Since Samus was barely fleshed out as a character for 20+ years means they basically had a clean slate to work with. I have no problems with the direction they took in the story and character traits... I do have other issues with the game, though.

Posted by Hailinel
@ryanwho said:
" @Hailinel said:
" The entirety of the Prime series was produced with the notion in mind that whatever happened in those games would be self-contained and not have an inherent effect on the overall Metroid story arc; this was always the intent of Retro Studios from the beginning.  This is why all of them are set between Metroid and Metroid II, and also why the important threads of the storyline (Dark Samus and Phazon) are done away with entirely by the end of Prime 3.  Further, Sakamoto had very little to do with the Prime series outside of a supervisory role on the first Prime. "
Then the Prime series proved Sakimoto is far from an essential cog in making Metroid work.  "
It's still a series under his predominant control, and your attempts at trolling the Other M forum grow worse and worse.
Posted by ryanwho
@Hailinel: Nothing about that is a troll, crossbearer.
Posted by Hailinel
@ryanwho said:
" @Hailinel: Nothing about that is a troll, crossbearer. "
Yeah, well, because of your antics, I've already stopped taking anything you have to say regarding Other M or Metroid in general with a grain of seriousness, so you can move along now.
Posted by JeanLuc
@TaliciaDragonsong said:
" For me Metroid Other M was one of the top games of this year, for others it will be a scapegoat for years to come. Guess what matters more to me? "
Couldn't have put it better myself.
Posted by ryanwho
@Hailinel: So this was just about you getting in a quick troll yourself? Well I'm glad you stalled the discussion for that.
Posted by Hailinel
@ryanwho said:
" @Hailinel: So this was just about you getting in a quick troll yourself? Well I'm glad you stalled the discussion for that. "
You invited it upon yourself by trying to be a smartass for the past week or so.  Good day to you, sir.
Edited by Cornman89

I always put Metroid in the same camp as Zelda: yes, you could piece together a timeline in which all of these things happen, but the games are so rooted in old-school Nintendo-ism that trying to glean any sort of narrative coherency out of the whole franchise is a fool's errand.
 
Far as I'm concerned, Other M Samus is an isolated Samus who's never met the Samuses in all the other Metroid games, who themselves are completely independent, too. These games are just not narratively sophisticated enough to expect more. Other M is Metroid's first step into that kind of thing, but it's not there yet.

Edited by ryanwho

Hal-So you're hijacking this thread to repair your ego and I really couldn't be less interested. "Look at me walking away and not caring. LOOK." No dude.  
@Cornman89 said:

" I always put Metroid in the same camp as Zelda: yes, you could piece together a timeline in which all of these things happen, but the games are so rooted in old-school Nintendo-ism that trying to glean any sort of narrative coherency out of the whole franchise is a fool's errand. "
Its not quite that stark. But yes, continuity is not a primary concern. Storywise, you could say the game ignores everything except the end of Super. Team Ninja just did their own thing.
Posted by Hailinel
@Cornman89 said:
" I always put Metroid in the same camp as Zelda: yes, you could piece together a timeline in which all of these things happen, but the games are so rooted in old-school Nintendo-ism that trying to glean any sort of narrative coherency out of the whole franchise is a fool's errand.  Far as I'm concerned, Other M Samus is an isolated Samus who's never met the Samuses in all the other Metroid games, who themselves are independent of all the others. These games are just not narratively sophistocated enough to expect more. Other M is Metroid's first step into that kind of thing, but it's not there yet. "
That is crazy deep.
Posted by Cornman89
@Hailinel: Video game solipsism, dude.
Posted by PrivateIronTFU
@Cornman89 said:
" I always put Metroid in the same camp as Zelda: yes, you could piece together a timeline in which all of these things happen, but the games are so rooted in old-school Nintendo-ism that trying to glean any sort of narrative coherency out of the whole franchise is a fool's errand.  Far as I'm concerned, Other M Samus is an isolated Samus who's never met the Samuses in all the other Metroid games, who themselves are completely independent, too. These games are just not narratively sophisticated enough to expect more. Other M is Metroid's first step into that kind of thing, but it's not there yet. "

Zelda has a timeline? This is the first I've heard of it.
Posted by ryanwho
@PrivateIronTFU said:
" @Cornman89 said:
" I always put Metroid in the same camp as Zelda: yes, you could piece together a timeline in which all of these things happen, but the games are so rooted in old-school Nintendo-ism that trying to glean any sort of narrative coherency out of the whole franchise is a fool's errand.  Far as I'm concerned, Other M Samus is an isolated Samus who's never met the Samuses in all the other Metroid games, who themselves are completely independent, too. These games are just not narratively sophisticated enough to expect more. Other M is Metroid's first step into that kind of thing, but it's not there yet. "
Zelda has a timeline? This is the first I've heard of it. "
Certain crazy fans insisted on trying to glob together a timeline where clearly one was never intended, and now Miyamoto occasionally coyly goes "there's an official one" and pretends that was the intention all along. I think he's just teasing those people, personally.
Posted by Cornman89
@PrivateIronTFU: People have tried. But they are fools. On an errand.
Posted by Hailinel
@Cornman89 said:
" @Hailinel: Video game solipsism, dude. "
I knew I shouldn't have given up on Philosophy in college.
Posted by PrivateIronTFU
@Cornman89: Interesting. To be honest, I never played Metroid 2, so when I played Super Metroid, I didn't realize it was a continuation of that. So I never even pieced together a Metroid timeline until about a couple years ago. So I can't even imagine trying to piece together a timeline of Zelda. I have too much history with the games, and have always seen them as separate stories.
Edited by gettodachoppa

I kept thinking this exact thing as I played through Other M.  At times, it felt like the Metroid game we thought we wanted before any of us got our hands on Metroid: Prime.  I for one was furious when I heard that Prime was going to be a FPS.  I think a lot of the initial anger about this game stems from that same misguided impulse.  The real problem with Other M is that it's just not very fun.