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Bad Mother- Metroid: Other M analysis
Today I cast my vote for worst game of the year.
December 6, 2010
6 Min Read
Have you ever had that feeling that you knew something was going to be bad but didn't think it would be that bad? That's what I had when loading up Metroid: Other M for the Wii, talking to friends online and watching a few YouTube videos of cut scenes; I had an idea of what to expect. A Black Friday sale prompted me to pick this up out of morbid curiosity and thirty minutes in and I was already screaming "what the f#$k".
Normally when I do these analysis I talk about the story before getting into the game-play, however with the story being one of the biggest problems I have with Other M I decided to skip it for now.
Other M is the 2nd re-imagining of Metroid's game-play, the first being the excellent Metroid Prime trilogy done by Retro Studios. Other M was created by Team Ninja and you easily see their influence with the game play. Samus is a lot more agile this time around able to jump, dodge and even perform finishing moves on enemies.
With that said however as you start to dig deeper the flaws in the game begin to show. Samus automatically targets enemies when moving around, this presents a problem when you want her to focus on something specific. While the idea of performing finishing moves is different, every enemy fight follows the same pattern. Now in previous Metroid titles you did basically just blast every enemy to bits, but you weren't forced to spend several minutes fighting an enemy with exception to boss fights.
Missile aiming to be frank is where the designers screwed up bad. For those that didn't watch previews, you control Samus with just the Wii-mote, keeping it horizontal will allow you to control Samus normally. Turning the Wii-Mote towards your TV puts Samus in aiming mode. This is first person and is the only way for Samus to use missiles.
I knew from the first moment I saw this that this was going to be trouble and I was right. While in first person Samus is immobile with exception to a dodge move you can use. Not only do you have to be in first person but you also have to lock on to a moving enemy. This presents two problems, first is that Samus enters first person in the direction she is facing, meaning that you have to spend an extra second or two adjusting Samus before you even go into aiming mode.
Second with the enemy constantly moving you have to adjust Samus' aim in first person by slowly turning her in hopes of locking on to the enemy to get a missile off. With just about every boss fight and large enemy encounter requiring missiles this becomes annoying fast. Fortunately you won't have to worry about running out of missiles thanks to one very confusing mechanic present in Other M.
For reasons never explained Samus has the ability to auto regenerate her missile supply and even her health as well. Point the Wii-Mote up and hold A and she will regain her stock. There is no other way to recover missiles or health other then the save stations that are scattered throughout the station. The problem with this is that this mechanic is completely against Metroid's game-play and removes the reason to explore.
In previous Metroids the player was encouraged to explore the environment for missile and energy tanks. This gave gamers an easier time while fighting the bosses. In Other M by making Samus' health and missile supply renewable there is no reason to explore the areas. Why do I need missile tanks when I can just regenerate them at will? Granted there are power-ups that decrease charge time for weapons but once again going back to your recharge ability, why bother?
Why the designers decided to forgo the use of the nun-chuck is beyond me as it would have made controlling Samus at least tolerable. Sadly arbitrarily bad mechanics seem to pile up as the game goes on, such as sections that have Samus walking very slowly for no apparent reason. Or having to scan something in the environment to continue but you have to put your cursor on it just right for the game to acknowledge it.
Now that I got everything said about the game-play it's time to talk about the story and how not only does it drag the game down further, but this could be one of the worse stories I've played this year.
Other M is the first Metroid game to feature Samus talking and after the first cinematic I wish that she would shut up. Someone needs to tell the writers that having your character say big words don’t make her intelligent if the sentences don't make sense. Samus is constantly rambling on about something that would take a normal person 5 seconds to say. Her description of her relationship with Adam (her CO) seems less like something an intelligent woman would say and instead sounds like something a teenage girl would pour into her diary after the cute jock casually glanced at her during lunch.
Sadly the horrible story also slithers its way into the game-play. Samus for reasons we can only fathom decides to forgo the use of all her weapons and abilities until Adam says that it is ok to use them. Now I can understand that it does seem foolish for Samus to have a major accident at the start of every Metroid game recently but at least it makes sense with the game-play. Here I see a power up that could help me but Samus refuses to simply push a button on her suit to activate the power needed to get it because Adam doesn't say so.
Samus is constantly made to look like an idiot and a baby with no mind of her own. The infamous Ridley cut scene is a great example of it. Another example comes early in the game where Adam talks down to Samus for one minute explaining why she can't use her power bombs. What is utterly stupid about this is why does Adam know more about Samus's abilities then Samus herself? Another good question is why do I spend the majority of the game with a weapon that takes forever to kill enemies when I could just activate the plasma beam and lay waste to everyone?
I could probably rant on for about two more pages detailing every little thing that I find wrong with Other M but I won't. When reviews first came out there was some controversy about the game being insulting to women with Samus' depiction. I'm not going to talk about that because (spoiler alert) I am not a woman. Instead I'm going to say that I found Other M insulting as a fan of Metroid, good game-play, and storytelling which Other M managed to fail on all three parts.
I'm placing the blame equally between Team Ninja and Nintendo for how this turned out. The only good thing about Other M is that I think the 2.5 D view works for Metroid and I hope this doesn't dissuade further development away from it. I can honestly say that Metroid: Other M is the worse game I've played this year with Dante's Inferno #2 on that list. Now if you'll excuse me I'm debating on replaying Metroid Fusion, Metroid Zero Mission or Super Metroid again to cleanse myself of this crap.
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About the Author(s)
For more than seven years, I have been researching and contributing to the field of game design. These contributions range from QA for professional game productions to writing articles for sites like Gamasutra and Quarter To Three.
With my site Game-Wisdom our goal is to create a centralized source of critical thinking about the game industry for everyone from enthusiasts, game makers and casual fans; to examine the art and science of games. I also do video plays and analysis on my Youtube channel. I have interviewed over 500 members of the game industry around the world, and I'm a two-time author on game design with "20 Essential Games to Study" and "Game Design Deep Dive Platformers."
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