Nintendo’s classic stable of franchises is not known for its gripping narratives. Mario beats Bowser, Link beats Ganon and so on. Metroid has perhaps the tightest storyline of all Nintendo’s products, so we’re excited to see such great attention paid to Other M’s plot. It begins with a direct shout-out to Super Metroid, then whisks Samus off to a gargantuan space station (called the Bottle Ship) in response to a distress call. Once there, she runs into her former commanding officer, Adam Malkovich, and his team of Galactic Federation troops.
Initially, it looks like Other M is going to sport an ensemble cast, as you’re introduced to each of these team members by name. However, after an hour of tagging along with them, you’re all sent your separate ways and the larger plot kind of stalls. It’s just Metroid as usual – isolation and room after room of tricks and monsters. Then suddenly the team is back. Then they’re gone again. And what about that distress signal? Or Samus’ past relationship with Adam? Focus people, focus!
Above: A corpse kicks off the mystery of the Bottle Ship, but both the group and the mystery are replaced by other characters and other mysteries
This makes the first four hours of Other M quite a trying time. The combat isn’t clicking, the exploration is almost nonexistent and the story is sagging. Even Samus’ voice acting is disconnected from any sense of emotion, yet she’s spouting emotional words about Adam and her past. It’s hard to get involved when the heroine’s own voice can’t seem to muster any enthusiasm.
But then, almost in an instant, the story hits you with two really cool twists and starts pulling together disparate plot threads from Metroid, Metroid II, Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, making for an honestly kickass final third of the game. The last few hours are so flat-out amazing, from the escalating story to the authorization of Samus’ powers to the lengthy, gorgeous cutscenes, that it’s a travesty the beginning and middle are so middling. Hell, there’s even a post-credits mission, and that 30 minute excursion is cooler than 75% of the game.
Above: As the series’ primary antagonist, obviously Ridley is in Other M. But how and why he’s here is a great part of the story
In those last hours, it starts to feel like the game we were meant to play all along. The combat gives way to standard Metroid blasting, and the Bottle Ship is wide open to explore. But prior to that point, it’s just not as exciting, interesting or engrossing as Nintendo as any of the Metroid games it references. It’s also hard to justify why the whole game is played with a d-pad – Nintendo introduced the analog stick with the N64 because it knew d-pads weren’t ideal for 3D games. If you’re going to make a 3D world, just use the damn analog stick, don’t try to tell us holding the Wii Remote sideways is a sign the game is “for the hardcore.”
Metroid Prime ? No. Prime was a truly revolutionary step for the series, dragging it from the 16-bit days into the 2000s with cutting edge graphics and some of the best level design of that console generation. Even little things like the map (and controls) are better implemented in the Prime trilogy. Other M is a decent game with a handful of real problems – Prime was almost always astonishing.
Metroid Fusion ? No. Both lead Samus from point to point and shed some light on her as a person, as well as feature Adam Malkovich in a father-figure role, but Fusion did it with a thicker atmosphere, genuinely creepy scenes and a plot that changes our space faring heroine forever. If you skipped Fusion for whatever reason, get on it.
Super Metroid ? Of course not, but that’s to be expected. This is widely held as one of the greatest games of all time, so it’s a bit much to ask the same of Other M. It’s still a fair comparison to make, however, as Other M is a direct sequel to Super Metroid, and the same director (Yoshio Sakamoto) is at the helm. Given the potential on display with Other M, it stands to reason the next 2D game (on 3DS, perhaps?) could finally eclipse the SNES classic.
Other M divides its attention among too many viewpoints and gameplay styles to nail any one of them. Thankfully, the entire game soars so high in the closing moments that it ends up a must play for franchise followers.
Aug 27, 2010