Metroid: Other M starting to feel like a Team Ninja game

Latest hands-on session emphasized Samus' offensive capabilities

We recently posted a hefty previewfrom NGamer UK that spoke quite highly of Other M’s unique mix of Nintendo-minded gameplay and Team Ninja’s penchant for balls-out combat. This contrasts our very first exposure to the game, which at the time felt fairly barren and had some really awkward controls. Now, having spent an hour in a more action-packed area of the game, we can reconcile these two disparate views and say we’re finally starting to see the magic.


Above: Expect more fights than ever before

That first session focused on the spectacle and story, with a lot of CG cutscenes and (so-so) voiced dialog between Samus and the team of space marines she bumps into. The hallways were plain, the puzzles were light, the D-pad controls felt wrong for a 3D game and the entire concept of isolation was missing. In other words, not a great start for the next big reinvention of Metroid.

Thankfully, this week’s demo jumped us to a point where Samus is all alone on the staggeringly huge Bottle Ship, a craft so large it contains everything from metallic hallways to lush jungles, vibrant streams and other seemingly outdoor environments. Each, of course, is filled with bugs and baddies that want to crack Samus open and feast on the goo inside.


Above: Like these armored plant-lizard things, for instance

Confronting the myriad beasties is where the Team Ninja influence is truly felt. A battle with two cloaked lizard-men felt more like an evasive, sci-fi Ninja Gaiden than the comparatively clunky Samus found in Metroid Prime. Just before an enemy is about to strike, tap the D-pad in any direction and she’ll zip out of the way in a cartwheel of green exhaust, which also happens to fully charge your arm cannon. Before long you’re swaying in and out of danger, returning split-second blasts and then running up to the dazed creature for a showboating finishing move. She can also hop onto a stunned enemy and deliver a hugely powerful attack called “overblast,” which comes in handy against the more resilient monsters. It’s simultaneously bizarre and exhilarating to see Samus behave like this, weaving through enemies with previously unseen grace.


Above: A rather vicious end, delivered by a classic Nintendo character

The only oddity is the visor view, which is activated by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen. While inside the visor, you can lock on to enemies and fire devastating missiles (a great way to soften them up for a lethal strike) or hold B to initiate a free-look mode that points out areas of interest. Nothing like the scan visor from Prime though – it’s fairly basic and only makes note of things you can interact with, plus affixes you to the ground while the rest of the world keeps moving. Maybe it means strategic use is necessary, maybe it means this is a questionable way to implement the visor at all. We’ll have to see.


Above: Visor mode lets you look around, but you’re locked in place while here

In short, the most recent hands-on reinstated a sense of excitement for a game we were previously concerned about. The controls seem to gel over time, and the worry of Samus being surrounded by Federation troops was lessened when, after an hour of play, we didn’t bump into one other person.


Above: There sure were a lot of things to kick though

There are still some issues that can only be answered with a full review, namely how all these different parts come together. The combat is definitely fun, but is it fun for hours? Will there be new moves a la Ninja Gaiden? Is the D-pad destined to irritate as an input device for a 3D game? Will the balance between Team Ninja’s action/story and Nintendo’s old-school feel balance itself?

We’ll know it all very, very soon.

Aug 5, 2010

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