published Friday, September 10th, 2010

‘Metroid’ robbed of atmosphere

By Phil Kollar

Game Informer Magazine

When I saw the debut trailer for “Metroid: Other M” at E3 2009, I had the same reaction as many fans. I was nervous about another big change to the series I love so much, but mixing the exploration and atmosphere of “Metroid” with the tight acrobatic action of Team Ninja’s “Ninja Gaiden” series seemed like a possible win. You know the old cliché about two great tastes that go great together. Unfortunately, this combination proves sour.

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    McClatchy Newspapers Mixing "Metroid" with "Ninja Gaiden" produced undesirable results in "Other M."

To begin with, “Metroid’s” signature sense of isolation on a harsh, alien planet is largely absent since Samus is no longer running solo. Shortly after boarding a derelict space station, she meets a crew of Galactic Federation soldiers and, surprise, she has a secret history with several of them. These new allies could have presented a forgivable way to mix up the “Metroid” formula, but they end up having a negative impact on almost every aspect of the game.

GAME REVIEW

“Metroid: Other M”

* System: Wii

* Style: 1-Player Action

* Publisher: Nintendo

* Developer: Team Ninja

* ESRB: T

* Concept: “Metroid’s” exploration and upgrades meet Team Ninja’s fast-paced action gameplay oh, and drama.

* Graphics: Some interesting environments and unique creatures balanced by rough character models and animation. Still, one of the best-looking Wii games.

* Sound: Classic “Metroid” sounds and music will bring you much closer to the franchise’s greatness than the gameplay.

* Playability: It can be fun once you’re all powered up, but switching to first-person to shoot missiles is always clumsy and annoying.

* Entertainment: Most gamers will find more enjoyment in mocking the game.

* Replay Value: Moderate

Samus ends up working together with the crew, which makes sense. However, in a totally absurd decision that doesn’t work well for her character, she decides to follow the orders of commanding officer Adam Malkovich. Although you supposedly begin Other M fully powered, Samus will not use her variety of missiles, advanced guns or armor upgrades until Malkovich authorizes it. I refuse to believe that this tough bounty hunter would refuse to activate her armor’s heat-resistant Varia suit as she marches through the heart of a volcano with her health constantly draining, an actual scenario from the game.

Because control is limited to a single Wii remote, many of the game’s encounters boil down to running in a circle, charging up your gun and shooting over and over until the enemy dies, praying that the game’s dodgy auto-targeting works. Aiming at the screen with the Wii remote takes you into first-person view, which is the only way you can shoot missiles. Unfortunately, this also takes away your ability to move. If the developer thought that frequent, jarring switches to first-person to shoot off a few desperate missiles before you get attacked is a fun gameplay mechanic, they were wrong.

The combat isn’t the most painful part of “Other M,” though; that award goes to the stilted dialogue in its many overlong cutscenes. Instead of the subtle, effective storytelling of “Super Metroid” (which “Other M” follows in the “Metroid” timeline), you’ll get cinematics that look beautiful but often run as long as 15 minutes, exhausting players with repetition of obvious plot points and overwrought dialogue as mature and interesting as a teenager’s diary.

Late in the game, once Samus unlocks all of her abilities and begins meeting more familiar faces from the series, I experienced fleeting moments where it all clicked, and I saw glimpses of how great “Other M” could have been. But an hour or two of less painful gameplay can’t make up for the bad design choices at this game’s core. It especially can’t make up for what “Other M” has done to Samus as a character. She’ll forever be trapped in my mind as a whiny, talkative child who is too willing to give up her freedom and too petulant to be likable. “Metroid: Other M” is the most disappointing Nintendo release in quite some time and a blemish that isn’t likely to be forgotten on an otherwise superb franchise.

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