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Sean Pettibone


Metroid Other M (Wii)

You probably thought you knew what to expect from a Metroid title. Nintendo had other ideas, unexpectedly enlisting Team Ninja to produce and design the newest installment, Other M for the Wii. This version changes a few things. Eschewing for the most part, the Prime titles' exclusive first person perspective for a mix of third and first is an interesting idea, and the extended cut-scenes add some depth to the backstory. In addition, new abilities such as close range attacks give Other M a different feel from a gameplay standpoint. The question is, do these changes work or does the reboot fall short? Look inside and discover the answer.

Nintendo made a lot of waves when they announced that Tecmo's Team Ninja would be taking over the reins of its long running series. After a long wait, the finished product of this partnership has been released and while there have been many changes made, there are also many familiar elements. After all, players have a certain set of expectations when they plug in a new Metroid game, and this one stays within the usual parameters. Once again, the game stars Samus Aran, and as usual she has her usual abilities. She can fire standard shots or missiles at opponents, there are several types of these that she can use. As you progress through the game, you'll also find other abilities that she can use. As expected, her Morph ball form which allows her to roll through levels make a return but the game also has a few twists as well. Unlike the last couple of games, Other M offers a mix of third and first person action. Most of the game is played in third person mode, where you use the d-pad to move samus and use the action buttons as you would have in the classic NES and SNES installments. You can switch the camera to first person perspective when you need to lock onto or target specific enemies. This is done by holding the wiimote vertically pointing at the screen. Unfortunately, you have to do this each time you want to switch views, which can become annoying. While the new perspective functionality seems to be an odd choice at first, there are a few new elements that this leads to, which helps to open up the game mechanics to innovative new features.

One of the most interesting new abilities that Samus has in her arsenal are the new close range attacks. The two main types of these are called Lethal Strikes and Overcharge moves. Using a lethal strike move is simple. By pressing the charge button while an enemy is down, you can unleash a powerful attack that will pulverize or destroy them instantly. Samus can also use the new Overcharge moves, which work similarly and occur when you jump on an enemy. Getting on top of them is trickier than it sounds and takes some practice. These close-combat attacks work together to give the action in Other M a much more visceral, you might even say violent feel. They're definitely cool to look at, and most importantly can be quite effective. Taken together, they work in tandem to help you down enemies that otherwise would be almost impossible to destroy. These are slightly odd feeling at first, but with a little bit of practice, most players should be able to get the hang of them quickly. Team Ninja has done an excellent job in seeing that these new techniques are integrated into Other M's more traditional play mechanics. However, they seem like distractions or gimmicks that don't really add much to the basic gameplay in Metroid. There are some combat sequences which feel overly frustrating in many ways, but the game offers frequent save points throughout, so your progress never feels completely blocked. Fortunately, the most engaging parts of the series, which come in unlocking puzzles, scanning enemies for clues and discovering the weak points in opponents are still very much present, though they've been de-emphasized. In taking this approach, Team Ninja has made Other M feel much less like a Metroid title and moved the balance more towards that of a traditional shooter. There are still plenty of puzzles to solve, elevators to climb and jumping or rolling sections in the game, but it seems more predictable than in previous games. The levels themselves unfold at a somewhat decent pace, though the game itself feels choppier and less coherent overall.

Unlike previous adventures, where our heroine was mostly silent and let her guns do the talking, she is now a full-fledged character this time around. During the course of the game, layers will uncover many elements and characters from her backstory. These events unfold with a series of cutscenes, some of which are pretty extensive, that occur during the game. Samus' story is a bit long and convoluted, but the game's plot is fairly simple in terms of pacing and characters. Metroid: Other M, takes place as galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran finds herself crossing paths with a mysterious force that she's seen before in previous adventures. Finding the key to this force is also how she will find out how she acquired the many special abilities she has. On her way to confronting her demons, she also encounters the members of a special operations force she was previously a member of. The game takes her to a deserted military base that's been over-run with these mysterious creatures, known as Metroids. As she encounters them, she can also catalog and examine them, which can lead her to further clues. Its fairly elaborate, but the acting and presentation leaves a lot to be desired, which means this portion of the game isn't as effective as it could be. Too often, it seems like the storyline and plot get in the way of the action, stopping the gameplay just as momentum seems to be building. Since so much suspense and drama has been poured into these sections, it makes the rest of the game seem almost tacked on, even some of the boss battles seem anticlimactic, as if they are mere props to move along the story. This makes Other M feel less coherent than it should. At points, this can be really annoying and makes you feel like you're watching an anime movie, rather than playing a game that you're interacting with.

Metroid: Other M deserves credit for attempting to place the series on a new path. Unfortunately, many of the changes and re-imagining done by Team Ninja don't work. While the new finishing moves and close range attacks are quite effective, some of the other elements just don't work. On paper, there are some good ideas but the sub-par execution means the final product leaves a lot to be desired. Its extended cut scenes are forgettable, poorly acted and detract from the main gameplay. Most of the action has been seen in other Metroid games, and the motion control mechanic of switching between first and third person perspectives can be distracting. This is particularly true during the heat of battle when its not always obvious which angle will be most effect. Aiming the wiimote at the screen to shoot enemies at close is a fine idea in theory, but the limited view it provides means you'll take a lot of damage unnecessarily. This makes for a hugely frustrating experience at points where you lose energy for no reason other than the poor design. Other M's level designs are merely average and fail to live up to the best seen in the Prime series, leaving you with a distinct impression that you've seen this before and done better. The puzzles are almost uniformly predictable and while the new close-in fighting techniques add some drama to boss battles, they become predictable and monotonus very quickly. Its short length and somewhat simplified level of difficulty is sure to disappoint players who expect more from the series. Other M's storyline is also a little bit below average for the series, giving you less incentive to keep playing. In closing, Metroid Other M is a good example of what happens when good ideas meet poor design. Despite its flaws, Other M isn't a terrible game, merely an average one. Judging by the standards set by the earlier Metroid games, this makes Other M a disappointing experience.  

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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