Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
While the “Metroid” series has seen a few different incarnations &- including first-person adventures, and even a pinball game &- the games are mostly known for slightly slower paced exploration and puzzles, with a bit of action thrown in to keep things interesting.
So when it was announced that the fast-paced action experts at Team Ninja would be making the next game in the treasured franchise for the Wii, fans were optimistic, but cautious.
If you’ve never played a “Metroid” game before, the format is both simple and deep. The games always drop series heroine Samus Aran into a huge, sci-fi environment and task her with exploring a variety of environments using a variety of upgrades and new weapons. Backtracking is a key element, as you’ll often pass doors that you just can’t open until you come back later with the proper tools.
“Metroid: Other M” for the Wii is the first time Samus has been in a third-person adventure, and the transition is mostly a great success. One aspect of the game that’s a bit weird, however, is the controls.
When moving around the 3-D environment, whether you’re exploring or fighting, you hold the remote sideways, using the control pad to move and the 1 and 2 buttons to run and shoot, which brings back memories from the original “Metroid” on the NES.
However, at any moment you can point the remote at the screen to look around and shoot things in first-person mode. You can’t move around in this view, but it’s necessary to use in order to find secrets in the environment and to fire missiles.
This setup makes the controls extremely simple, but it also means sacrificing some things hardcore gamers are used to from this sort of game. The loss of analog control is obvious, but the lack of buttons also means giving up things like a dodge button.
For the most part, the folks at Team Ninja came up with clever ways to compensate for this. For example, if you want to dodge, just move in any direction with the right timing and Samus will artfully avoid many attacks.
It takes some getting used to, and it was a weird design decision for the game, but the controls do what they need to do, and for the most part they work perfectly fine, with few problems.
Other than the controls and new third-person perspective, “Other M” plays like other games in the series, which is not only a great thing, it’s also a relief. The things that make “Metroid” unique, such as the exploration and item hunting, are what help the game stand above other sci-fi action titles. It would have been a tremendous shame if those elements had been buried with this new entry. But they’re intact and thriving.
Something that does feel different, though, is the story. This is the most story-driven game in the series, and unfortunately that aspect of the title is a bit hit-or-miss.
Much of the “miss,” unfortunately, comes from the voice acting. For being the lead character, Samus’ voice is very flat, especially in the opening monologue. I get the sense that the voice actress may have been trying to make Samus sound like the tough, heroic bounty hunter that she is, but the delivery is painful at times. Other members of the cast aren’t much better.
The story itself spends a lot of time exploring the history of Samus as a woman in the Galactic Federation. This is illustrated with some beautiful cut scenes &- a common characteristic of games from developer Team Ninja &- but this story will probably divide fans, as it’s merely OK.
Graphically, “Other M” is beautiful for a Wii game, taking full advantage of the power the Wii has and being very pleasing to the eye.
All told, fans of the series can rest easy, as “Other M” is a great addition to the “Metroid” franchise. It may not be the shining jewel, but it’s a thankfully solid adventure that any hardcore Wii owner should check out.