The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
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 very possible win -- you know the old cliché about
two great tastes that go great together. Unfortunately, this
combination proves sour.
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.
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 a badass 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
You’ll run into situations like this again and again,
where a super missile or grappling hook would allow you to progress,
but instead you’re given orders to turn around, knowing you’ll have to
backtrack later. It’s like Team Ninja wanted to prove that they could
come up with a more contrived way to lock down your powers than the
average Metroid game where you just lose them in the beginning sequence.
the other hand, maybe Samus is happy not using her full range of
weaponry, because it’s kind of a pain to do so. Since 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.
The biggest culprit in the bad
storytelling is Samus herself. She has a constant running narration,
which makes the whole experience feel unnecessarily expository. I
assume it’s meant to lend her emotional gravity, but the soulless voice
acting and ham-fisted writing make that impossible. Even worse, Samus
often comes off as an idiot. After one supporting character has clearly
established that the space station has been doing biological weapons
tests, Samus asks, "Do you think they were doing biological weapons
tests?" Later, in her internal monologue, she again reiterates this
confirmed fact we learned just 20 minutes ago.
If that’s not
enough to make her unlikable, her attitude toward the Galactic
Federation soldiers is. When she’s not blindly following orders for no
discernible reason, she becomes a spoiled brat. One major flashback
revolves around how Samus became known as the soldier who would give
thumbs down during mission briefings. Who does that?!
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.