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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Welp, here goes my credibility. Or, let's talk about Metroid: Other M!

Hoo boy.
Well, I finally popped in Metroid: Other M, a game I had been dreading to play for a while. Keep in mind, I've been playing quite a bit of Metroid Prime and MP2, and I've been slamming my head against the wall attempting to outwit the SA-X in Metroid Fusion- but I still enjoyed it a lot. Given the mixed critical reception to this game, I went in with heaping amounts of skepticism and prepared for the worst. After a long opening cutscene, uninteresting tutorial, three energy tanks, and three dead squad mates... I'm really enjoying this game.

Now, it might just be the left-hander in me- yeah, I am, and yeah, I do think the control scheme lends itself to lefties a whole lot more than right-handers- but I don't think the controls are terribly mapped in this game. I mean, there's a big old B button on the back there that isn't really doing much... but I think the horizontal Wii remote works just fine. And then there's the first person switch. Honestly, for a left-handed player, my D-pad thumb slides right onto the A button and the pointer finger that's usually wrapped around the top of the controller goes to the B button. It's comfortable, it's simple, and it happens quite predictably. That being said, I do like the fast-paced action of this game. I think that the controls work really well except when they don't, but that's very rarely a problem. And you can sense-move out of first person! That's neat!

The enemy behavior really does lend itself to how the control scheme is devised, though- enemies are stunned in spectacular fashion by sense-move charged power-beams and sway dizzily as you switch to first person and unleash rockets on them. It's easy to aim upwards and take out enemies crawling in areas that cannot be attacked by your auto-aim. Once you figure out how to do a lethal strike, it's almost impossible to not want to perform them on the myriad of enemies you'll be facing- many of them are wonderfully brutal and fit Samus' more gritty fighting style. Power beam shots are necessary for taking out smaller foes that can outnumber you, but charged shots are really in full-force in Other M. When have they not been, honestly? They're such an integral part of Samus' moveset at this point, but they play an especially pivotal role in this game. If you want to keep up with the enemies and the surprisingly heavy amounts of damage they deal, you'll need to be timely with your sense-move and know where you're placing your shots. In any case, I've enjoyed the combat quite a bit.

The core Metroid gameplay is most certainly there, though the game is very much designed like Metroid Fusion. For those who don't get the reference, the game follows a bit of a linear path, where you go from navigation room to navigation room to get to your next mission objective or story tidbit. The map shows you where pretty much every hidden item is- and while I like the feeling of finding things by surprise, it's delightfully teasing of Other M to feature so many items peppered throughout its environments- it pushes me more and more to obtain the speed booster, the super- and seeker-missiles, and power-bombs too, because all of these items are literally just beyond my reach- and the first-person mode will show you exactly what powerup you do need in order to bypass certain obstacles, which is even MORE of a tease. Areas of the game are accessible from only one route at times, funneling you in a certain direction and making backtracking impossible without certain powerups. The thing is, with Other M's story pacing, backtracking almost seems a pain and generally difficult to do, seeing how some areas change drastically during the course of the story and require new approaches that you won't know of until you backtrack ALL THE WAY to that room again. It sucks, but it certainly makes me want to keep playing when I finally do unlock those powerups. Plus, the environments are small enough to backtrack pretty easily.

If there's one reason I'm really in love with the game, though, it's the beautiful level design and puzzles. I mean, there's very few rooms in this game that don't feature puzzles in some way, shape, or form, even if it means having to obtain a new powerup down the road. Many of these puzzles utilize elements seen earlier in different ways, while some are entirely unique- but many of them have to do with paying close attention to your surroundings. One puzzle early in the game has Samus confronted with an "invisible" wall, and though I could see the terminal that would undoubtedly solve this problem, I had no idea how to get to it. By merely paying attention to your surroundings, you can figure out a whole lot, and though some puzzles are tough to figure out, others are very simple and fun to play with. The game doesn't really break new ground with the challenges it sets before the player, but it's engaging and fun enough to make you approach things from a different angle.

At its core, I believe that Metroid: Other M is really the most faithful 3D representation of the original Metroid gameplay so far. It just looks and feels right when you're sprinting through the halls of the massive bottle ship. But the combat is new, though not unwelcome- it meshes very well with the exploratory nature of the game and keeps things fast-paced. The control scheme undoubtedly works better for lefties, but maybe that's why I like it so much. But there's this one element that is sort of getting in the way of things. That's the story.

I mean, there's a lot of cutscenes in this game, and though the ones that deal with the events unfolding aren't that bad- the flashback sequences and bogus recollections are pretty dull. I mean, I kind of understand where they were going with this one. Most of what we've seen of Samus has been in isolated engagements- she's been on her own and not really interacting with anyone- and returning from the closest and most traumatic emotional experience she's ever had, she's bound to have her head swimming with questions. It's just... well, did she have to be such a sad-sack all the time? Well, it's not even that, really... she's just constantly reflecting on these things that happened in the past and analyzing them objectively, if not extremely sympathetically. It's the first time- since Fusion, anyway- that we've seen Samus discuss anything, so it's natural to be a bit jarring. As a proverbial origin story, Other M isn't that bad. I think it puts Samus' emotional trauma to rest and lets her get on with doing what she does- which is kill things and solve puzzles. It serves as a great jumping point for the mythos, as well- dealing with a lot of the intricacies of the Metroid universe and why everything is so whacked out. But if another game were to be made in the style of this one, I'd like to see a bit more spunk from Samus. She's awfully subservient.

I think that Other M is a great Metroid game, truthfully. I love the engine, the level design, the combat, and the controls. I guess I should also say that I think the D-Pad works really well in this game, because the combat is so directional by nature. But it suffers from an overly-talky plot and the fact that it was released after what could arguably be called one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time, Metroid Prime, which painted Samus as a godlike, stoic badass. There's bound to be some people crying foul about the disparages here. But Metroid Prime has had its time, and I think that Other M does as good a job with making Samus look like the badass she should be. Heck, I never thought I'd see an action/brawler game with Samus on the cover, but I think that Other M has got it down pretty well.

1 comment:

METROID Other M said...

I've played the game myself, and I'm not afraid to say I've enjoyed it (To the point of staying up a little too late at night). The game is not flawless. It does cut off quite a bit on the exploration levels. Just love this series, I just collect this awesome game from PIJ.

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