Why is this a Metroid game? Hands-on with Other M
August 6, 2010
After getting my hands on the upcoming Wii title Metroid: Other M at a recent media event in Toronto, there’s really just one word to accurately describe my reaction: conflicted. While it was definitely a great-looking and fast-paced action experience, it’s not necessarily what I want from the series, which raises the question of why this is even a Metroid game to begin with.
The demo began with the opening sequence of the game, which was surprisingly heavy on exposition. In fact, of the 15 or so minutes I watched, maybe two of them were actual gameplay. The rest consisted of cut-scenes with Samus outlining her story.
Other M takes place directly after Super Metroid in the series’ chronology, so it begins with Samus reliving her iconic battle with Mother Brain. The scene certainly looked great, but it was also flooded with a ton of boring dialog. Based on what was shown, it seems very likely that Other M could feature more dialog than the rest of the series combined.
An awkward perspective shift
After this, I got a chance to actually play a brief portion of the game, which took place on an abandoned space station of some sort. The gameplay is a mixture of third-person and first-person 3D, though it’s not particularly open. When playing in third-person mode you’re pretty much always running through a corridor of some sort. Depending on the area you’re in, though, the game can feel quite different. Sometimes you’ll be running from left to right down a hallway, which feels much like a 2D side-scroller, while other times the camera is over the shoulder as you barrel through a tunnel. There’s also some light platforming, which shows off Samus’ lightning fast jumping abilities.
And then there’s the first-person mode. The game is played entirely with the Wii remote—we were told there are no other controller options. When in third-person, this means that you’re holding the controller on its side, NES style, and moving Samus with the d-pad. In order to change over to first person you have to switch to holding the remote in one hand and pointing it at the screen. It’s a somewhat jarring transition, and during my short time with the game, it never quite felt natural.
You can switch to first-person at any time, but you can’t play the entire game in first-person… because you can’t actually move while in that perspective. You can look around and fire, but that’s it. The only real reason you need to change perspectives is to fire a missile, which can only be done in first-person.
This can lead to some interesting situations. For example, one boss battle has you jumping around avoiding attacks, waiting for a weak spot to open up so you can hit it with a missile. This means you have to avoid attacks in third-person, switch over to first-person in time to fire a missile, and then quickly switch back.
Visually the game looks great, with super smooth animations and loads of flashy effects. (It is co-developed by Team Ninja, after all.) But while technically sound, I did have some issues with the actual art direction. Samus herself looked excellent, but many of the enemies had very strange and not particularly interesting designs, while the various NPCs looked woefully generic.
For many people, two main aspects make Metroid so appealing: the sense of isolation and the joy of exploration. While Other M strays from the former, it remains to be seen how it tackles the latter. The portion of the game featured in the demo was rather closed, but there’s always a chance that the game opens up later on. And there are certainly going to be people who will enjoy hearing Samus’ inner monologue. I’m just not sure I’m one of them.
This post has been written by Andrew Webster on August 6, 2010 11:10 AM couresy of arstechnica.com.