I have to preface my review by saying that I haven’t been a huge fan of the last few Metroid games. I prefer the platform 3rd Person styled games of the original games, not the first-person perspective of the games of recent years. So, for me, turning on Other M and finding a sort of side-scrolling 3rd person throw back, meant a pleasant reception to the game. Even so, it did take some getting used to. The camera angle changes often enough to make it sometimes difficult to find items or entrances. However, it felt like an old school Metroid game — with better graphics.
But then there’s the story. I don’t even think I can do justice to the weirdness that is the story told in Other M. To be honest, I felt a little like I was getting ready for an installment of Kingdom Hearts; you know the weird first person narrative that speaks to whole lots of vague happenings? Yeah, it’s like that in the beginning. The game starts with a cinematic of the last battle with Mother Brain at the end of Super Metroid. The baby metroid saves Samus and then there’s a transition to Samus waking up on a Federation ship. There’s a lot of exposition from Samus as she tests out all her equipment, giving you the player a chance to figure out the control scheme. She then leaves the Galactic Federation ship and comes across the distress signal of a Bottle Ship; she maneuvers to check it out. On the ship, she comes across a group of Federation soldiers led by Adam — her former commanding officer. There’s a lot of tension between Adam and Samus and of course throughout the beginning of the exploration of the distressed ship, more exposition and cutscenes as Samus explains pieces of their relationship.
Sadly, this part of the story is what is most frustrating. It’s built in a manner at the beginning to give us an idea of how awesome Samus, the bounty hunter is. She’s independent and fierce and then as her interactions with Adam increase she comes off as insecure. This sort of dynamic is used to make sure you don’t have access to the full array of weapons Samus carries, until Adam gives the okay. Overall, the story surrounding what has happened on the Bottle Ship is interesting, and Samus interactions with the rest of the GF soldiers is good, but it felt like a huge disconnect from the Samus I’m used to when it came to the story between her and Adam.
What’s even more frustrating is the camera system. While the game is far more open and explorable, there’s a set camera that cannot be adjusted. Then, to make matters a little more complicated, there’s the constant need to switch to a first person view of places and creatures in order to shoot or examine and the transition between the two points of view is extremely awkward. I tried to avoid it whenever possible, but the game makes it necessary on a pretty regular basis, which gets mighty annoying. The transition between modes especially when fighting is clunky, and sometimes the game has a hard time recognizing when you’ve made the switch. Plus, there are specific times in the game, where the first person perspective is actually forced on you, and you cannot get out of it — or do anything really — until you figure out what you’re supposed to be looking at.
As far as fighting and all of Samus’ cool toys go: it’s not bad. But it’s not great either. She auto-targets — sometimes. There’s usually plenty of missiles when you need them and despite the fact that Samus won’t pull out bigger weapons until Adam gives the okay, it’s generally pretty easy to get by without them. Unfortunately, the camera transitions also are used with specific weapons, meaning switching back and forth in the middle of a fight is awkward and often annoying. Then, there’s the occasional special move that takes really being able to tell where you are in relation to the creature you’re fighting — and you can’t because of the bad camera angle. Most of the time, if there’s more than two enemies on the screen, it just feels like button mashing to me (that does get the job done though).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. There’s a lot of great throwback in this game that gets you in to the Metroid state of mind. There’s a decent story (when you ignore the Adam/Samus dynamic) and decent bit of challenging sections where you have to think your way out of an area. It feels like a fun Metroid game, because it is. But, to be honest, I could only take the game in short bursts. It wasn’t that I died a lot — though sometimes I did — it was that I would get nauseous at the camera transitions or frustrated by running though the same room ten times trying to figure out what part I needed to see to get out, usually awkwardly hidden by a bad camera angle.
One of the small elements with Other M that amused me was the loading screen. Each time you log back into the game, while the game loads where you left off, there’s a small recap of whatever you’d done previously. If you’re in it for the story, there’s something nice about having a recap (sort of a ‘previously’ on Other M) as you get back into it. I do like the character dynamic between Samus and the other GF soldiers from a story perspective. It’s playful and respectful at the same time. They’re not necessarily overly concerned with Samus’ safety because they know she can take care of herself.
Unfortunately, the good is outweighed by the bad camera angles, the cheesy storyline between Adam and Samus, the touchy control transition and forced transitions from 3rd to 1st person; so I downgraded my score to RENT, unless you’re a hardcore Metroid fan. I think that the bad is definitely overlookable if you’re there for the Metroid experience. If not, there’s better games out there, and the 8 or 9 hours playtime of Metroid: Other M isn’t going to be worth your time or money.