We don’t put much stock in handing out awards to software and hardware in the years and months prior to its release, but if pressed, we’d agree with the consensus that Nintendo stole the show at this year’s E3.
Once again, the company defied its competitors by pulling the rug out from under PlayStation Move and Microsoft Kinect, two products that try to bring the battle for casual gamers to Nintendo’s doorstep, by showcasing the Nintendo 3DS.
Nintendo is at its best when it’s marching to the sound of its own tune.
That makes it all the more baffling that they would invest in a new Metroid game that appears to aspire to the catalogues of its competitors.
Other M follows on from the events of Super Metroid. The game retains the series’ platform sensibilities, this time transitioning seamlessly from 2D to 3D gameplay as bounty hunter Samus Aran explores the largely linear Bottle Ship that has sent out a distress call.
Like all Metroid games, replayability is closely tied to both speedrunning and uncovering the numerous secrets hidden throughout. Samus has a range of abilities, but you won’t be able to use them all in your first play through of the game as the final “upgrade” is unlocked at the game’s conclusion.
Unfortunately, the game feels like a feeble imitation of the more cinematic gaming experiences found on HD consoles. It’s difficult to comprehend why Nintendo decided to reboot Metroid in this fashion. The company has been avoiding grandiose storytelling ever since they proved that highly creative gameplay and a gentle difficulty curve can be reward enough.
The Metroid series rounds out a Nintendo trifecta with Mario and Zelda. Like those characters, Samus Aran has been a two dimensional protagonist, a bounty hunter platforming her way towards the eponymous Metroids, jellyfish-like creatures that suck the life from anything within their proximity.
In the past, that has been enough. In an about face, Other M busies itself with fleshing out Samus – figuratively and literally – and the results are more than a little disappointing. Wrapped up in a plot with hammy dialogue that sounds like it has been lifted from a direct-to-DVD movie for tweens, we discover Samus is an unempowered woman so obedient to any man who enters her proximity it’s a wonder she doesn’t meekly follow them with bound feet and bowed head at three paces.
We mentioned that Samus gains new abilities as she progresses through the game. In fact, she has a full arsenal right from the outset. Why isn’t she using it? Because Adam Malkovich, a general in the Federation Army who has no affection for her and whom she has no obligation to obey, has told her not to - seemingly because he likes to make things difficult.
The situation is exacerbated by some of the poorest voice acting you’re likely to hear in a blockbuster title. By the time you’re done, you’ll be scanning the credits to put a name to a voice in order to confirm your suspicions that these people can’t possibly be professionals. You’ll be vindicated: Two of the voice actors are in fact the translators who adapted the script from Japanese to English.
But the voice acting isn’t the only place where Metroid: Other M cuts corners. Noted digital perverts Team Ninja – the same responsible for the exaggerated “jiggling breasts” in the Dead or Alive series – have assumed development duties for Metroid: Other M, and the damp residue of their clammy palms can be seen all over this game’s lead character model. Samus is a pixellated pin up. Juxtaposed against this perky hourglass is a cast of more carelessly crafted male caricatures, hobbled together with just enough effort to get a pass grade.
Moreover, the game doesn’t quietly remind you that Metroid: Other M could only be available on Wii, it slaps you across the face with the fact by sticky-taping totally unnecessary motion control elements to core gameplay.
Other M is played by holding the Wiimote sideways in order to replicate a traditional console controller. But in order to perform recharges, you’ll need to hold the wiimote upright and hold A. With the D-Pad out of reach, you can’t move. One would have thought any of the unused buttons on the Wiimote would have been more efficient.
Next, point your controller at the screen to enter a first-person shooter mode that the game could do just fine without – also immobilising, and a game type the Wii has never done well anyway – pointing with the usual flimsy difficulty at in-game objects and shooting them.
Metroid isn’t a missed opportunity for Nintendo; it’s an opportunity the company has been deliberately avoiding since they masterfully cornered the casual gaming market. Why they’ve decided to take one of their hallowed intellectual properties and tamper with it – to make it ape the games of two upstream platforms that are just now trying to slink downstream – is anyone’s guess.