Friday, September 10, 2010

Stay tuned after the credits for a special treat!

Above: Samus' goth high school portrait.

Metroid: Other M is not a bad game. It's not a great game, either. But it's a strange game, and the strangest thing of all is this: it gets much better after it's over.

The initial campaign took about ten hours, all told, and while it had its moments it was also frustrating. For the most part, you can't explore. You have to go where the game tells you to. Your suit upgrades are doled out by a third party, and not because of anything you do.

This last part is pretty ridiculous. You repeatedly run through hot lava levels that sap your life, before some guy says "Oh hey, how about you use your Varia Suit?" You've had it the whole time, you see. You just didn't think to turn it on.

The same thing happens a little later: Samus is about to be blown into the vacuum of space, but fortunately, the game seizes control from you and activates the Gravity Suit. Well thank god for that. I didn't want to have to do anything there.

Some items are impossible to pick up your first time through, because you can't use Power Bombs until the plus game starts. Besides that, because so many doors are arbitrarily locked in service of the story, you're not free to backtrack whenever you do find an upgrade.

Worst of all is the story. Look, Nintendo and Team Ninja were under no obligation to meet some Platonic ideal of Metroid that may exist only in my head. If they want Samus to talk, Samus can talk. If they want her to whimper while a manly man father figure heroically sacrifices himself to save her, they can do that too (of course, they really shouldn't have). But, Metroid or not, they shouldn't have made long, talky, boring cutscenes that, when they aren't interrupting the gameplay, are replacing it.

Then, after the terrible climax,* the credits roll, and Samus flies back to the space station. Suddenly, it feels like Metroid again. Samus is alone. There's not some idiot chirping at her every five minutes. She can explore the space station at her own pace, and under her own direction. At this point, you have all the powerups, so the only upgrades remaining are generally more missile packs and energy tanks, but that's okay.

I'm not sure what to make of it. The plus game is a hallowed tradition, but it's not something I've tended to pursue. One playthrough is usually enough. Here, I'd say that it's almost worth plugging through the first game just to get to the second one. It's not a good thing that it takes ten hours to get where you're going in Other M, but it's nice to arrive.

*Story of my life.


thequickbrownfox said...

Don't sound so apologetic. Your description makes it clear that "bad game" is the term to use. No game should demand 10 hours before it stops being bad. It's a shame you couldn't have posted this a bit earlier as all the reviews were coming out. For some reason, it is standard for the negative articles to begin appearing only a couple of weeks after the release of a game that was "supposed to be good" but wasn't. I guess people are temporarily blinded by hype.

Nels Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nels Anderson said...

Can you mail me an SD card with your save file on it? Because that sounds like a game I'd like to play.

Mr Durand Pierre said...

While I agree that the endgame was the best part, I wonder how much the linear pace really effects our playstyle vs just being an illusion.

See, when I play a Metroid game I go through it at a relatively linear clip, only stopping to pick up new goodies if it's not too far out of my way. It's not until I'm done (or near done in the case of Prime's last minute fetch quests) that I really get a chance to explore with a full arsenal.

Other M plays this way, but what makes it different is that you're FORCED to play this way. You don't even get power bombs until after beating the game. But it's not like I'd make a pass around the entire game world every time I get a new upgrade anyway, so this new regimented thing just takes away the illusion of freedom that you'd probably never pursue until later anyway.

Ultimately, I found it very well paced, but I just felt like I wasn't really solving much on my own (aside form a couple cool holodeck like areas). Still wildly addictive for the 15 or so hours it took me to get 100%.

Halion said...

So in other words, Other M is: "This is how Metroid would look like if we killed off what made it unique, so never complain again or you'll get something like this".

Makes sense to me.

Unknown said...

A coworker informed me that the boss of the plus-game is waaaaay more satisfying than the boss of the game before the credits.

BigLoser said...

I seriously hope this doesn't end up being another "failure of a sequel".
I always trust Nintendo for knowing what they are doing, but this new Metroid has been so criticized that I doubt I'll ever purchase it.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty surprised at the hate this game's getting in the community. The cutscenes are fairly awkward, but this Metroid's no more linear than Fusion, which people seemed to love. Fusion also had a point of no return that was not telegraphed to players; that got me angry.

The Varia Suit thing was dumb, and at the same time, the old paradigm of "Samus trips on a rock and loses everything, only to find a new piece that does exactly the same thing right before it's needed." isn't exactly the paragon of sense. It's interesting that this authorization thing got as much flack as it did. There's some kind of suspension of disbelief that isn't extended to it, and I don't know why that is.

Other M opened up in the mid-game region, and if you were in a sector, you could backtrack there as much as you wanted. The last really non-linear game was Metroid. All the rest have had gates of some kind. In the first game, though, you could generally get around anything if you were persistent enough with the ice beam and bomb jumping.

Anyway, the endgame was a great treat; I agree. Aside from everything you missed lighting up on the map, I loved screw attacking down the hallways and just mowing through enemies.

The last great frontier for this game is the ability to finally be able to write on the map, lol.

Anyway, I really liked the mechanics of the game, and it'd be a shame if this got slammed enough that that combat style never saw the light of day again. It was like it was a glorious retake on the 2d beat em up, and it felt really, really good to me.

Rodneylives said...

The cutscenes are fairly awkward, but this Metroid's no more linear than Fusion, which people seemed to love.

You must be living on some alternate reality Bizarro-Earth. Fusion is regularly cited as the worst game in the series, for exactly the reasons given in the post. There is a reason no Metroid game has been written exploring the post-Fusion universe; it changed the character too much. Other M will probably go down as being the Other Fusion in the long run.

The Varia Suit thing was dumb, and at the same time, the old paradigm of "Samus trips on a rock and loses everything, only to find a new piece that does exactly the same thing right before it's needed. isn't exactly the paragon of sense. It's interesting that this authorization thing got as much flack as it did. There's some kind of suspension of disbelief that isn't extended to it, and I don't know why that is.

Well then listen up because I'm going to tell you.

Samus losing her equipment at the start of Metroid Prime 1 and 2 is only a nod to playability. The Metroid series is about building a character's power through exploration (as opposed to just killing things as in most CRPGs), but to start the player out at a low level of power requires some story explanation of why Samus doesnn't just use all the stuff she picked up in the LAST game.

Metroid was originally designed as a one-off kind of thing, not intended to have a raft of sequels (eight as of this moment). 2 and Super, Fusion just hand-waved it. (Zero Mission is a remake of the first.) The Prime games are the only ones that attempted to explain it at all.

The point is, though, that losing the powers is a transparent, shallow explanation, but it allows for the traditional Metroid gameplay where you build Samus' abilities through equipment. Other M's solution is more nonsensical, but doesn't provide the exploration benefits either. Everything is doled out to you on schedule during the main game. You don't get rewarded with new abilities through mere spending time with the game (like CRPGs) or exploration (like Metroid); it happens as set story pieces, and that sucks most of all, because the game doesn't vary between playthroughs. Your skill is irrelevent: the whole game is pass-fail, you always get the stuff you need, and so strategy is removed from the game, reducing it to a series of action challenge set pieces. That can work as a game, but it requires a different soft of structure (think WarioWare), and it's certainly not what people expect or want from the Metroid series.

I should point out that there is one other popular Nintendo series that has the power reset problem: Zelda. It handles it by making the Link of each game different, so naturally he doesn't have all the loot, rupees, hearts and macguffins of previous games. Samus is less mythic however, more obviously a single person rather than a hero-figure that gets recast endlessly. If they had starred each Metroid game with a different bounty hunter, then perhaps I wouldn't be explaining this so verbosely to you now.

Rodneylives said...

Oh, and there is one other Metroid game that is mostly gateless: Zero Mission.

Tahj Blow said...

Nice post. I've only really played Metroid prime 2, so I've never even heard of the complaints I'm hearing now. To The Hanged Man, I understand how little sense it makes that Samus just happens to loose everything from one game to the next. On the other, it's the difference between a good story and a bad one. Every enemy would have to be just about as hard as the ones from the end of the last game, and they could only get harder. Could you imagine how bad The Matrix would have been if every person on the street turned into an agent when Neo plugged in? After reading the post, I'm getting the "save your money for something else" vibe, which is a shame because I really liked the previews and cutscenes I saw online. But, that's how the cookie crumbles I guess. Thanks for the review. I'll put it up as a "Blog post of note" on my own blog, See ya