Friday, September 10, 2010
Stay tuned after the credits for a special treat!
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.