|Metroid: Other M|
|MtAMinutes to Action||4 to tutorial, 18 to danger|
|Buy from Amazon|
I was first introduced to Samus Aran through her appearance in the Super Smash Bros. fighting game in 1999. As Smash is a melee-centric brawl, I always imagined Samus as an agile and powerful close-combat fighter who happened to have an arm cannon as well. In 2002, I eventually played Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, and discovered that Samus, both in 2D and 3D, fought primarily with her many energy-based weapons. I certainly enjoyed each of the games, but still yearned to see the hulking heroine kick some ass in a more literal sense.
To everyone's surprise, Nintendo ended their E3 2009 presentation with a trailer of the next Metroid game. Created through a collaborative effort between Nintendo's internal studios and Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame, this Metroid: Other M featured Samus Aran's return to third-person adventuring after many years spent behind the visor. Jaws were dropped, however, when the bounty-hunting babe began tossing her foes around like rag dolls, grabbing them in choke-holds, and firing charged beam shots right into their faces. Could this be the Metroid Gaiden I had been waiting for?
The months that led to Other M's release at the end of August tempered my expectations somewhat as new details were revealed, but I was still fairly excited when the game was shipped to my door earlier this week. Did my first romp with Other M leave me disappointed or eager to see more?
(minutes are in bold)
00 - Full Motion Video cutscene: Space debris! Lasers! Distorted heavenly voices! A baby with blonde hair! It grows into Samus! I don't know what's going on, or what the significance is!
01 - "Why am I still alive?" Samus ponders, hanging from a giant baby Metroid's fangs. It's the climactic final battle of Super Metroid, re-imagined with some pretty gorgeous visuals.
02 - "Mother! Time to go." Samus charges up a shot and fires at Mother Brain, who just killed the baby Metroid.
03 - Flash forward! Samus is in a medical bay. The quarantine officer asks her to stand up. Samus was dreaming, and recounts the events of Super Metroid.
04 - Samus transforms into her Power Suit. "Ready for a quick test, Samus? Let's start with a warm-up." Tutorial time. Hold the Wii remote sideways, NES-style. The 1 button fires Samus' arm cannon, which can be charged. Samus auto-aims at enemies she is facing and automatically adjusts her aim while charging her cannon.
05 - Press A to get into the morph ball, and press 1 to lay bombs. "Stand in the middle of the room." The view switches to over-the-shoulder, like Resident Evil 4. The floor drops out from under Samus, and wall kicks allow an escape.
06 - "Let's invite some of your pals!" Holograms of little spiny creatures appear. They are quickly taken out with simple cannon shots. "Let's check your reaction time." When an enemy attack is incoming, you can press the D-pad in any direction to dodge. Doing so charges up the arm cannon very fast.
07 - Samus can recharge her missile supply by holding the Wii remote upward and holding A. Seems a little excessive. You can go into first-person mode by pointing the Wii remote at the screen. I found a hologram Space Pirate hiding in the corner! You can only fire a missile while in first-person mode.
08 - The pirate falls to the ground upon being struck with the warhead, and attacks! It grabs Samus and squeezes, but I break free by mashing buttons. After some shots, the officer suggests jumping on its head. I do so, and Samus fires a charge shot right into its cranium. The officer also says to try using a Power Bomb, triggered in Morph Ball mode by holding the 1 button.
09 - Tutorial end! Samus thinks about the Metroid baby's fate before reporting to the Federation that the Metroids and Space Pirates have been exterminated. Applause.
10 - Flash-forward: Days went by. People forgot about Metroids and Space Pirates. Samus receives a distress signal, "Baby's cry," and follows the coordinates.
11 - Samus emerges from hyperspace at the "Bottle Ship." It's pretty beat up...
12 - The FMV in this game is way better than anything Nintendo's ever presented before, that's for sure. Samus lands in the docking bay. The transition from cutscene to gameplay visuals is surprisingly smooth.
13 - Samus walks up a staircase and examines another spaceship. "Point the Wii remote at the screen." The game doesn't move forward until I examine the Galactic Federation logo on the ship. I head forward to the next door.
14 - The camera shifts cinematically as I keep running forward. Pretty neat. I point the remote at the screen to look for anything special. Nothing to scan. I continue, a little disappointed.
15 - A first-person cutscene triggers. Samus runs into a corridor and aims at the figures within. They aim their weapons back. It's a squad of Federation troopers! One soldier recognizes Samus, and she knows him as well. His name is Anthony Higgs, and he calls Samus "Princess." Adam Malkovich, Samus' former superior officer, is there as well. She left his command after an "incident." Anyone who has played Metroid Fusion should recognize his name.
16 - Adam doesn't seem especially pleased to see Samus. He labels her an "outsider" and doesn't bother explaining why the Federation is here.
17 - The Federation soldiers attempt to blow open a door, but the explosive is ineffective. Anthony implies to Samus that one of her missiles should do the trick. The view switches to first person, and I get to blow the door open with a missile. Anthony chuckles. Adam isn't pleased.
18 - Back to gameplay. "Samus has decided not to use bombs or missiles until Adam authorizes them." I follow the path that the Federation soldiers took.
19 - A flying bug attacks, and knocks me off a bridge! My arm cannon makes extermination quick and easy. After they're all dead, a blue dot appears on the mini-map. A hidden item? There's a grate here...I can't seem to get through it now, though, without my bombs. Stupid Adam.
20 - I climb back up to the bridge I fell from. Samus' jumps are a bit floaty, like in Super Metroid.
21 - Perhaps out of instinct, I try to scan the bug enemies a la Metroid Prime. It doesn't work. I just shoot them in first person. Oh well, I guess there's no scanning in this game.
22 - Continuing through the metallic corridors. Some bugs appear, but are easily dispatched with the auto-target arm cannon shots while I run through them.
23 - I think I just found the restrooms in this area. Appropriately, I am only admitted access to the women's room.
24 - I'm in a big, mostly empty room. Some debris are laying about. I climb to the next area, and the door locks behind me. The lock releases when I kill all the bugs inside.
25 - An Energy Tank sits inside a portal, accessible only with a Bomb. I can't get it because Samus wants to behave for the commanding officer. I continue on my way, killing the alien scum I see along the way.
26 - I've come into a doughnut-shaped room. The camera locks on the center, letting me run around it by holding one direction. I climb up to the top and kill the enemies here. Another blue dot shows up after they're all dead. Must be an upgrade. I probably can't get it yet.
27 - I've found a "Navigation Booth." It acts as a save point and health restoration center.
28 - The Federation troopers are ahead, examining a dead body. It's a lab worker. A purple bug crawls out from under the body. One of the trooper kicks it away and shoots it with way too many bullets. That's a huge waste of ammo!
29 - Samus starts to offer her cooperation to the Adam, but is interrupted by a swarm of bugs emerging from the walls. They merge with an eye on the ceiling, and form a purple tentacle monster.
30 - The Federation troopers open fire, and I join in. The timing to dodge the creature's attacks is very specific. I have to press the D-pad right before it hits me. I try jumping on it for an overblast attack, but its gooey body does a lot of damage to me instead.
31 - I'm down to zero health, but still alive. "You can use Concentration to refill your health!" I try to do so, but am killed by the monster. Guess you need a good amount of time to get that health back.
32 - "This isn't working!" Adam authorizes the troopers' use of Freeze Guns and Samus' use of Missiles. They freeze one of the creature's tentacles to the floor, and I shoot a missile at it (from first person). The tentacle is destroyed. One of the soldiers climbs up the creature, only to be knocked off.
33 - Its other tentacle is frozen to the ground, and I destroy it with another missile. Now limbless, the creature jumps around like a blob in an attempt to attack. The soldiers freeze its base, and I destroy its body. The eye goes down after a few shots as well.
34 - Adam asks for Samus' cooperation, but also that she obey his orders here. She is not to use any of her more powerful weapons until Adam says so.
35 - Flashback: "Any objections, lady?" A young Samus gives a thumbs-down to Adam's mission briefing, while all the other troopers go thumbs-up. Samus goes into great detail about the symbolism going on here. It's a bit interesting, I guess, but not very subtle. Anthony, the soldier who recognized Samus earlier, is there as well.
36 - Samus is still going on about the "naïveté of my youth."
37 - Nobody understands Samus like Adam. She sees him as a father figure. "I was so young. Young and naïve." This is a little much.
38 - Back in the present, Adam gives another mission briefing. Priority one: find any survivors. He sends each soldier to a different section of the facility to investigate.
39 - Samus is to go to the system management room and get the electrical system back up and running. Her comm system is still functional, so everything she sees will also be seen by Adam in the control room. He authorizes Samus to use her normal Bombs, but nothing else at the moment. He makes special note of the incredibly powerful Power Bombs.
40 - "That's the end of the briefing." Everybody gives the thumbs up and heads out. Samus has a bit of internal monologue before responding. "Understood, Adam. No objections, of course."
41 - I'm back in control and head towards the system management room. I lay a bomb to destroy a pipe in the side of the room, and find a missile expansion.
42 - I'm back in the Navigation Room and save my data. Back in that doughnut-shaped room now. Looking around for where to go...
43 - Found a grating, inside of which appears to be an upgrade. I look around for a way to get in, but I guess I just can't yet. I guess I'll move on.
44 - I've lost a bit of health, but it seems you can only use the Concentration to refill your health when it's very low. I can fully-replenish my missiles at any time, though, and it takes all of two seconds.
45 - I've acquired that Energy Tank from earlier, and I'm in the system management room. Bugs emerge from the computers! There is a hive as well, which is destroyed with a few missiles.
46 - I recharge my missiles and activate the computer. The map pops up and has a waypoint back for the room Adam was in.
47 - Back in the hallways, I take out some enemies and start to head back. A blue dot shows up, and I acquire a missile expansion after a few wall jumps.
48 - The elevator's working now that I've reactivated the electrical systems. The computer monitor is also working, and it opens up some shelves on the side of the room. Ah ha, I've got that item I was looking for earlier, and it's a missile expansion.
49 - You know, I haven't noticed any music yet. Just ambient noises. Like what you'd hear in a horror movie, right before the blonde heroine is brutally stabbed! Anyway, I save the game.
50 - Adam: "Samus, go through the hatch on your right and head towards Sector 1." Another Federation soldier had gone ahead to secure an area there. I'm to go help out.
51 - I continue through a corridor. Out of curiosity, I look around in first-person and find a wasp hive sitting in a vent above me. I destroy it and climb up the vent with wall kicks, and am rewarded with a missile expansion.
52 - Some floating orb beings hover in a large, circular room. They seem harmless, but I didn't get to be the greatest intergalactic bounty hunter by taking chances, though. The aloof, probably peaceful creatures fall to my charge shots.
53 - Still going. No innocents to massacre here.
54 - I found an item..."Energy Part." It's basically a quarter of an Energy Tank: if I find four, I get another 100 max health.
55 - Some more enemies show up, and I take them out with some missiles. Yeah, it's overkill, but I can refill my missiles any time I want.
56 - I'm in the main elevator room now, with three elevators. Each leads to a different sector. I take the Sector 1 elevator. It's the only one that isn't locked. Inside the elevator, it goes back into the over-the-shoulder view. I hope I don't have to fight in this view, it doesn't control very well.
57 - I go into the Navigation Room at the beginning of Sector 1. A bit of the map fills out, and shows my destination.
58 - Sector 1 appears to simulate a wild jungle habitat. Vines and roots litter the ground, which has some areas of grass. Large flytrap monsters seem to want a bite of Samus, but they taste only missiles.
59 - A missile clears away some brush on the wall, in front of a door. I'm in a circular room, and the doors lock. The glass breaks, and two lizard monsters show up. They turn invisible! I can still lock onto them in first-person view, though, and a missile stuns them and makes them visible. One of them goes down pretty quickly with a few charge shots.
60 - The lizard grabs Samus and tosses her across the room for some good damage. Samus weakens the creature, then jumps atop its back and lets a charge shot go right into its skull. I hop off the dead creature, recharge my missiles and get ready to head out. But that's the end of the first hour!
First Hour Summary
Minutes to Action: 4 to the tutorial, 18 to the first real bit of danger.
Video: The FMV scenes are absolutely gorgeous, and Samus fights and maneuvers with beautiful fluidity. Character models are well above the standard on Wii, and the environments are mostly acceptable, if a little plain thus far.
Audio: To be honest, I don't think I've heard any actual music yet. The game seems to be going for a tense, silent mood. Samus' shots and footsteps sound convincing and appropriate, and the voice acting is very believable (even when the writing isn't).
Story: Who got their story in my Metroid game? Yep, Samus isn't just investigating a long-dead civilization or blowing up Space Pirates this time around. It can get a little melodramatic, but I feel as though I've learned a little more about Samus and those she interacts with when she's not stranded on an empty alien planet.
Gameplay: Where most Metroids drop you on a planet and say, "Go explore," Other M seems to be dictating my path in the same vein as most action games so far. The combat feels a bit too automated for my tastes, but Samus looks pretty amazing bounding around through danger and blasting aliens' craniums at point-blank range.
Challenge: I died once, but that was due to some very bad judgment on my part. Things feel pretty tense thus far, and enemy attacks dig into my one health tank rather quickly.
Pacing: I think the first hour of this game has spent more time in cutscenes than the entire history of the Metroid franchise combined. A good chunk of time was also spent either shooting mostly non-threatening aliens or doing basic platforming and adventuring.
Fun Factor: Truth be told, I'm enjoying the unfolding plot so far, and the combat is certainly flashy enough to keep my interest.
Would I keep playing? Yes. The narrative setup seems to be stepping aside and making way for more action, and I'm interested in seeing where this new direction of Metroid is heading.
Words from beyond the First Hour: Normally, I like to include a more full wrap-up after my First Hour reviews if the first sixty minutes are indicative of the rest of the experience. Having now finished Metroid: Other M, I think a more complete Full Review is in order. If there's one brief thought that occurs to me, it's that this isn't like any other Metroid experience, that's for sure. A lot of the franchise staples have returned, but the gameplay, mood, and progression are unlike any game in the series.
Check out the Full Review to see if the good times kept rolling.