There’s no doubt about it, Metroid’s Samus Aran is the queen of the video gaming industry. Ever since her arrival on the NES, the bounty hunter has been a firm fan favorite for the majority of the gaming consortium, and after Metroid: Other M’s release just over a week ago, the Big N’s prized asset is only getting more famous by each passing day.
Nintendo’s direction with Samus has always resembled that of the bounty hunter herself, always taking major risks, always succeeding with ease, and always oozing with style.
Metroid’s debut on the NES was one of the greatest things that ever happened to gaming, and Metroid was the first game to feature backtracking, something that has been a backbone for the franchise for almost 25 years. Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo was one of the first games that excelled in delivering a dark, desolate, and forlorn vibe that was simply non present during that time, and it still has one of the greatest atmospheres in a video game to date.
After a hiatus that lasted 8 years, and after missing out completely on the N64 era, Samus Aran finally returned to consoles in the Metroid Prime series, Retro Studios took a major risk in converting the Metroid franchise to a first person experience, and the result was one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, Nintendo’s risks have always paid off when it came to the Metroid series.
When Nintendo concluded it’s E3 2009 presentation, they concluded with Metroid: Other M’s trailer, and the fans were blown away.
However despite the immense applause, fans were quite skeptical, Nintendo teaming up with Team Ninja just felt somewhat disorienting. Both companies are power houses when it comes to video games, but Nintendo’s approach to games differed greatly from that of Team Ninja’s, the Big N always aimed for the youngsters and the teens, while Team Ninja’s games were usually filled with gore and highly suggestive themes.
This, coupled with the fact that Samus was given a voice implied that Nintendo might have taken a step too many, the changes were simply too much for some of the Metroid purists, and it was quite understandable really, as the cliché saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Following other M’s release, the game has received mostly positive reviews, and has sold quite well, but the fact stands that this is the first ever Metroid game to actually receive mixed, and even bad reviews.
The main story in Other M is not about Metroids or Space Pirates, but rather about Samus’ past, and getting to know the heroine on a more personal level in an attempt to make gamers relate to the Metroid protagonist, Other M was the first Nintendo game to feature such a heavy story line, and was the first Nintendo game to actually feature cinematic cutscenes.
It is somewhat surprising that it took Nintendo until the year 2010 to give one of its iconic characters a voice, but it’s better late than never. Or so we thought.
The story is being narrated by Samus herself, and while the VO isn’t dreadful, it’s bland. The narrating style kind of resembles that of Val Kilmer’s in The Salton Sea where the story is being told in emotionless fashion, but it’s not as successful as the movie was. The plot however effortlessly turned people off, some of the plot just felt too cheesy, most notably the part where Samus explains the thumbs up tradition performed by the Galactic Federation at the end of each mission briefing, and the fact that she disabled her equipment out of respect for Adam.
Another issue is the fact that Samus was made to seem too vulnerable in Other M in an attempt to connect the gamers to the heroine, this was simply a wrong approach, gamers didn’t relate to Nathan Drake because he got his ass kicked throughout his adventures, they related to him because he was an ordinary man whose only distinction was that he was braver for 5 minutes longer. While indeed Samus is expected to have her own issues, making the most bad ass bounty hunter in the galaxy act like a naive (her own words) child is downright disappointing.
But perhaps the biggest blunder of all was the fact that Team Ninja and D-Rockets made Samus’ model look like some cheap Dead Or Alive character. Samus Aran is the most famous female character in video game history, turning one of the most iconic and non sexualized characters in video games to some Team Ninja like bimbo displays nothing but profligacy on the developer’s behalf.
That’s not to say that the game itself is bad, it’s actually a great game, but the presentation and story were supposed to be on par with the gameplay and the gorgeous graphics and in that respect they failed, Adam Malkovich and Samus’ past were supposed to be the stuff of legends, gamers have waited years to see who Adam Malkovich was, and what was it that led Samus to become a bounty hunter, but perhaps gamers expectations were simply too much for the developers to handle.
Despite the great gameplay, its strange that Nintendo and Team Ninja opted for the classical style gameplay instead of Metroid Prime 3 Corruption’s perfect controls, however seeing the direction Nintendo took there’s not much to complain about, but having an option for a classic controller and a Game Cube controller would’ve been nice additions nonetheless.
Metroid: Other M is a great game there is no doubt about that, Team Ninja delivered a gorgeous looking game that had sharp controls and satisfying combat, but it’s not exactly a Metroid game, the main aspects of the Metroid experience aren’t present. Scanning objects and creatures to read their history, the excruciating boss fights that kept players on edge, and the backtracking that was a pivotal part of the overall package, not to mention the fact that the game doesn’t feel as desolate and dark as past iterations were.
Metroid: Other M would be a great addition to every Wii owner’s library, but it’s not the Metroid experience players have expected it to be, the Metroid veterans will be no doubt saddened by the unexpected departure from the Metroid formula, and by the fact that Samus’ character doesn’t quite mesh with the Samus of yore. However, all these problems do not change the fact that Nintendo will bring Samus back with a bigger and better adventure, and that she will always be considered as one thing only among gamers.