It certainly came as a surprise when Nintendo announced that the next game in their long-running, beloved Metroid series would be developed by Tecmo’s Team Ninja. I’m sure that a few Samus Aran fanboys were gripped by fear too when they realised that we’d get some insight into the heroine’s personality, too.
For those of us who aren’t irrationally opposed to change, Metroid: Other M has quite a few new ideas on offer without breaking too far away from the classic Metroid gameplay we’ve come to know and love. The first change is that the game is now played from a 3rd person perspective viewpoint and feels a lot more like the classic 2D Metroid. Other M is also played with only the Wiimote turned on its side like a classic controller – no nunchuck or other fancy peripheral required. “What?” You might ask; knowing how complex Metroid games can become, it would seem like a step backwards to limit the game’s controls to only the buttons on the Wiimote, wouldn’t it? Well, yes that’s a valid concern, but when you actually get down to playing it, you’ll find that Team Ninja went for a low-tech, high-intelligence approach, and managed to do a lot with a little.
For the most part, Samus runs around in a 3rd person viewpoint, blasting enemies with her arm canon, turning into the classic morph ball to get into confined spaces, and generally exploring to find upgrade items and new abilities that will enable her to reach areas that were inaccessible before. Classic Metroid, right? The crux of this new scheme is her dodge ability. By tapping a direction just as an enemy attack is about to land, Samus can perform an acrobatic evasion and end up with her cannon aimed at the enemy who made the attack. Using this trick, it’s possible to fight rooms full of enemies without ever taking a hit. Players can also make Samus aim and fire rockets from a first person viewpoint by aiming the Wiimote at the screen. It takes some getting used to at first, and although Samus cannot move while aiming, players can still make her dodge by shaking the Wiimote just before an enemy attack lands. It’s all very cleverly done.
Of course, one of the biggest draw-points in Other M is the fact that, for the first time ever, we get to see what kind of person Samus Aran is. The story is told through cutscenes with frequent flashbacks to Samus’s past accompanied by her own, internal monologue. Without giving too much away, it’s good to see that they’ve written her a believable human being with her own flaws, issues, hopes and dreams – a far cry from the voiceless, self-sacrificing paradigm of virtue we’ve had to assume she was until now.
If you’re an avid Metroid fan, then you probably don’t need any convincing to buy it, but if you’re looking for an in-depth action game for your Wii, it also comes highly recommended.