And so, after waiting for the local video store to finally get a copy of this game, I decided that I could make a better, more informed opinion on Metroid Other M by at least renting it. And that until I could progress through the game enough, I would keep my negative thoughts from previous posts out of my mind.To go in with a clean slate if you will. Unfortunately, it didn't help one bit. As much as I tried to keep an open mind on this game, and as much as I wanted to be surprised and happily proven wrong, I wasn't. And it's difficult to even try to pin down all the reasons why I don't like this game into one cohesive blog. So just a warning, this is a long blog, and there ARE SPOILERS IN THIS POST!!!
Let me clarify that I still enjoy some of the previous Metroid endeavors. The Prime Trilogy is an absolute favorite of mine, even though I don't care much for Prime 3's story and how it got in the way. While Retro danced a fine line with integrating more story, they seemed to stumble a bit. Super Metroid, as much as I have loved it, with closer inspection the game has begun to show chinks in the armor. In terms of continuity in the storyline, it makes little sense, and the choices of some boss battles is something else, not to mention the clunky wall jumping mechanic, and the controls are definitely a test of your thumbs. I care little for Fusion, as the "Go here, do this! Go there, do That!" was a hindrance to the Metroid staple in the journey of the game.
I think my problems stem from a number of viewpoints, in story, design, as well as in the controls. It's difficult not to get too much into these things, because others have already written about this game better than I ever could, as well as staying in focus. Part of the problem lies in what I've been accustomed to with Metroid. The feeling of being an adventurer, a lone wolf, an independant, was unique to me. Granted, there are plenty of games that already do this, but there's a unique charm in Metroid games, and it was in exploration. The exploration yielded not just better equipment, but more knowledge, especially in the Prime games. From the scans in the trilogy, you started to see what the Space Pirates were capable of, and found a message of faith and hope from the Chozo people, as well as their involvement with the Luminoth and Reptillicus species. Now it feels that Sakamoto has stripped any of the lore that was made in those games, to suit his story. I know some have said, "The games have always been that way! Only Sakamoto's vision matters!" No. I refuse to go along with any of that. Because if games like Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, and countless other NES games were capable of having cut scenes (no matter how bare bones they were), then why was there none in Metroid? Or even in Metroid 2?
If the story was always there, then why did previous entries not have cut-scenes throughout the game?
One of the classic staples of Metroid has been of exploration, which cannot be understated. A fine line is played, often times backtracking breaks a game, especially when it becomes a chore, it's almost certain death to a game. Many games we see today, try either to keep the lines of backtracking blurred or have none of it at all. Previous entries in Metroid handled backtracking so well, it was almost to a fault. Other M, as much as it tries to keep in tradition, does a poor job of veiling it's linearity. There are many instances of where once you leave a room, you will no longer be permitted to go back to it until AFTER the game is completely beaten. There have been countless times when I would find a power up, only to not have authorization from Adam to use that power. The willful stripping of these powers became more and more of an irritation, and made little sense, such as when walking into a boiling hot room and only until getting authorization did Samus turn on the Varia Suit. That's not just being submissive, that's stupidity.
The controls themselves, have taken a step completely backwards. While the simplicity of using the Wii Remote is a welcome idea, the implementation, is something different entirely. It looks as though Sakamoto is only interested in having you do what he wants you to do. In such cases, I'd find myself stuck in first person, unable to progress until I found an object that would trigger the cut scene for me to fight the REAL enemy. Several occasions, because of the poor decisions in controls, led me to dying. While that could be a question of skill, to me the controls are far too limiting. It made me long for the nunchuck and thus be able to blast away with free movement. And it shows that what the game lacks is giving you, the player, the feeling of empowerment.
In the past Metroid titles, story wasn't really an issue, aside from continuity issues, a player was given his or her leisure to discover the story, and having a silent protagonist seemed to give way to numerous interpretations of Samus. But Sakamoto believes he has to set the record straight from here on out, and the results are less fruitful on screen than they look on paper. Samus goes into unnecessary monologues, talks in circles, trying to be smart but ends up sounding foolish in the process. It's like after years of being quiet, the flood gates of her thoughts have been lifted, only to be a disaster. The story itself, has potential, that is ultimately laden with clichés, plot holes, and unnecessary twists (cloning Mother Brain?). It wasn't until Fusion was released that the Galactic Federation was viewed as evil, and now, they're a seedy double crossing, Government Organization. Something smells of Metal Gear.
As you progress in Other M, you're not going to see much difference in the elements of the storyline…
The idea of less is more, cannot be understated in this case. Games such as Shadow of The Colossus, champion this. Another example would be Blade Runner, especially the Final/Director's Cut, you can see how the more you watch the film, the more you begin to understand it's world. The Director's cut of the film has a much more stronger ability to give you, the viewer, an ability to interpret it without a narrator. Few stories are ever able to achieve such a measure of repeated discovery, in any medium for that matter. To think that making a game follow the same path over and over is unfair expectation and a hindrance of experimentation. I understand that, but if one goes with the focus on story, then the story has to be strong, and not only that, the players role in it as well. Samus voice acting has been one of the biggest criticisms in the game, often times being as dreary and dull as a Emo-British sitcom (if one were to exist). Her voice is too soft, her portrayal is that of an inexperienced woman, which again contradicts the timeline of events.
And the characterization of Samus herself, has damaged her for me. As I stated in a previous blog on this game, taking a well known, silent protagonist, or even taking the mystery out of a story or character, is a very risky endeavor. This game shows how easily one can screw it up. For example, Samus is far too long in the stream of time to be scared of Ridley. While I can understand initial shock, this is the almost the fifth or sixth time fighting him. Some have said you must read the manga to understand, the defense still holds no water.
Watch as a once feared bounty hunter cowers before a villain shes defeated over and over again…
The above scene makes no sense. Samus is a trained, battle hardened warrior. She's been in the military, fought possibly hundreds of space pirates, and has BLOWN UP two different planets. This is not humanizing a character, it's damaging a character.
If there's a single figure that can be blamed for all of this, it's Metroid's creator, Sakamoto. In several interviews, he's dismissed the Prime games, which could be equated to nothing short of an insult to Retro Studios. A team that spent nearly a decade through difficult collaboration to revive a series that had since faded from the public eye, only privy to those deep in gamer culture. Now that it's been discovered that Mother Brain controlled ALL the main creatures of the past games via telepathy (seriously), the nefarious Space Pirates have become nothing but mindless drones. No longer are they the cold, calculating, fierce scientific creatures they were. And now, even though Samus clearly states she is a bounty hunter, not once have we seen her collect on a bounty. That was actually an idea Retro consider for the final Prime game of the trilogy. A game based on that idea would be varied and interesting, and weaving a story based on that structure would prove to be a new experience for both the character and the player. In past interviews, Retro has even stated that they felt she was a bounty hunter "with honor". But Sakamoto is only interested in his own vision of Samus and the Metroid franchise. Clearly, he's wanting to erode any credence, or continuity the Prime series could have had. What was once a shining, glorious example, a champion, of female heroes in games (greater than Lara Croft in my opinion), has been reduced to a whiny, scared, maternal instinct obsessed woman. That of which has been seen a hundred fold in Japanese game and anime in existence.
one man's vision can so easily destroy a game's future
To call this game and Metroid's future direction under Sakamoto a disappointment, isn't a strong enough word in the slightest. The game could have been better if it had more time to bake. I can't even begin to imagine how Gunpei Yokoi have felt if he were alive today. Better (or worse) yet, what direction the series had gone if he could have been involved. While many champion the idea of "Game Developer Vision" and it being the only importance, I find myself further against that type of thinking. Many game developers are only interested in the stories THEY want to tell, and THEN letting you play through them as they see fit. The player is put aside in favor of story and atmosphere, without even wondering if that's what the overall players really want. Game designers seem to have the thinking they're gods among men, that they're movie directors, while their storyline, couldn't cut it as a SyFy film. Many have stated that you have never had the control over Samus, that you were never her, but that's looking at if from a very basic level. And while the feeling of choice has become more dominant in games than ever before, the feeling of empowerment has diminished greatly. Sakamoto seems to be jealous of the likes of Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima, the latter of which whose story line (Metal Gear) became a giant mess. Whether the reason the spotlight directed at him is a way for Nintendo to shift the blame should the game do poorly (it wouldn't surprise me), or a matter of egotism, are possibilities that I consider greatly.
For some of you, you may think that I don't believe in story-line in games, that couldn't be further from the truth. I have on almost routine basis proclaimed that Mass Effect has been one of the best games in this generation I have played that can carry a strong, story focused narrative. It's acting as well, shows a company capable of their craft. You may also think that I don't embrace change, you're wrong again. I've embraced major changes in the past with many different titles. Metroid did it with the Prime series, it was a gamble, but the overall product speaks for itself. The first Prime game did everything it could to get the feel of Metroid, and it didn't just succeed, it flourished. The game gave you the feeling of being Samus, it gave you the empowerment of a hero, and a quest of discovery. I didn't get much of that from Metroid: Other M. The only feeling from the game was I had was disappointment, and irritation.
The future of Metroid for me is in deep question, as of now, I have little hope in it. If this is Nintendo's best first party effort at strong story telling it shows a severe lack of talent, and a bleak future for such titles. Some questions have been asked if Sakamoto will be tackling Metroid Dread, which he has expressed interest. Consider that a lost sale for me. I dread to see what else he thinks would be a good storyline for a new game. Sakamoto may be in love with Samus Aran and what is his "perfect" vision of her or what a woman is. For others, it's a painful reminder of what happens when a creator becomes too high minded. The fan base is split, and will take a very bold move, or a big retraction to bring them back together. I used an example of Blade Runner earlier, and one particular scene, becomes a fitting end to this blog, on how I feel the Metroid series will become…