***ATTENTION: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS***
Metroid: Other M is not terrible. It’s not that great, either, but it’s not terrible. It looks beautiful, and Team Ninja has done a great job reinventing the mechanics to simulate the feel of a 2D Metroid in 3D. If this was any other game that wasn’t the most recent scion of one of Nintendo’s most venerable franchises, that would be enough. But this is a Metroid, and as such, there are certain expectations and standards that come into play. That being said, Metroid: Other M has brought me to a realization about its makers:
I don’t think Team Ninja knows much about Metroid. Or story structure.
Throughout the years, we’ve come to know Samus Aran as a strong, if silent, bounty huntress, constantly facing down the galaxy’s worst threats with a steely determination and an incredible arsenal. Other M attempts to tell the story of her origins, but the Samus that’s presented as the end result of this origin flies in the face of everything we know about her. To put it bluntly, Samus is now girly. In almost every cutscene, she’s having a panic attack about something, and only seems to calm down when in the presence of one of the men in the game. The most heinous case of this is the moment our heroine first encounters Ridley (big surprise, I know), and promptly starts FREAKING THE HELL OUT. Samus is only able to snap out of it when Anthony, an old partner, convinces her to do so. Granted, Ridley is responsible for the death of Samus’ parents, but this game takes place after Super Metroid, so including that game, the original Metroid, and the Prime series (occurring between Metroid and Super Metroid), Samus has fought Ridley SIX times and “killed” him FOUR times.
It’s insulting. It’s insulting to the image of Samus Aran and, to be perfectly frank, it’s insulting to women. Let’s face it, gaming doesn’t have many strong, independent female characters. In every other Metroid game Samus has been able to face the outrageous challenges ahead of her on her own just fine, yet Team Ninja felt the need to ignore this history and make her dependent on a handful of men to do anything. It’s a trend that you see in their DOA and Ninja Gaiden games, and it didn’t strike me until playing Other M just how subtle and nefarious it is. Why is it that men can be emotionally strong and mature characters while the women all have issues and are hyper-sexualized? Maybe this is just the fanboy in me speaking, but Metroid and Samus deserve better than that. Hell, all women in gaming deserve better than that.
If Samus’ treatment in this game is severely lacking, the story and the way it’s presented are just as bad. Do you like ham-fisted exposition and terrible voice-acting? Do you like plot holes and anticlimactic battles? Do you like being railroaded from one cutscene to the next, barely being given a chance to explore the beautiful environments around you, a key component of the entire friggin’ Metroid series? Great! Because this game DOES EVERY ONE OF THESE TERRIBLE THINGS MULTIPLE TIMES.
Do you know what’s great about Metroid games? Being able to explore a world at your own pace, slowly unraveling the mystery of the world as you piece together and correct the cataclysm that has befallen it. It’s like a full-course meal you eat throughout a long evening with friends and good wine, savoring and enjoying the entire affair. Other M crams the entire plot down your throat all at once and doesn’t quite care what gets caught up in the mix, the culinary equivalent of being force-fed a trough of KFC Famous Bowls all in one sitting. And just when you think you’re going to get at least SOME resolution, the game skips over a major plot point and fast-forwards you directly to the end boss, where, instead of a giant awesome climactic battle, as is called for by the series and the genre in general, you are forced to endure an extremely tedious escort mission against a few super-powered enemy mooks. Then the game ends. Huzzah.
You can continue playing after beating the game, finding power-ups you missed and even fighting a pretty neat secret boss, but it’s just not the same. I completed this part because I felt like I had to, not because I wanted to. Metroid died a little for me on that day, and getting 100% completion felt like the least I could do to honor all the good times Samus and I had been through over the years. I hold out hope for the future of the Metroid series, but if you’re like me and this series is more to you than just a pleasant distraction, I’d advise skipping Other M.