TJ reviews Metroid: Other M in a diary.
Review Diary: Metroid: Other M
WARNING: YES, there are SPOILERS here!
Despite swearing it off and vowing never to return, I find myself here again. Too many painful memories, too many harsh words exchanged; the rewards received were not worth the pain endured. Never thought I'd be back. And yet...here I am.
I'm talking, of course, about GameStop.
Monday afternoon, an incoming text message reminds me I may pick up my reserved copy of Metroid: Other M on Tuesday morning. I will. Oh, and that I can'trade in games that I paid hard-earned money for in exchange for a piddly discount. I will not. Thanks.
So this morning, on my way to work, I swing by the one GameStop in town with abnormally nice employees where I usually reserve titles that come with exclusive swag. I think I reserved Other M here at the same time I reserved Yakuza 3. Pick up my game, the little black “art folio” is included. I even ask for -- as opposed to being suggestive-sold -- the official strategy guidebook.
For the collection, you understand.
Then it’s a 10-hour day at work, while Other M hangs out and waits for me in a bag.
Upon returning home sometime after 10pm, I head straight for the living room and smooch my loving wife, who knows I have a date with another woman -- Samus, of course -- and will need the TV for the evening. I fire up the Wii and pop in the disc and settle into the couch. As my bride stretches her gorgeous gams across my lap while she reads some trashy vampire novel (I have my vices, she has hers), the moment I've been waiting for is finally here, and I'm all ready to...um...er...update my Wii, I guess.
While I wait, I flip through the surprisingly fat instruction manual -- oh that’s right, they’re all in three languages now. But I see mention of the Wave Beam, Ice Beam, Screw Attack, even the Shinespark...it’s all here. I'm excited.
Okay, the system rebooted. NOW the moment is here. Oh...no it’s not. It’s gotta update again or install or something. Dammit do I miss cartridges sometimes. More dookoo-deekee noises, another reboot, and the little window on the Wii menu finally says METROID. Can I play now, for real?
Gorgeously-rendered CG cutscene of the climactic moments near the end of Super Metroid and Samus’ awakening play out, which we’ve all seen by now. Very pretty, but I am chomping at the bit to try the controls.
The quick tutorial feels good...wow...really good. I can'tell first-person and melee attacks will take a bit of practice, but I like the speed and ease of movement and shooting. It reminds me of Zero Mission -- I liked the speed of that game as well.
I get past the introductory sequences and the purple-bug-blob-eyeball boss, which we’ve also all seen by now. I'm already getting used to the controls, and although the action is interrupted a little too much by cutscenes, they’re not THAT long -- I mean, I'm a Metal Gear fanatic, okay? I can'tolerate more cut scenes than this without complaining. My wife, however, said that Samus’ maudlin dialogue made her sound like she was a real downer and in need of some black eyeliner and a Morrisey record. I laughed.
So I do the necessary running around, and eventually get sent off to Sector 1, which is wonderfully Brinstar-y. I run and shoot and look and explore and examine and fight and experiment. I discover that charging your beam, then turning into a Morph Ball, throws out five bombs, like in Super Metroid. Jumping straight up, then pressing 2 again, makes Samus spin down and forward. I see things I know I can't reach yet, I shoot Zoomers or Geemers or whatever the hell they’re called as they crawl on floors and ceilings, I find a new way to blow up Sidehoppers. I die a couple times figuring things out, but I always wanna continue and I make progress.
So far, my hesitantly positive expectations have been exceeded by a game that’s fun to play and feels, to me anyway, like Metroid.
There are a couple real Metroid elements that are missing. No energy or missile drops from defeated enemies? That’s part of Metroid and should be included. “Concentrating” to refill your missiles is darn handy, but the fact that you have to be almost dead for it to work on your health doesn’t make much sense, because the only time I've been that close to death is in a hairy boss battle, when there is no time to Concentrate anyway. When Samus is first sent off on her mission by Adam, the “Samus appears” jingle is heard, but the “item” jingle does not play when you pick up something new -- that’s definitely missed. I suppose having to be “authorized” to use your abilities and weapons does away with the question of why Samus has to find all of her upgrades during every game, but it still seems like kind of a cop-out.
But you know what? All of these things are pretty nitpicky. Because during the 3.5 hours I played the game tonight (we have to get the kids up in the morning for their first day of school, I can't play all night -- yes, things have definitely changed for the former MDb guy), I had a blast. I went to bed thinking about it. I'll wake up thinking about it. I'm going to go to work thinking about it, and I'll be seeing Samus again on Wednesday night. I got killed by the big purple hive boss thing hanging from the ceiling. That’s where I'll pick up. And right now, what I'm feeling about Other M is...
...my god -- could this be it?
In a classic case of real life interfering with my fun time, I didn't get to play much tonight. I got home from work to find the house empty, so I power on the Wii and get crackin’. This time, I'm happy to find the classic six notes of the Metroid title theme playing over the title screen, and upon starting my file, am greeted with a written summary of recent events, with the basic vamp of Samus’ Theme from Super playing in the background. Samus’ appearance jingle also plays as you continue a game from a Navigation Room/save point. Other than that, the music thus far has been lackluster. It’s not that it’s bad, and it does fit the mood of the game, but it’s just very ambient, minimal stuff and not very memorable. The original Metroid had minimal stuff too, but it all had a melody that you could at least hum. There’s nothing here with a killer hook, man. Or with a good beat that you can dance to.
Anyway, I pick off that purple hive thing in a fun, fast-paced battle, and move along. I get to a part where Samus ends up underwater in a flooded corridor, and my wife comes home, we both agree that we’re starving, we leave to get some takeout, come home, eat, and fall asleep on the couch watching Ghost Hunters. D’oh.
I can see that this diary is sure to show you how life, and gaming habits, change as you get older. Tomorrow is my day off, and while in theory I should be able to play Metroid all day, the fact is that I have a painting to get done for a show, some art to work on for a client, some stuff to do around the house, and some errands to run. I'm hoping to get some Metroiding in.
But you know what? I’ve waited many years for this. I am in no hurry to finish.
I manage to get a few sessions in today for some solid playing time. Get through Sector 1 and am sent to Sector 3. Got killed a few times on two different parts where Samus has to haul ass through lava fields while being attacked by monsters, but after a bit of practice, managed to slide right through them. While I'm finding parts that require some trial and error and are a bit of a challenge, nothing is so frustrating that I don't want to give it another shot. And when I do, I nail it pretty quickly. So in that respect, the challenge level is just about right. Dying isn’t so bad when there are checkpoints not too far from where you croaked. I'm still finding Concentration pretty useless for health, though.
Get the Varia and the Ice Beam, fight a big lava boss in 3, then get sent to Sector 2, the Cryosphere, and suddenly the powerups start rolling in: Speed Boost! Shinespark! Wave Beam! Now you’re playing with POWER!
Actually, now I'm stuck. And this next paragraph is spoileriffic, so proceed with caution.
I'm at a point in Sector 2 where I’ve been redirected to the Main Sector, but I can't seem to get out of where I am. I beat the big industrial robot that was being driven by someone in a G-Fed suit, and while a couple new areas have been opened up and shown on the map, I’ve explored as far as I can, from what I can'tell. I spend a good amount of time roaming around and examining my surroundings, and I'm just not seeing it. I'm sure I'll figure it out -- actually, I'm looking forward to it.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest challenges is the fact that one of our cats, Doris, has decided she likes this game, and has taken to hanging out in front of the TV (and Wii sensor bar) while I play.
By the way...this review diary has a decidedly different tone than the MP2 one, don’t you think? I am loving this game and it’s making me happy. Yeah...I think this is it.
I get myself unstuck in a forehead-slapping moment. Without exactly giving it away, the answer was: the Wave Beam goes through walls. Duh. Any self-respecting Metroid fan shoulda knowed that.
This is also the least of the spoilers I'm about to lay on you in this entry, so beware.
So I get to Sector 3 and the real reason I'm there: chasing the chicken monster, who turns out to be a new incarnation of an old pal of ours. After quite the long, elaborate, pre-rendered introduction to our most resilient of nemesis... nemeses... nemesisseses? ...foes, the battle begins, and I get killed. I beat him on the second try, though, and declare the Ridley battle to be SUPER FUN. Seriously, some of the most harrowing, heart-pounding sequences in the game are also a total blast.
As an aside, I'd also like to note that there are definitely parts of the game where I'm getting that great, oogy feeling of potential impending doom. The genuinely lonely, spooky parts that were present since the original Metroid. The series has always had them (even the Prime games), and Other M does a great job of keeping up the tradition.
Anyway, I chug along, and by now have obtained the Space Jump and Screw Attack, Super and Seeking Missiles, and Plasma Beam. That's the stuff, baby. I think all I need is the Power Bomb. I get all the way through to the long cutscene where Samus finds out about the metroid presence, then Madeline finally introduces herself and tells you all about the research going on, and I'm being sent to Sector Zero. This is where I decide to call it a night. I'm thinking I can smell the plot coming a mile away. You can't tell me that this scientist lady's initials are a coincidence. Once I finish the game, I guess I'll see if I'm right.
Over the past several days I've managed to sneak in an hour here and an hour there, but haven't had time to write about it. Fought Nightmare one time. Then fought Nightmare again another time. Then took some time to run around the whole place, grabbing items I missed. There are still a couple I haven't figured out how to get to.
So this afternoon I sit down with the expectation that I'll polish off the game.
Holy crap. Rinkas.
Metroid Queen battle. She looks great, Metroids look great. Metroids attach to Samus' head. Of course I know what to do about it. And it works.
So...after the Queen battle, there is curiously no place to save. So I follow where the game points me and watch what I think is the ending sequence, and am hit with this first-person-only battle scene. I run out of missiles and die. I try again and die. And again. And again. WTF? I actually run out of time to play, as well -- I have to shut it off, and I'll have to do the Queen battle over, and figure out the first-person thing later.
Later that evening...
...ohhhh I get it. I see MB in the distance, and when I tried to shoot at her, the battle ended into a cutscene. And...an ending? Credits? There's gotta be more, cuz I never got to use the Power Bombs until the Queen fight.
...ohhhh I get it. There is more. Some post-credit action. There's a mission, but I can still explore freely and collect more items. Actually, I decide to grab what's on the way and head for the goal.
What awaits at that final goal is unexpected, and may not make much sense, but is AWESOME. Why is Phantoon even there? I dunno, but it's possibly the most spectacular boss fight in the whole game. Actually, now that I think of it, it's very similar to how a 3D Mother Brain fight would go. And since Ma Brain isn't here, exactly, Phantoon makes a good replacement. Maybe that's why it's there. And that's the only reason we need.
And then, as always, Samus must get the hell outta Dodge. And we do so.
My rate for collecting items, the game tells me, is only 71%. Looks like I still have some more playing to do, even though I've finished the game.
Luckily... thankfully... I want to. Yes, this is it.
What is IT, you ask? What have I been alluding to this whole time?
Other M is the 3D Metroid game I've been wanting since I started the Metroid Database. It's the game I've had in my mind since we were all dreaming of Metkkjuroid 64. It's the game I imagined when Prime came out and the game's designers claimed that a 3D Metroid game could only be done in first person. I KNEW that wasn't true, because I had extremely clear visions of Samus in a three-quarter-overhead view running through corridors and flipping through the air and bouncing off walls and blowing up enemies in crazy death-from-above maneuvers. And those visions looked just like Other M.
Perhaps some of the details I had in mind, such as a Mother Brain battle or floating energy refills, weren't quite there. Maybe the inclusion of so much story and cutscene was unexpected. But the hands-on experience of playing a third-person 3D Metroid game that I've been wanting since games went 3D has finally arrived. And it worked. And it's good.
Thanks, Nintendo. Thanks, Team Ninja.
Now get to work on Another M.