Metroid: Other M, on the Wii is by far the worst game released in this long-running series, critically panned and an absolute failure in every sense of the word. Even I wrote a scathing review for another site once upon a time, though you can’t find it anymore.
Some of you might not have played this entry and while I usually urge people to do so with any game, I’m not cruel enough to send you to Other M. I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy, and I have some appalling stuff planned for them. It’s that bad.
So instead I’ll tell you just why it’s so bad, why it’s considered such a step down and back for the series and the worst possible sequel to both Super Metroid and the Metroid Prime Trilogy.
For this, I’ll focus on two things: Gameplay and Writing (characters, pacing and plot).
At first glance, Metroid: Other M might seem ok, as it’s primarily a 2D side scroller, but then you get the first sin: a tutorial level, something that doesn’t fit very well with Metroid, a series that has always been about discovering things as you go along, with new mechanics added the more items you find.
The reason for this tutorial is that some of the basic mechanics are counter-intuitive. Instead of having pickups to replenish your ammo and resources, there’s a button to recharge missiles and low health. Taking a page from Metroid Prime that it shouldn’t have, it features a first person mode but only if you point at the screen. The only way to fire missiles is by doing this and it means stopping in your tracks and leave yourself open to enemy counter-attack.
Speaking of attacks, you have a super dodge move if you tap a button the second before an enemy strikes Samus. I wasn’t too hard on this mechanic, as it seemed the least annoying of them all, but even in the tutorial, you see the failing of fights depending on this almost exclusively. Also, it directly clashes with the first person mechanic.
Metroid Bosses have always been about careful use of your environment, managing your resources and not only having good strategies but also executing them successfully until the boss goes down. In Metroid: Other M, you’re mostly dealing with mooks and then have to go into that forsaken first-person mode to fire off a missile or two to actually deal damage to an enemy. And it gets worse when you get the super-missiles and they’re a charge beam combo as they were in Metroid Prime, instead of the standalone weapon they were in Super Metroid, Other M’s predecessor in series chronology.
Not only are the combat dynamics flawed but the core of Metroid gameplay is flawed as well. Metroid games, since inception, have been about non-linear progression with the freedom to explore areas and acquire power-ups along the way, some of them expansion packs to give you more ammo for your secondary weapons. Part of the appeal is the wonder of discovery, of firing a missile at a wall and suddenly discovering a hidden power-up.
Metroid: Other M instead has a linear progression, including the acquisition of new abilities—more on this later. But worst of all is that the blue dots on your map instantly tell you of the presence of hidden items, robbing you of that wonder of exploration.
Metroid: Other M has higher difficulty modes, with the last one locking you at 10 missiles permanently and one health bar. When you play in this mode, you immediately realise just how flawed the mechanics are and how frustrating the game can be. The Ridley fight becomes almost impossible, with a super-aggressive AI, long charge-up time for the super-missile and the first person thing preventing you from actively dodging his attacks. While it’s true that a correct dodge will give you a full charge, you don’t have the time to stand still and use the super-missile.
Bosses in general are a low point in Metroid: Other M. There is very little variety, complexity and overall creativity behind them, and the only difficulty in them is the lack of appropriate weaponry or gear to deal with them, as Samus will only ‘activate’ them halfway through the encounter. It’s artificial difficulty and not a real challenge.
One of the most disappointing things in the game is the final boss, which is just killing a few enemies and firing off a missile at a stationary target in the back of the room, which then triggers the ending cutscene. To say it’s anticlimactic is an understatement.
Let’s start with characters.
Samus has always been one of the most badass female protagonists in gaming. She’s brave, confident and faces every situation with unshakable determination. She did these things and showed us what kind of a person she was with just with her actions. In Metroid: Other M, she tells us instead how she’s just a scare girl seeking her father figure’s approval. She lets someone else essentially walk over her and she does the unthinkable, disabling her own weaponry and special abilities just until this person gives her approval to use them. Yes, Samus Aran disables the Varia and Gravity suits, missiles, bombs, power bombs and everything in between just because Adam Malkovich says so.
Then there’s the fixation with the Metroid baby and babies in general and the rather strange panic attack she has while facing Ridley. Let’s start with Ridley first. By the time this game takes place, she’s already beaten and killed the big flying lizard about four times. If there was an element of trauma from her past because he killed her parents, she’s way over it. She’s conquered the beast already, so facing him again should not freeze her on the spot. And even if she’s still afraid of him, the Samus we’ve known for years would’ve just buckled up and fought him head on.
As for the Baby Metroid, yes, the baby and Samus shared a connection and perhaps Samus would have some mixed feelings about it. But she would not have obsessed over it to this degree, where everything is about the baby, and how the baby felt, and how the baby made her feel. Despite its last moments being heroic, it was another Metroid for her for most of their shared history, another creature sucking the life out of everything in its path. It just bonded to her because she was the first thing it saw or detected when born. There wasn’t a ‘relationship’, just instinctive behaviour, yet in Other M they make it seem as though Samus thought of the baby as hers, which is weird as hell.
It’s even weirder when she begins to transfer these feelings towards all Metroids, such as her reluctance to fire on a Metroid larva that is about to have her for lunch. Samus is not that stupid.
In Metroid: Other M, though, she needs some random NPC to come and save her. Metroid: Other M is so damaging to the Samus character because it turns her into a damsel in distress with daddy issues for most of the game, undermining years of characterisation.
Adam Malkovich is another issue. Metroid: Fusion and Samus’ own narration in Other M described their relationship as one of mutual respect, yet he treats her with anything but that, but with obvious contempt and condescension instead. He immediately asserts control over her just to prove he can and limits her skills just for the same reasons. Considering this guy is one of the most renowned generals in the Galactic Federation, it seems like shooting yourself in the foot by limiting the most powerful bounty hunter in the galaxy. There is no story reason for it, it’s just an alpha male establishing dominance…and it’s ridiculous.
Samus’ fame is galaxy wide and everyone knows what she’s done and how she’s saved all their butts over the years, yet not a single member of Adam’s team reacts to this, no one goes “Holy Crap, it’s Samus Aran!” which is the reasonable response when you’re facing a legend.
The squad is entirely forgettable, and even the friendly guy, who apparently has a history with Samus, calling her ‘Princess’, is stereotypical and bland.
The entire “Mother Brain as a human” angle is weak and predictable and has enough holes to drive Samus’ spaceship through it. The writing isn’t subtle and you can tell where it’s all going from the very beginning. And the character itself, Melissa, Mother Brain, is uninteresting. As another damsel she’s pointless, and as villain doubly so. Particularly because the very idea of her creation is insane and no one in their right minds would even think of it.
Mother Brain is and will always be just a super-computer that betrayed the Chozo and sided with the Space Pirates, eventually gaining control over the organisation, so turning her into an android so you can have your own batch of Space Pirate soldiers is ludicrous and suicidal.
Also, Mother Brain is many things but she is not telepathic. She didn’t control the Space Pirates through Jedi mind tricks. No booklet or story ever mentioned that, so don’t go adding random stuff in, please!
Then we come to the total disregard for Metroid canon. In Metroid history, after Samus survives the Space Pirate attack that killed her parents and pretty much her entire colony, it’s the Chozo, the bird people, who take her as their adoptive daughter. They infuse her with enough of their genetic material to make Samus compatible with their technology and give her the power suit. Samus owes much to the Chozo and they’re her second family.
In Metroid: Other M they act as if the Chozo didn’t exist, and no mention is made of them at all, instead diverting all her feeling and longing for family to Adam, just because they needed to force that relationship into the game at all costs.
While it is true that Samus can summon her armour, usually from within her ship, Other M makes you believe that the structural integrity of the suit depends on Samus’ state of mind, as it’s seen fluctuating in and out of existence when she’s panicking or confused. That’s not how that works.
Lastly, let’s go over the plot and pacing.
Other games in the series can do the long slow plots because part of the story is about exploring and finding your way, so there’s no issue in drip-feeding players the story, as they’ll be too engrossed in the exploration. Still, other Metroid games, particularly the Prime series, told compelling stories and kept their plot on point, with clear progress from one major encounter to the next, so that when they happened, you knew more than you did before.
Metroid: Other M drip-feeds you the plot as well, but its gameplay is completely linear. The result is several sequences where you don’t discover anything at all and the plot doesn’t advance one bit. Over two-thirds of the game are spent aimlessly exploring different habitats without a clear idea of what you’re doing or what the full story is, then they get to the last act and try to ram as much of the story down your throat as they can, perhaps to confuse you into believing it actually makes sense.
The rest of the time, you just deal with the Samus melodrama, two words I never thought I would put together in the same sentence.
The story itself rips off Metroid Fusion in many ways. The setting is too similar, a bio-weapon experimentation facility housing clones of animals and creatures from around the galaxy but with the real purpose of cloning and weaponising metroids. There’s even a separate section of the base where they keep the metroids.
The major difference is that instead of an antagonist destroying this section, it’s Adam who sacrifices himself to do so, though it turns out the sacrifice is pointless as you discover the metroids pretty much jumped ship to the main base. He also prohibits you from using Power Bombs because of the collateral damage…and then you blow up the structure at the end, just to prove once more that his sacrifice is completely pointless.
Beyond that, there are too many holes in the story. Too many things excused through cloning and attention diverted from the flimsy plot towards the Samus melodrama. In fact, her monologues and longing-for-Adam scenes take a fair chunk of the entire game, as do those where she repeats everything told to her minutes before, and you have NPCs telling you everything, instead of you discovering them. Show, don’t tell is something they tell all writers, but the people behind Other M either never learned that or they decided against showing you since there was so little to show.
Metroid: Other M is an unmitigated disaster and I hope you now see that its flaws encompass so much of the game that nothing of it is really forgivable, not even the music and much less the abominable voice acting…but that’s a story for another time!