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A whole other Metroid universe

Aug 6, 2010

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Metroid: Other M A whole other Metroid universe

So you've put hundreds of hours into the 'Metroid Prime' series and can name off every boss, every weapon, and the placement of every secret powerup without breaking a sweat. You've scanned everything right down to the tiniest plant species and couldn't imagine another Metroid game without a first-person view.

Well, if you're looking forward to the newest entry in the series, 'Metroid: Other M', you'd better forget everything you know and love from the 'Prime' series.

G4 Canada had a chance to take 'Other M' for a spin and if there's one thing for certain, it's that Metroid Prime 4 this is not. Anyone expecting that will be sorely disappointed, but gamers who keep an open mind may be treated to something that could be very special.

A little backstory: 'Other M' takes place after the events in 'Super Metroid'. Samus has awoken after escaping the destruction of Planet Zebes, and is having recurring dreams about her little dustup with Mother Brain, where her metroid friend saved her hide in an epic (and heartbreaking) final battle. She intercepts yet another distress signal at the beginning of 'Other M', something in particular about it gets to her, so she decides to investigate it, which leads her to an abandoned space facility.

Metroid: Other M Developer Team Ninja (of 'Ninja Gaiden' fame) wastes no time showing one of the big differences in their game - the use of elaborate CGI cutscenes to tell the story of 'Other M'. Not only that, but Samus actually talks. Truth be told, these are some of the most spectacular cutscenes we've seen on the Wii. The flashback of the Super Metroid Mother Brain fight is downright horrifying, but there are a lot more cutscenes that tell the story of Samus - including what made her become a solitary bounty hunter in the first place - interwoven with gameplay.

Ah yes, there's also the matter of the gameplay.

Team Ninja has turned the Metroid world upside down with 'Other M'. Here, Samus moves faster than she ever has, jumping all over the game world, flipping on top of enemies for point-blank blasts with her arm cannon, and leaping from wall to wall like, well, like Ryu from Ninja Gaiden.

The majority of the game is played in third person mode as well. It's a 2D-style side-scroller with 3D elements, so you won't be simply running from the left side of the screen to the right and back again. A recent example of this is the Xbox Live Arcade game Shadow Complex, itself a game that obviously had much influence from early entries in the Metroid series.

Metroid: Other M And have we mentioned that the game is played with the Wii Remote and nothing else? That's right - you turn the controller on its side and control it like you would the original 'Super Mario Bros'.

Of course, there's much more involved than running and jumping, and Team Ninja has admittedly done a great job mapping a lot of actions to only a few buttons. The morph ball is only a button press away, but you can also do things like unload up to five bombs at once, power up a devastating arm cannon shot, reload missiles and energy, and avoid enemy special attacks by pulling off (tricky) context-sensitive actions.

A first person mode is available as well simply by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen at any time, making the game world viewable in full 3D. It's a little off-putting at first when you realize you can't move when in first-person view, but you can look all around you (and lock on to enemies and special objects) by holding down the B-button.

At first it feels confusing and disjointed, but by the end of our time with the game, we were becoming very quick with the control setup. We knew just how many shots an enemy would take in first person with missiles, for instance, and as soon as we fired our last shot, we would quickly switch back to third person mode to take out other baddies on the screen.

The name of the game here is speed. The two sections of the game we played through had almost no scanning whatsoever. It's a shame because of all the backstory you could learn by scanning in the 'Prime' games, but it would completely ruin the fast flow of 'Other M'. Like it or not, 'Other M's plot and backstory is handed to the gamer on a silver platter in the form of the aforementioned cutscenes.

The game looks nice enough, and though it's not exactly a bright world you play in, there are still a lot of colours added in. One can't always expect jaw-dropping graphics on the Wii, but 'Other M' does the job. Look carefully at objects and backgrounds in first person mode in Other M and you'll see the technical limitations of the Wii become apparent, but for most gamers, the fun will trump any graphical problems.

We came upon a locked door just as we were getting warmed up to this new chapter in the Metroid world. It's a very, very bold move by Nintendo to go to something so drastically different, but it's one that could very easily land in its favour.

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.