by now probably most metroid fans have already played through metroid: other M for wii, the latest entry of the series. i already knew that the game had gotten mixed reviews, but i was eager to try it out for myself. looking back i realize now that i had assumed that since i’m more open-minded than most and i was looking forward to seeing a long-established franchise change things up a bit, that i would probably enjoy the game.
unfortunately, it was not to be, and the radical changes that were introduced in this entry were for the most part highly disappointing. in fact, i was so upset about the game when i finished it that i posted the following to the racketboy forums the following day:
- i had a really bad video gaming experience yesterday, although it ended up being kind of a revelation so i guess that’s kind of a good thing, maybe.
now, i’ve had plenty of video gaming experiences over the years, ranging from being excited about an upcoming release, feeling great about beating a game (among the more noteworthy was beating FE10 with meg as my #1 haha) or getting a really great score, being really wowed by the quality of a game (e.g. metroid prime), being frustrated (majora’s mask), or being bored (last section of wind waker and all of super paper mario) or disappointed in a game.
but in terms of gut-busting visceral reactions, nothing compares to what i felt last night when i finished the first ending of metroid: other M. the point of this post isn’t to debate about the pros and cons of the game; the point is that although i enjoyed parts of the game, when i finished the last battle and as the credits rolled the sense of anger and disappointment i felt was beyond anything i’ve experienced in a very long time. i can’t think of the last time i felt so angry about anything, let alone a game. as i went to bed (which was late, b/c i had stayed up to finish it) and even throughout today i’ve still felt this nagging “hurt”, for lack of a better word.
it’s easy for me to pinpoint why i felt this way: i’m absolutely all for series trying out new things, but for a series to go so wrong in so many ways (in my POV, of course) at once was just so painful. again, the point of this post isn’t to debate this particular game, but to talk about the fact that it was really surprising to me that i felt so emotional about it. i seriously can’t think of the last time i was so emotional about a game; it must have been when i was in grade school. in a way it was kind of a good thing to find out that my interest in video games is still so strong, and also to find out how much i really love nintendo and the metroid series, which i hadn’t truly realized (although i really wish there had been some other, less painful way to find this out).
it also kind of made me wonder if my reaction is indicating that my love of video games is maybe too strong, and that i’m getting to be too much of a fanboy. in the grand scheme of things, does a bad entry in one of my all-time favorite series really matter?
as i mentioned, i can’t believe how upset i was about the game. after a few days i went back and finished the epilogue to get the second ending, and with a little distance i feel i’m able to review the game a bit more impartially.
there’s no shortage of reasons to dislike the game, with plenty of people online to agree wholeheartedly. here’s a quick run-down of the common complaints with my comments:
– most people haven’t complained much about the one wiimote configuration, and the shift from first person to third person. overall this was fairly well-designed, although the first-person perspective is mostly useless and just slows the game down. pretty much everyone mentions that one of the worst parts of the game is easily the “pixel hunting”, where’s waldo-esque fixed first-person perspectives, due to the fact that the thing you’re looking for is tiny and you don’t even know what you’re looking for. it’s clearly supposed to “immerse” you into the world of the game but ends up just being a frustrating, complete waste of time, especially since the screen is usually almost completely dark in these sections anyway.
– occasionally the game shifts to a resident evil 4-style over-the-shoulder perspective in sequences where you can only walk around slowly. again, its intent is clearly to immerse you into the game, but these sections just slow the game down with no payoff. the game has so many cutscenes anyway, that spending three minutes walking slowly from point A to point B in this perspective is just pointless.
– those two changes are indicative of the larger scale change, which was to emphasize action over exploration, basically reversing the ratio of previous entries in the series. although i hated the combat itself at first, i grew to appreciate it although i never particularly liked it. the auto aim is necessitated by the 3-D environment and the limited controls (using the nunchuk and pointing to shoot at enemies would have made this part of the gameplay actually worthwhile), but it makes fighting enemies way too easy. also, the “sense” move, which allows you to dodge easily, looks great but also makes the game far too easy, as you can just constantly tap a direction while shooting and rarely get hit. this makes battles incredibly mindless and repetitive (the enemies themselves are fairly repetitive as it is), and there’s no motivation to kill enemies anyway since they don’t drop health or missiles (instead you can recharge them manually with another new move, called “concentration”). boss battles are also boring and too easy as well, and the thing that really pushed me over the edge in terms of disliking the game were the last two battles of the main section which were just horribly, horribly designed.
similarly, the linearity of the game is excessive, and although it succeeds in keeping the game action-focused, it doesn’t feel in keeping with most other metroid games. actually, i remember feeling the same way about metroid fusion, and in that context this entry makes more sense (i think most of us have forgotten about the series progressing from that entry since the fantastic metroid prime games and the remake metroid zero have come in between). as with that game, after the ending this game also becomes more metroid-like as you can search for the remaining powerups at your own pace. but even on that level, finding the powerups in this game feels much more simplistic and monotonous than usual, as it’s often just a matter of going to a room marked on the map and just using the appropriate weapon with no thinking involved (i.e. typical “pick up key, put in lock” mechanics). lesser complaints are that the game is filled with long empty corridors with nothing to do but run through them, as well as stupidly excessive overall darkness in the main sections of the game which makes it pointlessly difficult to see anything. also, the novel bit of gameplay at the end of the epilogue felt tacked on and underdeveloped, which was definitely a shame as it features one of my favorite recent additions to the metroid universe (even casual fans probably know what i’m talking about).
overall, i think of this entry as a god of war-izing of a great franchise, in effect, dumbing it down to make it appealing to a mass audience, and filling it with a lot of gloss but very little substance. i had noted a similar thing when i had played through twilight princess last year, and the trend is certainly worrying. i’m all for broadening the core audience in terms of appealing to casual players, but thus far the level of dumbing down has been offset for the most part by increases in difficulty in other areas. but to “hollywood”-ize a core franchise like this to such an extreme and lose all the elements that made it uniquely “nintendo”, is upsetting.
– one of the other main complaints people have is about the story, characterization, and voice acting. i thought the voice work was fine, and the story had enough twists in it to keep me interested. but i agree that the characterization was disappointing, and that instead of a kick@$$ bounty hunter who’s saved the universe multiple times we got an insecure heroine who, quite frankly, i had little sympathy for because the game never gave me much reason to. definitely contributes to the overall disappointment.
– another common complaint is the weapon authorization mechanic, whereby adam, the CO, has to permit samus to use her weapons instead of finding pickups. the setup is no more ludicrous than in other games where samus “loses” her equipment and randomly finds it, but i can see how psychologically players would find this completely unbelievable.
like RMC at gonintendo i really, really wanted to like this game. he ends his review by saying that the game isn’t a bad game, but that it “is the first main-entry Metroid game that I feel lacks the usual Nintendo magic. You can see glimpses of it. It wants to come out, but too many other bad design choices hold those moments back.” i agree with that sentiment, but although the production values are very high i wouldn’t praise it even as much as he does in terms of the action sequences, which after a couple of hours i found to be tedious and dull. i’m not a big fan of action games in general (part of the reason i still haven’t finished god of war), and it seems that all the reviews that give the game high marks are clearly fans of the genre.
i think that the reason i felt so upset with the game is that for me it’s not just “the first main-entry Metroid game that I feel lacks the usual Nintendo magic”, but one of the first nintendo games ever that has disappointed me to such a great extent. historically nintendo hasn’t focused on action to the exclusion of other elements such as exploration, ambience, and puzzle-solving, but i can only hope that this was an anomaly and that this trend doesn’t continue. i wouldn’t go so far as to say nintendo has “sold out”, but i really hope they recognize that this was an experiment that didn’t succeed and that needs some careful rethinking. here’s hoping.
other metroid: other M links:
– great subsite at metroid.retropixel.net including maps, screenshots, and wallpapers.
– official website, includes wallpapers and videos
– entry at wikipedia
– entry at metroid.wikia.com
– iwata asks feature
– original e3 trailer