Solo Gamer Reviews

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7 Things I Hope to See in Metroid: Other M

Metroid: Other M
Metroid: Other M
Nintendo, a company even the most ardent fanboy is feeling abandoned by, blew me away at E3 this year with the trailer for Metroid: Other M. The Metroid series of games has always been one of my favorite franchises, and I wasn't expecting to see another console Metroid title appear for a few more years. Throw in the fact that Nintendo is working with Team Ninja--the development team responsible for the hardcore Ninja Gaiden remakes--and you have my complete and undivided attention.

Still, while the trailer excited me to the core, I have a few minor concerns. For one thing, Metroid: Other M appears to be more of an action game than anything else. The Metroid games have always been about a delicate synthesis of video game genres (action, adventure, and a touch of survival horror), so any attempt to go all the way in one direction or another is probably a bad idea. For another thing, Other M seems to be excessively story-driven the way Metroid Prime 3 is, and that is actually not a good thing. There are moments in Metroid Prime 3 that feel like Halo, and that is not the direction I want Samus Aran to go in.

So while I try to hold back my reservations and maintain an unwavering sense of anticipation, here is a list of things I look for in my Metroid. Other M does not have to contain all of these criteria to be a great game, but if I were behind the scenes with Nintendo and Team Ninja, these are the things that would be most important to me. I recognize the possibility that Other M can do things I don't expect or don't think I want and still be an excellent Metroid title. I just have my own wishes, and they are as follows:

Familiar Upgrades (and lots of them)
Ah, the morph ball

One of things that has always made the Metroid franchise a shining force of awesomeness is the list of items and upgrades that Samus can find throughout the game. These upgrades allow her to access new areas, kill more efficiently, take more damage, or just increase her level of cool. By the time you reach the end of any Metroid game, you should feel bad-ass enough to believe that, if God Himself appeared and told Samus she couldn't go any further, you'd be able to kick his holy ass. Over the years, the list has grown to include newer and better upgrades, including the spider ball, the space jump, and the speed booster, most of which have gone on to be included in every game that follows. Other M should be no different.

You'd think this would go without saying, but if they can release a Super Mario game without a super mushroom, they might just make a Metroid game without an energy tank. Besides, in previous Metroid incarnations, certain items have been oddly missing (the screw attack in Metroid Prime, the wave and ice beams in Metroid Prime 2 and Metroid Prime 3, etc.). There have been a few unique items in the various games, and it might be fun to see these items return in Other M, such as the diffusion missiles from Metroid Fusion or the echo visor from Metroid Prime 2.

Frightening Metroids
They are supposed to be scary

The namesake of the whole series--the metroids--have turned out to be pretty minor baddies in the scheme of things. This is especially notable in the Metroid Prime games, where metroids aren't difficult to kill and don't elicit the same sense of dread they do in the classic Metroid or Metroid II. It becomes laughably easy to deal with even hordes of the monsters; just use your ice beam and a super missile, and if they give you any shit, lay a power bomb on them. And after the giant metroid helps you out at the end of Super Metroid, they stop being relevant to the plot.

Other M should bring back the dread by making metroids more powerful, deadly, and difficult to defeat. Heck, they could even make them evolve again, the way they did in Metroid II. Additionally, the metroids should once again take central stage to the plot. Few seem to remember that the whole point of the original Metroid was to stop Mother Brain and the space pirates from using the metroids as a doomsday weapon (the name "metroid" is supposed to mean "ultimate warrior" in Chozo), but by the time you face them in Metroid Prime 3, the metroids are anything but ultimate warriors.

Crazy Secrets
She's naked in there, you know

I remember, while playing Super Metroid back in the day, watching the demo montage that runs if you leave the start screen alone for too long. It shows Samus doing things you normally have to do and facing enemies you normally have to face during the game, but there is also one brief shot of Samus levitating in a ball of light and regenerating health. This technique, known as the crystal flash, is not taught to you during the game. There are other techniques, like the shinespark and the wall jump, that are taught to you by friendly animals, but no animal is going to show you the crystal flash. In fact, the only way you can learn how to perform this nifty trick (aside from discovering it by accident) is to read a strategy guide or look it up online. Since the Internet wasn't so effective when the game was first released, knowing how to perform the crystal flash in those days was like knowing a secret black-belt move that will allow you to kill a man with your pinky toe.

Nowadays, games rarely have secrets like that. Super Metroid introduces the x-ray visor, which makes finding secrets a little too easy. I can accept that. The most recent Metroid title, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, however, contains an easy-to-find trick that will tell you where to find the items you are missing, something that takes away from the sense of pride and discovery you get from finding all of the game's secrets on your own. I would be happy if the designers of Other M throw in several secrets and easter eggs that are incredibly difficult to find (or even know about), though it is sad to note that such secrets rarely stay hidden anymore (thank you, Internet). I'd even be happy with just a few secret passages and areas, like those hard-to-find places in the original Metroid.

Concept art for Kraid in Metroid Prime

In the original Metroid, there are two minibosses to contend with: Ridley and Kraid. Ridley, the half-pterodactyl, half-dragon beast who may or may not be the leader of the space pirates, has appeared in nearly every Metroid title. His counterpart, Kraid, on the other hand, has only appeared in two games, Metroid and Super Metroid (not counting Metroid: Zero Mission, which is more of a remake than a separate game). There were plans to include Kraid in the first Metroid Prime, but he wound up on the cutting room floor and was never addressed in the game's two sequels.

The thing is, Kraid is a bad-ass. In the original game, he shoots an impossible number of projectiles at you and is beyond challenging. He even has a decoy! Then, in Super Metroid, he is so enormous that it takes two screenshots just to capture his upper half. Granted, he's not that difficult to defeat (and he just kind of stands there, which is stupid), but the potential for an awesome villain is there. If he were put into a 3-D space and made a little less lumbering, he could put up a legendary boss battle, one I hope to find in Other M.

Seemless Backtracking and Non-Linear Maps
The more convoluted, the better

One of the things that makes the original Metroid challenging and unique for its time is the immediate immersion in a non-linear map. It is one of the earliest games to include backtracking as a necessity, and it has the balls to allow you to traverse nearly the entire game world in whatever order you like, assuming you can find the right tools. Things immediately start going downhill in Metroid II, in which sections of the game are unlocked in a specific order. A few of the franchise's installments have included both backtracking and non-linearity, but usually, backtracking isn't something you have to do and the game world is incredibly restricted at the start.

Other M should try to harken back to the original, though an almost completely open map would probably be impossible to pull off today. The best Metroid games (Metroid, Super Metroid, and the first Metroid Prime) allow the world to expand rather than progress, whereas the other Metroid games are more restrictive and linear. The plot shouldn't necessitate going from point "A" to point "B" to point "C" and so forth until you get to the end; it should be more organic and allow for multiple paths toward the main goal.

Isolation (and desolation)
Does not play well with others

Metroid Prime: Hunters and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, among others, are guilty of introducing new characters into the main storylines of the game. One of the things that makes Metroid, Super Metroid, and Metroid Prime so good is the isolation you feel. Whether it be ruined environments, the dark minimalist music, or the complete lack of friendly faces, these games add a touch of survival horror to the series that is sometimes overlooked.

From the trailer to Other M, it already looks as though you are not going to be completely isolated on a desolate alien world. This annoys me, and I'm hoping I have the wrong impression. I'm a big fan of story, but many of the games in the Metroid series have succeeded in having good story without having extra characters and dialogue.

Mother Brain
She was the main badguy in Captain N: The Game Master for Pete's sake!

If it is unwise to exclude Kraid from Other M, it would be a crime to exclude Mother Brain. In the beginning, Mother Brain is billed as the ultimate villain in the Metroid universe. She is the leader of the space pirates (depending on your source) and the very literal brains of the operation to use metroids as a terrible weapon. However, like Kraid, she has only appeared in two of the franchise's games. Metroid Prime 3 introduces us to the Aurora Units, which are giant brains that are plugged in to the Federation infrastructure, and even shows us the blueprints for Mother Brain's lair. However, the final boss battle in the game does not include Mother Brain, oddly choosing to instead use a completely different giant brain.

I want to see Mother Brain again, and I want to see her reclaim the throne of ubervillain in the Metroid universe. I want her connection to the Aurora Units explained, and I want her dominion over the space pirates elaborated on. The preview for Other M shows a creature that looks a heck of a lot like Mother Brain (in her mobile, hyper-beam-shooting Super Metroid form), but I refuse to let my hopes get utterly dashed the way they were when I finally beat Metroid Prime 3 only to realize that I never saw Mother Brain.

-e. magill 08/03/2009


Copyright 2009 e. magill. All rights reserved.