I first got into gaming through a NES I'd begged by mum to buy me for my birthday after playing Mario & Chip Dale Rescue Rangers at a friends house. I remember how bright the colours were, the crispness of the sound, and the sheer unputdownable nature of those games. It taught me how to rescue princesses, save worlds and shoot ducks. It also started my love affair with games.
What I'm playing now:
Red Dead Redemption
Mass Effect 2
Super Street Fighter 3D
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Ocarina of Time
Black & White
I'm sure I'm one of many people who was disappointed in Metroid: Other M. Although I still enjoyed Samus's latest adventure on Wii, there is a lot of flaws that prevented a good game from being a great game. Call me a fanboy if you will, but when Nintendo releases a game I come to expect a great game rather than a good game. This obviously sets my expectations so high that I'm going to get let down a lot. Even though none of the flaws are game breakers (apart from that buggy save thing earlier on in the game), these points do lessen the game.
The awful dialogue, Samus's monologing, not using the nunchuck to navigate in 3D space, lack of any music for most of the game, no energy/missile pick-ups and the decision that Adam had to authorise the suit functions (ok, not using powerbomb was understandable, but having to run through the lava sector for 15 or twenty minutes before Adam goes "um, Samus, I notice you're on fire! You can use your varia suit now!" was ridiculous), also the transition of going from third person into first person just to shoot missiles was immersion breaking for me, and seemed like a cheap tactic of ramping up the difficulty, especially when against a swarm of enemies or the later bosses.
A lot of people lay the blame squarely at Team Ninja's door for the hammy writing of the game - it's an easy thing to do, right? Team Ninja aren't a first party dev team, and Nintendo rarely make bad games. But if this was the case, how do you explain the stellar Metroid Prime trilogy by Retro? Granted, they were a second party dev owned by Nintendo, but the games were not developed in-house by Nintendo themselves, they were handled by "shock horror" outsiders.
The truth is that the buck stops with Sakamoto. Yes, I know he's directed all of the side-scrolling Metroid's since Metroid 2, and in many ways he fleshed out the Samus we came to know and love in Super Metroid. In truth I have never played the original Metroid on NES, Zero Mission or Metroid 2. My first Metroid was Super Metroid for the SNES, and I'll always remember the voice at the beginning telling me "The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace" followed by the Metroid theme and Samus giving a summary of her story so far. And I'll always remember the sacrifice the hatchling Metroid made to save Samus, saving the woman whom it thought wasit's mother ad practically crying out "No!" at the screen, despite the fact I'd spent a good portion of the game devoted to erradicating the little jellyfish-like buggers. Samus to me, and I think to a lot of people, was defined by her strength and her determination to complete the mission at any cost.
An impression that was swiftly shattered by Samus's portrayal in Other M. I have no objection to a character speaking if they have something vitally important to say, if it's relevant to the story, or enriches the experience by interacting with other characters. What I got instead was Samus reading "diary entries" about her feelings to a captive audience who reached for a skip button that wasnt there. This was not the Samus Aran I had grown to know and love.
By today's standards it's below subpar to have a character monologing, telling you about their feelings rather than just letting the story unfold. It's acceptable to have a character narrating action in a book because that's all you have to describe the action. But in video games and movies it comes across as lazy and largely unneccessary seeing as both are visual mediums. For example, if you compare the banter between Drake and Sully in the Uncharted games, it moves the story along by interaction between the character rather than the "dear diary" narration that makes Samus sound little better than an emo. Just to clarify: I'm not against Samus having emotions or a voice for that matter, it's just she should have been handled with more respect as a character. You can still write a character as fragile but still strong without making her sound weak-willed and without making her sound like a herp derp space marine.
I'm not saying take the franchise away from Sakamoto, but when a guy pulls a George Lucas and is clearly out of touch with the motivations and nuances of the character, Nintendo should at least get someone in there who knows dialogue and story to co-write/direct with him to make sure he doesn't repeat the flaws of Other M. As I said earlier Other M was a good game hindered by big flaws that prevented it from being the great game it deserved to be. Also, Sakamoto was originally only a co-creator not the sole creator of Metroid. Maybe if Makoto Kano returned to the series in a supervisory position Samus could once again beome the character I personally connected to.
Just to reitterate: I am not against change in Metroid, I just want the changes to improve the gameplay and enrich the story, not to hinder it. Changes they could implement to make Metroid better:-
- Have Samus voice by Jennifer Hale who voiced her in the Prime series (Well, her grunts anyway)
- Keep the 2.5D aspect of the game and the dodge mechanic as they worked well. Get rid of the forced 1st person point of view and the forced 3rd person point of view. They add nothing to the game.
- No more monologing! Only have Samus talk when she is interacting with another character, and it is important to character development or story progression.
- Bring back exploration in Metroid. Games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 show that you can still have exploration and side-quests and still have a compelling main story arc. Christ, even Super Metroid excelled at this.
- If the next game will be motion controlled, have the shooting mapped to the wii remote and the moving in 3D mapped the the nunchuck. I would've loved to have been able to shoot wherever my pointer was whilst moving with the analog stick.
The literary critic Roland Barthes once said “birth of the reader must be at the death of the Author” , meaning that no matter what message the author/creator wanted to convey by his story, once that story is read/watched/played, it doesn't matter how the author intended the story to be interpreted, the true interpretation(s) of the story and the characters within lie solely with the audience. We as the audience are as much the writer of Samus Aran's character as Sakamoto is, let us hope in future Sakamoto's vision is married with our own and that we get a great Metroid game we all deserve.