It's not long before Metroid: Other M is released, and a great deal of Hardcore Metroid/Nintendo fans (aren't they the same?) will be picking up their copies of it. Many are probably claiming this to be Game of The Year material, and a true step up for the Metroid series, and that the Prime Trilogy can be forgotten. And in November, Donkey Kong Country Returns will be out, with the same studio behind the Prime Trilogy at it's helm. So why is it that I'm comparing the past? Why is it that I'm still skeptical over Other M? Am I criticizing it too early? Am I not a “true” Metroid fan? Or do I just not get it? Read on....
There's a lot of similarities to the situation DKCR and Metroid: Other M are in, and to be honest, the outcome is probably going to be the same for them in a lot of ways. Let's look back at 1994. Super Metroid had just been released in July, and, the summer season isn't known for having stand out titles be released in the summer, you know, when kids actually went outside to play, or were forced to at least? Anyways, Donkey Kong Country was released that same year in November, Christmas time shopping. Guess which sold better? After all, Super Metroid was still pixel/sprite based graphics, DKC was touting CG without an adapter, all on the Super NES, and on only one lowly cartridge. Of course, that brings up graphics don't matter arguments, but really, this is a visual medium, and you have to admit, if you were playing games at that time, the graphics really did make you say, “wow”. And so, as history would have it, Super Metroid slowly disappeared out of the limelight, but, as luck, nostalgia, and possibly involvement from the emulating/rom community, Super Metroid reappeared as a shining example of great platforming. And amazingly enough, has aged very well. Few games ever have that ability, and even fewer stand the test of time.
Having looked through both of these new titles with as much as has been revealed, I don't think Metroid: Other M will be a definite buy for me. Sure, it's largely a 2D game, and even the guy behind past Metroid titles, Sakamoto, is overseeing it, but the reason I keep feeling like something is wrong with this title is in several ways: the direction of the game, the story, and the dialog itself. A lot of you will probably scream, “You haven't played it you stupid Jaded Gamer!” and you're right, I haven't, but I am going to
rent it to at least give it a chance
. I also reserve the right to my own opinion. Isn't it funny how someone can be overwhelmingly positive about anything can also be so very defensive when a different opinion comes into play? And I'm at least being open to trying this game, while giving logical explanation why I feel skeptical...
Let's look at the direction of the game. It's largely 2D, which I wholeheartedly support. 2D platformers seem to age like fine wine (see two paragraph above), and I think we can all agree seeing 2D games in High Definition (or better graphics, for all you “480 isn't good enough!” folks) is something special. I can go either way, high def sprites or 3D characters in a X-Y plane is fine by me. But with Other M's control, something is largely wrong here. Switching to first person, you have NO CONTROL over Samus movements. As Metroid fans can attest, there are few moments where sitting still is an option, it's often suicide. When Other M was first unveiled, Sakamoto wouldn't confirm what the game was going to be (it's coming out in a year, and you can't tell us this far into the project?), and in later interviews, he even admitted it was going to be an “on rails” shooter, but that was thankfully changed. I don't see a problem with on-rails shooters, but let's be honest, Metroid isn't that kind of game, leave that for Area 51, Time Crisis, Virtua Cop, and countless others. I theorize that Nintendo saw that those kind of games weren't lighting any sales fires lately, and told them to change it.
The Story. By now, most gamers who have played Metroid know who Samus, is, and probably know her bare bones back-story enough. But Sakamoto wants to open that door wider, but apparently, he thinks we should go into Samus' maternal instincts. Honestly, I object to that last part. Do I mind humanizing a character further? No, but you walk a very fine line when you do that. Few have been able to walk that line successfully, and but they don't do it without upsetting some fans. Case in point, Star Wars. The Force was explained by one thing, Medi-Chlorians. Fans were pissed, from their point of view, the mystery of the force, was stripped down to a science (perhaps that why that was the Jedi's downfall?). Of course, there are waaaay more things angered fans, but that's for a completely different blog.
Now let me ask the reader, when you think Bounty Hunter, who do you think of?
A practical man, even though he went out like a wuss.....
Or do you think of this?
Of course, there could be many other examples of Bounty Hunters, but you get the point, when you humanize a character to a point, or “lay it all out”in a story, you tend to lose that mystery. In an age when everyone wants stories to explain EVERYTHING (see LOST's angered fans), the idea of mysteries left as such, has seem to fall by the wayside. Am I suggesting that Sakamoto isn't allowed to go into Samus' past? Of course not, and after all, Samus isn't a complete drone, she does seem to have some heart, after all, she's helped saved the galaxy countless times, instead of flipping the bird to it all. But never has Samus really had “maternal instincts” in previous games. Maybe it was the technological limit, but I think there's another reason.
"Mother, time to go"........ (I seriously said that? Lame...Samus, just lame)
Today, there's this disturbing trend with game designers and their “vision”, where they believe they're directors of some big budget epic, but in reality, their “vision/story” could barely make it as a Lifetime or SyFy daytime movie. I'm not saying games can't be story driven, that's unfair, because there are some very ripe examples of games that were very plot centric, Mass Effect is just one of few. And that's the problem. In a medium touted to be as big as, if not bigger than films, why have so many game makers failed to make a good storyline? Maybe these game designers and writers are not as skilled as they really think. Maybe since the advancement in graphics, storyline has had a difficult time catching up. Granted, it's much harder to write a story for a game, especially if the player is making choices that alter the course to the end of the game. Still, maybe there's a much stronger need for professional talent....
Everytime I've watched this video, I can't shake the feeling of how, dull Samus' voice is. I heard someone talk about how since she was raised by Chozo, that that might be the reason she sounds that way. But, I don't see how that can be. From what was made about the Chozo, they were a very peaceful, scientific, and passionate race. I don't think they'd have a lack of emotion. Maybe it was from her family's death? And the last bit, of her talking about the babies cry, she sounds like she's going in circles. Yes, we know what a babies cry is, you don't have to try to sound intelligent, quit trying to go into long winded narrative.
Thinking further and further about this game just bugs me, so I think I'll try to end it on a higher note. I've been a fan of Metroid games for quite some time. I love the feeling of isolation that you would get from the game. It's what I think Metroid Prime did so well with. Retro seemed to understand that aspect very well (maybe they understand Metroid better than Sakamoto?), and I have the utmost respect for them. I think Donkey Kong Country Returns will be a great game, Retro is a very capable developer (I hope they get the chance to make a 2D Metroid as well in the future). And how the story seemed to just be based on you, the player. The way you went through the game, and how you beat it, and what with.
That's something I feel is being pulled away from the player these days, your story, your control. I just don't get that feeling from Other M, it just feels like it's trying to hard to be like all the other games out today, “epic” story, and then gameplay be sacrificed, in the sake of “creative vision”. I'm willing to give Other M a chance, I will rent it, I will try to give an open mind to the game. But I won't be surprised if I find myself skipping cut scenes if I have the chance, or to just have Japanese dubbed voices. Here's to trying anyways, and if you somehow feel “wronged” by this blog, hey, this is just one opinion, and if you're going to be getting Other M, please, by all means get it. I'm sure you'll love it. Just don't be shocked to find other gamers who may not feel the same as you about the game.