Versus: Metroid Other M

 

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“Metroid: Other M” is coming, like it or not. There’s no avoiding it. The question is: is it going to be any good? As a franchise, Samus’ flagship has stood remarkably well over the years; even for Nintendo, it’s been quite a hot streak. Many swore the jig was up when then-unknown Retro Studios took command for “Metroid: Prime,” and the resulting victory was made all the sweeter as a result. Now, another great transitional moment is upon us, as the franchise passes to industry veteran Team Ninja. The question on everyone’s mind is a simple one: can they keep the hot streak going? Will the transition to a new developer, and a different play style (admittedly more in line with the original series), kill Samus Aran’s momentum?


It’s Going to be Great!

Don’t be ridiculous, “Other M” is going to be a masterpiece. You get on Wikipedia right now and you tell me when Team Ninja has made a bad game…and no, before you ask, “Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball” doesn’t count. And I don’t care what IGN says about “Ninja Gaiden 2″ being underwhelming, those guys couldn’t get laid in a Chinese whorehouse. I didn’t mean that, IGN, that came from a place of hurt.

What’s important here is the simple genius of this idea: give the “Ninja Gaiden” crew “Metroid.” Brilliant. Third person action adventure is one of the most punishing mediums in the gaming world, it’s done wrong far more often than right, but these folks make it look easy. “Ninja Gaiden” is one of the finest action franchises in existence, period. There’s no debate. Who better, then, to take up “Metroid” and bring it home to its roots? I mean, if the guys who did “God of War” were available, that maybe would be better, but they’ve probably all signed contracts that would allow Sony to chop off their wangs if they stepped foot in a Nintendo building. Team Ninja, meanwhile, can get the job done, wangs intact. It’s a win-win.

Are there people on the internet complaining? Is that some kind of rhetorical question, like “will the sun rise tomorrow?” You show me a forum that is actually appeased, and I will take an angry forum to mean anything at all. Complaining is all these people have. They wouldn’t shut the hell up when “Metroid: Prime” was coming, and look how wrong they were there. And what were there problems with it? They didn’t like the switch to FPS, and they didn’t want some new developer. So now, here comes a veteran team returning “Metroid” to its roots, and what do you hear? You guessed it: complaining. Seriously, these dudes could give lessons to politicians, they’re practically Beltway insiders.

Boo hoo, you don’t like change, shut up and buy the game like everyone else. Honest to God, Team Ninja has even revived a classic Nintendo franchise before! What more does it take? If a team of genius unicorns was developing this thing, and the box the game came in was literally made of chocolate, these people would not be pleased. Ignore them. “Metroid: Other M” is going to rule.

Dear Lord, Please Deliver Us!

Here it comes. When the train hits you in the face, I just want you to know that I was here, warning you that you were standing on the tracks. “Metroid: Other M” is going to be a disappointment. A big one. At first, everything sounds gravy: Team Ninja! “Metroid”! Nintendo! Boobs! Wait, sorry, that last one was me thinking about “Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball.” But the Devil is in the details, friends, and even a cursory glance at the actual product reveals troubled waters.

First of all, as talented as Team Ninja is, they still have one crushing weakness: they are the worst storytellers in human history. Seriously, your niece writes better dialogue than these people, it’s their Achilles’ heel. But that’s okay, because once you’ve skipped through the agonizing cut-scenes, the gameplay itself is near-perfect. Fair enough. But then Team Ninja announces that they intend to bring a renewed focus on story to the “Metroid” franchise.

What?

Few things could possibly be worse ideas, this is Michael Jordan playing baseball all over again. And it doesn’t bode well for Team Ninja playing to its strengths on this project. Have you played the E3 demo? I have. How was it, you ask? Not good, Dear Reader. Not one bit good. I ran around some empty hallways for fifteen minutes, waited for textures that never loaded, and then fought a purple Play Dough monster. No, I’m not kidding, it was like Gumbie mixed with a purple Wicker Man. No, not like regal purple, bright purple. I wouldn’t make this up.

The problem with “Metroid: Other M” is that it doesn’t play to Team Ninja’s strengths. Yes, they’re great developers, but their expertise is narrow and precise, and they are wandering way off for this project. Story is just the beginning, they’re also unaccustomed to the lower hardware specs on the Wii, and never is it more painfully obvious than when gazing at the murky textures, flat level design, and robotic character animations. Also, the mingling of first and third person is not working; switching between the two is extremely awkward, because of course it is. Add on very legitimate concerns about the weapon upgrading structure and the smoothness of the motion control integration (which, again, Team Ninja has no experience with), and you’ve got a whole mess of reasons to be worried. “Ninja Gaiden” worked because it was a home game, on their turf. “Other M” is a mixed action platformer on a casual game system using motion control, starring a woman who is nowhere near scantily clad. Does that sound like Team Ninja to you?