A Space Odyssey; Or How To Solve A Problem Like Metroid: Other M
If there’s one thing that I have wanted to do since we resurrected Nintendo Scene, it has been to write editorial articles. After wracking my brain over what to divide opinion with, or what could potentially cause controversy or inspire debate, I settled on one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises; Metroid. Being a great lover of the franchise, I wanted to throw in my opinion about the blackest of all of Nintendo’s black sheep, Metroid: Other M.
Now, unlike most people, I don’t utterly despise Other M. That in itself is an unpopular opinion, which I am aware of, but it isn’t integrally a bad game. Visually, for instance, the game is fantastic. The limited colour palette gives strong nostalgic reminders of the (yes, far superior) Super Metroid, and the game contains all the visual polish that we have come to expect from Nintendo’s core franchises. I personally really enjoyed playing this game; I loved the dynamic of switching between third person to explore and first person for precise shooting. The controls felt tight, and my initial concern about controlling Samus in a 3D space without analog controls passed very quickly. Musically, the game wasn’t up to much, but then again the overall presentation although stunning, does have an air of being quite lazy with it. It’s almost as if the developers felt no need to create something utterly spectacular.
However, the bigger problem that Other M poses in terms of the franchise is what it has done to both the canonical plot of the franchise itself, or worse, what it did to Samus Aran. Placing the game after the phenomenal Super Metroid canonically was always going to be a risky move, but a far riskier one was essentially ignoring the existence of the incredibly popular Prime series. Now, I am all for creative licences, but one thing you shouldn’t do if you are trusted with an attempt with an existing franchise is mess with the well-received games that precede yours. You’re just asking for trouble from the fanbase, especially if your attempt is not up to the same standard; just marrying up of the two gameplay styles of the two does not equate to creating a game of the same calibre as either of them.
Besides, on the topic of canon, Other M adds nothing to the canon narrative. It lacks the ominous desperation that something Samus could have averted and needs to be stopped before it spirals out of control narrative thread of Super Metroid; or the genuine intimidation of Dark Samus from the Prime series. It just doesn’t feel like the adventure upon the Bottle Ship actually achieved anything positive, nor did it genuinely feel like you were under threat at any point. Although, that is not to say that Samus herself didn’t feel under threat, which leads me onto another sore point of mine.
What did they do to Samus!? Team Ninja and Sakamoto somehow managed to turn one of the strongest female protagonists in video game history into a simpering, rebellious, teenage girl; simultaneously messing with Samus’ own canon. For instance, one of the biggest bugbears for me, and the general hating fanbase, is the incapacitating fear of Ridley that Samus has. By this point in the canon, Samus has fought, and killed, Ridley four times. Even if you, like Team Ninja, ignore the Prime series, she has still killed him twice. Why did they feel the need to make her terrified of him now? She didn’t hesitate to chase him to Planet Zebes in Super Metroid based on the threat of the last remaining Metroid larva, why is she so scared now?
Secondly, and another common issue, is the Adam-Samus relationship. When this relationship was described in the (also superior) Metroid Fusion, it was only covered in brief dialogue and it had more credibility than the entire of this game. I’m not sure about others, but I never had Samus as the order-taking type. I know that she helps the Galactic Federation at various points in the series, but only because it benefits her to do so. She is a bounty hunter, she works for money essentially, and therefore taking orders from an organisation for no other reason than some bizarre “father figure” nonsense not only messes with the way that Samus is supposed to be, but with the way that the Adam-Samus relationship was said to be in Fusion. Oh, and don’t even get me started on THAT Varia Suit moment – completely and utterly ridiculous.
Overall then, there are some really glaring problems with Other M, some of which are hard to ignore. But, how does Nintendo move the franchise forward from there? Well, my first suggestion would be to obviously let Sakamoto or Team Ninja nowhere near it, but that it more than likely a given. Secondly, although it deserves to be forgotten canonically, I think that it should be acknowledged in some places for what it tried to do. Firstly, although entirely unresolved, the plot in the game with a traitor in the Federation could be explored better in another game; although this would need a significant re-telling. After all, the issue that the Federation aren’t entirely innocent in their actions has been referenced briefly before. Secondly, I wouldn’t mind Nintendo telling the Adam story in an actually credible way, i.e. with no daddy issues. I mean, as I said earlier in this, Adam was only briefly covered in Fusion but I found myself wanting to know his story. Other M’s explanation was just not adequate. Thirdly, I am not against the idea of Samus being explored as a character; just don’t mess with what is already known about her. Enough said.
The Metroid canon is an incredible science fiction tale, with arguably one of the strongest female protagonists in story-telling history. There is so much richness to the franchise, and so many paths that the tale of Samus can take from here, I just think that Other M should remain a forgotten tome in that story. Any objections, lady?