I’ve been hesitant to write about Metroid: Other M because it’s such a controversial topic. But I still felt that I wanted to say something about it.
My thoughts are summed up as thus: it’s a great game with a decent story that’s rather poorly told. It’s a fascinatingly inconsistent experience, and the dichotomy is what really makes it interesting to me.
To be clear, I do really like the game, but again, I like it on a couple of different levels. For one, the gameplay is amazing. To me, it’s far more faithful to the classic 2D Metroid games than the Prime series ever was. The storytelling, on the other hand, is laughably amateurish and blatantly self-indulgent. But I really can’t get angry about it, because I’m genuinely amused at how awkward it is.
Let’s take a closer look. Rather than talk about the entire game as a whole and trying to address every little detail, I’m going to focus on one particular part that I feel epitomizes the Other M experience: the boss fight with Ridley.
In my opinion, the battle, itself, is excellent, and one of the best Ridley boss fights in the entire Metroid series. It’s dramatic, well-designed, and Ridley comes off as a real threat. He’s quick, vicious, and sets the entire platform ablaze. Samus is no slouch, either. Her melee maneuver against him involves jamming her arm cannon into his mouth and firing a Plasma Beam down his throat.
Yet, this great sequence is sandwiched between two of the most awkward story scenes in the game. Previous to the fight when Samus first sees Ridley, she is shown as a literal frightened little girl. Not only is this unnecessary, but it’s incredibly heavy-handed. And once the fight is over, the silence that would’ve perfectly carried the emotion is shattered by yet another jarring monolog from Samus that has to spell everything out. Plus, it’s accompanied by a ridiculous flashback to things that happened less than five minutes earlier in the previous cutscene.
I honestly do think it’s an interesting contrast. Director Yoshio Sakamoto is certainly a master game creator, but he clearly doesn’t understand tactful movie-making. The way the game shifts so swiftly between being brilliant and inept makes for kind of an amusing experience. Even more interesting is how the developers attempted to make the transition between gameplay and cutscenes as seamless as possible, which is really well done, only to have it undermined by the inconsistent competence between them. A great example of the difference between the skills of game-making versus film-making.
In light of what it is, I think I get what it was trying to do, but it’s derailed by the presentation. That is, I don’t think the execution matched the intent. That’s not to say it was ever going to be a masterpiece, but in more capable hands, it would’ve come off less offensively. I also believe there were some subtle but crucial cultural differences at work here that rubbed some people the wrong way.
This article wasn’t meant to be an apology for the game, just an understanding. At the end of the day, I love the game as a game, but it also makes for a really fascinating case study. Personally, I would love to see the gameplay mechanics used again in a future Metroid game, but I think that’s unlikely. It’s unfortunate because, if you’ll pardon the expression, it’s a shame to throw the baby out with the bathwater.