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6 Reviews

Metroid: Other M

In space, no-one can hear you swoon...

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Rooms are flooded, drained, rotated and - in one bravura setpiece - flipped entirely. Samus' returning Shinespark2 ability - firing her up like a rocket - adds vertiginous heights to the ship.

Prime had a head for heights; here Samus can practically power bomb the Pearly Gates. The Bottle Ship is packed with cinematic happenings, harking back to Super Metroid and Fusion. Repeat appearances from one persistent horror remind us of SA-X's Fusion performance, while a dramatic self-destruct moment takes the opening of Super Metroid and buffs it with graphical oomph not available in 1994.

However, with objective markers and regular map updates, Other M feels more hand-holdy than its forebears. Indeed, we never felt the helpless isolation that defines Samus' best adventures. Too eventful to be lonely, this doesn't mean Project M can't find elbow room for powerup hide-and-seek.

A new system marks hidden items on the map once all enemies are dead. Let us assure you this does not make them any easier to find - it shows their resting place, not the snaking routes required to sniff them out. As an indicator, we stormed through Other M in ten hours with just 42% of the pickups found.

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Other M is a forgiving Metroid. Or rather, the most finely tuned. Nintendo hit that sweet spot: empowering without nannying. Digging out energy tanks takes the edge off the few difficulty spikes, but the natural rate of ability unlocks is expertly synchronised
with the task at hand.

Other M intended to break with tradition. Just look at the funky parentage. Weaknesses stem from the same place as strengths: this is a marriage of two very different minds, both trying to size each other up. As Team Ninja unleash their action savvy, Nintendo's accessible design principles ensure it doesn't treat us too roughly. Ninja Gaiden had bombastic spectacle and wincing executions but was so hardcore we lost a hand to an instruction manual paper cut.

Nintendoifying Team Ninja gives us a daring new kind of game. It's no surprise that it's a little wobbly on its feet. And it's not as bad as that sounds anyway. Along with removing choking hazards, Sakamoto and the Nintendo element protect most of the Metroid fundamentals. The stomach butterflies as you unlock a new skill and realise the new access you have. The satisfaction of finally grabbing the missile powerup that's seemingly out of reach. The goosebumps from hearing classic 8-bit and 16-bit ditties given to an orchestra to play with. The sense of empowerment in the final hour - when a whole game's worth of stacked beam upgrades flood the screen with every flavour of pain imaginable - belongs to Metroid and Metroid alone.

When Samus is properly in your hands, this is a true Metroid. "When Samus is in your hands." Ah yes, the caveat. The niggle. The flaw. The second health bar you didn't know a boss had. A big part of Other M - a profoundly important part, based on Sakamoto's various interview musings - is the story.

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Other M likes cutscenes. Regressive, old fashioned cutscenes. Two hours of them, all told; a mix of D-Rockets' glorious CG and slightly lumpier in-engine offerings. Aren't Nintendo the champions of doing rather than
watching? Packed with lumpy exposition and back story these asides sit uncomfortably. Their tone is melancholic, their pace ponderous. Going from chameleons in chokeholds to Samus' glum recollections is jarring. It doesn't help that dialogue is of the George Lucas ilk: say what you feel rather than emoting.

Unusually for Nintendo localisation, dialogue is stiff and repetitive, bearing the hallmarks of its Japanese roots. Occasionally action and cutscene merge into unholy hybrids. In some, the camera locks in visor view until you scan a relevant item. Intended to draw us into Samus' helmet during key narrative moments it comes off as a duff quick-time event. Other times the camera locks over Samus' shoulder as she investigates mysterious facilities.

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