Metroid: Other M is the latest entry in Nintendo's fan-favorite series starring the first lady of alien blasting, Samus Aran. The game has garnered much attention from fans since its revelation at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, thanks to the fresh approach being taken in its development. Other M marks a departure from the first-person shooter structure used for the last few entries in the series on the GameCube and Wii; it features a new developer, Tecmo's Team Ninja; and its storyline appears to touch on the repercussions of events that happened at the end of Super Metroid. We've been excited to see how the whole package comes together, after getting glimpses at the game over the past few months. We recently stopped by Nintendo's offices to spend some time with an updated version of the game and got to try our hand at some new sections that left us wanting more
The section of the game we played was set in the first sector of the mysterious Bottle Ship that Samus is investigating. The massive spacecraft appears to be one part zoo and one part ark, housing a menagerie of space critters, big and small, in a variety of unique environments tailored to their needs. At the start of our demo, Samus is looking for clues and getting some direction from her former commanding officer, Adam Malkovich, who has moved up to be the commanding officer of the Galactic Federation. The gist of things is that something went wrong on the Bottle Ship and Samus is tasked with finding out what happened. This translates into "explore the ship and look for clues," which is perfect for a Metroid game.
Our run through the Bottle Ship was fairly linear, although we passed several areas we couldn't access because we didn't have the proper gear, but it was clear we'd be revisiting locations. The enemy types ran the gamut from small flyers that could be dodged, to massive creatures that had to be actively avoided and smacked down. There were even some cloaked foes that required some coaxing to pull out of hiding so they could be blasted. In addition to the standard enemies, we found a few Venus flytrap-style foes that required us to shift to morph ball form and lay some mines to escape. Some enemies and transitions to new areas were introduced by cinematics of varying length. Some of the cinematics featured Samus' internal monologue on the situation and moved the story along, while others showed off some of the wildlife on the ship that doesn't seem to be on a mission to murder you. That said, we're pretty convinced a seemingly adorable fluffball with chicken legs that popped up in a cinematic is going to wind up being something horrible later on.
But, as anyone who has played a Metroid game can tell you, enemies are only part of the challenge you'll face. The environment is, in a lot of ways, one big enemy to take on as well. We faced a number of different puzzles that blocked our way and required us to switch to morph ball form, use missiles, or look for hidden paths to get where we needed to go. Along the way we found hidden items and other surprises that gave the impression that there is going to be a whole lot of stuff to be found by inquisitive players. For example, in one area we discovered the Accel Charge upgrade, which increases how quickly Samus can charge her weapons. While this all sounds fairly standard, one of the later puzzles set in an elevator shaft showed a whole other level of challenge. The timed puzzle requires you to pay attention to your surroundings and make use of them in order to avoid death. The catch is that you have only a very short period of time to figure it out. If you succeed, you're rewarded by a classic action-movie moment where the hero just narrowly avoids something horrible. If you fail, things go badly. Very badly.
As we've mentioned in our previous looks at the game, the action in Other M has seen some changes and marries some of the elements from the previous first-person games with old-school 2D gameplay. Our play time let us dive a bit deeper into how it all works together, and we have to say that almost everything feels right. The platforming and shooting feel good, thanks to tight controls and new mechanics that keep things fun. Samus' standard moves work like a charm and, as always, can be enhanced by finding new abilities and upgrades. The ability to "concentrate" and refill your missiles and one health bar is an interesting addition to the mix. We're fans of Samus' new dodge, the overblast attacks, and the lethal strike moves on downed enemies. Anyone who has played a Team Ninja game should be right at home with these new additions to the arsenal, because they most definitely have a ninja, albeit a space ninja, feel to them.
The first-person mechanics in the game, while much improved since the last time we played, because of tighter transitions and controls, still break up the flow of action. While we like how smooth the transition between first- and third-person is, from what we've played so far, it still doesn't flow with the action as well as we would like. Hopefully we'll have a better feel for it once we can log more time in the game.
From the look of things so far, Metroid: Other M is shaping up to offer an engaging experience that is set to cover all the bases for fans. The Bottle Ship is an imaginative setting that provides a good variety of environments for you to explore. This particular demo showed off a good range of locales and gameplay that left us eager to dive deeper into the game. Metroid: Other M is slated to ship August 31 for the Nintendo Wii. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.