Metroid: Other M Hands-On

Samus has a case of the baby blues in this sequel to Super Metroid.

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Metroid: Other M--codeveloped by Nintendo and Team Ninja (of Ninja Gaiden fame)--is best described as a culmination of all the Metroid games that came before it. It interweaves plot points and gameplay mechanics from those games into a sequel that takes place after events of Super Metroid, but despite bringing all of these familiar characteristics together, Other M feels anything but familiar. The game forges its own identity that rests somewhere between Super Metroid and the Metroid Prime series, with the end results amounting to something that most fans will probably find surprising. A warning: This write-up includes some minor story set-up spoilers.

Our demo begins with a brief CG cinematic where the camera pans to the depths of space to find a person--bounty hunter Samus Aran--curled in the fetal position (like the scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey). After uttering the question, "Why am I still alive?" Samus awakens to find herself in the ending sequence of Super Metroid. An appropriately disgusting and angry Mother Brain stomps around as the baby Metroid (that originally appeared in Metroid II) holds Samus above ground within its maw. Just seconds before Mother Brain releases a devastating beam of energy from her massive eyeball, the baby Metroid drops Samus and takes the brunt of the blast. Its gooey remains drip down onto Samus as she readies her arm cannon and says, "It's time to go." Mother Brain is defeated.

In the following scene, Samus (shown in her Zero Suit form) awakens in a quarantine room and later remarks that she constantly dreams about her confrontation with Mother Brain, as well as the fate of the baby Metroid. In fact, a large part of developing and growing Samus as a character for Metroid: Other M seemingly stems from the loss of the baby Metroid to the extent that it's a focal point of her remaining monologue in the introduction--a suggestion of her growing motherly instincts, perhaps?

As the scene ends, Samus transforms back into her Varia suit and the tutorial begins. In it, we learn about some of her basic movements and abilities--most of which are controlled by holding the Wii Remote sideways so the layout resembles the NES controller setup. The action in Metroid: Other M takes place in 3D space from a third-person perspective, so Samus can move around much as she did in Metroid Prime by using the D pad. You can fire her arm cannon using the button 1 (button 2 performs jumps) and hold it down to perform a stronger, charged shot. By throwing a few enemies at us, the tutorial revealed that there's seemingly no manual way to target enemies, so where you shoot is a combination of where you're facing and which enemy has priority over another for the auto-aiming system. Samus also has some evasive skills--by pressing left or right on the D pad just before a projectile hits, she quickly leaps to the left or right. Lastly, changing into the morph ball is as simple as pressing A on the Wii Remote, and like previous games, Samus can plant regular or superbombs while in this state. Also of note, you can recharge missiles by simply holding the Wii Remote vertically and simultaneously holding down the B button (a similar functions works for recharging health when it gets dangerously low, but it doesn't appear to refill all of your health).

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The tutorial also included a section explaining Samus's search mode, which should be immediately familiar to fans of Metroid Prime. By pointing the Wii Remote at the screen, the camera automatically transitions to a first-person, in-the-visor mode that lets you look around by holding the B button. Not only can you use this mode to investigate your surroundings, but you can also use it to lock onto and combat enemies either by using Samus's default arm cannon attack or her missiles. It's worth pointing out that when you search a room and happen to come across a special item (such as an energy tank or missile capacity upgrades), it will be marked on the map shown at the top-right portion of the screen.

With the tutorial over, we got another cutscene where a quarantine officer tells Samus to head to a meeting where news that Mother Brain has been defeated and Planet Zebes has been completely destroyed is met with a round of cheering from others in the room. Time passes and we fast forward to a scene with Samus sitting inside her ship when she suddenly receives what she refers to as a, "baby's cry," which is an SOS coming from a distant part of the galaxy. She eventually reaches the source of the SOS and what appears to be a derelict space station called the Bottle Ship, where the main portion of our gameplay session took place.

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Upon arrival, we're told to take a look around using Samus's search mode--a quick inspection of the area reveals that a Galactic Federation Army ship is also docked. We take a few minutes to run and jump around (to test out the controls a little more when the camera's in a side-scrolling perspective) before going through the first door on the ship. Inside, Samus encounters the Galactic Federation group that arrived at the station earlier as it tried to get through a seemingly impenetrable door. As luck would have it, a member of this crew is none other than Adam Malkovich--Samus's former commanding officer in the Galactic Federation Army (and later, the AI construct from Metroid Fusion) before she took up the reigns of a freelance bounty hunter. Samus briefly references tension that exists between the two of them because of her previous career choices, but it's something that will more than likely expand further as the game progresses.

After helping the team get through the door via a missile from Samus's weapon, the team moves forward and Samus is left behind to make her way to the control room on her own. Along the way, we encounter some of the familiar, weaker enemies of Metroid's past, such as zoomers and skree. We take out these enemies using Samus's regular attack and continue to explore before coming upon an empty bathroom area. Normally, such a room wouldn't be a big deal, but it is in this case because we get a glimpse of a new perspective that places that camera closely behind Samus (similar to the camera perspective found in the Resident Evil 4 and 5) and forces her to walk at a slower pace. Whether this camera perspective has any kind of significance over just accommodating the tight space remains to be seen, but it was quite a surprise when we came upon it for the first time.

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We continue to go from room to room, putting Samus's acrobatic abilities to good use as she wall jumps and clings to ledges before pulling herself up to make her way to the control room where she meets up with the rest of the Galactic Federation crew, as well as the first boss encounter. This giant, purple monster flings its tentacles about, making it difficult to find enough time to jump into the first-person mode and take shots at its eye using missiles. When we do get a solid shot in, the Galactic Federation soldiers manage to freeze parts of its limbs, which you then have to target and fire upon with missiles in first person. After doing this a few times, the creature is defeated. Adam takes up a position in the main portion of the control room where he tells the rest of his crew to infiltrate other parts of the ship and asks Samus to restore power to the system management area. This requires a bit of backtracking to an earlier part of the level (where we get some more time to snoop around for extra items, some of which can only be accessed via the morph ball), but it only takes a few minutes before we find the designated area, clear out the enemies that were preventing power from reaching other parts of the ship, and head back to the control room where the demo ends.

At this point, Metroid: Other M seems to succeed in creating a new type of Metroid experience, but it's really hard to explain just how different it feels until you get your hands on it. The mixture of old Metroid and Metroid Prime elements seems like it's not an amazing fit initially, but as time goes on, changing from third to first person feels more natural. We'll have more on Metroid: Other M before its release on June 27.

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