How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. Other M definitely puts the story first, much like Metroid Fusion before it, but this time you're even more railroaded by the plot. There are still a lot of optional secrets to discover, and that aspect still feels very ''Metroid.''
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~11 hours
Review Info: Metroid: Other M was played on a Wii U console using a US Version Wii Disc.
Buy Metroid: Other M if you like…
- Unique Frenetic Action
- Finding secrets in an otherwise linear game
- Using Super Metroid mechanics in a 3D Environment
- Narrative Based Games
- Guided Progression
▼ Review continues below ▼
I generally try to avoid talking about social circumstances surrounding any game I review since the subject could easily engulf my primary goal of reporting on the game itself. Wherever possible I also try to expose my biases in hopes that it helps readers make their own judgements. It’s hard to play the incredibly divisive Metroid: Other M for the first time in 2020 without having some level of the anchoring effect bearing down on me, and because of this it’s basically impossible to not talk about the controversy. In the years following the game’s release I had heard about all of the main complaints about Metroid: Other M. I had watched numerous YouTube videos explaining its failings, and I had completely written off playing the game myself as a result. This year, as I’ve made sure to get a review for every Metroid game on this site, Other M sort of sat in the background, looming over the project like a starved predator ready to make a meal of me. Knowing it was going to eventually happen, I spent a lot of mental energy trying very hard to clear my mind so I could give the game a fair chance. In the end I’m actually very glad that I played it, and I’m kind of sorry I put it off for so long. I’m also acutely aware that writing this review 10 years after the initial fallout means a majority of my readers are going to already have their own opinions. As always, my goal here isn’t to change anyone’s mind, nor is it to assert that my experience is more valid. If you don’t want to play the game then you definitely shouldn’t. There are plenty of reasons to dislike what Other M did, and I can see why a lot of people hate the game. On the other hand, I can see a whole lot of good in Other M. I see where they were going with it, and I can’t help but love it, even at least a little, for trying. I could even see this being someone’s favorite Metroid game, and while I certainly will echo a lot of the same criticisms you have probably already heard, I also completely understand why someone might feel that way. For me Metroid: Other M isn’t a bad game – it’s actually one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played, and it will probably haunt me for a long time even after I write the concluding paragraph to this review.
After the events of Super Metroid, Samus has suffered physical and mental trauma, and she wakes up in a Federation medical facility where they give video game tutorials as a form of physical therapy. The weird otaku doctor gives her a clean bill of health and sends her on her way to do her independent bounty hunter work. Shortly after her release she receives a “baby’s cry” distress signal that leads her to the Bottle Ship where the game’s events take place. Somewhat mirroring the structure of Metroid Fusion, we follow Samus as she explores various experimental environments and gradually uncovers a mysterious plot that goes beyond biologically engineered monsters taking over a research station. Along the way we meet Adam Malkovich in the flesh, whom we briefly heard about in Metroid Fusion, as well as other characters from Samus’ past. It’s very clear that the pattern of developing Samus into an actual character, which started in Metroid Fusion and continued through Zero Mission, is now a primary goal for Metroid: Other M. Ironically though, even with this hard focus dictating a lot of the designs, Other M still manages to pull off being a pretty decent game – at least, if you were okay with the formula changes made in Fusion.
Because Other M is still on-rails in service of the plot, Team Ninja wisely upgraded Metroid Fusion’s biggest weakness; the combat. Instead of Samus’ power suit being clumsy and wholly reliant on AI exploitation/finding power-ups for the player to be successful, Samus is now fast and agile, and you’re encouraged to get in close with your enemies. The suit design itself has even been slimmed down to reflect this new emphasis. You’re given the ability to dodge attacks and they make you use it, so the charge shot is more important than ever. Gone is the stand-and-deliver strategy you could often apply in the previous 2D games. Now you have to weave between enemy attacks and take advantage of hit-stun to do the most damage. Once an enemy becomes vulnerable you can usually run up to them and shift Samus into a scripted animation where she fires a lethal strike at point blank range. Fighting monsters is genuinely entertaining by itself now, once I got used to the controls anyway, and it kept me in a positive mood even when I had to reflect on some of the game’s deeper flaws.
The combat isn’t great though, and that’s mostly because it falls into the controller trap that many other Wii titles suffered from. They chose to go with the sideways Wii remote setup which inherently limits normal gameplay to just two buttons besides the d-pad. The aforementioned dodge ability is performed by double tapping in any given direction instead of pushing a dedicated button. This means that, as I was learning to play the game, I often dodged by accident, and by the end of the game I was making Samus do a double-tap dance everywhere because it was an effective strategy for auto-dodging basically everything. Initially, firing missiles is also awkward since it’s dependent on point-and-shoot motion controls. You have to rotate your controller from its usual sideways positioning and point it directly at the screen, which makes Samus go into first-person mode and you can lock onto targets to fire. Since half the game is about doing ninja dodges and executing lethal strikes, using missiles in combat is not only a pace-breaker, but it’s awkward to pull off, and you’ll usually end up taking damage because you have to stop moving. However, shifting into first person mode does give you a brief “bullet-time” window where time slows down so you can get your bearings. Once you get good at facing Samus in the right direction before making the shift, it actually ends up being a fun mechanic. There’s a lot of auto-aiming going on to make up for the design’s shortcomings, which mitigates some of the fun challenge the combat could have had, but it also eliminates frustrations. I can’t help but wonder if the combat could have been improved by adding the Wii nunchuck attachment to the mix and making first person mode a dedicated button, but I can see jumping and shooting in the normal environment being awkward with just the A button you’d have access to on that setup. Given the hardware that Team Ninja had to work with, I honestly believe they did a pretty good job with it, even if I disliked it when I first started the game.
The biggest pace breakers in the gameplay for me were the sudden hidden-object games that popped up during cutscenes. People often complain about quicktime events, but imagine if instead of a quicktime event you had to slowly look for a clue and point at it with the Wii remote in order to progress the plot. You’re supposed to be looking for things like a patch of blood or an organization’s insignia, but sometimes the game doesn’t give you much of a hint of what you’re supposed to be seeing. Even if the game spells it out for you, you may still miss the object because of how much precision the mini-game requires – and you’re not allowed to continue the game until you find it. The game even courteously has every NPC and event wait patiently until you do find what you’re supposed to be looking for, even if one of those NPCs happens to be a fire-breathing monster – they’ll just conveniently miss their attacks until you’re done. I know that observation skills is part of the Metroid series’ identity, but usually you get at least a missile expansion pack to show for it. I really don’t know what these hidden object scenes add to the game. It’s possible it’s supposed to add forensics skills to Samus’ character, but there are other ways to execute that idea without feeling completely intrusive. Nevertheless, these moments aren’t a major part of the game, they just stick out pretty hard when they do happen.
Players craving a “Metroidvania” experience are likely going to be mostly disappointed. Even compared to the more linear Metroid II and Metroid Fusion where you could feasibly go back to any old area, Metroid: Other M keeps you completely locked out of areas irrelevant to the current plot for most of the game. The way items are hidden, however, is just as good as it’s ever been. In fact, being in a 3D environment, in my opinion, helps the formula quite a bit since the invisible exploding block problem is now mostly gone – which is of course something we already learned from Metroid Prime. Collectables are marked clearly on your admittedly not-very-good map, so it’s more of a puzzle trying to piece together how to get to the glowing dot rather than a case of Samus blowing everything up and brushing against walls in hopes of finding a secret. While a lot of the game takes place in plain-textured long hallways, many of the game’s environments are quite nice, and there’s a lot of variety to enjoy while poking around. The return of the Speed Boost and Spark Shine mechanics for the first time in a 3D Metroid game also make the otherwise boring hallways into a fun trip if you know what you’re doing.
While combat and exploration have their flaws, the game ends on a high note in regards to both. In its last moments and in a brief post-game, the plot rails are removed and you’re free to experience the bottle ship as a whole with all of your upgrades unlocked. This is the point in the game where it feels just like a classic Metroid, except with the 3D twist, and it reveals the game’s true potential in a tantalizing way. The game also has an optional boss to fight that is perhaps the most fun fight in the entire game. While the true final moments of Other M come off as more of a fan service thing than anything grounded in logical sense, from a gameplay perspective it’s an ending that made me feel good about the experience as a whole.
Differentiating between gameplay and theming though is where I have to start talking about the giant biologically engineered elephant in the room. While I’m ultimately going to conclude that the plot to Other M is “serviceable”, I completely agree with most of the other critics that some of the theming decisions are completely baffling. One of the great things about Metroid games is that feeling of growth that comes through discovery, but for some strange reason they decided that in this game Samus already has all of her power ups, she simply chooses not to use them. After meeting Adam Malcovich she turns off two of the power ups she starts with, and she refuses to activate any power until Adam authorizes it. Mechanically there really isn’t a difference here, in both cases you have to play Samus without the powers until you trigger an event that gives them to her, but psychologically it’s understandable that the player would feel more frustrated at the in-game character for being the hold-out on them having more fun.
I think the goal in making Samus’ loyalty to Adam being the trigger point for her abilities was to give Adam some gameplay significance that strengthens the player’s connection to him as a character. There are a few moments where Adam authorizes a tool that are reminiscent of other Japanese media I’ve experienced, and if the situation wasn’t so logically stupid they might have been cool moments. It isn’t quite as bad as I imagined from hearing about Other M second hand though. Just to give an example, there’s a part of the game where Samus wanders into a heated section of the Bottle Ship and takes energy damage every second because she isn’t wearing proper protection. It isn’t until you’ve had to wade through the heat for a while that Adam calls you up during a boss fight and tells you to activate the Varia Suit. The tone of his voice is urgently frantic, and it sort of makes Samus look stupid for not calling him or not just turning the suit on in the first place. The way this scene had been described to me though, I had imagined Adam watching Samus from a one-way window and sadistically waiting until the last second to give her relief as an assertion of his control. It doesn’t come off that way at all, in fact if it weren’t for these kind of logical gaps and other presentation niggles I’d say that the partnership between Adam and Samus is fairly well told. Combining the gameplay with the cutscenes, Samus still comes off to me as a strong character that all of the other soldiers, including Adam himself, look up to.
I also think there is a cultural gap in regards to loyalty vs what we westerners consider common sense, and part of the fault in the presentation could probably be blamed on the localization. The main issue with the “Adam Authorization” system is that some of the situations make both Adam and Samus look incompetent. Not every player is going to like having to traverse an area where you constantly lose health, but in my humble opinion it’s a legitimate choice for adding variety to the challenge – it just needs a better explanation (keep in mind that this is just one of many examples that I could be using). They do have a throw-away line at the beginning of the game where Adam insists that Samus’ suit is too dangerous for the civilian scientists on the station, specifically citing the Power Bomb as her most dangerous weapon, but that doesn’t explain things like the Grappling Hook or the Varia Suit. The player is perfectly accepting that Chozo statues just litter the universe by handing out power-ups in other games, so giving them evidence that helps them believe Adam has a legitimate reason to restrict Samus’ more benign powers would have likely been accepted. Perhaps Samus’ newly repaired digital suit takes a special energy to activate her latent abilities, and the Bottle Ship has a way of distributing that energy remotely. Making that energy be a limited resource and having Adam have to care for the rest of his team would make it more like he’s making a tough call instead of just being arbitrary because he’s afraid of some slippery slope leading to power bombs. This is just one example of how simple dialog could have fixed the problem. They could also have had different ways of showing why Samus’ power ups are dangerous too. For instance, they could have had a scientist nearby that gets violently sucked up into Samus’ jetpack when she activates the Varia suit, followed up by her saying “oopsie” (I’m being facetious with this one, of course.)
Another poorly handled aspect of the story is how Samus reacts to some of the monsters in the game. There are moments she has flashbacks to previous Metroid games that cause her to hesitate, and that usually gets her in trouble in the unplayable cut scene. Given that this is at least Samus’ fourth big adventure, seventh if you count the Prime series, it might not make much sense that she would suddenly now show fear, especially when some of the things she reacts to are creatures that she has bested multiple times. At the beginning of the game they do establish that Samus was particularly damaged at the end of Super Metroid, and given what actually happens in that game, this is perfectly logical. It would then also be logical that Samus could be suffering a form of PTSD, and that she might have selective amnesia as part of the psychological trauma. Establishing this early on would make her hesitations and flashbacks make a lot more sense, as well as provide something for her character to overcome in a way that makes the player root for her. If Adam is aware of Samus’ new weakness it could also explain the gradual trickling of powers in service of that memory reconstruction, and could have been a tool for establishing a caring bond between the two characters. Of course, they could also just cut all those scenes from the game, since as-is they can be confusing for fans actually familiar with the character.
I make suggestions for improving the weirder aspects of the plot with the acknowledgement that if written poorly it could absolutely be worse than what we got. Based on the response to Other M, it’s pretty obvious that there is a vocal segment of the player base that doesn’t want Samus to show any weakness at all – that she should be the blank slate she appears as in the Prime series and in Metroid 1 through 3. I think that Fusion and Prime, which came out around the same time, gave us two directions the Metroid story could have gone, with one game focusing more on her character and the other focusing more on the world itself. I think the character driven focus is completely legitimate, and as I’ve already expressed in my Metroid Fusion review, I think the same writer did a very good job with it there. The biggest problem with Metroid: Other M isn’t that it’s a bad idea, it’s that it’s just poorly written overall.
The writing and/or localization issues are also not just limited to theming. The overarching plot is pretty contrived in general. Some plot threads exist as a convenience to have specific boss fights, or references to previous games, and there are cases where it even brings down Metroid Fusion by adding things to the timeline that sour some of the reveals in that game. The late game has massive exposition dumps delivered through Samus’ usual deadpan delivery, and considering that the Metroid series is known best for allowing the player to uncover a mystery on their own, the way the presentation is done here is definitely a huge missed opportunity.
With all that said about the plot, going into the game I definitely had the benefit of knowing most of the spoilers ahead of time. I can only imagine if I went in blind that the shock might have had me joining other disgruntled fans by racing to internet forums to show off my fast-typing armchair critic skills. Thanks to the foreknowledge I get to instead show off my slower and more contemplative armchair critic skills. Playing the game after everything has cooled off, and already being braced for the impact of its poorer decisions, I can earnestly say it’s not as bad as I expected; I actually enjoyed the game. I think the story still manages to hit a few emotional highs, and taking the elements by themselves, I think the plot actually could have been a fine chapter in the Metroid saga.
Papers written about what could have been done better with Metroid: Other M could probably fill a book by now, but what strikes me about Other M is that it really isn’t just a bad game. I think one of the reasons people find it so frustrating is that it does have a lot of potential. It’s one of those moments in media history where a do-over could be something really grand, but unfortunately given its status as the most hated game in the franchise, it probably wouldn’t be easy to market something like that. I really do feel like there are enough good elements in the game that with an overhaul of the dialog and a few added scenes, you could keep most of what is there and come out with something very good, if not absolutely great. However, I enjoyed the game enough for what it is that I don’t feel bad keeping it on my shelf with my other Metroid games. I definitely agree that I wouldn’t want future Metroid games to make the same mistakes as this one, but I can also tell that the writer had a vision and a passion for the series that he had worked on as a major player since Super Metroid. While it’s a shame that things turned out the way they did, I’m still glad I got to play it.
Frenetic combat is stunted by the controller choice, making something that would be deep and complex into a fairly simple system. It's still a lot of fun.
What's normally just traversal platforming occasionally tries to challenge you, and those challenges are hit or miss, so a level ''good''' score seems appropriate.
It's still a lot of fun to find the power-ups even if the game is constantly pushing you in specific directions. Definitely not the same tier as previous Metroid games, but still a draw if you enjoy it.
Most ''puzzles'' are just find the button in the room, but occasionally the game forces you to play a hidden object game which brings the pacing to a screeching halt.
A lot of good ideas marred by poor direction and localization. Definitely not enough room in this summary to even touch the surface here.
Samus looks great. The environments look great. Much of the game is in samey hallways, but the stand out areas really stand out.
It's always appropriate but generally forgettable.
There is a hard mode for a second playthrough, but the linearity of the game means it's primarily going to be a combat run.