about live blogs add a live blog
Mother, May I See Metroid: Other M
Korval

[table of contents]
You Remind Me of the Babe
The baby
Samus Aran, repeated phrase. A lot.

We begin by flying through space, where there's a bunch of space junk. The junk gets hit by glowing meteors, and we fly through an explosion to find... a Star Child. Wow, 20 seconds in, and they're already run out of original material. The child has green hair... for some reason. I say that because we fix on its eyes and then do a transition to a frontal shot of Samus Aran.

Well, that was pointless.

The first lines out of Samus's "mouth" (I can't tell if she's speaking or thinking) are, "Why am I still alive?" All it takes are five words to tell us what level of writing and voice acting we're in for in this story. No emotion, no sense of person or character, nothing.

This tepid, lifeless line is the story's way of saying that Samus just woke up after something happened that she expected to be fatal. We then get a slow pan away from Samus, intercut with Samus POV shots for some reason. This shows us that she's being held aloft by a Metroid, floating in the air. We also see energy blasts flying past them as Samus says/thinks, "The baby". Um, what? What baby?

Eventually, we get the reveal of... Mother Brain. So yes, this is a recreation of the end of Super Metroid, a scene that contained neither dialog nor monologue.

Mother Brain fires a few beams into the Metroid. Then she charges up an eye beam while animating wildly; the Metroid drops Samus and charges her. But Mother Brain blasts through it. The Metroid gives a scream of pain, then explodes into bits of Metroid debris. Samus catches a fragment of its carcass in her hand.

Mother Brain then steps towards Samus, in a shot that clearly places Samus somewhere between Mother Brain's legs. Samus looks up and says, "Mother... Time to go!" with about as little emotion as humanly possible. These words are not badass, they're not a pre-asskicking one-liner. They're just uttered, entirely without weight or feeling. I haven't seen acting this lifeless since The Last Airbender movie. Anyway, Samus rears her arm canon back, and we swoop inside it to see a shot build up, then she thrusts the canon forward to shoot directly into the camera.

The scene cuts to an un-armored Samus in bed. After Metroid: Zero Mission, Samus isn't allowed to wear regular clothes, so she's naturally in her "Zero Suit." She's in some kind of medical facility... for some reason. Even though Super Metroid clearly had Samus run out of the exploding Zebes without injury.

A high-tech monitor appears, showing some random lab-coated guy. Then Samus starts thinking to herself about where she is... even though it's obvious from the design of the room where she is. Samus tells us that she was dreaming; again, incredibly obvious. She then tells us the end of Super Metroid: that "the baby" somehow gave her the Hyper Beam she used to kill Mother Brain. Wouldn't it have been great to actually see all of that? But no, that's not what this game is about; the game only showed us the parts it wants us to see. Anyway Zebes blew up following this. Samus specifically mentions that its explosion took out the remains of her "long-standing nemesis, Ridley."

I mention that last part because it's actually a plot point. Not that the game is going to tell you at this point who or what Ridley is or why you need to know that he was a nemesis of Samus.

Samus stands up and cocks her hips to the side to show off her stuff to the people watching her outside of the room. BTW, they added high-heels to the Zero Suit. And I don't mean boots with an elevated heel; I mean actual 3-4 inch high-heels built into her suit's feet. Because what Samus wants when she's outside of her armor is to have to balance on 4-inch heels.

-_-

Stay classy, Team Ninja

Cut to a shot of Samus from the back, standing before a guy in a booth. And of course, this shot naturally has Samus's ass framed in it, with her skin-tight suit outlining every curve. Swell. I'd do a "Fanservice count," but really, it would just be every time Samus is in her Zero Suit in this game. And unlike prior games, that will be all too frequent. She's here to test out her suit's stuff, so she activates it. The suit is of course magic; it appears on her body at a mental command.

What follows is a gameplay sequence intended to familiarize the player with the game's controls. After this bit, the training guy tells you to head to the meeting room. He also says that he polished your suit... which makes total sense for armor that magically appears ex nihilo. Again, I mention that because it's a plot point.

Samus starts internally monologuing about how no part of "the baby" remained on her. What, her Chozo-built magitek power armor actually is designed to keep any dirt and grime that accumulates on it after deactivation? We fade to Samus walking down a corridor, lamenting again that she would never see "the baby." OK, Samus, it's been 4 minutes; can you talk about something, anything else?

Samus is scanned by some device before she speaks to what appears to be the Galactic Federation Senate. Wait; she's allowed to go before a meeting of politicians wearing neigh-indestructable battle armor that comes equipped with an Arm Cannon? Anyway, she tells the Senate about how she committed genocide and blew up a planet. Naturally, this draws applause from the Senators, because genociding a species and destroying a world is good!

Samus monologues, "A simple report, almost dull even..." Maybe it's because you were speaking with all of the emotion of a toothpick. Anyway, we cut to Samus on her ship, monologuing about how she doesn't know how much time passed since then. Really? Do you not have a calendar? Is your suit incapable of telling time? I mean, unless we're talking years, this should not be a hard question to answer. Anyway, she seems to lament how the Space Pirates had become nothing more than a memory to the galactic community in that time. Would it have been so difficult for the writers to just have her say, "months passed?" It's still indeterminate, but it doesn't make Samus sound like a moron.

Then she gets the "Baby's Cry". That is the name of a particular distress call; it even sounds like a digitized baby crying. Samus explains the reasoning for this ludicrous name, "The nickname comes from the fact that the purpose of the signal is to draw attention." Something a regular SOS couldn't possibly do of course; those people don't need "the urgency of a baby crying" (and yes, the game uses this exact phrase to describe it).

As she sets course for it, Samus says, "It was as though it was crying specifically for me..." Jesus Christ that's a horrible line. And this explains the reason for the idiotic "Baby's Cry" distress call: because then Samus wouldn't be able to say that line. And that would be tragic.

And if you think that the baby and motherhood motif has been too subtle at this point, guess what's sending out the distress call? The "BOTTLE SHIP" (always written in ALL CAPS). It looks like this:

I want you to remember this picture every time someone tells you that this game is subtle.

Want more ham-fisted SYMBOLISM!? The title appears as Samus says that Godawful line. What does "Metroid: Other M" mean? Well, the obvious acronym for the game is "MOM". Also, "Other M" is a pathetic anagram for "MOther."

My God, what have I gotten myself into?

Outside Context Problem

But I didn't cheer. I stood right up and started shouting, "This isn't what happened last week! Have you all got amnesia? They just cheated us! This isn't fair! HE DIDN'T GET OUT OF THE COCK - A - DOODIE CAR!"
Annie Wilkes, Misery

OK, we kinda brushed past the Super Metroid ending scene that opens this game, so let's tackle it now in excruciating detail.

One of the big problems with the scene is that it is simply wrong. This is supposed to be a recreation of the end of Super Metroid, but this isn't how it happened. And I don't mean in meaningless ways, like the fact that it's a 3D scene or that Mother Brain's arms aren't quite that long or something. I'm talking about substantive problems here.

The Metroid is shown suspending Samus in air. Also, it's not huge. Both of these combine to mean that Mother Brain has direct line-of-sight on Samus. She could hit her, but she isn't. She's not even trying to. In Super Metroid, Mother Brain couldn't shoot Samus because the Metroid was protecting her. It was covering her entirely, using the floor for the part below it. That's why picking Samus up is bad; it leaves Samus exposed. By doing it this way, Other M doesn't seem like the Metroid is protecting Samus so much as Mother Brain is just shooting it while Samus happens to be caught in its mouth. It muddles what the scene is trying to say.

The Metroid also explodes, which it very much did not in Super Metroid. Not in the fashion that Other M shows it. This is important because of what Samus has to narrate to us in Other M: that the Metroid gave her the power to kill Mother Brain. Super Metroid didn't need any such narration; the Metroid fell onto Samus's body and clearly transferred the power to her. God forbid this game do any storytelling that doesn't require narration.

And that leads into the next problem: where the Hyper Beam comes from. Know where it comes from? It wasn't "the baby;" at least, not directly. The Hyper Beam comes from Mother Brain. It's the ultimate kill attack that Mother Brain was slamming Samus with all during that fight. There are two pieces of evidence for this. First, Mother Brain's attack is rainbow-colored, just like the Hyper Beam. Second, Mother Brain never uses it again after the Metroid drains her.

Except in Other M, where she clearly uses it on "the baby." Again, this is not some minor nit-pick; this is a fundamental alteration to how the scene works that Other M has created. The Hyper Beam now comes out of thin air; the reasoning that Super Metroid clearly provided for it is gone.

But the biggest problem is the lack of context. We're only shown the very tail-end of the fight in Other M. We're shown nothing leading up to it. And this is very deliberate.

See, Other M wants us to believe that there is a deep, personal relationship between Samus Aran and "the baby." Other M is saying that Samus loved this Metroid like her child, and it's death was crushing to her, the equivalent of losing a child. The problem with this is that this is not what Super Metroid said! That's why Other M's version of the scene takes liberties with what happens: because they want to change what actually happened.

In Super Metroid, the focus of the scene was on the fact that the Metroid still recognized Samus as its parent and was willing to fight for her. First, we had the scene where it scares the ever-loving shit out of you. You see an invincible creature, and then the biggest Metroid you've ever seen grabs it and reduces it to dust. It's ice-resistant* and you have nothing that can scratch it. After finishing a snack, it grabs onto you and almost kills you. But it stops. This is the game's way of saying that the big Metroid is the infant you rescued from Metroid II. It grew up.

Later, when you're about to be killed, it drained Mother Brain's life (that's where it picked up the Hyper Beam) and transfered life to Samus. It then covers Samus's body, protecting it from further attacks. And when it tries to go after Mother Brain again, it dies due in part to the damage it sustained protecting Samus.

At no time in Super Metroid was there even the slightest idea that Samus felt that this Metroid was her child. The very opening sequence in fact suggests the opposite: Samus gave "the baby" away, with nary a second thought. This suggests that she felt less like a human mother and more like someone who picked up a stray. She didn't want to shoot the defenseless infant that imprinted on her, but she's not exactly in love with it either. She goes after Ridley because, well it's Ridley, and that he's going to use it to breed a Metroid army.

Even Samus calling it a "baby" in Other M is a rewrite. Why? Because in Super Metroid, it is very clearly not a baby anymore; it's an adult Metroid, and a very large one at that. It used to be a baby, but it's all grown up now. That's why this game doesn't show it being huge like Super Metroid. By continuously referring to it as that (and Samus does insist on it; every single reference she makes to it will call it "the baby"), it drives home the point that Other M is trying to make, one that is not supported by Super Metroid.

See, Other M must take Super Metroid's ending scene out of context. If it put the actual context there, if it did the scene right, then the scene wouldn't work for what Other M wants. Because what Other M wants is wrong; it's not what Super Metroid was trying to say at all.

Indeed, this is one of the systemic problems with Other M. Some of the things it wants to say are antithetical to what prior games in the series have long-since established. Therefore, Other M must either change or ignore significant parts of Metroid continuity in order for what it says and does to work. Why does this matter? Consider this.

Nintendo has three main long-running franchises: Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. Mario games have never been interconnected; future games may use elements from prior ones, but they never draw on anything more than that. Nobody has ever claimed that there is a Mario game chronology or timeline or anything.

Nintendo likes to pretend that the Zelda series has a coherent timeline*, but the fact that this timeline has at least one fork in it provides evidence that any such timeline is likely a creation after the fact. That is, they're putting games together that were never well conceived of being in a chronology.

Of their main three franchises, Metroid is the one that actually had a real continuity and coherent timeline. Zero Mission replaces Metroid 1 as the start of the series, since it's a remake. Following that are the three Prime games in order, followed by Metroid 2, Super Metroid, and Fusion. They all fit together seamlessly and in a single continuity. Metroid is the only one of Nintendo's serieses that they actually seem to care about having a real continuity for.

And yet, here's Other M, not giving a damn about what has to be wrecked in order to get what it wants. It's one thing to want to carve out your own little fortress of canon within a larger continuity. It's quite another to start radically altering what is almost universally seen to be not just the best game in the series, but also one of the best games of its kind, and has a frequent presence on top 100 and top 50 all-time game lists. That's shitting on videgaming history; that's saying that one of the best pieces of videogame storytelling didn't happen or happened differently, all to create this relationship that didn't exist before.

And the best part? It doesn't even really matter that much; not for Other M. All that Samus thinking of this Metroid as her child does is fit into the asinine motherhood motif (I refuse to call this horseshit something as coherent as a theme) that permeates every orifice of Other M. You could cut this scene and her constant "the baby" stuff without impacting the actual story that Other M wants to tell.

I am therefore instituting the "Shitting on Metroid" count. Every time Other M says or does something that significantly contradicts what other games stated or strongly implied, or otherwise negatively affects the way events in other games play out in light of what happens in Other M, the count will be incremented. So, without further adieu:

Shitting on Metroid #1: for having one of the most celebrated and storied endings in all of videogame history, and then taking a wild, ferocious dump on it. In the first 3 minutes of the game, no less.

Impressive work, writers.

18th May '12 4:06:01 PM flag for mods
comments
... You do know that, if Samus was rendered unconscious by Mother Brain's attack, there was no way that she could've known that the power came from Mother Brain, right? The problem with the scene in that context is that the makers purposefully separated the player's point of view from Samus' point of view.

We were expected to have Samus know what was happening because we assumed that she would've been conscious throughout it all, what with not losing consciousness until... well, dying. The player doesn't lose consciousness, and for gameplay purposes that's all that matters. I'm not necessarily saying that it was a good idea, but given that we're actually shown things from Samus' perspective, I suppose it would only be natural to see things shifted from how we saw them.

Think of it as a real-life Rashomon, essentially. Might be right, might be wrong. Just a possibility.
nomuru2d 19th May 12
Oh boy, I love the Bottle Ship picture. Made me laugh so hard.
Tuckerscreator 19th May 12
given that we're actually shown things from Samus' perspective, I suppose it would only be natural to see things shifted from how we saw them.

Is the player not Samus Aran? Why should the player's perspective not be the same as the player's avatar in the game space? Super Metroid certainly never gave the impression that these were different perspectives. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that SM worked because they weren't different perspectives.

The whole point of having silent protagonists and so forth is to further integrate the player into the character's perspective by not introducing a voice outside of the player's thoughts. That's kinda the point I'm making. Super Metroid believed in this, and it did so very strongly.

Other M does not.
Korval 20th May 12
I really never thought about the differences in the opening scene and Super Metroid's ending, but you're completely right. The Metroid's size is radically different, and Mother Brain didn't use the hyper beam to kill it. The entire scene is changed.
Scardoll 30th May 12
nomuru2d: "You do know that, if Samus was rendered unconscious by Mother Brain's attack, there was no way that she could've known that the power came from Mother Brain, right?"

Samus was never unconscious during the battle. That's another contradiction Other M makes. She was exhausted and panting, but when the metroid attacked, she saw the whole thing. Refer to this picture:

She's faced down before the attack, and then looked up when the metroid came. So it's likely she discerned how she got the Hyper beam.
thefavs 11th Jul 12
"No hotlinked images,"... Well, just Youtube "Super Metroid Mother Brain Battle", and observe the scene. Vastly different than how Other M distorted it.
thefavs 11th Jul 12
...I thought Nintendo vehemently denied the existence of a Zelda timeline until just before Skyward Sword came out?
banjo2E 9th Oct 12
I know that I'm potentially bring up Sakamoto here, but from what's been told it wasn't really the fault of Jess Martin (Samus's VA) to speak so dully. She's theatrically trained from what's been said about her, and I don't think her actual acting skills should be put into question.

None of the above is in defence for the game, of course.
Djinntroid 26th Nov 12
Djinntroid, I've actually met Jessica Martin, and she is a very talented actor. That there is such a range of problems in Other M points to a director testing waters that he just isn't equipped to deal with. I know we aren't supposed to bring him up, but I've read that Sakamoto was present during all the voice acting recording, which just sounds like a bad idea having someone co-direct a foreign language dub.
Gendreavus 7th Dec 12
>Super Metroid didn't need any such narration; the Metroid fell onto Samus's body and clearly transferred the power to her
My read of the scene is that the Metroid's corpse disintegrated in mid-air and didn't so much "fall on top of Samus". Samus got the Hyper Beam from the direct energy transfer - the part in the scene where you can actually see Samus' health bar increasing again. It's a little nitpick, and it ultimately doesn't matter, but it's the very fact that it doesn't matter that reinforces your point.
You know that shot in Other M where Samus picks up a tiny golden speck of ash, and that's what gives her the Hyper Beam? This always struck me as being needlessly fantastical. In Super Metroid this was a valid interpretation of the scene, but it was equally valid to have Samus go fucking berserk as the Metroid's bubbling, smoldering corpse flopped to the ground. Different players had different emotions, but in the end they were all equally intense. It was an emotional moment no matter how it was interpreted.
But in Other M they FORCE a specific emotion on you. They FORCE a specific interpretation on you. This kills a lot of the magic, eh?
TARINunit9 24th Apr 14
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy