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Mother, May I See Metroid: Other M

[table of contents]
The Plot Deleter
Morisawa: At first [Samus's suit is] yellow, then the typical orange, then finally it becomes the Gravity Suit, so that Samus is purple. That is Nintendo's official specification, so naturally we started making the final Power Suit in purple. Towards the end of the game, however, there are some serious dramatic scenes. As Sakamoto-san was watching one of these cinematics, where Samus appeared in purple, he said "why is Samus wearing purple?"
Iwata: He said that, even though it had been the specification from the very beginning! (laughs)
Morisawa: Yes! (laughs) So I told him "she's wearing the Gravity Suit, that's why she's purple". His response, however, was "but it looks strange to have this purple person popping up during such a serious conversation." It would then become an exchange along the lines of me saying "But this is the specification!" and him responding "No, no, definitely strange."
—[[http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/#/wii/metroid-other-m/1/4" Iwata Asks]], Second-by-Second Adjustment. I said that I wouldn't say the name. I never said that I wouldn't quote someone who did ;)

OK, that's done, so we're in the home stretch.

Samus leaves the entrance to Sector Zero (thus reminding us that her entire trip down here completely pointless. I shudder to think what it must be like to play a game that leads you down some path, then have to backtrack the entire way because of some asshole absconding with the last level). But apparently, Sector Zero's detonation damaged the ship, and certain corridors are just... dropping off. They just kinda disappear. Anyway, Samus is getting sucked into the vacuum, but activates the Gravity Suit to save herself.

Um, suction into space isn't gravity (though technically neither is water). Also, good call on not activating that suit that could lower damage even further until right now. Maybe Adam's Mary Sue Canon wouldn't have one-shotted you...

Anyway, this scene of non-tension ends with Samus diving through doors just as they close. Because that's how you can tell when writers are completely intellectually bankrupt.

Cut to Nightmare, who totally isn't dead btw. Which is the second time they've used this tired "the boss is dead oh wait just kidding" shtick. Nightmare gives off some more baby cries, and a boss fight ensues. After a bit, Nightmare dies. Shitting on Metroid #12: for turning Nightmare from Fusion into a shitty attempt to shoehorn more "babies" into this game. Also, great use of his iconic music, guys. In that his boss music here is completely generic and worthless.

Cut to Samus in an elevator. Which fades into a shot of Ridley, breathing heavily and with damaged wings. Ominous footsteps happen, and a door slowly opens. We then get a monster POV shot ripped almost directly from Alien 3 as the large creature approaches Ridley, who screams at it. The monster rears back and charges, ending the scene. Cut back to Samus in an elevator.

Well, enough of that. Cut to Samus entering a room, the one where she left "Madeline". But Samus only finds a dead GF trooper: James. Which means that, by process of elimination, James must have been... the Deleter! DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!

Well, enough of that. Cut to Samus entering a room. Samus follows a trail of blood to... Ridley, as a stone statue! DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!!

Well, enough of that. Cut to Samus entering a room, specifically, Room MW. There she finds a red-headed woman inside what appears to be a cell of some form. Samus almost smashes the glass in, but thinks better of it and just taps. OK, WTF was the point of that? Was there some character there? Did something just happen? Anyway, the woman seems scared of Samus, and she presses something on a nearby control panel. A door opens, similar to the one that opened before Ridley. Even though... that was in a completely different room. Whatever, let's just get this over with. Samus goes through the door and sees some Metroid eggs. Then something comes out of the darkness. It's... a Queen Metroid! DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!!!

After some pointless slow-mo bullet time dodging, a boss fight begins. It starts with the Queen launching Metroids. All of which can be frozen. Surprising though this may be to believe, the writers do actually explain this. After that, Samus engages the Queen.

Now, it's important to understand something. The Queen was the final boss of Metroid II. And Fusion pretty much stated that you don't get higher forms of Metroids (Alphas, Zetas, etc, the ones from Metroid II) simply by raising Metroids. You have to raise Metroids on SR-388, or a similar enough environment, to get these kinds of things. This also jives with what Corruption said about Metroids. So how in the hell is a Queen here?

Equally importantly, without the context of Metroid II, then the Queen simply doesn't make sense. She's supposed to be a Metroid Queen, but she has no apparent morphological similarities to Metroids. The thing is, Metroid II actually did a damn good job of showing the morphological stages from the standard Metroid all the way up through Queens. You could see how each stage was a modification of the last, kind of like an evolutionary morphology. We don't get that here; all we see is the first form and the finished product.

Indeed, Fusion did this right. In a quick sequence, they show you all of the Metroid morphs, such that by the time you see the Omega Metroid at the end, you still recognize it as a Metroid. Even if you'd never played any games in the series before, it has given you enough information to know what's going on. Other M, as usual, is not so courteous to its players.

Adding to this is the fact that this 3D version is missing a prominent feature of Metroids: the red triangular/tetrahedral organ structure in the middle. All of the Metroid II Metroid forms had this structure, to help identify them as Metroids. In part because of the viewing angle and in part because of the terrible modeling, the organs just aren't clearly visible. The underbelly, where the Metroid gel sac is, is virtually opaque and supported by "ribs," unlike the 2D version. Even better, Team Ninja decided to whip out jiggle physics on this, because... Team Ninja. What this all means is ultimately that figuring out that this is a Metroid is not the easiest thing in the world.

Yes, the game tells you it's the Queen Metroid. But if someone told you an elephant was a breed of dog, you probably wouldn't believe them.

But of course, the real question is why is a Queen Metroid in this game? What purpose does it serve for the story? What does this battle mean in the context of the larger work?

Not. One. Damn. Thing.

There is no emotional attachment to the Queen Metroid. It has no character purpose in the story; it doesn't enhance anyone's character, nor does it have any affect on a character. It serves no purpose to the plot; its presence here will be briefly mentioned later, but ultimately it is meaningless to anything. It comes right the hell out of nowhere and serves absolutely no purpose.

OK, that's not entirely true. See, it's a Queen Metroid. That is, it's a mother.


So, Samus shoots the Queen a lot, and it dies. Only not, because the developers were so completely out of ideas that they had to use an idea they'd already used twice now. Having the Queen drop only to get up 4 seconds later did nothing. It wasn't even a surprise, since the camera lingered on the body.

Samus aims at the Queen, and it looks at Samus. But Samus isn't shooting because... OK, so then a voice announces that the BOTTLE SHIP will reach "Galactic Federation orbit in approximately 30 seconds." Um, the Galactic Federation is not really something you can orbit. Unless you're going into orbit around the galactic core. Which is not particularly difficult, since sitting "still" will do that.

Where are we going?

The best part is that we get an exterior view of the BOTTLE SHIP, where we see... nothing directly ahead. Nothing at all.

Well, enough of that. Cut back to Samus, where the Queen is doing nothing but roaring impotently. Why? Because it's time for Samus to flashback and we wouldn't want to interrupt that with something happening. She gets a montage of memories of Anthony and Adam (may he rot in hell). These memories give Samus the strength she needs to fight the monster she was doing just fine killing before.


The direction is trying to make this fight seem epic, but it just can't. Because the monster has no reason to be here other than the fact that it's a mother, it just doesn't work. It has no personal connection to Samus. It has no connection to the plot. So the moment is completely without any sense of gravitas or weight; it's just a big dragon she has to slay.

Speaking of dragons, wasn't there another dragon around here? One that had some actual character relevance, such that fighting it might have actually meant something? Maybe I'm just remembering wrong.

Anyway, as the computer counts down towards 0 (when the ship will assume orbit around a galaxy. Oh no!), Samus squares off with the charging Queen. Then the emergency brakes activate, like something out of Loony Toons. The BOTTLE SHIP comes to a quick halt, because shut up it does. And halting 3 seconds from where they were going is going to mean a whole lot. Because they haven't invented inertial dampeners, this sudden stop causes the Queen to fly into a wall. Samus just falls down; I guess it's due to the Gravity Suit, though there's no purple glow.

Wouldn't it have been nice as an actual suit to remind us it's on?

Anyway, the Queen's belly is exposed, thus allowing Samus to shoot it, to no real effect. Once it flips back over, it rears up and starts to charge some beam, while Samus is immobile. Because the developers like it when players have to play through a cutscene. Samus uses the grapple beam to pull herself into its open mouth, where something really, really stupid happens. But that's pure gameplay, so I won't talk about it. Samus lays a power bomb in the Queen's body and she goes boom.

Shitting on Metroid #13: For ruining the final boss of Metroid II; even better, doing so served absolutely no purpose in this story. Thus proving that no member of the Metroid franchise escapes Other M with its dignity intact.

Plot? What Plot?

Did you notice something that happened in this scene? Two somethings? The game just resolved the Deleter and Ridley plotlines. In about a minute and a half.

These are two major subplots of the game. Indeed, these two subplots probably make for about 60% of the driving force of the game's progression. Once Furizard attacks, Samus is sent on a search-and-destroy mission for him, culminating in the Ridley scene. This is put on hold temporarily so that Samus can find out about the Deleter plotline and start that one off. The two intermingle in the aforementioned Ridley scene, where the Deleter appears to kill Adam.

The Deleter then leads Samus back to "Madeline," where that plot thread is abandoned so that Samus can go get shot by Adam. Once that's done, both the Ridley and Deleter plots are resolved.

Actually that's incorrect. Neither plot is ever resolved; they don't have some through development of a concept leading to a fulfilling conclusion. They simply end. Both plots disintegrate as though they never were and will barely if ever be mentioned again. That seems like an odd thing to do, considering how important both plots were to the driving force of the progression of the game. If you took these plots out, the story's progression would have stalled, but otherwise the story would still mostly make sense. So why doesn't the story do anything with these plot elements?

It actually makes sense, but only if you understand what those plots existed to actually do. In terms of gameplay, these plots exist to drive the gameplay somewhere, to give the player an excuse to arbitrarily visit various locations. But in terms of storyline?

The Deleter plot has two story purposes: to make you think Adam is the Deleter, and to make you think Adam is dead. That's why Adam never talks about the Deleter; he can't. If Adam and Samus ever had a conversation about the Deleter, then we would know that he's not Adam. It's too easy for Samus to just ask where Adam was during event X, and once his alibi is established, that would be the end of it. If they talked about the Deleter, if Adam acknowledged his existence, then Adam would have to be crossed off the list of suspects.

We then see the Deleter "kill" Adam, after which point we are supposed to think he's dead. Of course, this is done incoherently, in part because Samus never acknowledges his death. Plus, we find out about that Metroid report Adam wrote. If that was before he was dead, then it would add to the suggestion that he's the Deleter. But we find it afterwards, where it serves little actual purpose since even if Adam's alive, we know he's not the Deleter. Then we find out that Adam is alive, which making one wonder how much the Deleter sucks at his job to not be able to kill a guy from 7 feet away when you catch him off guard.

But once we know Adam isn't the Deleter and that the Deleter didn't kill Adam, the entire plotline is trashed at the earliest convenience of the story. That is, literally the very next cutscene after Nightmare.

Also, for those who played Fusion, the attempt to make Adam into the Deleter makes no sense. We know that Adam's a decent guy from there (notwithstaning his other jackass behavior from this game). Samus wouldn't have fond memories of a guy who fragged his entire team. Therefore, we know he's not the Deleter.

You could say that the Deleter's purpose is to make the story more intense and complex. OK, but if that is the case, explain why is the Deleter plot dropped here. Yes, I know that, in terms of story, he's dead because he tried Mugging the Monster with "Madeline." But that's not the question. If the Deleter existed to make the story more complex, why is he never captured? Why is it that he dies off-screen and nobody ever mentions him again? Why is his identity completely irrelevant? Why doesn't Samus get to try to protect anyone but Madeline from the Deleter? Why doesn't Samus at least get to confront him?

Because that's not what the subplot is for.

And speaking of things that Samus doesn't get to confront, let's get to Ridley. He appeared, Samus freaked out, and Anthony was killed. This was her most spectacular failure in the game. Adam even personally asked her to kill Ridley as basically his last request. Yet despite all of that, there's no epic rematch, no chance of redemption for Samus. Why not?

Because of what I said before: Ridley has served his purpose. His job was solely to make Samus look weak. As Furizard, he jumps on Samus and forces her to be saved by Anthony. As Ridley, he terrifies her and killed Anthony while she was too weak to do something. Once his job was done, he was written out of the story ASAP, acting only as a physical herald for the new end-game boss.*

You can really imagine the thought process behind how these scenes were put together. Ridley's worked like this:

OK, we need Ridley in this game, because I'm completely incapable of original thought and thus am making Metroid: Fusion, the suck-ass version. But how to get Ridley on the station? Well... we're already getting Metroids cloned from stuff off of Samus's suit. Why not have bits of Ridley in there too? Yes, we have a scene at the beginning that establishes that she had bits of Metroid on her, while no such scene exists for Ridley. Who cares; I'll just say it's true. And we'll get to explore what the younger Ridley looks like through this clone. It'd be a great bit of subversion if Ridley started out as something sweet and innocent seeming.
Well, since we've got a Ridley fight, let's do something with the intro to that fight. And since I'm incapable of original thought, let's do what happened in the manga where Samus was scared or Ridley. It'll go a long way to humanizing* Samus's character.
But then what do we do with Ridley after the scene's over? Well, we know he shows up on BSL, so I should make that match up. Hmmm. I could have Samus freeze him somehow, but that would seem anticlimactic; the player will want him dead. We don't have a lot of time, so let's just have him killed off by the next boss, as a way to show how powerful it is.

Something similar likely happened for the Deleter plot. They introduced it as a way to make you think Adam's the badguy for a while, then they want you to think Adam's dead. Once that's done with, they dropped it immediately.

This is trying to build a story based on certain key moments, then backfilling ways to make those moments happen. This is a difficult way to craft a story, and even seasoned writers screw it up. But when your writers suck as badly as these do, it only makes things worse. They introduce these plot elements, but only use them for exactly their intended purpose, then abandon them the moment that purpose is served. No thought is given to what this says about the various characters or other elements of the plot. No consideration is made to the flow of the story or its pacing

There is no attempt to integrate these plots into the story beyond the basic task of "here they are." The main storyline of the game had nothing to do with Ridley; MB was what caused the problems, not Ridley. The main storyline has nothing to do with the Deleter; he never actually does anything besides killing redshirts.

In fact, that's why the identity of the Deleter is never stated on-screen. It is not because the game is trying to be subtle. It is because the game does not care. The fact that it's one of the faceless Red Shirts instead of someone we know like Adam or Anthony also tells us how little it matters. The Deleter's identity isn't important.

Much like the Deleter himself.

26th May '12 11:18:38 PM flag for mods
Yeah, the whole Queen Metroid thing is implied to be around because (and this falls under your issues regarding continuity) according to the series' story, a Metroid is determined at birth whether or not it will grow into a queen, and the only Metroid samples that the GF had access to were from Samus' suit.

So, factoring in continuity that only fans would notice, this implies that the baby was going to grow up to be a Queen Metroid.
nomuru2d 27th May 12
Of course, like so much in this game, that just raises further questions. Like why is it that all of the Metroids on the ship didn't grow into Queens, since they're all cloned from the same one? What, was Sector Zero just filled with a bunch of Queen Metroids?
Korval 27th May 12
Were we given a proper time period between the tutorial and the proper start of game? It would explain why the cloned baby would grow into a Queen Metroid and the others weren't even close to that stage.
nomuru2d 27th May 12
There wasn't an explicit statement, but Samus said something about how Metroids and Space Pirates had been forgotten by the galaxy at large. Personally, I would think that it would take a few years for the galaxy to forget about an organization that got its hands on a biological weapon of mass destruction and threatened the galaxy. But I get the impression that it was only a few months.
Korval 27th May 12
You know what they could've done to the Deleter plot? Actually have Anthony be the Deleter. We don't know this guy, nor care. But Samus knows him. They were friends. It would've made for an interesting and intense scene where he betrays Samus, tries to kill her, but then get's killed off by Ridley when he makes his momentous return. Her break down would've been a little more plausible. She's distraught that her friend turned on her, then her childhood nightmare shows up from the dead and kills him. Pretty distressing. Maybe not the best idea, but way better than what we actually got.
thefavs 16th Aug 12
I entirely disagree with the notion that the developers went out of their way to make Samus look weak. She does end up looking horribly weak, but it serves no purpose to the author's vision to intentionally establish that about her character. Sakamoto didn't make this game to give you the finger because he hates you. He just did it incidentally.

I could insist that Adam has a door fetish and find numerous examples in the story to support my claim, but the fact is, that's not what they were going for. If you're willing to acknowledge how horribly written the game is, why is it that you don't acknowledge that horrible writing is what made her a non-protagonist? You know as well as I do that with this game's idea of subtlety, if Samus was meant to be conveyed as weak, every character would say "Samus Aran is weak" at every given opportunity. There is nothing only sort of conveyed in this game, no puzzle to unravel.
WVI 5th Aug 13
To expand, I believe the reason Ridley was in the story is the same reason Nightmare, the Metroid Queen, and most egregiously Phantoon were in the story: Cheap exploitation of nostalgia. Plus, Ridley is a Metroid staple. The reason he wasn't a barely referenced one-off boss like those three is because of his ties to Samus, and because they thought it would be cool to make a big deal of the baby Ridley subplot.

That prompts the question: If that's the case, how was it supposed to tie into the larger story? The answer is this: It wasn't! They're bad writers, remember!? They didn't care about the fact that it served no greater purpose, just like damn near everything else in this atrocious game.

The whole baby Ridley thing was their attempt to expand on Ridley and give us something to be shocked by. Under better circumstances, it might even be an awesome plot twist, that this unknown thing turned out to be a younger Ridley. But my question regarding all that is this: If you feel it's necessary to give Ridley an "origin story" of sorts, then why the hell would you make it about what Ridley used to look like and not about how he became the leader of the Space Pirates?
WVI 5th Aug 13
I entirely disagree with the notion that the developers went out of their way to make Samus look weak. She does end up looking horribly weak, but it serves no purpose to the author's vision to intentionally establish that about her character.

I disagree for one reason. At it's core, Metroid: Other M is the story of Adam Malkovich. And you can't tell the story of Adam Malkovich if Samus is there, being awesome as Samus is supposed to. Samus was made horribly weak by necessity, because that's the most effective way to put the focus on Adam.

Every Adam and Samus interaction is about two things: how awesome Adam is, and how horrible Samus is. That is deliberately done so that you focus on Adam and not Samus.

You know as well as I do that with this game's idea of subtlety, if Samus was meant to be conveyed as weak, every character would say "Samus Aran is weak" at every given opportunity.

But they did. Just about every cutscene says that. Every interaction with Adam reinforces it. Every time Samus fails to accomplish anything reinforces it. No, it doesn't use words, but it doesn't need to.

Now, I agree that not all of it is deliberate. As I pointed out with the ending scene, Samus is a non-factor because Melissa's supposed to be a tragic figure, and we can't have Samus killing the tragic figure. Thus, she comes off looking weak so that she doesn't come off looking like a bully (in the twisted mind that thinks Melissa is tragic).

But the most systemic elements of her being weak, her interactions with Adam, are very much deliberate. If you took all of them away, well, it's not going to save the Ridley scene or the ending, but she'd come out with slightly more of her dignity intact than she does now.
Korval 8th Aug 13
Expanding on the "Why is there a queen" issue, that juts brings up even more problems. Why a queen would even be there and not a giant Metroid like in Super is itself a plot hole. Fusion specifically states that Metroids can only advance on their evolution within an environment sufficently similar to SR 388, and that outside it the furthest they could grow to is a giant Metroid like the infant did (I refuse to call the driving force for Super "the baby"). Worse is that these Metroids were cloned, which would naturally decay the DNA, especially when propogated from a few cells of a single specimen. And they had such done from within "a place like Tourian", as Melissa says, which of course is almost entirely a technological laboratory facility. At least in the BSL, the specimens are implied to be taken out to SRX when being bred, which is the reason for the Omega Metroid at the end, and I highly doubt an infant Metroid would be able to escape from the lab as it was exploding when about a hundred others couldn't, get past all the doors, SA-X's and Adam's surveilance and grow into an Omega within the time it takes to fight through two dozen rooms and a Ridley battle. Here, a Metroid somehow grew into a Queen within an isolated containment room as part of the control group. Even though the closest place to Sector Zero is a high-tech freezer, and even then you'd need to get through a bunch of messed-up gravity fields that'd mess up its anatomy or take away its ability to float.
Greener223224 26th Aug 13
The idea of "queen determined by birth" bugs me. In real life, an individual becomes a queen due to how it was raised, along with their drive and ambition.

Aliens do not have to act like Earth organisms but it is hard to imagine an "ultimate warrior" species having such an obvious weakness. Would ants or even people be nearly as successful if any given one did not have the ability to rise to the occasion when needed? The environmental development thing always sounded more like a way to cover for the continuity errors between Super and Return of Samus (it became so gigantic instead of metamorphosing because wrong area) but since humans cannot even live on Zebes without help, Metroids simply not growing correctly makes sense.
IndirectActiveTransport 9th Jan 14
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