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Playing the Game, Part 1
SpectacleThis is technically not gameplay, but it is significant. Elements of spectacle, the non-gameplay elements, are important to the feel of a game. Metroid games are well-known for visual storytelling. Super Metroid was able to tell a (rather simplistic) story entirely visually, though it did require some explicit gameplay programming. The Primes did a good job of presenting us with interesting, diverse, and dynamic worlds to look at. For the most part*. So how does Other M stack up? Poorly. Yes, this is a ship rather than natural terrain, but much of the landscape is just repetitive and boring. Prime excelled at having visually distinctive areas. Each of the Prime games has something in it visually that sticks in your mind. Prime had this great Chozo architecture going on. Echoes had the Sanctuary Fortress. Corruption had a planet that had bits of it literally chained to the world. By contrast, Other M really doesn't have anything that stands out or is otherwise remarkable visually. This lack of visual distinctiveness hurts the game in other ways. In general, people navigate by recognizing landmarks; this requires different rooms, even adjacent rooms, to have something unique and distinct about them. And Other M doesn't really. One forested area doesn't look much different from another. The Cryosphere is a bit better, but there are still a lot of samey areas in that place. Granted, since Other M is composed of almost completely linear loops, navigating isn't that important. Fusion was able to present a space-station environment where each area was visually distinct. They did this by giving each Sector a different palette. And even then, they divided the areas into "natural" and "station" areas. Each Sector had its own "station" look that, while unnatural, was still distinct from other Sector's unnatural areas. In Other M, if you're looking at a metal room, it's difficult to tell if it's a metal room in the Biosphere or the Cryosphere. The metal areas in the Pyrosphere tend to use a lot more red lighting, making them more distinct. Even so, the difference is generally one of subtle colors, not the broader differences that Fusion brought. Now compare this to Sky Town in Corruption. That place is composed almost entirely of nearly identical pre-fabricated buildings. And yet, Retro managed to give each pod enough visual distinctiveness to recognize individual areas once you got used to them. The visuals in Other M never tell a story of any kind. This is a ship where Space Pirates and other nasties were unleashed to exact their vengeance upon all who dwelt within. So... where are the signs of carnage? Oh, there are a couple, but if this were a place that has been violently cleansed of all human life, you wouldn't be able to tell from the scenery. All of two corpses are found in the entire game. In a well-designed BOTTLE SHIP, you would be able to see where the attack actually began. Yes, there's Melissa's flashback scene that takes place in a room we did see. But that's just one room; I seriously doubt the carnage began in that room. You should be able to trace it back to wherever the Space Pirate commandos were stored originally. When you find the hotel-like crew quarters, everything looks absolutely pristine. Why? Shouldn't there be bodies or at least damage? That would show that people were attacked in their homes by the Space Pirates. That having been said, the game is very attractive, in terms of artistry. What it renders may not be too memorable, but the presentation itself is quite well done. The game looks good, even though there's not much to look at. Another weak element of spectacle is Samus suit. In the first Metroid game, the power suit has changed with certain power-ups. Even if it's just the Varia changing the suit's color, it was still something. Metroid II introduced physical changes in the suit, introducing the now iconic look with the large round shoulders. Every game in the series has kept this concept, adding physical changes at various points in the game. The Primes really ran with it, introducing radical changes to her appearance throughout the course of Echoes and Corruption. The suit's changes functioned as a measure of progress through the game. This game regresses back to Metroid 1. The suit only changes when you activate the Varia. And even then, the change is just color, and it is so slight that it's almost impossible to even tell that it has happened. This despite the game showing it on-screen; I never didn't even notice until it was explicitly pointed out. The physical changes, present in every Metroid game after the first, simply don't happen. One might think that this is due to Other M being the first in the series to have pre-rendered cutscenes. Except this game is linear; you can't get the items out of order. So it's not like they don't know which items she would have when. She gets a purple glow when the Gravity suit comes around, but even that only shows up when the Gravity suite is actively doing something. I'm not expecting them to go to the level of Echoes, where several powerups are clearly visible on the armor. But having her suit change form is something of a tradition, one that is ignored in this one. The music is similarly forgettable. Metroid games are kinda hit-and-miss with their music. For every instance of music like SM's Brinstar theme, you get easily uninspired junk like Maridia's music. Other M is almost all miss when it comes to music. It has three modes: loud and orchestral, forgettable mood music, and "Adam's sacrifice". That's pretty much it. The individual pieces themselves again lack distinctiveness. The loud and orchestral parts are just loud and orchestral, without any real melodic line or anything memorable. It just blares. The only exceptions are the pieces it steals from other Metroid games, such as the now iconic Ridley music.
Yeah, I hadn't initially questioned why Samus' suit didn't change when I played this game. I suppose that, in light of the quote you had in last installment, it could symbolize both the idiocy of the creator and the fact that Samus herself never changes.
Actually the Varia Suit does change Samus' Colour. From Piss Yellow to a light Orange Hue. Even then, it's barely enough to make a difference. First, the Wii-Mote has the absolute worst D-Pad in the history of the world. It's not just tiny; it's thin. It's hard to be precise with it. And yet, this is the controller that is primarily used to move around. Nah. The D-Pad can be a pain, but I would take it over the chunky, cumbersome, misshapen blob that is the 360's D-Pad. Makes Fighting Games a pain, that's for sure. (Street Fighter III and Garou: Mark of the Wolves is slowly cramming my controller's poor Stick into the grave) And then there's the pointer controls. From 3rd person, you only have access to your beam, but you have all of your locomotion functions (movement, Morph Ball, jumping, etc). From 1st person, you have access to missiles and the ability to lock onto targets. But you can't move (with one exception). Really, it seems like they were trying to be like Killer7, without understanding that Killer7 has on rails movement, making it smoother. So how does Other M stack up? Poorly. Yes, this is a ship rather than natural terrain, but much of the landscape is just repetitive and boring. THIS. This was the opening death blow to Other M, for me, even before I saw the story, and what I got from the footage I watched. Level Design is one of my favourite parts in a game. It's why Treasure is one of my favourite game companies. I love exploring strange and fantastic worlds, in games, and the Prime series was an absolute Masterpiece in that area. So many beautiful and amazing locals, so many touches in them, they were just wonderful. Skytown, particularly is one of my favourite locals in any game, and in certain aspects, does what Bioshock Infinite is planning on doing. When I started seeing footage of Other M post launch, everything looked so....Sterile. So dull, so bland and metallic. I just had no interest whatsoever. This ordeal has actually convinced me to go back and finish my copy of The Metriod Prime Trilogy, an utter masterpiece, and a rare one at that, now that they stopped production of it. :( Just playing though it today reminded me what I loved about these games so much back when I played them on the Gamecube. Unfortunately, I also got bad memories because the place I dropped off was Torvus Bog. (Amen to that comment, nobody likes the Shithole that is Torvus Bog)
Actually the Varia Suit does change Samus' Colour.You're right. There is a very slight color change there. I've updated the post to correct the misinformation (though the general point still stands, considering the fact that the change is so minimal as to barely exist at all).
''Speaking of loot, let's look at some of the available gear that can be collected. While most of your suit functions are "authorizations," the Diffusion Beam and the Seeker Missiles are actual pickups. Really, Nintendo? You looked at all of what the Prime games added to the Metroid series, and this was what you picked (besides stealing the charge beam sound and beam combo Super Missiles)? This was the element you felt most needed to be incorporated into a new game? This is easily the most worthless powerup in the Primes and a top contender for worst powerup in the entire series. But you felt that this needed to be in this game.'' I had the exact same response. I really can't think of a less exciting item to use; the seeker missiles were boring in both Prime 2 and 3 and were barely used, yet for God-knows-what-reason, they're back while cooler powerups are missing.
Why didn't you like the Seeker Missiles? Care to elaborate? I found kinda annoying for puzzles, but pretty helpful for boss battles.
They're too much effort, not enough reward. Most of the time, you'll either want to use Super Missiles or Hyper Mode instead for heavy damage. The only boss encounter they're really useful in, Helios, is pathetically easy because Hyper Mode makes him a joke. In Other M, they're useful for the Metroid Queen and... I really can't think of anything else. Swarms of normal enemies are taken out with the Diffusion Beam, while larger enemies rarely travel in groups where you'd sacrifice the power of super missiles for coverage. Also, I did want to object to one thing; I think the Overblast actually works. You hold the charge beam, you jump on an opponent, you release the charge beam, and Samus does all that without the cinematic differing from the command. But I really agree about the Lethal Strike; showing Samus doing kung-fu moves is cool and all, but why can't I make her do kung-fu moves?
Why didn't you like the Seeker Missiles?In theory, Seeker Missiles are a mass-kill ability, useful against groups of enemies. In practice, they're worthless against groups. In the Primes, you have to manually lock onto each individual targets. Before the Wii Mote controls of Corruption and Prime Trilogy, that was pretty much never going to happen. Even with the Wii Mote, it's still much faster to just shoot them with Missiles or charge-shots or whatever. And in Other M, it's even worse, for two reasons: 1: You get Seeker Missiles after the Screw Attack. Since the Screw Attack makes all incidental combat effortless, there's no point to using them for fighting a group of guys. It's faster to just Screw them. 2: Even if you got them earlier, you have to go to first-person to fire them. That means not moving. While you're in the middle of a group of enemies. That's not something you actually want to do. As for the bosses, there are exactly three bosses across three games where Seeker Missiles can even be employed: Chykka, Helios, and the Metroid Queen. That fact alone is damning: in all of these games, there are several boss fights after the Seeker Missiles, and in each game, only one of them finds use. The first time I beat Chykka, I had already forgotten about Seeker Missiles. I beat him straight. Using Seeker Missiles certainly makes the fight faster, but the fact that you can win at all without them is telling about their utility. Thanks to the Wii Mote-based aiming, Seeker Missiles were more useful in the Helios fight. But even then, they only applied to one form of Helios. As for the Queen... what difference does it make in that fight at all? If it were just one target you had to shoot, would it change the tactics you employed? What we have in the Seeker Missiles is a powerup that was created specifically to open doors. They constantly try to shoehorn a gameplay function to it, but it never works.
It'd honestly be pretty cool if the Seeker missiles could get more love in gameplay somehow; one idea would be to make more situations where the missiles are actually preferrable to regular missiles or spamming charge beam. For example, you could have a regular, nonboss enemy with four weak spots, and each of the weak spots pops out at the same time; hitting a weak spot would force the enemy to retract the other three. By hitting all four at the same time, you kill the enemy much faster. The seeker missiles would make you more powerful without just saying "You need Seeker missiles to beat this enemy" (Because that's cheap design). See? I came up with a better Seeker Missile enemy than Retro Studios and Team Ninja combined. I'm a fucking genius.
Retro did that already. It was called "Chykka". Except for the retracting weak-points, it worked exactly as you describe. The problem is that by the time you face Chykka, it has probably been hours of game-time (and possibly days of real-time if you took a break) since you last used Seeker Missiles. As I said, I had actually forgotten that the ability existed. These kinds of special-case things won't help with that. What would help is if it were generally useful, the way that regular missiles, various beams, and the like are generally useful throughout the game.
What always impressed me about Metroid games is that they spared no part of the controller. They all push the limits of what each console had. I remember being impressed when I first played Metroid Prime and found that every button had an essential purpose, and it all seamed perfectly together, unlike other games that had redundant buttons, or buttons that didn't do anything. And the Metroid games all prospered for it. Other M, on the other hand, literally chopped the controller in half. I remember an article before the game came out saying that the reason that the old Metroid games worked so well was because the designers had to work with limitations, and that inspired their creativity. But I'm willing to challenge that. I think they were successful back then not because of their limitations, but because they pushed the limitations of their console generations. The first Metroid was huge. Then Super Metroid was even bigger. If Super Metroid was made with the limitations of the the first Metroid, it wouldn't have been as great as it was. Likewise, neither would Prime if limited itself SNES controls. Every Metroid game took full advantage of all that the controller and console had to offer. That's why I think Other M fails so badly with it's controls; it didn't use the assets at it's disposal, and it suffered due to the creators backward thinking. If they had used the nunchuck, moving around and switching to first person would feel smoother. Just point at the screen and press C or something, and BAM! you enter firts person with your cross hairs in the center. Plus you'd be able to move around in first person. Then you'd be able to use motion controls for those finishers. You run up to an enemy and swing the Wii-mote to kick them! I dunno. But do you see how that easy fix could have benefited the game? But instead, they handicapped themselves, with nothing to show for it.
Hey! I liked Maridia's music. I know that places like Norfair got to have much more dramatic music, but Maridia was the place where much of the game's action (deliberately) slowed down with the water elements, and featured many more hidden elements that made the game more methodical and exploration-heavy than it already was, and the music, in turn, turned into a slower, more relaxing, yet more mysterious theme. Although, I generally like water levels more than most people. I loved Mario 64's water levels the most, and never understood why people hated the water temple in Ocarina of Time. (I also don't know why people hated Torvus Bog so much, except maybe not being able to get out of the water... the most annoying thing in Echoes to me were those stupid AI enemies that shut down your suit in the fortress.)
I liked seeker missiles but not for any useful utility, just for the joy of locking on to a single target five times. They really should have been more useful in Prime 3 though, considering missiles had reverse shrapnel there.
Both of Maridia's themes were awesome, thank you very much.
Korva, I want to point out that Seeker Missiles were also helpful in the boss fight with Emperor Ing's first form.
I have to say that I like Maridia's music. I would even go so far as to say it's my favorite music in Super Metroid. But then, I generally like the music of water levels almost as much as I generally like the music of ice and snow levels. (Sometimes things like the half-sunken Wrecked Frigate will beat out Phendrana Drifts, but still...) At least Pieces of Heart had the immediate utility of refilling all your hearts even if they didn't complete a Heart Container. Consulting Wikitroid, I see that the Energy Part does not appear to do that; only collecting a regular Energy Tank does, whereas collecting an Energy Part that completes an Energy Tank only gives you a new full Energy Tank.
"atomic, immediate controls" atomic bombs are not authorized
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