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Was Metroid Other M the right direction? (NO FLAME WARS PLEASE):

 1 Dragon Quest Z, Sun, 26th Sep '10 3:56:00 AM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
We got a couple threads that turned into arguments about Metroid: Other M, and a thread trying to focus solely on the content of the game. This thread is to politely discuss whether this was the right direction for the game, or even the Metroid series as a whole.

And I mean stay polite. I won't deny I got argumentative before, but this is to avoid that. State your cases for why you think this was or wasn't a good thing for the series, and keep it civil, whatever you agree or disagree about.

Myself, I think this was the wrong direction, and these are the reasons why:

M Stands for "Mystery":
Someone said that the Metroid games are some of the trippiest game ever made. Now that might seem to go against all the crazy stuff seen in games like Super Mario Bros. and even The Legend of Zelda, but fantasy lands like that are actually meant to be silly and whimsical at points. A science fiction world, even a soft science one like Star Wars, is expected to be mostly grounded in reality and have defined rules.

Metroid is all about screwing around with those expectations.

How? Try explaining the basic premise of Metroid to a non gamer, and be sure to include describing the morph ball.

Sure that seems just plain and familiar to Metroid fans, but how many games have a suit of armor, whether plate armor or Powered Armor, that transform into a rolling sphere?

At least hedgehogs actually curl into a ball, so it makes sense a bit for Sonic the Hedgehog to do that  *, but not a suit of armor. There isn't anything to even try to explain it. It was just there for expedience in getting the sprites to work around low tunnels, but the result is still trippy.

Not to mention that the suit can drop low yield bombs, but only in ball form. How does that even work? Incidentally, that's not meant to have an answer, just illustrate how out there the game is.

Plus many of the other power up in that game and II just screwed things up even further, including the screw attack of course. Before you got that power up, you didn't want to jump into enemies in a typical video game. You shot at them first or avoided them. Suddenly jumping into them was the best form of attack  *.

Then Super Metroid offered its own cool power ups  *. But what it brought most was...

Super Metroid turned exploring Zebes into like exploring a haunted house  *.

Aspects were there in the first two games, but it went full flower here, and it was awesome. This is where Sakamoto's strength shows. He wasn't really trying for story here, just atmosphere, and the game was all the better for it. It wasn't just trippy, it was also spooky, and I don't just mean at the haunted ship.

Also, I don't know if Sakamoto wrote the introduction, but if he did, that is what he should have stuck with later on. It just told us what we needed to know, the direction of the clips was great, and mentioning the Metroid followed Samus around like a confused child spoke far more than any "Blah, blah, blah, The Baby" comments could.

That scene is a beautiful example of less is more, and the score just turns that into one of the best introductions to a game ever. We could have had a boring exposition recap, and instead the opening just draws you in. Even though you are getting information, you are also given a sense of mystery, due to the presentation.

Now although this is a side comment, that scene should be required viewing for game developers wanting to right a story. On that note, I know Aerith's death scene in Final Fantasy VII is well known, but for writing emotional scenes, I would have developers instead watch Aerith's stepmother recalling how she found Aerith and then later learns her husband died in the war. That block of polygons sobbing on the table moved me far more than any CGI "Lady of Shalott" knockoffs.

Anyway, Super Metroid didn't sell as well as the first game, but I'm putting that partly due to marketing. It sucked. It was just another 90s EXTREME ads, with "24 megs... Nintendo's biggest game ever" as a selling point. I really doubt Street Fighter II sold 6 million copies on the SNES alone due to being 16 megs. Okay, turning an attack dog into a chihuahua is a bit funny, but does that seem like an appropriate ad for a Metroid game?

Regardless, the game showed that Sakamoto has already set the design paradigm for Metroid games, and it was to explore a strange, new world... by turning into a ball that drops bombs. So the mood of the games was that of trippy, mysterious exploration, in a nutshell.

The exploration and the mystery split off:
Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion seem to have split off the elements from Super Metroid. Prime kept the exploration, Fusion kept the mystery, and both had just some elements of trippiness.

By keeping the exploration, Prime is the superior game. While it doesn't have as many cool surprises as the first three games, it did have some cool elements, like looking at everything through the infrared visor (it's like all the texturing is taken off the models, and you just see the polygons with flat shading). But it did lack a lot of the mystery and atmosphere of the first three games. The wrecked station didn't feel quite as spooky as the wrecked ship in Super (or even Maridia, given that the ship was mostly underwater).

2 got some of the mystery back through the Dark World, but lost some exploration points with the dark world increasing the backtracking required, and the chunks of the dark world turning a lot of the exploration into a bunch of puzzles.

Fusion was noted for being too linear, but it did have the atmosphere. Let me tell you, if Samus's childhood flashback with Ridley in "Other M" had been as scary as when we saw the SA-X's face, I would have totally bought Samus being at least somewhat frightened. So while the game was holding your hand, it had the mood, and that made me at least want to play it to the end.

Now I could discuss the other games, but those are enough to bring me to the three reasons I feel this is a bad direction for the game:
  1. Limited exploration until the post game
  2. No sense of mystery
  3. Trippiness is replaced with bland story

1. Now exploration has gotten some attempts at justification, but so far it's largely undisputed that this is one of the most linear games in the series. Exploration is important to the series. Too little, or even too much (Prime 2) will hurt it.

2. As for mystery, I don't mean the mystery of the plot (which has a poor resolution anyway). I mean atmosphere. Aside from the aforementioned SA-X appearance, we also get the look of wrecked old Tourian in Super, and the ghost of the wrecked ship in Super, and even how some enemies light up a room in Super and the room gets darker the more of them you defeat.

All of those were at least partly from Sakamoto, along with plenty of other touches. So I give him no excuse for not taking advantage of that kind of direction in this game, since we've seen he's good at it.

3. The story... it falls flat for another three reasons: execution, execution, execution.

Some could argue taking a risk like this with a story is laudable for its own sake. That assumption precludes a scenario of a story being done by those without talent. Let me tell you, if you aren't talented, the story will suck, and going "it's good that you tried, because you tried something different" is not an excuse.

No, I am not claiming Sakamoto is talentless. I refer you to what I wrote about him in point number 2. I'm just stating he's not practiced with the kind of storytelling he tried here. He was out of his league. He should have tried a lot of stories like this first, or gotten some outside help.

But even if the talent had been there, going story heavy would still have gotten in the way. At the very least, the game should have had two modes. All action with no story or cut scenes, and a mode with story so that gamers wanting to just get to the action wouldn't have to bother. That would have been a reason to include the theater mode, so those wanting to see the story wouldn't have it interfere with their game.

Yet the question of Samus also should be brought up. Again, it's the execution more than anything. I don't care about her having emotions, or maternal instincts, or any of that, when he writing and voice acting both suck. And the pacing of her monologue scenes are horrible as well.

I'm bringing up the introduction scene in Super again. Sure she was just spouting exposition, but it was stuff we needed to know. And the way she spoke wasn't saying too much. Less is more was also the key to that scene. Show, Don't Tell is the problem with Samus's portrayal as well.

But the Ridley scene... First of all, to the claims that we should read the manga, I agree with Sci Fi Debris. Just switch "movie" with "game" in this quote:
"You don't get credit for stuff you don't put in the movie because, now try to follow this because it's a pretty big leap, you didn't put it in the movie. I shouldn't have to wait months and watch all your deleted scenes to say 'Oh, this finally makes sense!' or pour through some non-canon books to say 'Oh, so this isn't a pile of nonsensical horseshit after all!'"

This isn't just us. When The Lord of the Rings The Two Towers came out, book fans, including me, were in an uproar about what we perceived as Character Derailment of Faramir. When the extended edition came out, and a scene was included showing Faramir was pushed by being a "Well Done, Son" Guy, did any of us go "Well that explains everything, and I'm sorry I was mad before, "? Hell no! We went "Why didn't you include this in the final cut? It would have made it make some fucking sense!"... or something to that effect.

Basically, if he was going on Samus having PSTD, it needed to be addressed in the game itself that she always had this, even when she fought Ridley before.

(Some have told me the instruction manual with the game has this information, but game rentals, used games, and the fact that Ubisoft is actually dropping them from some games, all show that reading those is in decline, and thus still not a reason. Plus instructions are only good for backstory when the game itself is limited in story, and that clearly doesn't apply with Other M.)

But even then, would that have been a good idea? Again, that comes down to execution, and there's a difference between contradicting minor things, and seemingly flying in the face of what the audience has seen before.

Now there is the dispute about what some mean by "Stoic", so I'm using the actual definition. Many of us did not assume Samus didn't feel fear, just that she overcame it, because she is a good warrior.

So were not upset that she was feeling emotion at all, but that she had no control over them all of a sudden. Now some could argue that scene being a realistic portrayal of PTSD makes the scene good, but I bring up the Compressed Vice issue that many viewers have when that trope shows up. It still looks like character derailment for the sake of a moral. Now aside from the moral part, it still looks like they just tacked on something for the sake of drama. And the manga can't help there since few even know there is a manga of the series (never localized in the country where the fanbase is largest).

But again, this could have been done right, but only by a really good storyteller, in a way that played with our expectations in an entertaining way. Yes, it seems wrong to state that looking at a PTSD has to be entertaining, but even if the point really is to help raise PTSD awareness, it would still have to be a good story.

I would elaborate more, but it's really late. So I'll conclude that this is the wrong direction, because the story gets in the way of the mystery and exploration, and the story being bad just compounds it. We don't take bad stories and voice acting with FPS and RPGs, so I see no reason to accept those here.

edited 26th Sep '10 3:56:59 AM by DragonQuestZ

I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
In honor of my 50lb pup
Nice Doctorate paper. Have/did not get through the whole thing, but could you please cut it down a bit? I noticed multiple times where you said the exact same thing (using almost the same words) or went off on long tangents (it is alright to mention comparisons, but not to explain them for as long as you did).
Yu hav nat sein bod speeling unntil know. (cacke four undersandig tis)the cake is a lie!
 3 Cider, Sun, 26th Sep '10 10:36:12 AM from Not New York Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
The Final ECW Champion
Unfortunately, if one goes for a doctorate, you'll soon learn many teachers encourage you to restate the points you feel to be the most important because the Viewers Are Gold Fish.

I did read it all actually, but not having played the game, I can't really comment except for yes, I don't really like story getting in the way of playing video games.
Modified Ura-nage, Torture Rack
RIDLEY IS A FUCKING FURBY.

I'M SORRY BUT FUCK THIS SHIT.
 
 5 Spooky Mask, Sun, 26th Sep '10 1:27:19 PM from Corner in round room Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Insert title
@Charlatan: Is that literally your only problem?

And may I go into argument about that as that is awesome in my humble option?

And yes I fail at this speech style so why I try to speak like this? Because I need practice, duh.

Besides, have you seen that creature's mouth? Or tongue? Or heard its screech? Or seen its insides? Its still very creepy.

edited 26th Sep '10 1:31:30 PM by SpookyMask

Time to change the style, for now
 6 Rebochan, Sun, 26th Sep '10 1:51:30 PM from Soaking up Rays
I've got Sunshine!
Is this the THIRD thread on this topic?

DQZ, let it go. I can't believe anyone could write something they believe to be fact on a game they refuse to play.

edited 26th Sep '10 1:52:35 PM by Rebochan

http://www.f-d-r.com/blog/ - Filthy Digital Ramblings, musings on media.
Not Quite Batman
@ Charlatan: Yes, I know. And that's awesome.

I am very pleased with Other M. Was it perfect? No, but it was good and it dared to experiment.
"Religion isn't the cause of wars, it's the excuse." —Mycroft Next
 8 Dragon Quest Z, Sun, 26th Sep '10 2:24:22 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
"Is this the THIRD thread on this topic?"

No, this is the first. The other two merely turned into arguments.

"I can't believe anyone could write something they believe to be fact on a game they refuse to play."

I can't play it even if I wanted to. I'm a budget gamer, without even a means to rent it.

Besides, if you can't believe this, you need to look at more gaming boards. You'll see some actual venom and hate against games. I'm just stating why I don't think this game is the right direction.
I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
 9 Spooky Mask, Sun, 26th Sep '10 2:29:39 PM from Corner in round room Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Insert title
Exactly what forum are you talking about?(this is Internet, the thing that the GIFT applies to xD) Should I then start collecting positive reception?

edited 26th Sep '10 2:30:46 PM by SpookyMask

Time to change the style, for now
 10 Rebochan, Sun, 26th Sep '10 2:34:57 PM from Soaking up Rays
I've got Sunshine!
Oh, I can believe people can write rants that long.

...on games they've played. I could dwarf that sucker with a massive aneurysm causing nerdrage-stravanganza on Chrono Cross easily.

I just want to say that since you clearly cannot, will not, and probably never will play this game, I don't get your personal investment in us discussing the direction of the series either which way and why you needed to write a massive essay on it.

I'm at least planning on buying it in about a week or so (depending on how my budget falls) and I'll try to give a full report on that.

But anyway, you said no flame wars. Fine. STOP STARTING THEM.
http://www.f-d-r.com/blog/ - Filthy Digital Ramblings, musings on media.
 11 Dragon Quest Z, Sun, 26th Sep '10 2:39:00 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
I wasn't. All the other posters were being very polite. So far it's just you going off topic, and it if wasn't okay for me in that other thread (which I did drop, and then made on topic post afterward), it's not okay for you to do it here.

edited 26th Sep '10 2:39:31 PM by DragonQuestZ

I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
A-HYUK!
Thread derailed into arguing in record time. Congrats.
360 Gamertag: Electivirus. 3DS friend code: 5412-9983-8497. PSN ID: Electivirus. PM me if you add me on any.
 13 Komodin, Sun, 26th Sep '10 2:51:30 PM from Somewhere in Windy Hill Zone Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
The Sonic Wiki Curator
Hmm, the "essay" is a little longer than I initially thought it would be, and it gets a tad redundant at certain bits, but it was alright as a whole. One thing, though, and I mean no offense by this, why are you so invested in a game you haven't (and don't want to) played? Just curious, is all.
 14 Dragon Quest Z, Sun, 26th Sep '10 3:21:06 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
What makes you think I'm invested in the game alone, as if it exists in a vaccuum?

I mean, the words "right direction" in the thread title should make it clear this is also about the Metroid series in relation to this game, if not even more games in relation to this game.

edited 26th Sep '10 3:24:57 PM by DragonQuestZ

I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
 15 Jack Mackerel, Sun, 26th Sep '10 6:41:36 PM from SOME OBSCURE MEDIA
I'd say they could have gotten better voice actors and integrated the FPS sequences a lot better, but other than that, it's something of a slight twitch in the right direction.
 16 Pykrete, Sun, 26th Sep '10 6:51:51 PM from Viridian Forest
NOT THE BEES
I agree with the vast majority of the essay.

Also, I have played the game and suggest you do the same, if for no other reason than to not come off as Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch (also, the gameplay itself is hit or miss enough that you might end up enjoying the game itself).

Also, I'm not going to participate further in these threads unless it would be particularly entertaining.

edited 26th Sep '10 6:53:24 PM by Pykrete

 17 Meophist, Sun, 26th Sep '10 7:11:45 PM from Toronto, Canada
So I read the opening post. I must say I have significant difficulty understanding it. I don't see what the point is or what you're trying to say. It all seems like gibberish to me.

Can you tell me what do you think the direction Metroid: Other M is going? I don't think I got that from the opening post.
 18 Pykrete, Sun, 26th Sep '10 7:21:56 PM from Viridian Forest
NOT THE BEES
Direction of linear design and hamhanded story over exploration and atmosphere — essentially a violation of subtlety and "less is more".

And in order to provide the necessary amusement to justify my posting here again, have a badass but unrelated picture.

edited 26th Sep '10 7:23:35 PM by Pykrete

 19 Dragon Quest Z, Sun, 26th Sep '10 7:22:21 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
Well even if you aren't going to respond, this comment is for others.

Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch does not say that any opinion about a show you haven't watched is automatically invalid. It specifically states some instances are allowed as long as they are based on things about the show that are true. No one made up the shower scene in Dallas to defame the show. It actually happened.

Thus the story I've seen of the game is true, as the videos are there, and the theater mode in the game shows that the developers intended for the story mode to be viewed on its own.

And because the story is prominent in the game, and you can't skip it first playthrough (something that I've noted annoy a lot of people, myself included), we know it can't just be ignored.

Plus, as noted, this isn't solely about the game. I would have written "right direction for the series" in the title, but I ran out of space.

So why is a focus on story a bad direction for the series? Well that answer is in two parts. The first involves what Metroid actually is, and I think I'll address that later. But the second reason is simple.

Too Many Game Developers Need To Be Told They Aren't Good Storytellers Yet.

I mean "Too Many" not "All", because some have shown real storytelling skill (Nippon Ichi), and I mean "Yet" because many not good right now have shown potential, even Sakamoto himself (note in the OP I praised his directing skills, even in Fusion). But they need a lot more practice, and encouragement to do so. The problem is that they get too much undeserved praise from people who either don't recognize how shoddy these stories are (whether you like them or not, since I like some works with shoddy stories), or will ignore the flaws out of a need for games to be recognized as art.

Also, some of you might argue that game stories can't be compared to conventional storytelling. Then why are story heavy games told in imitation of movies, not in an interactive form that actually does set games apart from other media?
I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
 20 Rebochan, Sun, 26th Sep '10 8:13:55 PM from Soaking up Rays
I've got Sunshine!
Complaining About Shows You Dont Watch does not say that any opinion about a show you haven't watched is automatically invalid. It specifically states some instances are allowed as long as they are based on things about the show that are true. No one made up the shower scene in Dallas to defame the show. It actually happened.

Okay, I can't resist, but only because of the giant irony of linking to a page where the lead image is a joke, from a Nintendo game, about people going onto message boards and complaining abut games they haven't played.

Here's the quote I think you're trying to reference, as it is while I write this post.

Note, this doesn't mean you have to sit through an entire movie/play an entire game/watch every episode/listen to every song on the album/read every single page to criticize any pieces of work. It just means you make sure your criticism is valid. Popcultural Osmosis is far from authoritative, and it usually leads to blatantly false information.

If you want to comment on the quality of something, try to actually watch/read/play/listen to at least a substantial part of that work (about five minutes of something truly So Bad Its Horrible to you should be enough to know it's crap).

"Doing your research" is not "I read the blog of a guy that hates this game."
http://www.f-d-r.com/blog/ - Filthy Digital Ramblings, musings on media.
 21 Dragon Quest Z, Sun, 26th Sep '10 8:21:06 PM from Somewhere in California
The Other Troper
You really think that's all I did? You probably need to hear of this wonderful site called YouTube.
I'm on the internet. My arguments are invalid.
A-HYUK!
You two bicker like an old married couple.

... That hate each other. REDUNDANT.

edited 26th Sep '10 8:23:15 PM by Electivirus

360 Gamertag: Electivirus. 3DS friend code: 5412-9983-8497. PSN ID: Electivirus. PM me if you add me on any.
Alright, let's take a vote: Who else knew who the OP would be before opening up the thread?
 
 24 Meophist, Sun, 26th Sep '10 8:24:14 PM from Toronto, Canada
I have my own opinions about games as a storytelling medium, but for now all I'll say about it for now is that the medium is still immature and that experimentation is very important at this stage.

I recently played through both Metroid Zero Mission and Metroid: Fusion. I would like to point out that Metroid: Fusion and Metroid: Other M are virtually identical in terms of presentation and story structure. Replace Fusion's monologues with monologues+CG, Adam AI with the original, and add in a few more characters, and the two games are very much the same in that aspect. Same amount of exploration, similar atmosphere, only really does the gameplay/combat/platforming differs.

Personally, where I think Other M went wrong is using CG over the monologues. The monologues should've been voiced text with minimal graphics in the background to give context. Save the CG for the parts that need it, namely action sequences.

There's a decent amount of exploration in the game, a good amount of mystery that keeps the game suspenseful. The action is fun, the bosses are actually good, which is a first for the series. I think one aspect of the game's storytelling that particularly needs praise is the transition between cutscenes and gameplay. This is actually something that the Metroid series has historically done well, sans the Prime series, but it's nice to see it done in 3D like this.

As for a direction for the Metroid series to go, I want to see Sakamoto push the boundaries of the series. See where the series can go. I want to see a Metroid game without Samus as the main character, I want to see a Metroid game without all of the same powerups we've had for however many games. I want to see how far away Metroid can be from Metroid while still being Metroid. That's what I'm looking for.
A-HYUK!
the bosses are actually good, which is a first for the series.

I DON'T LIKE WHAT AHM READIN'
360 Gamertag: Electivirus. 3DS friend code: 5412-9983-8497. PSN ID: Electivirus. PM me if you add me on any.
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