Metroid: Other M is the ninth game in the popular Metroid series from Nintendo. Other M was developed in tandem between Nintendo of Japan and Namco's Team Ninja, the latter responsible for games such as the Ninja Gaiden series and the Do A games. The game was released in 2010 to some initial fanfare, which quickly degenerated into hellish flamewars and a cacophony of Ruined FOREVER chants. Much has been said about this game, some in bestial rage, others in impassioned defense.
And now I'm going to look at it. But not all of it; just the story. Why?
Because I'm not playing this game. It's that simple.
To play this game would ultimately mean giving financial compensation to Nintendo for it in some way, shape, or form. That would mean tacitly rewarding them for having produced this game. And I will not do that. Buying something, or not buying it, is the only real means of control consumers have over those who produce things in a capitalist society. To purchase a product is to give approval to the producer for that product. To not purchase it is the only means of saying "DO NOT WANT!"
Yes, I could buy it used or something. But I'm still not going to do that.
This all being said, I also refuse to discuss the game based entirely on online play-throughs, Let's Play's, and other such freely available material. To do so would be entirely unfair; watching a game is a fundamentally different experience from playing it.
And that is why this is just a look at the story of Other M, because watching a story is no different from playing it. The game has a special Theater Mode that shows off the story. The game designers have clearly gone through the trouble of making it into an actual first-class mode. They stitch the various cutscenes together with enough "gameplay" for you to understand what's going on. And since it clocks in at a bit more than 2 hours in total, that makes it the equivalent of a feature-length movie.
Now, you might say that it's unfair to discuss a game's story based on just watching cutscenes. I disagree, if for no other reason than that the game developers created Theater Mode. This isn't some people online shoving the cutscenes together. The game developers themselves thought that people would enjoy the story outside of the gameplay; they felt that the story was strong enough to stand up without gameplay. They were so certain of this that they spent time and effort building this special viewing mode just to promote such behavior.
Consider how few game developers think their story is strong enough to work outside of the gameplay.
That being said, and in all fairness to Other M, I do recognize one simple fact: Theater Mode is still just a bunch of cutscenes stitched together. Therefore, I'm making some ground rules about what I can't complain about, in order to at least be somewhat fair to the game.
No pacing: Many of these cutscenes were intended to be viewed with significant time between them, representing various bits of gameplay. But Theater Mode sticks these cutscenes right next to each other. While Theater Mode may be a legitimate form of experiencing the story, that doesn't change the fact that the game, the primary mode of play, puts significant gameplay between some of these scenes.
Since I am not playing the game, and therefore cannot accurately gauge how much time has passed, I will not make any significant comment on the pacing between cutscenes. For example, if there is repetition among cutscenes that have gameplay between them, I will ignore it. That's simply the nature of videogame storytelling; the user could have stopped playing between then and now. So you need a way to get them back up to speed. Even if they didn't actually stop play, that could still have been hours ago.
Do note what I said: "pacing between cutscenes." Pacing within a single, continuous scene is fair game. And yes, I do know which scenes are continuous and which aren't; I may not have played this game, but I am familiar with it.
No gameplay: I am covering Other M's story, and only the story. Gameplay will be mentioned in the event that it actually directly affects the story narrative in some way. And even then, it will be limited to how it affects the story narrative; how it affects the player will be irrelevant.
No visual storytelling: Metroid is a series that's known for finding unusual ways to do storytelling. Dialog is generally not the go-to place for Metroid storytelling. Indeed, the Metroid game (before Other M) that had the most dialog was Fusion, and that's something quite a few fans hold against it to this day. The developers at Retro Studios came up with the scanning mechanic as a way to have exposition without having to have dialog. In general, Metroid games tend towards visual storytelling when possible. Even Fusion. By visual storytelling, I mean using the environment and aspects of the visuals besides text as a storytelling device.
I've seen a lot of Other M. I've seen it several different people play it from beginning to end. I don't feel that it does visual storytelling very well (or at all, really). But at the same time, I haven't played it. So I don't feel comfortable calling the game out for visual storytelling or any lack thereof.
No Yoshio Sakamoto: Yoshio Sakamoto was the director behind Metroid, Super Metroid, Metroid: Fusion, and Metroid: Zero Mission. So basically, almost all of the 2D Metroid games were done under his direction. And he was the director of Metroid: Other M as well.
Much has been said of his involvement in the process of making the game. Some of it is conjecture, some backed up by evidence from interviews, etc. And if you want to read that, that's great. But that's not what this is about, so I'm not going to say the man's name. I will talk about the makers of the game, but only in a vague "the writers" sense, which I would do for any other story.
So if you're looking for a personal hit-piece*, search elsewhere.