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Metroid: Other M Hands On Preview

Metroid: Other M. The name screams other; the game screams awesome.

After about 20 minutes of demoing, Metroid: Other M was much better than I was expecting. The presentation was sleek, the controls were smooth, and the story was intriguing enough to keep me interested. And most of all, it still manages to capture the essence of Metroid.

I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but I do want to talk about the introduction. Skip the next three paragraphs if you don’t want the introduction spoiled for you.

The scene begins with a view of an abyss. It may have been space, but I can’t remember for sure. Lots of light streams swirled around the void. What appeared to be an embryo began to creep into view, toward the center of the swirling lights’ routes. The camera zoomed in slowly on what gradually appeared to be a young child—not quite like a baby. It very well could have been an adult—memory is fuzzy—but I think it was a young girl. The camera zoomed towards the face, eyes shut. Her hair looked dirty-blonde and was cut short. The light beams swirled intensely towards the embryo. As the girl’s face filled most of the screen, a transformation sequence occurred, leaving an adult Samus staring at the screen, wearing her suit.

The camera pans away to reveal a familiar scene. Samus has a metroid attached to her head; she doesn’t seem to be damaged. The metroid is holding her aloft, high off the ground. Mother Brain towers over Samus and the metroid, which I think Samus refers to as “the baby” at some point. Samus recollects as text appears on screen (she may not speak during this scene). Enraged, Mother Brain shoots a beam through the baby metroid, Samus is dropped to the ground, and the Baby metroid explodes. Samus catches a droplet of the raining, watery metroid remains. She declares the end of Mother Brain and fires a beam. She then begins talking about the hyper beam that the baby metroid somehow gave her. Samus escapes from Zebes as it explodes, and the ambience fades to white.

Samus wakes up in what appears to be a hospital with an oxygen mask type of device dressed in her zero-suit. After some dialogue with a man behind a control panel, Samus readies herself and her zero-suit is transformed into her traditional suit in a flashy, and pretty slick, cinematic. The player gains control of Samus, and the tutorial starts.

The tutorial consisted of Samus being able to move around, fire her beam at enemies, charge her beam, wall jump, go into morph ball mode, set a bomb, dodge enemy attacks, and target in first- person mode. Either shortly after the tutorial, or during the tutorial, I was also shown how to replenish missiles, but I don’t remember how (much longer demo than I was expecting—my apologies). There may have been more to the tutorial, but I was forced to move on by the Nintendo rep.

I’ve read of quite a few people being uncertain of the controls. Leaving the demo, I found little to be worried about. The game is played with just the Wii remote, held on its side. I didn’t see other controller options, but they may exist. Samus is moved with the d-pad, and I had no problems with the movement in both the 3D and somewhat 2D segments. It felt smooth and reactive. Dodging enemy attacks also uses the d-pad by pressing a direction right before an enemy attack is about to hit. The only movement complaint I had was with jumping. The overall motion felt slightly delayed but not enough to cause frustration--just a little awkward.

Firing Samus’ beam basically requires you to face the enemy and fire. Samus will aim at enemies above her most of the time, but sometimes a jump and shoot technique helped her find the target. Just firing shots and killing an enemy is very satisfying. There is a charge bar beneath the health bar, and fully charged shots would damage, and often kill, both the enemy and any nearby enemies.

The only real gripe I have is with switching to first-person mode. The player takes the Wiimote from its horizontal position and points it at the screen. Samus starts looking at the area she is facing in first person perspective. It was a little jarring at times, and it felt awkward moving around and finding things to target. And if I wanted to fire missiles, I had to target something in first-person. I think I just didn’t have enough time to get adjusted to it, but I wasn’t as comfortable with this transition as I wanted. Some doors required being targeted in first-person and shooting the lock. Most people demoing, including myself, usually had the reps making a shooting motion to indicate what to do. I knew this after watching other people play, but it took me a couple of tries to get the thing open.

After the tutorial, the Nintendo rep restarted the Wii, and I was told to start save file 1, which looked like the first level, and it was saved at about 11 minutes into the game. This level was based in some sort of a technical facility. The atmosphere felt good and reminiscent of something that could be in the metroid universe. Playing through the level was pretty straight forward. There were, of course, some doors I couldn’t go through. Enemies consisted of insect type and spiked hedgehog type monsters. Some flew, some were based on the ground, and some crawled on the walls. Samus was fast enough to run from most enemies, but when I wasn’t fast enough, dodging enemy attacks felt very satisfying. Shooting up a group of enemies was also rewarding.

At one point, I had to access a terminal to open a door. I tried targeting it in first-person mode, but I couldn’t make anything happen. The rep told me to go up and stand next to it. After waiting for roughly 3 seconds, the terminal was activated and the door unlocked. The rep told me that this was because of an earlier build, I believe, so this shouldn’t be an issue for the final game.

After running through some halls and jumping up some rooms, I found a save room. I saved the game, replenished my health, and went into the next room. Here comes the boss. The boss was a tall, blob mob with an eye at the top and two arm appendages. After failing miserably at trying to shoot its eye, I gained the ability to use missiles. Now I could target the eye and fire a missile. Then other people in the room (keeping it as general as I can, here) froze an arm with freezing beam shots, and I had to target the frozen part and fire a missile to destroy it. Rinse and repeat for the second arm and then the body.

The rep told me I could play the second level if I wanted. That was an easy answer. This save file began at about 31 minutes into the game. It started in the middle of what looked like the same facility, but eventually it led to a more jungle-like area. Along the way, a mini-boss appeared, which worked like a chameleon, blending in with the background, but not always completely invisible. It crawled on the walls, threw acid balls at Samus, and picked her up with its tail and slammed her on the ground. This boss took me a while to get through. It took several missiles and charged beam shots take it down. Sometimes I could hit the enemy when it was almost blended in but not invisible, but other times I had to target the enemy in first person mode and fire a missile. One time Samus jumped on its head and fired a shot, but I’m not sure if I did that out of luck or if it was set to happen during the fight. The game also instructed me to do a finishing move, which felt very, very good.

The environments were very nice while still feeling confined (I think it was still in the facility), and that felt very metroid-like to me. There were floating globule type enemies, but I never got close enough for them to touch me, and Venus flytrap enemies; the latter took several hits to take out when exposed. I finally got to the end of a path with a locked door after climbing a swirling pathway plagued with Venus flytraps and didn’t see a way to go forward, so I finally stopped and let the people behind me go.

Overall, it was much more fun than I was expecting to have. The only major problem I had was that cut scenes weren’t skippable. I’m hoping they’ll fix that for the final build. As for the sound, I honestly couldn’t hear much other than the voice acting as they had the sound up really high with the headphones; the rest of the sounds just melded together. The voice acting didn’t blow me away, but it wasn’t bad. Samus’ voice seemed fine, but I couldn’t hear her well enough to calm my fears fully. Graphically, it looks fantastic, but I wish I could’ve seen more environments.

Before playing the game, I wasn’t really sure what to make of the game. I had several doubts. Now, I’ll definitely pick this game up when it launches on August 31st. Metriod: Other M packs quite a punch and has plenty of potential. If you were in doubt before, keep your eyes on this game as more information surfaces. I like where Team Ninja has taken this game, and I hope it lives up to my now significantly higher expectations.


 

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