Metroid: Other M
If you’ve read this site at all you know I’m not a big fan of Nintendo’s core franchises. I haven’t played many of the original releases and I’ve not been terribly thrilled with their current incarnations on the Wii. The reason I bought a Wii is because of 3rd party content and that continues to be the bulk of my software purchases.
Nevertheless I do recognise that Nintendo puts out a quality product, so I find myself roped in by the hype that surrounds the latest entries in their long-running franchises like this new Metroid game. Moving away from the awkward first-person perspective of the Prime games was certainly a good move and gives the game broader appeal. It’s technically brilliant: the graphics are amongst the best on the Wii and it’s possibly the most cinematic experience I’ve had playing a game without feeling like a mere spectator thanks to using the d-pad to trigger fantastic dodges – replacing what would probably be a passive QuickTime event in a lesser game.
The addition of a narrative structure is also a big draw and makes Samus and her universe feel more real. Part of this is the way new abilities are earned: rather than having some initial set-up strip her of the extra powers as in the Prime games so she can find them all over again, she conceptually has the extra abilities, but can only use them when given permission by her commanding officer.
For the weapons I could buy this no problem, but the cracks started to show when I found Samus taking damage in a lava field only to be ordered to turn on the heat protection in her suit later – wait, she was willing to die because she hadn’t been ordered to turn on a built-in feature? A very poor design choice which broke the “realism” of the game for me. Likewise she has a grapple beam that can be used to swing between hard-to-reach areas, however she’s only allowed to use this when she needs to reach a colleague in danger – again defying rational sense when the use of the beam would have helped her in completing earlier missions without any harmful side effects.
Ultimately what killed the game for me was that it simply wasn’t bold enough in structure. Though it’s certainly more action-packed than all of the Prime games put together, the fact is that it’s too much a prisoner of the previous games in the series. Apparently the designers feel that the fans want to essentially play the same game over and over again – and given the sales and howls of anger when there’s a major deviation from formula they’re probably right. For people who aren’t longtime fans though, it means you’ll start to feel serious deja vu when you play your second game in any series.
Samus has her standard beams and does the same stuff as seen in every other Metroid game: fight in a fire world, ice world, sand world, jungle world, etc. against the same basic enemies that change slightly to fit the new setting. There’s a sub-boss and main boss in each of these areas which are decent enough, but not always that fun to fight. I got as far as what I presume to be the first encounter with Ridley (who seems to appear in every Metroid game like a bad comic-book villain) before throwing in the towel due to the length and monotony of the fight.
I’m a bit disappointed because I really wanted to like this game. Samus appears to inhabit this rich universe of limitless adventure possibilities and yet she’s effectively fighting the same battles time and again because that’s what the fans want. Well, you guys can have it; the only Metroid I’m interested in is Metroid Prime: Pinball on the DS.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (Gamecube)
This was my first attempt at playing an FPS using a joypad since the Playstation days and man is it awful. I was drawn in by nostalgia as this is the best Jedi Knight game going and I played it many times through all difficulty levels on the Mac before I largely left Mac-gaming behind in favour of the Wii.
Using a second analogue stick instead of a mouse is simply horrible as I knew it would be, complicated by the fact that your view will auto-centre when you start moving. I was hoping that when you got your light sabre and the camera switched to 3rd person it would play like any other 3D action game, but sadly you continue to use the C-Stick to change view which feels really awkward. The inability to freely remap controls makes it even worse – why the jump button is A and firing weapons or using the force is mapped to the squishy analogue triggers is beyond me. It adds to the feeling of fighting with the controller to do the most basic things and it’s really not worth it in the end.
Visually the game is pretty much the same as the PC versions, though the cut scenes which are played out using the in-game engine on the PC/Mac versions look like they’ve been tranferred off an old videotape, which is pretty jarring. I would be over the moon if Lucas Arts remade this instead of working on more Force Unleashed stuff, but that’s just a fantasy.
If for some bizarre reason you actually like playing first-person action games with a gimped dual-stick interface then have at it because it’s the best Star Wars action game going, but otherwise play something with less crappy controls and save yourself the bother.