Complaining about Metroid: Other M

The core gameplay of Metroid: Other M isn’t bad, at least from what I’ve seen of it so far (just before entering Sector 2), but man, some of the design decisions are questionable.

The rationale given for why Samus doesn’t have all her equipment from the previous game is indefensible. Of course for gameplay reasons Samus can’t start off fully loaded with equipment, since that would gut the defining characteristic of the series: exploring the environment to find upgrades to enable further exploration. Except in Other M, she does have them, but decides not to use them until Adam “allows” her to.

This, by itself, could have been made to work. It’s not unreasonable to say Samus should avoid using devastating weapons like Super Missiles or Power Bombs when she and the GF troops on the so-called Bottle Ship haven’t assessed the degree of structural damage or whether there are any survivors nearby. It would have been far more interesting had these prohibitions been made voluntary for the player, with the consequences of using (or not using) certain weapons having an effect on how things play out. It’s just aggravating to see an upgrade lying there that could be accessed with a Super Missile, and knowing Samus has Super Missiles, but not being allowed to fire one.

But what makes this excuse for de-powering Samus inexcusable is how it applies to all of her equipment. She’s prohibited from using her Ice Beam until she’s already been fighting enemies in the requisite fire-and-lava level of Sector 3. But given how the GF marines have been using their own Ice Beam weapons from the very beginning, why wasn’t Samus allowed to use hers? Even worse, she’s not allowed to use her Varia Suit‘s heat shields until she’s already been running around in Sector 3 taking heat damage for several rooms, and Adam knows this.

WTF? What possible excuse could Adam have for prohibiting Samus from using a purely defensive and life-saving feature of her armor? And more importantly, why would Samus let herself be subjected to this level of dickishness? The first time Adam tried to make her step foot in a lava-filled chamber without the Varia Suit, she should’ve cut off all contact with him, quit cooperating with the GF marines, and struck out on her own. Anyone willing to needlessly put her in harm’s way like that is no one she should be taking orders from. Especially when she’s not under his command to begin with!

I’m not sure I’m looking forward to any forthcoming cutscenes that might try to justify this dysfunctional relationship. The cutscenes so far have ranged from mediocre to painful, especially with the drearily flat narration by Samus’s voice actress. For example, how many times can we make Samus say “baby” during the opening cutscene? Are we supposed to take that bizarre and overly-long thumbs-down cutscene seriously? Unless I see evidence otherwise, my interpretation is that Adam always resented Samus’s asinine youthful-rebellion nonsense while she was under his command, and is using his newfound control over Samus to exact revenge. Meanwhile Samus, who thought her displays of insubordination were somehow being respectful and endearing, is subjecting herself to Adam’s abuse because she’s desperately seeking approval from the person she subconsciously sees as a father figure. It’s a pretty drastic change from how Samus had been portrayed as a self-reliant unflappable warrior in pretty much every other game, and it’s no wonder why some reviews call the plot downright sexist.

Also, why are there vast lava-filled caverns on a space station anyway? Wouldn’t that kind of melt the station’s hull? The holographic emitters hiding the walls in the “outdoors” areas of Sector 1 made sense, but holographic lava wouldn’t be hot, and certainly wouldn’t have giant monsters swimming around in it. No doubt one of the other sectors will turn out to be the ice caverns. What space station doesn’t have those, right?

Adam’s dickishness also extends to locking doors at various times, keeping Samus largely limited to following a linear path through the station, cutting out a lot of the opportunity for free exploration of the environment. The Metroid Prime games didn’t fall into this trap: there’d be a hint of where you were supposed to go next, but the game wouldn’t actually prevent you from going wherever you wanted to explore or look for items. At some point Samus will no doubt be allowed to revisit the areas, if only because there’d have to be some way to collect all the items she’s had to pass up on account of not being allowed to use the ability needed to reach them.

There’s a pretty good game under here, but you have to suffer through the presentation to find it.