Tag Archives: that’s just prime

FGC #412 Metroid: Other M

Let this be Goggle Bob canon: I refuse to believe Metroid: Other M exists.

Some franchises dance all over the place. Before we even hit Nintendo’s third console, Link had already explored Hyrule through overhead exploration and 2-D jumping. Kirby saved Dreamland, and then had time to play mini golf before becoming a pinball wizard. On other systems, Sonic the Hedgehog explored a Game Gear labyrinth as easily as jetting across Mobius. And Mario? Mario had wildly different gameplay just between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2, left alone later games featuring age regression. In short, if Nintendo had announced that Super Mario 64 was going to feature Mario riding a giant bunny as he hopped across the universe, we all just would have understood that that would be Mario now, and it’s no use lamenting the inevitable absence of our beloved fire flowers.

But Samus Aran and the Metroid series? For a long time, that was ol’ reliable. Metroid, Metroid II, and Super Metroid were all very Metroid. Even Kid Icarus couldn’t make that claim! In a time when most games were still discovering what would eventually be their defining traits (Star Fox is still working on that), Samus Aran had it all figured out. Run around an abandoned planet, collect powerups, fight a dragon man, and call it a day around the time that the last metroid is in captivity (or completely obliterated). This was tried and true gameplay, and Super Metroid was such an amazing title, we didn’t need a new one for nearly a decade.

WeeeeeBut when Samus finally returned (again), we were greeted with two new branches on the Metroid family tree. On one side, we had what was essentially Super Metroid gameplay, but now married to a more robust (and chatty) hint system. Metroid Fusion was superficially very much like Super Metroid, but it forsook the deep well of loneliness of the earlier titles for a more story-based adventure. But on the Gamecube, we saw Metroid Prime, a game that, by all rights, should have been absolutely terrible. It’s a FPS! Of a Nintendo property! Samus is all about finesse and exploration, not tanking around boring hallways! We were all convinced Metroid Prime would be awful, but it was quite the opposite. Through some dreaded alchemy, Retro Studios managed to transmute the gameplay and feeling of Metroid into a FPS format with nary a zoomer left on the cutting room floor. The game may not have been perfect, but it was certainly impressive, and it corralled the interest of an avowed FPS-hater like myself as well as those that actually enjoyed the genre. Metroid Prime brought Samus Aran into the 21st Century, and, more importantly, was a hit in every conceivable way.

And the trajectory of the Metroid series seemed to support Prime over any alternatives. Metroid Fusion saw one direct sequel/prequel, and then not another peep out of 2-D Metroid for years. Metroid Prime, meanwhile, saw two sequels across two platforms. And its DS spin-off title was the pack-in demo for the Nintendo DS (just incidentally one of Nintendo’s most successful portable systems). And there was a pinball game for some reason. Straight through to the Metroid Prime Trilogy for Nintendo Wii, it was clear that Metroid Prime was Metroid, and other interpretations of Samus Aran were destined for whatever solar system used to host Zebes.

And then there was Metroid: Other M. Metroid: Other M is not a Metroid Prime game. Metroid: Other M is something… other.

SCREETo be clear, despite the fact that I have implied otherwise on the site, I do not think Metroid: Other M is a terrible game. M:OM has a terrible plot, and arguably everything about its characterization of Samus Aran does little more than subtract from her story/character/any concept of fun (seriously, Nintendo, literally all of your iconic women are diminutive blondes, let Samus be an inexplicably purple-haired seven foot body builder). It’s noble to feature a heroine suffering from PTSD (reminder, this game takes place shortly after Samus took two hours to blow up her home planet), but there’s a difference between “this is clearly weighing on her” and “Ridley turns her into a blubbering child”. And, heck, some of this would probably even work if Samus wasn’t a woman, as then her submission in the face of a father figure or need to be literally rescued from her most consistent and present enemy would maybe be the slightest bit less sexist. And, heck, I’m not even complaining from a “feminism is good” perspective, I just want to see the same kickass warrior woman that learned how to scale walls from little green men that could sing her theme song. That Samus Aran is gone! I want her back!

Crap, that paragraph was supposed to espouse the good in M:OM. Take two…

Metroid: Other M is an interesting experiment in moving Metroid’s normal 2-D action into a 3-D world. Against all accepted standards for such a thing, it completely ignores the analogue stick, and employs the cross-pad exclusively. This should work as poorly as any other 3-D game running on a “lesser” controller (see Head, Metal), but the Bottle Ship is deliberately made with this sort of 2.5-D gameplay in mind. And it works! Samus can certainly run in a circle, but a number of corridors generally bump into the 2nd Dimension anyway, so it feels completely natural to launch into a space jump like in the Metroid adventures of yore. Aiming is fairly automatic, so that clears that spatial hurdle, and, give or take a few spots, the bosses are pretty fun from an action perspective for possibly the first time in the franchise (sorry, Kraid). And the Bottle Ship is just plain entertaining to explore to boot. It’s not too big, not too small, and, while it’s no Zebes, it’s certainly a fun spot to spend a few hours hunting down missiles.

Ultimately, if you can ignore the plot, Metroid: Other M is a fun game.

For the N64.

ChillyWe might be living in a world where Metroid Prime 4 is on the way, but back in August of 2010, it seemed like Nintendo wanted to put the genie back in the bottle. Metroid: Other M notably seems to ignore the more significant character beats of the Prime series (this Samus Aran is not The Hunter that petrified an entire space crustacean race) but also ignores a host of innovations from the series. Metroid Prime proved that Samus could work in a fully 3-D world, but Other M walks that back to a pseudo 3-D. Prime 3 made Wii aiming the most fun it has ever been in a FPS (disagree? Fight me), while M:OM’s missile aiming is inconvenient and cumbersome. Even Samus’s model, thin and lithe like a mecha ballerina, can’t hold a candle to the mobile tank seen in the Prime series. Yes, it might make a little more sense that this Samus can roll into a perfect sphere, but, bad news, that has always been completely bonkers. In short, despite Metroid Prime nailing the Metroid aesthetic and gameplay right out of the gate, Metroid: Other M feels like a stumbling attempt at bringing Metroid into the next generation.

In other words, it feels like a Mario 64 to Super Metroid’s Super Mario World. It’s the Ocarina of Time to A Link to the Past. And none of those games were ever bad… they just might not have been as innovative after a solid decade of advances. Mario Galaxy built off the base of Mario 64. Metroid: Other M built its house on the sand.

Metroid: Other M is not a terrible game. But it is a game that deliberately ignored its own past, and suffered for it. And, through that suffering, it seems it is doomed to be forgotten.

… At least on this site. Let us never speak of it again.

FGC #412 Metroid: Other M

  • System: Nintendo Wii. Despite being released for the most popular Nintendo system in the history of money, this title dropped to bargain basement prices almost immediately. I guess it may have resurfaced on the WiiU, too.
  • Number of players: One day we’ll see a multiplayer Metroid title… That plays like Knuckles Chaotix.
  • Just primeGod Damn this Plot is Terrible: Okay, look, this could have worked. Samus has obvious parental issues (what with her biological parents becoming Ridley chow), and I could totally believe a game where Samus is deliberately limiting herself to impress her father (figure). That could actually be an amazing idea for a Metroidvania style game: you have access to everything immediately, but using the wrong items too early earns you a bad grade and a stern talking to. That could be fun! But that’s not what’s happening here. What is happening in this game is that Samus is being completely subservient to some random dude that just popped up, and, considering he has her walk through an active volcano without protection, it’s hard to imagine this jackass has our heroine’s wellbeing in mind. It is… very hard to justify.
  • Ridley is too Big: Oh, and then we get the nonsense with noted space dragon Ridley scaring Samus until her clothes fall off. How the hell does that make any sense? Why would you design a “power suit” that can teleport into nothingness the moment the exact person that requires protection is frightened? And why is Samus afraid at all, considering she has personally killed Ridley 6,416 times? Is it because she found out he was a Pokémon? That was rather unexpected.
  • And what about those parts of the game where you have to stand perfectly still, and look at some random thing, and make sure the game knows you’re looking at that random thing, or else you can’t advance or do anything? Screw those.
  • Favorite Powerup: The screw attack is more fun here than in the Prime franchise. M:OM gets some things right.
  • Did you know? There is a bug in Metroid: Other M that will permanently lock a door in Sector 3, and thus forever prevent the player from completing the game. This isn’t the worst thing in the world that could happen.
  • Would I play again: Play what? What game were we talking about?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bonk’s Revenge! And that’s kicking off a special theme week! What’s the theme week? Guess you’ll find out! Please look forward to it!


FGC #147 Metroid Prime Pinball

I'm hearing the theme song in my headHave you looked at the roster for Super Smash Bros. recently? No, not the latest iteration, just plain ol’ N64 Super Smash Bros. And, in this case, I’m talking about the exclusive, “members only” original eight selectable characters (sorry, Ness, I love you, but you were obviously a dark-horse choice). You’ve got Mario, who, before and since, has appeared in more videogames than any other videogame mascot[citation needed]. Donkey Kong is on a similar echelon, and he arguably started the trend of Nintendo “mascots”. Pikachu was a newcomer at the time, but that little fuzzball has practically conquered a generation or two. Kirby and Yoshi (the original Pokémon) might not be quite as prolific, but they’ve both headlined everything from puzzle games to lightgun shooters. And Link? Link needs no introduction, and might be considered the “coolest” character in gaming despite (or because of) being rather silent.

Consider that every character I’ve named thus far has starred in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Then you have the Nintendo space heroes, like “Star” Fox McCloud. Fox always seemed made to appeal to the kiddies (daring, cartoon animal ace pilot), but has yet to garner enough popularity points to net those lucrative licensing deals and pay off the Great Fox. Come on, guys, they gave him an entire planet of friendly dinosaurs and a deviantart-bait magical princess girlfriend, and he still couldn’t score so much as a spin-off until 2016’s Six Nights at Slippy’s. It’s good that Star Fox is still getting games at all, but it seems a little unusual that this pillar of the Nintendo universe hasn’t been ported into something a little more modern. Sure, shooters are dead, but this fox has legs (apparently), give him something new to do.

And, finally, we have the lone (confirmed) female of the game, Samus Aran, space bounty hunter. Metroid is currently a reputedly dead franchise (note to Nintendo: I will be perfectly happy to have this article look completely Icydated in exchange for a glut of new Metroid games), and, even when it was still on life support, it was considered, at best, to be mishandled. Super Metroid redefined the genre, but its 2-D descendants were improperly managed or far too derivative (or both). Metroid Prime was a revelation, but Metroid Prime 2 seemed like a typical FPS disguised in powersuit trappings, and Metroid Prime 3 was madly uneven. And Metroid Prime Hunters? Ugh, please don’t remind me that existed.

But… Metroid Prime Hunters is important, because there was a brief, shining moment in Nintendo’s history when Samus Aran was used to sell systems.

Alright, yes, that might be an exaggeration, but the Nintendo DS, eventually one of Nintendo’s most popular and experimental systems (ah, the heady days before the touch screen became standard) initially shipped with a game… or at least a demo for a game. Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt…. wasn’t much of a demo. The single player portion was practically nonexistent, but the multiplayer portion of MPH:FH was an eye-opener. Now, for the first time, you could compete with your friends in a “networked FPS” style death match, but you didn’t need a single wire or powerful PC, just a DS and a buddy within shouting distance. The DS might not have offered many options at launch, but Metroid-Doom dominated any place you might find a bunch of congregating nerds (like, I dunno, a college, for instance?) and probably sold more DS systems than Tetris DS ever would.

So, when Nintendo decided to produce a new upgrade for the little dual screen that could, they looked again to their favorite daughter, Samus Aran. The DS was to receive a new rumble pack accessory, and what better way to sell rumble in a videogame than with pinball?

Pew Pew… It’s really the thought that counts.

Metroid Prime Pinball is a very weird game. As the story goes, MPP was first conceived when someone at Nintendo noticed that A. Nintendo randomly makes mascot-based pinball games, and B. Samus, super serious space bounty hunter, often turns herself into a ball. It’s like peanut butter and applesauce! So, while most Nintendo franchises feature characters that just kinda bounce around like pinballs anyway, pinball was hoisted on Metroid, a franchise best known for measured exploration and deliberately paced powerups. Because, ya know, Samus Aran can turn into a ball. What’s more, rather than make this a “simple” collection of Metroid-themed pinball machines, Metroid Prime Pinball has a plot and level progression, with bosses/challenges that bar progress until they’re slain/completed. Pinball doesn’t work like that! There’s a reason we never saw Pinball Quest 2, dammit!

But, against all odds, it somehow does work. Metroid Prime Pinball isn’t exactly the best game on the DS, it’s not even my favorite pinball game starring a Nintendo character that can inexplicably become a ball; but, hey, it ain’t bad. While pinball purists would likely have an issue with my favorite parts, I’ve found that this game holds my interest over many pinball games by virtue of randomly inserting more traditional Metroid gameplay. Okay, really, it’s not Metroid gameplay at all, but it’s all inspired by Metroid gameplay, and that’s close enough for a pinball game. For instance, In order to attain that coveted high-score, you must collect bounties, and, while some of these bounties involve simply steering ball-Samus at enemies, many times a bounty will cause Samus to come out of her shell and start shooting that beam cannon. Or there’s an artifact at the top of a cliff, so you’re to alternate L & R to pull off a proper wall jump. Still got itOr there’s a boss to slay, so it’s time to whip out the missiles. I like pinball, but I like pinball a lot more when I’m given something else to do every other minute. Oh, bless you, Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. You’ll always be there for me until I see something shiny.

Unfortunately, given most people don’t seem to remember this game exists at all seems to be proof that Metroid Prime Pinball wasn’t much of a success. Metroid: Other M or Metroid Prime Hunters may be reviled, but at least people don’t think you’re talking about some kind of Club Nintendo promotion when they’re mentioned. Metroid Prime Pinball happened, guys! It was a full game! It was pretty alright!

It’s a shame that this game is so forgotten. Metroid Prime Pinball proved that, like Mario, Yoshi, or even Pikachu, Samus Aran could break out of her typical gameplay bonds and do something else. Yes, Metroid defined a genre so permanently it has literally become synonymous with 2-D exploration games, but Mario defined platforming, and he’s doing just fine on the go-kart circuit, too. Samus Aran could be a perennial Nintendo star like Link, and MPP proves it.

And don’t pretend that doesn’t matter. The current gaming landscape is choked with dudes that look just like me (maybe they’re a little less handsome), and, while I appreciate the compliment, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more lady bounty hunters in the mix. Nintendo is better with diversity than most (by virtue of promoting electric rats and pink eldritch horrors equally), but its big two are still a pair of white guys. You don’t see an hours long demo featuring Linkle on the E3 floor, nope, it’s grade-A, grandma-approved, straight white male elf all the way. He’s even right handed now, because left-handedness is only for freaks and presidents.

It’s nonsense like Metroid Prime Pinball that makes kings and queens out of characters. Link has been fighting Ganon for ages, but he was spouting catchphrases at princesses well before he was the Hero of Time. Mario was ubiquitous on the NES, saving the Mushroom Kingdom, refereeing Mike Tyson, and then playing golf all in the same week. I might not expect Samus to sell the next big Nintendo console, but upping the profile of Nintendo’s only starring fantasy female (that is in no way a princess) could only be a good thing. Yes, I pretty much just want more Metroid games, but I’ll gladly buy another Metroid Prime Pinball to see Samus as the salesgirl for the latest Nintendo thingy. Samus Aran should have her own pair of bongos, dammit! Wait… that might have come out wrong.

So thank you, Metroid Prime Pinball, for proving that Samus can do more than explore musty old planets. You might not have been the best game, but you helped a struggling space bounty hunter, and that’s enough.

FGC #147 Metroid Prime Pinball

  • System: Nintendo DS, with rumble pack accessory!
  • Number of players: Oh yeah, there is a two player head-to-head mode that even features its own unique stage. It’s just as exciting as 2-player pinball is meant to be!
  • He’s too big: Ridley manages to fit into a board that is almost entirely his own. It’s also the most frustrating stage, because if Ridley knocks you out, you have to go and retrieve an artifact from an earlier stage. Pinball doesn’t usually require savestates, but here we are.
  • Favorite stage: You wind up playing the first two tables very often thanks to how the game is “shaped”. That said, the Tallon Overworld area is pretty fun, and makes seeing “the same ol’ stage” again and again entertaining with its multiple ways to score. Oddly, its sister level, Pirate Frigate, comes off as boring, and should be escaped immediately.
  • Did you know? Metroid Prime Pinball is the spiritual successor to the Gameboy Advance’s Mario Pinball Land. That would be the pinball game that nobody liked.
  • Would I play again? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed replaying this game, so, yes, but only on the condition that it’s a downloadable, portable title. I’d fire this thing up for a few rounds here and there when around town, but I doubt I’ll ever put the actual cart back in my 3DS’s slot ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… to be quiet. I’m going to make #148 into #9 here, and deal with a different kind of robot for the next update. Please look forward to it!