Let’s get this out of the way right now:

I wouldn’t have bought this game unless Amazon hadn’t pretty much given it to me. A few months back, they ran a deal for it, listing it well under any other list price, and it came with a $20 credit toward my next video game purchase. I’m also pretty sure that I used a previously earned $20 credit to buy it. (I love that stupid rolling credit.) So, bottom line, I paid next to nothing for the game, and because of that, it would have to do a lot to earn my ire.

So, that out of the way, here’s some general information about the game and its history.

Metroid: Other M is a Nintendo Wii game that tells the continuing story of one Samus Aran, space bounty hunter. It is the first Japanese Metroid game produced since Super Metroid. For most of the 00s, the property was in the capable hands of Retro Studios who shocked (and impressed) the gaming world with their first person take on the game. Other M was made by Team Ninja, best known for the bouncing boobs in their Dead or Alive series of fighters, and oddly enough, volleyball simulators. This is the first Metroid to ever deal with Samus’s backstory, and the first one to give her a voice actor. The intent of the game is to act as a bridge between the Japanese and American versions of the property through Team Ninja’s unique take on the classic aspects of the game. Those classic aspects being: room by room exploration and puzzle solving, the finding and utilizing of new items, and, of course, blasting the crap out of any alien life you come across.

And how did Team Ninja do with their first go at one of video gamedom’s timeless properties?

Well…let’s just say I think something was lost in the translation.

And I do mean that quite literally. The writing in Other M has to be some of the absolute worst I’ve ever encountered in a video game. Barrels upon barrels of needless words used to say simple things. There’s lots and lots and LOTS of internal monologging, most of it of the angst-ridden, lifted-straight-from-an-anime kind. And for that to happen in a game like this, it makes me think that something did in fact get lost in translation. Because there’s no way a producer would sit down, hear crap this bad, and then sign a check to pay the person to write more just like it. The Japanese version of the game has to be better…right?

Thankfully, the visuals that accompanying the hooky words and voices are pretty, if plastic in a way that only things from Japan are capable of being. It’s like they refuse to acknowledge that people have pores or any sort of skin texture on their side of the Pacific. And the pre-rendered bits are absolutely stunning, and never overly long.

But, Zach, you’re thinking, the core of any Metroid game isn’t the story or the writing or the cinematics, it’s the damned combat and exploration. What about that? Is it any good?

Yes, it is.

Well, most of it, but I’ll come back round to that in a minute.

The Wii controller, when not used as something you wave at your TV like a vibrator at a hooker, is a simplistic thing, and Other M knows it. You’ve got three buttons and a control pad. One button shoots, one button jumps, one button rolls you up into a ball. That’s it. And Other M manages to get a hell of a lot out of those three buttons and a control pad.

First off, the game is in a kind of pseudo-3-D. It has depth occasionally, but for the most part, you’re moving about on a 2-D plane, so the control pad doesn’t have to worry about doing a whole lot. Just point in the direction you want to go, and it’ll take care of itself. Most of the combat revolves either around you mashing a button to blast something, or holding a button to charge up and then blasting something. Some times you have to jump on something or run up to it before you blast it, which leads to these very cool little finishing movies.

Speaking of, the jumping and rolling are simplified to. Wall jumping just requires you to hold the control pad in one direction and mash jump, it’ll take care of the rest. Bomb jumping, once a necessary skill for beating older Metroid games is a thing of the past now, too. There’s also a dodging mechanic called sense something or other that I never could properly figure out how to make work on command, but it did a good enough job of keeping me safe by letting me do what I was already doing that I didn’t think about it. That’s pretty much the summation of the core combat mechanic of the game: it does its job without making you think about it. It just works. Which is probably the best compliment you can give a system like this.

But about that one thing I mentioned I’d come back to earlier. So, for the most part, the game’s in third person 3-D. The camera is somewhere floating above your character, and you’re hopping about and blasting things. But then, you’ll need to shoot a missile or scan something, and you have to take the Wii controller, which you’ve been holding horizontally for hours now, and point it at the television. At this point it goes into first person mode, allowing you to lock on to things, scan them, and blow them up with missiles.

The motion sounds physically awkward, but it really isn’t. The Wii controller is a tiny thing, and moving your hand around it is a breeze. But, then there’s the problem of when the game like to make you do this. It’s never at a convenient time. It’s always at a time when there are thousands of mutant spaces bees swarming you, trying to make passionate love to your innards with their mutant space bee stingers. The result is more stressful than it needs to be, and it really breaks the flow of a solid combat system.

The exploration part of it seems to remain idiot proof, thankfully. Upgrades are hidden all over the areas you are blasting your way through, some of which (most, if I’m going to be honest) you can see when you first pass through an area, but you can’t get to. You’ll either have to come back and get then when you’ve gotten a new toy, or claim them when the looping level design brings you back into a room from another point. It’s a time-tested and proven system that gets the most out of art assets and keeps the level designers thinking. Hell, in Other M they’ve even gone one step further and given you an indicator to let you know if there is an upgrade hidden in the room once you’ve killed all the bad guys in said room. It wants you to explore, and it wants you to be rewarded for that exploration.

On the whole, I’m mixed about Metroid: Other M. On one hand, it’s always nice to see new views on classic properties, and Team Ninja certainly hit a lot of high notes with the game. But, it also reminds me why the Japanese share of the game market is shrinking like a scrotum in cold water. The clunky dialog and lack luster stories just don’t hold up to the likes of Western mega-games like Halo, Mass Effect, Modern Warfare. Other M feels like something I’d download from the Xbox Live Arcade, not a multi-million dollar triple-AAA title. That’s not to say I don’t think that this game is worth the time it takes to play it, because I believe it is, there are just too many mistakes to make me ever want to play it again.

Should You Buy It? Sure, once it drops about $10 in price. There aren’t that many solid Wii games out there, and Other M, despite its flaws is definitely a solid game.

Other Things Like It: Shadow Complex (better in every way), Lara Croft: Guardian of Light (more puzzle-y, and co-op is an added plus), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid (See why they call this genre “Metroidvania”)