Every week on The Free Cheese Podcast, we begin with a segment called Now Playing where we talk about the games that we’ve been spending time with. In this article, we’re bringing a bit of that conversation to the written word because it isn’t dead yet.
We’ll share what we’ve been playing and we encourage you to ask questions or share your own thoughts on what you’ve been playing in the comments.
A copy of Metroid: Other M has sat on my shelf for the better part of a decade now. I first attempted to play through the game perhaps a year after its release, when I picked it up at a clearance price of $7. I made it maybe two hours into the game, wishing that it had Nunchuk support.
The launch of two Nintendo home consoles later and I’m feeling the itch for a new Metroid again. With E3 right around the corner (yes, I know I say this every year in regards to Metroid but this is the year, right?) I can only assume that a new entry for the Switch will be revealed, but I still wanted to have a new experience in the franchise. Rather than replay one of the others, I figured I would try the one that I never truly finished, leading me to reopen that case once again.
At the start of Other M, I’m greeted with truly one of the most eye-catching and exciting moments I’ve had as a Metroid fan. The entirety of Super Metroid’s ending is reimagined in a 3D-rendered scene with narration from protagonist Samus Aran lamenting the loss of the last Metroid. Having forgot about this opening, I felt really excited to begin the game and get lost in its world. It did a fantastic job of setting the scene for the beginning of the game and reminding me of what makes Metroid so special and cool.
Then, I’m thrown into a control tutorial. In an instant, the game reversed itself and became exactly the opposite of the Super Metroid it so aptly highlighted in the opening. Where the Super Nintendo adventure begins with Samus dropped onto a new planet headed for disaster with no instruction or hint of direction save for the layout of the level design, Other M stops everything and halts all momentum to ensure that you understand how to use a Wii Remote.
My grievances with tutorials aside, once the game gets going it’s a constant conflict between ambition and submission. I love the idea that Other M is an attempt to recreate the NES experience of control with the Wii Remote turned on its side as you navigate through a 3D world on a 2D plane. Yet as the enemies approach from different angles, the game is set to auto-aim. Where the classic 2D Metroid titles required precision and timing to an extent as you navigated the world, this simply asks you to mash the fire button until everything drops.
This is of course only part of the combat. The other half occurs when you must fire a missile, to solve an environmental puzzle or defeat a tougher enemy. To do so, you must turn the Wii Remote from its sideways position and point it at the television. Doing so allows you to aim and fire where necessary, as the perspective shifts to a first-person view. To the developer’s credit, the novelty of holding the Wii Remote and pointing as if you were equipped with Samus’ arm cannon is desirable. The Wii conversion of the Metroid Prime Trilogy updated the controls of the first two games to match that of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Unlike the Prime Trilogy, you do not have free movement by way of the Nunchuk while in this first-person mode. Instead, you’re locked into wherever Samus was standing and if you are slightly off from where you should be, you feel clumsy trying to get in the correct position as you rotate the Wii Remote in half circles.
After some time with the game, I felt more comfortable controlling it (kind of…), but really found that the game is incredibly linear and feels so much like it was designed by a team who really didn’t understand what makes Metroid so exciting. I wrote earlier this week about the idea of discovery in games and how it’s been lost on me since the 16-bit era, prior to constant access. It is exactly Super Metroid that defines that sense of discovery and the wonderment that can come as you solve new puzzles and find areas by truly exploring or an accidental stumble. Instead, Other M gates progression through an arbitrary happenstance that involves Samus’ past with a Galactic Federation General who has crossed paths on the ship where the game takes place.
Further, the game leads you through the map room by room with checkpoint after checkpoint. One of the most essential pieces to a Metroid game, the discovery of powerups and weapon upgrades, is typically rewarded to the player who is most aware of the environment and tries to find secrets in every room. Now, simply mashing the attack button a few times until the room is cleared of enemies will reveal a marker on the map that shows the hidden item in the room.
Still, flashes of Samus’ history and character are intriguing enough to half-keep my interest. And, as the ship is practically one big simulation allowing for the ease of level transition, I know I’ll be able to see many different worlds within the game.
Perhaps a few more hours will change the way the game holds my hand and will reveal something else that makes it special. Or, it won’t. And E3 will hold the next great Metroid game on its way to the Switch to do for Other M what Breath of the Wild did for Skyward Sword.
I can’t believe I’m actually going to say this game. I’ve been playing a good bit of DOTA 2 lately. There isn’t a good reason why I’m doing this. This genre has always amazed me with how freaking deep the strategies are. I have tried to watch DOTA or League of Legends matches on Twitch at various times but never knew what the hell the shoutcaster was talking about.
However, in a never-ending effort to frustrate Joe, I’ve been taking time to learn concepts and terms to become better equipped at playing this game. There is a very steep learning curve I am trying to get through at the moment. I have yet to hop online with actual people, but with every minute I play against the CPU, I get this game more and more. The truth to all of this though is that I’m enjoying my time with the game. There’s something about the strategy element that is putting its hooks in me and I always get excited when loading into my next match. I can see this game becoming highly addictive if I find a way to become decent at it. I’m not at a point yet where I can pick a favorite hero or even class at this point, but I have a feeling I will know sooner rather than later.
Since I’m not at the point where I can play DOTA all day, I have been starting to get lost in Mass Effect: Andromeda. I’ve progressed far enough now where it seems all the systems have been shown off. There may be a mechanic or gameplay loop I’m missing, but I don’t know if that would influence my feelings about this game.
I don’t know how I feel about this game yet. I like where the story is going and I always liked how Mass Effect makes playing politics a thing. That’s one of the best story beats of this game and I hope it is something that remains throughout. However, actually playing the game is the part I feel unsure about.
The combat doesn’t feel as polished as the systems in 2 or 3. I’m really hoping it’s just because I’m low level and I haven’t even begun to develop my skills but I don’t know if acquiring them will make me feel different. I will keep playing this game moving forward so expect to hear more about it as the weeks go along.