Monday, September 13, 2010

Refutation of G4TV's Metroid: Other M Review

I just got done reading a review of Metroid: Other M by and had a number of disagreements with the author, so I thought I would address them here.

The author takes the stance that, not only is the game technically bad and unfun, but the story presents Samus as a childish, vulnerable brat pining for male validation, thereby shattering her image as a tough, feminist role model, unique amid the sea of helpless-princess-bimbos in video games.

From a technical standpoint, I thought the game was fun and felt like a real sequel to Super Metroid, which the Prime series was never able to do. I agree that the IR-driven scanning/missile dynamic is a little frustrating at times, but I thought it was a decent way to sort of bridge the first-person Prime series and the traditional sidescrolling entries.

The missile/health regeneration dynamic is also a little strange in the context of the series, but it's just a fact of modern combat games, in my opinion. I don't like it in Halo/Gears of War/Modern Warfare/Generic SHOOTAN GAEMS either, but I can live with it.

As for the storyline, this game was much more story-driven than previous games, which often featured no dialog (or really even characters) at all. Now, this is an important point: in previous games, Samus was a (nearly) silent protagonist and it was largely up to the player to decide whether her silence was stoicism or something else entirely.

First off, the g4 reviewer takes issue with the fact that Samus doesn't discover her weapons throughout the environment as she did in previous games, and instead is holding them back on order of her former commanding officer. While the reviewer described this dynamic as "painfully stupid," I find it less so than it would have been to find a bunch of suit-compatible Chozo artifacts scattered around the game's setting, which is just a Federation ship and not an ancient planet. I guess a more satisfying (to me) option would have been for her to decide on her own when she needed to use the items, but that wouldn't make much sense either (why would she *not* use a super missile to open a stubborn door and thus ruin the whole 'metroidvania' mechanic?).

As for the story, I have some significant disagreements with the reviewer's interpretation. She seems to want Samus to be a butch, emotionally void ass-whupper--of which there is no shortage in video games--with her sex being the only discernible difference from Halo's Master Chief. I think this view is belied by previous games, though, where she shows compassion for the baby metroid and allows it to cling to her rather than just blasting it when she has the chance.

Likewise, the reviewer interpreted her deference to Adam Malkovich as weakness, where I saw it as an effort to show respect when she previously had not. She left his command to become a bounty hunter in the first place, so--when she encounters him and her former squadmates at the start of this game--she follows his commands by her own choice. In the cutscenes, we see that she didn't follow his orders very well when she was a cadet, so to follow his orders of her own volition shows maturity, not childishness. Plus, part of the story is that she is reliving painful events from her past in a sort of brutal alien Groundhog Day, which causes her to reexamine her youthful indiscretions.

The reviewer states, "Confronted by her longstanding nemesis, Ridley, [Samus] is spliced into flashes of a little girl, crying and afraid, despite the fact [that] she has already defeated Ridley at least FOUR times already, once when he was a powerful robot." I took issue with this statement because, in an earlier cutscene, Samus mentions her relief that her nemesis was killed in the blast that destroyed Zebes. And then, when she finds Ridley resurrected, she is naturally taken aback and experiences a moment of paralysis as she experiences flashes of her childhood encounter with him. This does not seem out of place to me. Perhaps out of character, but as I said before: she never really had any character to begin with, except what we projected on her from our own imaginations.

In Metroid: Other M, a partial reboot of the series, we get a view into the backstory and motivations of gaming's baddest bitch, but it turns out she's not as badassed as some people thought or would have liked. Perhaps this insight into her mind/feelings was a bad choice on the part of her developers, akin to giving Gordon Freeman a bland voiceover and cornball catch-phrases, but I didn't think it was that bad. Instead, I thought it provided a modicum of motivation to see the story progress rather than the same ol' mindless backtracking to pick up that just-out-of-reach missile pack.

I will concede that I thought the "military obfuscation" aspect of the story was just kinda dropped for the most part toward the end of the game, and I would have liked to see it explored more fully, rather than focusing so much on Samus' feelings. Nevertheless, I found the entire experience to be satisfying and a good, faithful addition to the series.

It's interesting that Nintendo catches a lot of flack for not pushing their games into new directions, yet every time they try, they get slammed for destroying people's preconceived notions of the characters. However, these characters were created at a time when any personalities had to be inferred due to technical limitations, and--as we've all seen with book-to-movie conversions--the "Hollywood" version never stands up to our own imaginations.

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