Metroid: Other M’s Collaborative Exploration of the Unknown
When you take a franchise with a beloved legacy and change it up drastically, it’s almost always a difficult situation. The faithful fan community of any given game come to expect certain central requirements of what that game ought to have in it. This is most certainly true of many of the central Nintendo licenses, who have garnered a rabid fan base since the late ’80s. It must have been a daunting task for Team Ninja and D-Rockets when Nintendo came to them in search of a collaborative effort on a Metroid game, but they undertook the mighty task for better or for worse. It was on this day in 2010 that players got their first taste of a new kind of Metroid with the divisive Metroid: Other M.
Development of Other M began in 2007 under the name “Project M”. Series director Yoshio Sakamoto had been interested in creating a new Metroid game since the launch of the original Wii in 2006, but he was concerned about using his regular team, feeling that they were too inexperienced in handling 3D development. For this reason, Sakamoto went outside the Nintendo company to handle development of his newest project. Impressed with the style and flashiness of the Ninja Gaiden games, Sakamoto approached Team Ninja with a proposal to bring that same level of style to a 3D Metroid game. Team Ninja head director Yosuke Hayashi was thrilled to be a part of work on a franchise he and much of his team had been fans of for years.
Metroid: Other M was set to take place after Super Metroid, but before the events of Metroid Fusion. Sakamoto felt that this period was a large gap that was absolutely paramount to main character Samus Aran’s growth and it was a story that could not go untold. As a result, Metroid: Other M had a heavier emphasis on story than practically any other Metroid game up to that point. Samus was given a voice and D-Rockets was approached to create the CG cutscenes that would tell much of the story between gameplay. There were quite a few people put off by this idea as Metroid games had always used very minimal storytelling outside of the actual gameplay and player progression. Nonetheless, Sakamoto was dedicated to a core purpose of making the regularly hardened and silent Samus more human and bringing audiences up to speed with her history and personality regardless of how much time they’d previously had with the series.
For their part, Team Ninja worked with Sakamoto to make a 3D game that combined exploration with stylish combat. The game was split between third- and first-person control. Samus could fight, move more freely and explore environments in third person while first person would allow for directed fire at specific enemies and discovery of otherwise unreachable areas of the environment. Combat in Metroid: Other M was handled in a way that was meant to be visually appealing while also simplistic and easy to understand. Often taking place in small arenas, players could move Samus around and destroy enemies with her array of available tools and weapons. Many weapons could be found, but unlike previous games, much of Samus’ arsenal is already on her, but she must be allowed to use them from commanding officer directing her through the game. Many players would take umbrage with this annoying outside element curtailing Samus’ usual independence and control of her own situations.
Metroid: Other M was a risk to say the least. It was unfamiliar territory for many of the creators involved in the process and that hindered it in a few ways. However, it also introduced players to a Metroid they had never seen before with its own niches, perks and drawbacks. Making changes to a series as beloved and established as Metroid is the kind of thing that will always make some fans panic. That said, although Metroid: Other M didn’t push the series in perfectly positive new directions, it’s certainly notable for what this collaboration of different major art houses attempted to pull off.