by KitaSaturnyne, last updated 13 Mar 2016 19:00
Few titles in the pantheon of video games are as highly polarizing as 2010's Metroid: Other M. Many in the fandom were split into factions, with some reviling the game for its terrible execution and others defending every aspect of the game's design. Reviews are only words however, and as the saying goes, reading about Rome is not nearly the same thing as going there.
So, I decided to check out the game for myself. They were the worst fifteen hours of my life.
First, I'll focus on the game side of this mess.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, I should inform you that I'll be spoiling the whole game from beginning to end. There will also be spoilers for Metroid II: Return of Samus, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Stop here if you plan to play any of these for yourself. But, I will warn you: DON'T PLAY OTHER M FOR YOURSELF.
Might as well start with something positive. Other M looks very polished. The different materials that make up the environments are clearly textured and fitting for their intent. Objects and people are modeled very well. Samus is all metal and shiny, though her face isn't as expressive as it should be, even when it's not hidden behind her helmet.
On the bad side, the sectors of the games are all constructed the same way. Bland and grey hallways lead to scattered areas that are more distinct, but not enough to counter the boredom that the design otherwise induces. Sector 1 is made up of hallways filled with plants that leads to a room with a huge plant. Sector 2 is made up of hallways covered in small snow drifts that lead to rooms with larger snowdrifts. Sector 3 is made up of hallways with red lighting that lead to an area covered in lakes of magma. Yawn.
Sound and Music
The sound effects work well enough for the game. Nothing in particular stands out, but everything makes a distinct noise. The voice acting is at best awkward, and at its worst, boring. The more minor characters feel like they were reading lines without any direction, and the acting for Samus herself teeters between boring and coma-inducing.
My original theory regarding Samus's voice was that the actress was asked to deliver her lines with as little emotion as possible as a means of allowing the player to project their own emotional state onto the character. This was what happened with JC Denton's voice actor from Deus Ex. However, it's clear through the game's myriad of monologues that Samus was meant to have detailed emotional reactions to incidents in the game. In particular, this theory was blown out of the water into bloody little bits during the infamous "Ridley Scene", which I will of course get to at a later point.
The music, an element that Metroid has always been known for, is unmemorable at best. Gone are the poppy, melody-based songs that had you tapping your foot as you searched for another missile expansion, replaced by droning orchestral pieces that do nothing to add to the uniqueness of any sector in the game. And then, there are huge chunks of the game that have no music at all. There are some remixes of old pieces here and there, but it's definitely not enough to save the otherwise boring "soundtrack".
The game bills itself as an action platformer, banking on nostalgia down to requiring that the Wii Remote be held sideways like a NES controller. Neither the action nor platforming allow for a fun experience while playing, however.
On the shooting side, Samus will just always automatically shoot at the closest enemy for you. While this does mitigate some problems with aiming at enemies in a 3D space, it adds others in that you can never switch between targets. This means that enemies are very dangerous in swarms, particularly in close quarters. This could have been easily remedied by binding a targeting switch to the Wii Remote's B trigger, as it goes entirely unused in the third person mode.
Sometimes, Samus's efforts will knock an enemy to the floor, which allows her to execute a finishing blow of sorts. While the idea seems satisfying at first, it's difficult to pull off and requires you to rev up your charge shot, which often results in the creature breaking free and renewing its attack, or in some cases, completely regenerating its health.
By pointing the Wii Remote at the screen, the view will switch to a first person orientation, which is the only mode that allows players to shoot missiles or have any semblence of control over the camera. This process is a burden at the best of times, especially against enemies that move around and attack rather quickly, since the it requires you to get the Wii Remote out of its horizontal position and into one hand, point it at the screen, then use the B trigger to lock onto the monster. After all this, you finally get to fire your missiles. The process takes about two seconds, and in a game full of tentacles and other enemies who are constantly knocking Samus to the floor, missiles are a non-option going into almost every fight. They're just too impractical. This mode also presents a new problem: If there's anything that Samus can focus on that isn't her enemy, she will lock onto that instead, causing you to lose track of your target.
So, I have deduced that the controls work best when Samus is on a large, flat plane and there is one enemy to target.
There are many points in the game where everything will stop, and the view will be locked into first person mode. These have been lovingly dubbed "pixel hunts", and that is no misnomer. During these sequences, Samus will not be allowed to progress until she finds and scans the correct environmental detail. The problem with these is threefold.
First, there is never any kind of visual cue beyond pointing the reticle at the correct element, which is especially annoying when Samus's view is not limited to scanning the area ahead of her. Often, the player has to search in every possible direction within a 3D space to find and scan the one tiny detail that will allow them to continue the game. Secondly, the correct element to scan will not become apparent unless the reticle has been hovering over it for about a second or so. And third is that many times, the correct object you have to find is so minute or camoflaged, finding it is a fluke, or the result of minutes of wasted game time searching the screen pixel by pixel.
One incident in particular had me trapped for 15 minutes before I broke down and consulted a guide. The problem? The sequence begins with Samus facing some soldiers, which misled me into thinking that I needed to examine them. What I really needed to do was turn around completely and scan an unassuming green puddle on the ground that was surrounded by green grass. What's more, my attention was caught by the destroyed vehicle in front of me, so I missed the puddle completely and focused on the object that was actually drawing my eye. I would have found the puddle quite quickly, thus ending the rather tedious sequence if say a glow or some kind of particle effect were added to, you know, make me notice the puddle.
In previous games, Samus could restore her health and missile cache by destroying enemies and gathering the items they left behind. Well in this, they're gone. Samus can only regain health by coming across Energy Tanks1, finding a save station, or using "Concentration Mode" when her health is low enough. The same goes for missiles. She can only refill them at save points, or through the Concentration Mode.
Concentration Mode is activated by pointing the Wii Remote upwards and holding down the A button. After a number of seconds, Samus's missiles will be refilled, and if her health is low enough, a set amount of it will also be restored. While an interesting idea, it is again foiled by its own execution. The only time using Concentration Mode is prudent is when Samus is alone, so a particularly tough boss or a small group of enemies will thwart your attempts to recharge and stay alive every time.
The game is unflinchingly linear with minimal backtracking, which means that the exploration and discovery elements that the Metroid series has been celebrated for have gone out the window. In its place is a game-long hallway sequence where Samus is not only told where to go, but doors randomly close and lock behind her just to keep the player moving forward on a predetermined path. These moments tended to tear me from the experience and remind me that I was playing a game, because this game just does not know how to direct its players with any skill, nuance or subtlety.
Sure, there are some missile expansions and energy tanks to be found throughout the journey, but the real sense of discovery has always come from those moments when players would find those super special items that would increase Samus's abilities. Other M proudly denies you this discovery though a very hamfisted and nonsensical story mechanic: Instead of Samus fighting her way through dark caverns and finding the power up she needs, thereby rewarding the player's tenacity, she is randomly powered down because she must be given authorization to use abilities that she started the game with. To add to the insult, this even includes her defensive capabilities, like the Varia Suit, and travel capabilities like the Space Jump and Grapple Beam.
There are a couple of new upgrades in the game that have not been seen in any other title, however. Accel Charges can be gathered to allow Samus's Charge Beam to rev up more quickly, which can help players in firing more missiles. The second is the Diffusion Beam, which can cause a charged shot to explode upon impact, giving the Charge Beam something of a shotgun effect. Its radius is very small though, so expect to shoot at groups of enemies with it and see very few of them affected by the shot.
On the platforming side, it's a crapshoot most of the time when you guide Samus between platforms. There isn't a single environment in the game where she is given a drop shadow. Yes, the game's graphical abilities do allow for shadows to be cast, but they're directional shadows projected by light sources, and not a drop shadow to help you aim your jumps. At the beginning of the game, I thought that a drop shadow would have been helpful. By the end of the game, it would have been a godsend. It could be argued that you could use the first person view to align Samus between jumps, but that's not always an option in the faster paced segments, and the design should really be streamlined to allow the player to line up their jumps on the fly, rather than having to halt their progress to go into first person mode.
Upon completion, there are a few unlockables. There is a theater mode, which allows players to view the game's various cutscenes, including an option to view them all together as a movie. There's a gallery mode, where 96 pictures of concept art can be viewed. Finally, finishing the game with 100% of the items collected locks Hard Mode, where there are no missile expansions or energy tanks, meaning the player will be relying exclusively on Concentration Mode. We know what I think of Concentration Mode.
The reward for completing Hard Mode? Nothing.
Metroid: Other M tells the story of Samus Aran, who runs around on a space station, does a bunch of stuff, and then leaves. Oh, and Adam Malkovich is there. In order to give you a clear idea of my problems in relation to the story portion of the game, I will present it here in its entirety, adding commentary when necessary.
She's Not Bionic, She's A Robot
The opening scene starts out in rather cryptic fashion. We are shown a field of debris, likely the remains of a space station, as it gets pelted by a passing asteroid shower. The shot then fades to an image of a child in the womb, probably Samus. Then, we suddenly see Samus in the present, opening her eyes behind her Power Suit visor.
I'm absolutely baffled as to what this is supposed to communicate. It's never elaborated upon, and its importance is never mentioned. In fact, this sequence is never even referred to again. What's really strange is how Samus has a full head of hair that seems quite long for an unborn child, probably to show us idiots that it is indeed Samus.
The final battle of Super Metroid is then rendered in an astonishing CGI cutscene. Samus, believing that Mother Brain has delivered its finishing blow, opens her eyes to find that the Metroid hatchling from the second game has protected her, and is restoring her energy. Mother Brain then blasts the hatchling - which Samus calls "the baby" - and kills it.
The thing that sticks in my craw here is that it undermines the genius of the storytelling in Super Metroid. The great thing about the scenes in the SNES classic is that they were all told in visuals. With two-dimensional sprites, no less. Sure, there's text at the beginning from Samus's point of view, but it's only meant to bring new players up to speed, as well as to remind veterans of what Samus has done thus far, to help them reconnect with the game's universe as well as set up the conflict. Recreating the final scene as a CGI movie is admirable, and I'm sure it took a lot of work, but what it does with dialogue, orchestrated music and expensive CG pales in comparison to what Super Metroid did with visuals played out by 2D sprites within the restrictions of 16 bit hardware from 1994.
For one thing, the player has control of Samus throughout the entirety of Super Metroid. So, the player isn't just guiding Samus around, the player has become Samus. Even in moments where story and action bits are played out2, the player has full control of the main character. The only exception is in this scene of the game, where Mother Brain has blasted Samus's health down to a sliver3, and the baby Metroid - mutated from Space Pirate experiments unknown - jumps to her rescue. This moment also manages to redeem the Metroid hatchling, as it attacked Samus in a blind rage only minutes earlier.
Quite honestly, I think it's a very interesting and unique hallmark for the Metroid series to stick to all visual storytelling. It worked like gangbusters in Super Metroid, and was spectacular in the Prime games.
So anyway, Samus charges up her Hyper Beam and blasts the camera after saying a very awkward action line4. She then awakes on a table in some space installation where she summarizes some stuff:
A dream- I had been reliving the tragic moments of my recent past. Thanks to the Hyper Beam, which was given to me somehow by the baby, I laid Mother Brain to waste. And the explosion that followed destroyed Planet Zebes, along with the remains of Mother Brain, the Space Pirates, and my long-standing nemesis, Ridley. And the baby…
Then there's a tutorial. Afterwards, a scientist mentions that he polished Samus's suit for her impending meeting with some council, which is actually important for later. Samus drones on:
Not even a fragment… None of the baby remained on me. I knew it to be true but still couldn't help looking at my palm for a sign. Never again would I encounter the baby. Never. The finality of it struck me once again.
It has yet to strike me since she's just kind of standing there, and never really acting in a way that shows me how she feels.
Samus then gives her report to some Galactic Federation folks about how her mission back in Metroid II succeeded. Didn't she have time to do this between the second and third games? Anyway, she then flies off into space and tells us more stuff that we apparently really need to know:
I don't know how much time passed since then. Days went by in their quiet way, and people's recollections of Metroids and Space Pirates grew nebulous over time, relegated to a past concern of the galactic communities… Nothing more than a faded memory.
Most importantly, we are not treated to anything that shows what life is like for Samus between missions. You know, those moments where she's normal, human and relatable. Those things that help an audience connect to a protagonist on an emotional level. Well, unless her life is just flying around in space for ages until someone gives her a ring. Speaking of which, Samus then gets a distress call:
Code name: "Baby's Cry." A common SOS with the urgency of a baby crying… The nickname comes from the fact that the purpose of the signal is to draw attention. The signal was coming from a remote part of space. I altered the course of my ship as if this detour had already been part of my flight plan. Baby's Cry… It was as though it was crying specifically for me…
Boy, it's a good thing this information was included. Otherwise, very important plot points would have been missed!
The point of including these monologues is to give a sense of how the developers of Other M chose to tell their story. They obviously meant to present a tale that connected the audience to Samus's emotions, but the way they go about it - by presenting all of Samus's thoughts via inner monologues - sabotages that very effort. There's been no reason to feel with Samus so far. Like, at all. At no point so far have we seen Samus shedding tears, banging her hand on consoles with frustration, or even clenching a fist in anger. She's just telling us she's sad, and we're expected to feel for her based on that.
Monologues can work effectively as a stoytelling tool, but this game needs to stop telling us how she feels and start showing us how she feels. Of course, that would have required that the voice acting be competent, since the character would have needed some emotional range, but, no. Instead, Samus can just tell us how she feels because apparently, the people on the development team think we're all idiots.
Also, these early quotes are included to give you a sense of how this game beats the whole "Mother/ Baby" theme into your head with all the subtlety of a German blitzkrieg. Even the acronym for the game spells out "MOM". And where was the signal coming from? A space station that is called the "Bottle Ship". Yes, that's right. The Bottle Ship. They actually were that shameless.
So, Samus lands on the USS Baby's Bottle and sees another ship docked nearby with the Galactic Federation emblem on it. Alerted by a series of explosions from further within, she proceeds through some areas that function as a better tutorial than the first one did. Then, she runs into some soldiers that she knows from the Galactic Federation Army, commanded by Adam Malkovich. She tells us that Adam was her CO and trusted confidant, then shows us a flashback where she narrates over some visuals showing her fighting alongside solders:
Yes. There was a time when I was enrolled in the Galactic Federation Army. And then I… well, I was young and inexperienced. As the result of a certain incident, I left Adam's command and set off on my path as a solitary bounty hunter.
Adam asks what she's doing there, and instead of giving us some conversation to flesh out their relationship and give some depth to their characters, Samus simply drones on in her head:
The first words out of his mouth were typical, coming from Adam. To answer his question, I recounted the details of what had brought me to this place, and then I asked what circumstances led the Federation here.
Adam says, "That information is not for an outsider."
The word he so obviously chose, "outsider," pierced my heart.
I'm going to be ranting about this a lot. Instead of showing any pain on Samus's part through a physical reaction, we only ever get her dull inner commentary. This whole scene could have been done in a quarter of the time, and all they'd have ever needed was to show some expression in Samus's eyes. Don't tell us that his words pierced your heart Samus, show me your heart being pierced.
So anyway, the soldiers try to blow open a barred door, but the explosives don't work. The lock apparently won't disengage with the power out, even though lights, gravity, some doors and life support are functioning. One of the soldiers comments that they need an explosion that's focused on a smaller area for some reason, so Samus blows the lock off the door with a missile. The soldiers storm forward, and Samus decides, despite lack of authorization from Adam that she inexplicably needs, to stay on the station, "for the sake of the others". What?
Samus follows the soldiers and finds them studying a corpse on the floor. Meanwhile, something is watching them from the shadows. A bug crawls out from under the corpse, and one of the soldiers goes nuts shooting it to pieces for some reason. Samus elucidates the situation with more inner monologue:
It was obvious that there was some pervasive danger throughout the facility. I didn't know what had brought Adam here, but I did know that cooperation was imperative if we were to restore safety.
Then she begins to say exactly that to Adam. But, she's interrupted when swarms of insects start to emerge from the walls. The plucky humans are then attacked by a giant monster that commands the bugs, or is formed from them, or something like that. During the fight, Adam tells his soldiers to use freeze guns, then tells Samus that she's allowed to use her missiles, despite the fact that she just did, and has no reason to either need authorization, or to restrain from using them in the first place. When the battle finishes, Adam says, "Samus. Looks like I'm going to need to ask for your cooperation on this mission. But. I'm also going to have to ask that you follow my commands. You don't move unless I say so. And you don't fire until I say so."
Samus then launches into another lengthy monologue about really important stuff:
The thumbs up sign had been used by the Galactic Federation for ages. Me, I was known for giving the thumbs down during briefing. I had my reasons, though. Commander Adam Malkovich was normally cool and not one to joke around. But he would end all his mission briefings by saying, "any objections, Lady?" He was joking.
I thought he wasn't one to joke around.
But others weren't. At the time, I felt surrounded by people who treated my like a child, or used kid gloves because I was a woman. And yet with Adam, I was grateful for the nod.
Why does Adam get a pass? Is she in love with him or something? Also, why weren't others joking if they called her "Lady"?
My past has left me with an uneasy soul. And as a result, it touched me on some level that Adam would acknowledge that past by calling me something delicate, like "Lady". And I knew more than anyone that every word from Adam was deliberate.
Uh… what? This is getting creepy.
My thumbs down was a twofold response. A sign of derision at being called a lady, and a signal of my complete understanding of the mission orders.
The other soldiers were always willing to support me with easy smiles despite the fact that I clearly had so much yet to learn.
But I thought they were joking at Samus's expense when they called her "Lady". But yeah, you definitely don't want to support those new soldiers and teach them anything. I know I'd rather leave noobs for dead than tell them something that could save their life one day.
Among them was Anthony. In the face of his well-meaning behavior, and that of the other soldiers, my response was to become increasingly bitter. I was a child. Always with something to prove. A chip on my shoulder.
I get it already. You were angry.
And I was angry.
I felt that if I let my guard down, I would easily be broken. And beyond that, I was scared.
SO. MUCH. TELLING.
But even in the naivete of my youth, I could see in Adam's joking manner how close he felt to me.
It's in Adam's manner to joke now? He feels close to her? It's only fifteen minutes into the game, and it's already sprinted a hundred yards into creep territory.
Adam knows my past. And he knows me better than anyone else.
Oh, Dear God. What a cheap and ineffective way to connect us to Samus on an emotional level.
Because I was so young when I lost both my parents, there's no question I saw Adam as a father figure. When I rebelled against him, I knew I could get away with it. And his paternal compassion in the face of my rebellion reinforced the special bond I felt with him.
The hell is she talking about? Doesn't rebellion in the military get someone punished, no matter who they are? It doesn't say good things about Adam's ability to command if he'll let you get away with being insubordinate just because he likes you.
I understood well that chances were slim that I would ever find anyone that understood me like Adam. And yet, when the time came, I still left his side. I was so young. Young and naive…
Bloody, creepy hell.
Back in the present, Adam has somehow gotten to a control console in a room overlooking everyone else. He gives a mission briefing. Instead of leaving and coming back with a bigger force, he's decided to send his five soldiers and bounty hunter into the dark and damaged Bottle Ship to find any survivors. He says that communications are useless thanks to some interference, and will be limited to the ship's navigation booths. Being such a brilliant tactition, he sends his soldiers - Lyle, Maurice, Anthony, James and KG - off on their own to complete tasks in different sections of the ship. He then tells Samus to go get the power up and running. He lets her know that he will keep in communication with her, because her comms are apparently unaffected by the interference. Also, he even has a realtime video feed from her helmet without her knowing, or her permission. Can just anyone break into her suit and see what she's doing? How have the Space Pirates not completely hacked her helmet cam and used it to destroy her?
He then authorizes his soldiers to use freeze guns. Woohoo. This brings up a question, though. Is it standard practice for the Galactic Federation to restrict use of equipment and weaponry until the CO says it's okay? I could see it being important for situations where civilians might be involved, but all Adam knows so far is that they're on a large empty ship, and were just attacked by a huge mutant thing. Who knows what other dangers lurk in the darkness of the Baby's Bottle? Wouldn't he allow each soldier to use their best judgement and rely on their expertise to carry out the mission?
Anyway, Adam decides that Samus is allowed to use Morph Ball bombs, and will authorize other stuff as he sees fit while the investigation progresses, because he doesn't want Samus to be at peak efficiency while she works for him. He tells her however, that under no circumstances will she be allowed to use Power Bombs, since they vaporize living stuff with a massive heat wave. After he puts her to task, Samus thinks:
It was the first joint mission I'd been a part of since becoming a freelance bounty hunter. And, of course, it was the first time since my Federation days that I was following the orders of a commanding officer. Having received mission orders from Adam, I felt confused and strangely exhilarated at the unexpected turn of events. I responded…
"Understood, Adam. No objections, of course."
Atta girl, Samus! That's an independent bounty hunter right there!
Also, she worked in a joint mission during Metroid Prime 3 when she led the Federation to war. But then again, the people involved with Other M apparently wanted to kick the Prime series out of the Metroid canon and timeline. Kick three great games out of the timeline, or kick one terrible game out of it? You decide.
And, of course, more telling monologue. She never acted confused or exhilirated, but at least she told us that she felt that way! For that matter though, why is that what she feels? From everything that's happened so far, there's been nothing to be confused or exhilirated about. Her orders from Adam were pretty clear, and Samus is never shown to be the type who gets a thrill from playing detective.
The Mystery Happens
After Samus gets the power up and running, Adam sends her to Sector 15. During her travels, she finds a corpse lying in a specimen cage.
The large cage-like booth looked like something had been raised in it.
Holy hell, this is an awkward sentence. "Cage-like booth"?
And in one corner was the miserable form of a reasearcher's corpse.
It's actually in the middle of the room, and Samus sees it upon walking in. Argh.
This victim hadn't sustained the same injuries. The dead I'd seen had been torn apart by something large. This one had been attacked by a different type of creature. And as I studied the violence this creature had wrought, I felt something in the air, the presence of a dark intelligence.
Break out the Phil Collins drum fill.
Samus moves onward and sees a small white critter playing with a piece of fruit, chittering and squeaking as it tumbles in the grass. She is spurred on to her next destination when Adam unlocks a door for her. Before running onward, she senses something behind her and looks to see the little critter staring at her. Scary!
Finding her way into a structure dominated by plants, Samus encounters an enormous queen, uh… insect of some kind. After a fight that helps highlight how terrible the aiming mechanics are, she destroys the queen and its hive. In the quiet aftermath, she notices the little white creature from before munching on some honey leaking from the shattered honeycombs.
Some creatures use the powers of others to capture their prey. Watching this disgusting beast, I felt as though it was feeding off my power as well. At the same time, a thought crossed my mind. That howl I heard earlier… Could this creature have been the source?
A little fuzzy critter with an echoing howl that reverberates throughout the Baby's Bottle? Seems unlikely to me. The interesting thing to note is that there is no howling before this point in the Theater Mode, and I can't remember if it occurs at all during gameplay. I'm not going back in there.
Anyway, Adam interrupts Samus's thoughts and tells her to progress to the Biosphere Test Area in Sector 1 to meet up with everyone else.
Do Zebesians still come from Zebes?
Samus marches on and finds herself in a simulated environment. A tall building called the Exam Center stands before her. Inside, she meets up with James and Anthony, though Lyle is missing. While Maurice tries to recover information from a computer with a destroyed CPU6, Anthony suggests that everyone else search the building. He points out that the simulated environment outside looks like the training grounds from Galactic Federation HQ. Apparently, Galactic Federation troops train on some unassuming plain with trees and hills, rather than a facility specifically geared towards training soldiers.
The player is then made to walk Samus really slowly through a long series of rooms, with the camera looking over her shoulder the entire way. The long, excrutiating sequence finally ends when a cybernetic Space Pirate comes out of a storage unit!
Samus sees the emblem of the Galactic Federation on its armor after it simply flops to the floor in a heap. She asks Adam what it's about, but he's clueless. Maurice then gets some info out of the computer without having to replace any CPUs, because the main computer system is separated into parts, which apparently means something.
The computer tells everyone that the Baby's Bottle is run by the Galactic Federation for the purpose of raising creatures in their different native environments as bioweapons. The whole thing is managed by a Dr. Madeline Bergman. Samus asks Adam about it, and while he agrees that what's going on is illegal, he is just as clueless as Samus is. Samus then tells us:
I didn't need to press Adam about it any further. I knew his mind. Not only was he a strong opponent of bioweapons, he was against the use of living things for unnecessary reasons, period.
So, what's a necessary reason in Adam's mind?
Life. No matter what form it takes as it's born into this cruel universe, should not be tampered with. That was Adam's philosophy.
That line would have been a pretty good insight into Samus's character. At least, until the "Adam's philosophy" bit. She really likes to talk about Adam at the expense of her own character exposition, doesn't she?
In bringing the infant Metroid back, I did something that I know would have gone against his convictions. And, though I might have been left alone, it was a clear and blatant violation of protocol. I wondered what he thought of me. Out of nowhere, I suddenly found myself concerned with his opinion again.
Trust me, Samus. It's becoming clear that you never stopped being concerned with his approval.
Maurice says that he's almost got all the data, but the security is pretty advanced. He tells James to break through it if he can't. Why can't Maurice, their tech guy, break through the computer's security in the first place? The best part is that James undermines the whole "tough security" idea when he simply says that it shouldn't be a problem to hack into the system, even if it might take some time. Pick an idea and stick with it, or make James your tech guy.
Anthony orders everyone to search for any sign of Madeline Bergman. Samus gets to repeat her very slow walk all the way down the horrendously long path to where she found the Space Pirate. Just as she tries to get to an elevator, she's attacked by a bunch of them that were alive! The door locks, seperating her from her comrades, but she destroys her attackers.
What makes this really great is how Samus stops everyone from coming into the room to help her out for no reason. Then, Adam calls over the comms and orders Samus to destroy all enemy targets before locking the door. This is seriously the kind of person Adam is?
After defeating the Space Pirates that they keep referring to as Zebesians, Samus hears an explosion outside the building and sees the soldiers fighting against a giant purple creature. Samus dashes to the rescue and, in a moment befitting an experienced bounty hunter, doesn't anticipate the enormous beast jumping her from behind. After a sequence that's stupidly difficult thanks to broken aiming mechanics, one of the soldiers blasts the monster off of Samus with a plasma rifle, causing it to knock a hole through a holographic bulkhead and retreat. After fighting off the rest of the monsters, the soldiers find Lyle's corpse.
The soldiers stand around the body, wondering what happened to him. After spotting a puddle of green goo on the grassy ground, Samus follows a trail to the body of the little white critter, having been left behind as an empty shell. Adam orders her to follow the monster that just attacked into Sector 3, despite the fact that Samus is clearly incapable of defeating it. Samus then drops this knowledge bomb on us via more inner monologue:
It was clear that the Galactic Federatation was developing bioweapons on the Bottle Ship. I wonder if Adam came here knowing that. Regardless, I knew I had to talk to the person in charge, Madeline Bergman. Of course, she would have to be alive in order for me to do that.
So, her first sentence tells us what we already know. The second sentence uses incorrect tense, as she has thus far always summed up her thoughts on present events using past verbiage. Then the third tells us something we already know, followed by a fourth sentence that tells us what we already know. Great.
Don't Protect Yourself, We Need You To Die
Samus rides the elevator to Sector 3 as the Exam Center explodes and tumbles to the ground under mysterious circumstances that we'll never, ever find out. Sector 3 is a simulation of a high heat environment, complete with optional lava. Adam tells Samus to stick to places she can access with her current equipment, and says that he'll authorize other stuff if she needs it because he wants to keep her nice and submissive.
In times past, wandering into a superheated area that sapped away Samus's health discouraged the player from going there. They would be able to return to the area after discovering the Varia Suit and thus, more of the game would become open to them.
Not in Other M, though!
Samus, with Adam presumably watching through her helmet cam, ends up having to race through a series of superheated rooms, her health ticking away while enemies try to knock her into the surrounding river of molten rock. So, let me get this straight, and please correct me if I'm wrong. Adam is sitting in his control room, watching while Samus marches into an area that threatens to destroy her, and he doesn't tell her at any point, "hey, turn on your Varia Suit so you can survive this, dumbass." Somewhere in his twisted mind, he's sending Samus into deadly situations at her lowest potential, and he's okay with the idea that it could cost Samus her life. It's not until she's faced with a giant lava boss monster that he decides that she's allowed to use the Varia Suit.
Can I really, daddy? Are you sure you wouldn't just like to allow me to suffer a bit more? Wouldn't you rather keep Samus at her lowest power level? After all, you wouldn't want her to be at her best performance and efficiency, would you?
For her part, Samus is absolutely to blame in this too. Upon being faced with super hot death, she definitely should have just taken the initiative and activated the Varia Suit on her own, instead of waiting for Adam's authorization. After all, it's a defensive capability that not only allows her to traverse extreme environments, but also reduces damage taken from enemies. Why would Adam not allow her to use that from the start, and why wouldn't she tell Adam to stuff it and activate it herself anyway? Why is this part of their agreement, or a good idea on any level?
Gameplay-wise, it wouldn't have drastically changed anything. While it would have removed the dying of extreme ambient heat thing, the place is a massive field of lava that causes incredible damage on contact. Couple that with a slew of monsters that get in the way and knock Samus around, add some broken platforming and shooting mechanics, and you can have a halfway decent action sequence.
So anyway, Samus fights the boss lava monster with her newly authorized armor and wins the day. She is then herded on to Sector 2, which is largely an arctic simulation.
Clever Reference Is Not Clever
In Sector 2, Samus finds a bunch of bodies that show signs of Metroid predation, but notes that Metroids can't survive in cold climates. She also points out that Metroids are extinct, as the hatchl-… sorry, the "Baby" was the last of its kind.
During her search, Samus comes across the frozen corpse of Maurice lying in a snowdrift. She spots a young girl nearby who freaks out upon seeing Samus and runs away, despite Samus's assertions that she's there to help. Frightened that the Federation has sent someone to shut up potential survivors, the young girl says that she doesn't trust someone who works with troops who would kill each other, then runs off. Apparently, Maurice was killed with a freeze gun by another soldier, unless his body froze within a matter of minutes.
Samus gives chase and is attacked by Ellen Ripley, complete with Cargo Loading Rig Action. To Samus's surprise, Ripley is wearing a Galactic Federation uniform. Samus defeats the rig, and Ripley somehow gets away in the ensuing explosion. Samus thinks:
The woman believed that the Galactic Federation was sent to the Bottle Ship to keep those in the know from leaking information about the project. And no wonder- she'd been attacked by someone wearing a Galactic Federation Power Suit. And she implied that Maurice was killed by another soldier. Considering the mortal danger we'd survived together, I had to agree with her. There was a traitor among us.
Adam tells Samus that the howling they've been hearing7 has been making the creatures onboard more aggressive, which Samus will find out is patently untrue. He sends her back into Sector 3 and lets her use her Plasma Beam. To distract from the fact that the developers stupidly used elevators as loading zones, Samus goes into another long monologue:
With those creatures, crafted into killers, running free, the Bottle Ship had been turned into a nightmare replica of Zebes… and then here came Adam and the others. At this rate, the plan the Federation wanted to keep so secret would be revealed. So they sent in an assassin. Someone to wipe out any survivors as well as anyone who learned about the secret project.
This whole thing is confusing. So, the Galactic Federation started this project and wanted to keep it secret, so they sent a cadre of soldiers from outside the project to investigate, and also sent a traitor along to kill everyone?
In case there's doubt about Adam and Co. being with the Galactic Federation: they're dressed in GFed armor, and the ship they arrived in was the one that Samus saw just after she landed, which had the GFed insignia on it.
K.G., James, Anthony, and… Adam. Could one of them really be a traitor? Until I found out who it was, I decided to call the traitor the Deleter.
I'm not sure what the significance of that decision is supposed to be, but let's continue before my eyeballs start stabbing me in the face.
On top of everything, I started to think about that woman. Was she the one who sent the distress signal? And could she be the person in charge here: Madeline Bergman? Either way, I knew I had to protect her. She would be targeted again. And she wasn't the only one in danger. I, too, would be considered a threat here.
Despite the stupidity of how this monologue ends, it's here that Samus finally gets something of a personal stake in the situation and feels motivated to keep on keepin' on. Where before she was following orders, she now wants to find and protect Madeline Bergman. It's not spectacular, but it's at least something that speaks to her character.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Sector 3, the Deleter kills another soldier and dumps him into a pit of lava.
Why wouldn't the Deleter wait until the mission was successful, so as to increase their own odds of getting the hell out alive? The Bottle Ship is still crawling with nasty creatures that are apparently getting more and more aggressive. You'd think the killer would do something more simple, like set the Bottle Ship to self destruct and take off with the soldiers' only means of escape. Of course, there's still Samus, but if the Deleter finds a way to use the monsters to take her out, or at least keep her busy long enough, they're set for life. Maybe I'm overthinking it, or maybe my planning isn't very effective. But before you judge my planning as inferior, I'd like to point out that GFed could have avoided much of what's going to happen by sending in their own trusted agents, rather than assigning Adam's team to it for no reason other than to complicate things for themselves.
I should also note that the Theater Mode leaves out a moment where Samus is trapped in a cage composed of transparent barriers. It's not until this point that Adam authorizes Samus to use her Wave Beam, which allows her to fire through any kind of transparent material. I would theorize that it was left out due to being unimportant to the story, but that applies to so many moments that have occurred thus far that it's hard for that argument to hold water.
Grappling With The Past
Once Samus arrives back in Sector 3, Adam lets her use her Grapple Beam, a device whose main danger lies in its capability to allow Samus to travel places. Further, he only authorizes it when one of his soldiers, Anthony, is in dire peril. Samus grapples to Anthony and saves the day. She is left confused when he says that he was called by Adam to Sector 3, but no one else showed up. He tells Samus that he was sent to the geothermal power plant (do space stations have those?) to restore power, even though there's lots of light and electricity flowing throughout the entire sector. Then, through the natural flow of the conversation thus far, he asks Samus how she feels about Adam.
We are then taken into a flashback that is, surprisingly, monologue light. Samus is standing on the bridge of a ship with Adam, because she apparently ranks high enough as a soldier to stand on the bridge with her commanding officer. Well either that, or the Federation allows commanding officers to designate their favorite subordinates as arm candy in their major command centers. Adam is commanding a ship that's towing another vessel, whose drive core is going critical. Adam gives the order to disengage the other ship, despite the fact that his brother Ian - who we have never seen up until now, and whose importance is not apparent to us - is in the core trying to solve the problem. Samus, knowing she can reach Ian in time, pleads with Adam to give her the order to get his brother. He never does, and the vessel dumps the drive unit, which explodes in a fiery ball of death. Presumably, though it's never said, this is the incident that led to Samus leaving Adam's command.
In the present, Samus says to Anthony, "I was childish. No one should have to make the choice that Adam did, and yet all I could do was question his authority and make things more difficult."
Damn it, woman! Stay in your place! Seriously though, did she really question his authority here? Whether or not she could have succeeded, she didn't seem to make things much more difficult, seeing as how Adam stuck to his guns, no matter how hard she begged.
This raises another question. The opening scenes show that Adam is a platoon commander. Yet, in this scene, he's commanding a vessel and his uniform doesn't even change. Do commanding officers often switch between army and naval-style command posts? It could be said that it's how it works in the Galactic Federation, but I always thought that commanding foot soldiers required a skill set that's markedly different from directing battleships.
Anthony starts to ask Samus a question, but stops halfway through. Again, Samus tells us stuff so we don't have to think for our idiotic selves:
I knew the question Anthony was suppressing. And I knew the answer. If something like that happened again, I would hold fast to that glimmer of hope and try for redemption. That's who I am.
Samus marches ever forward, and is attacked by another lava monster. She uses her newly allowed grapple beam to drag the creature out of the lava and shoot its big, purple… belly. What? What did you think I was going to say?
During her search, Samus finds the empty remains of the thing that attacked her with its tail. It too sits there, an empty shell on the wall. She continues on.
In the power plant, which is a round platform with a moat of lava below, Samus meets up with Anthony shortly before all the doors lock and trap them inside. What's more, some mysterious creature flies through the darkness, assaulting Samus with fireballs. Anthony proposes tearing the place apart with his plasma gun, but Samus tells him to save his charge. Adam calls, having decided that Samus is allowed to user her Super Missiles. She blasts a hole through a bulkhead, causing lava to pour in and illuminate the room. Before she can leave, she's attacked by the ultimate form of the creature that has been shedding its skin: Ridley. Holy hell, this boy grows up fast.
So, here it is. The Infamous SceneTM.
Ridley roars and stomps across the platform. Samus flashes back to her childhood self8, and the scene even doubles down on this imagery by showing us Ridley as he advances on Samus in her child form. She raises her arm cannon, but doesn't fire. As Adam screams into his communicator in an effort to bring her around, Samus cowers before Ridley in a pile of anxious, broken trauma. Ridley scoops Samus up off the platform, causing her Power Suit to destabilize. Anthony leaps into action in order to save the powerless female and gets thrown into the surrounding magma pool for his efforts. Samus tells us:
I wondered if Anthony was conscious as he hit bottom… Unbearable thoughts welled up in me, making me want to get as far away as I could. I regretted not being able to protect him… and I regretted thinking, even for a moment, that he would betray me or fail to come to my aid at the expense of his own safety.
Against a remix of the boss fight music from Super Metroid because cheap nostalgia, Samus fights Ridley and bests him yet again. He knocks a hole through a bulkhead and retreats.
So. Here we go.
As has been argued by many before me, Samus has faced Ridley a bunch of times before this, and was never held back by any kind of trauma. She first encountered Ridley on Zebes during the events of Metroid, and again in Super Metroid. If you're going by the continuity that doesn't involve kicking out the rather excellent Prime series, she even faced Meta Ridley and won. So, that leaves one burning question: Why is this trauma from her past, that is never elaborated upon in the game, affecting her now? What did the trauma stem from in the first place? Beyond a line of monologue at the beginning that calls Ridley her "long-standing nemesis", and a mention that she lost her parents when she was young, there is no build up or precedence to Samus dealing with any kind of trauma from her childhood regarding him. And even then, the dialogue lines in question don't contribute to this scene being a payoff of any kind. All we know is that Ridley was a prime enemy of hers, which players already know going in if they've played any of the previous games.
My best conjecture is that her reaction comes from an idea in the Super Metroid comics that ran in issues of Nintendo Power around the time of Super Metroid's North American release, combined with (as far as I know so please correct me if I'm wrong) a manga from Japan that was never released in any other region9.
So, not only does this attempt at making Samus a deeper character fail in terms of continuity, it also requires the player to consult sources outside the game, one of which is only available in one country, in one language. The problem with this is that the information should be made apparent within the game. We shouldn't have to read books and theories online to fill in the blanks, the blanks should already be filled in. Especially when it's for a plot point that's this important.
Samus's reaction is meant to be emotional, which flies in the face of my earlier Deus Ex theory. In this scene, Samus is meant to be having a breakdown while her friend dies, so it also hangs a dusty, torn lampshade on the fact that her voice actress is woefully underperforming throughout the entire game, and has a terribly limited emotional range. She may have been trying to sound sad and despondant in the wake of the death of the Metroid hatchling, but she just ends up sounding bored and awkward. She screams "it can't be!" well enough in the scene, but it ends up not working because this incident is so incongruent with the entire rest of the Metroid series.
Samus notices that Adam isn't talking to her anymore10. She figures that the Deleter has gone after him, since he would inexplicably be the biggest threat. But, she figures, he's Adam Malkovich. He's military. He hasn't got time to die.
Taking An Infodump
When Samus returns to the main deck of the Baby's Bottle, she catches sight of a soldier marching off somewhere. She follows the soldier through Sector 1 until she's stopped when the suspect disables a bridge, leaving behind a destroyed control panel. Without Adam to oppress her, Samus makes an actual decision for once and activates her Space Jump and Screw Attack, just to make the Varia incident earlier that much more of a slap in the face.
Samus tries random passwords on a computer, hoping it will gain her access to the system. She is interrupted when the young girl she found earlier walks in. The girl immediately exits and locks the door behind her, but finally listens to Samus's assertions that she's there to help. The girl steps out from behind the door and introduces herself as Madeline Bergman.
Madeline tells Samus that the Federation was trying to create a special forces unit composed of bioweapons, which we already know. In order to make it happen, they decided to create an organization similar to that of the Space Pirates, because that apparently worked wonders all those times a single bounty hunter in a super powered suit brought them down. Madeline tells Samus that, thanks to a "certain presence", they lost control of the creatures throughout the facility. Samus tells us via monologue that Madeline must have meant Ridley, even though he would have been in his infant form at the time. Madeline goes on to say that she knew that sending out the distress call would have endangered her life, but that she had to, due to the increasing danger that the cloned Zebesians would become Space Pirates.
Samus then thinks a whole bunch of stuff that she should be saying to Madeline:
If that danger was real, then the risk of withholding information to protect herself was too great, clearly.
I'm not entirely sure how sending out the distress call is more of a danger to her life than staying on board the Bottle Ship doing nothing, but whatever.
And yet… Wasn't she the one who set the facility's system to self-destruct?
If you're talking about the CPU Samus, the self-destruct does nothing. Nothing else has even tried to self-destruct so far.
In silence I praised her courage and sense of responsibility.
I have trouble believing that a scientist at the head of a bioweapons program is at all responsible, but maybe it's a subjective thing. Maybe she means Madeline is taking responsibility for her actions as a researcher on the project by calling GFed? This sentence feels like it was translated a bit awkwardly.
At the same time, her argument had some holes. Say that the Zebesians, under Ridley's influence, became super aggressive… Would that really lead to the resurrection of the Space Pirates?
Seeing as how Ridley led them into becoming Space Pirates three times before, I would conjecture to say that yes, he would do it again.
Without a malicious force to lead them down that path, wouldn't they continue to merely follow their instincts, ultimately becoming no more than a swarm of feral creatures?
Hell if I know. Why couldn't they be guided into intelligence by a benevolent force? Why aren't you asking Madeline this? And what's the point of this line of thought anyway?
Regardless, it was clear that the Galactic Federation was ready to consign their enormous mistake to oblivion. And that's why they sent a Deleter. And as for Madeline and the others who knew the secret? But wait- there was another inconsistency in her story… Why go to such lengths at all? With just a small flexing of the Galactic Federation's military force, they should have been able to destroy a facility of this scope with ease. So why didn't they…?
Her questions at the end of her thoughts here contradict what she knows so far: That the Galactic Federation spearheaded the whole Baby Bottle Ship thing. As such, she should be thinking that GFed didn't destroy it because it has all of their bioweapons on it. Also, if GFed was ready to scuttle the whole project, why would they need to send Adam at all, let alone the Deleter?
A lot of Samus's questions about the Space Pirates raise even more questions. Apparently, they need Ridley to organize them and make them all thinky and stuff. Has this ever been a known characteristic of the Space Pirates? Should they have been able to reconstruct Mother Brain and Ridley after the events of the first Metroid game? According to Samus's thoughts here, they should have just devolved into mindless insectoids without the ability to resurrect their leader, or develop a telepathic artificial intelligence like Mother Brain.
For that matter, why recreate Ridley or the Space Pirates at all? Wouldn't it have been deemed too dangerous to recreate a band of renegades and their leader, even as part of an experiment? Hell, Ridley was able to knock holes through bulkheads and escape with ease before he was even fully grown. He could have easily led a rebellion against everyone on his own, had they not all died before he could grow from an infant to an adult in a matter of hours.
God, this is sloppy. And my brain hurts more now.
Madeline reveals that they had an even more dangerous plan in place, and shows it to Samus: a Metroid weaponization program, because someone forgot that this isn't Metroid Fusion. What's more, this game wants to sabotage the idea that Samus would ever work with GFed again in Fusion. Samus is amazed and horrified that Metroids even exist, as the hatchling died before her eyes. Madeline explains that after the battle, Samus's suit was cleaned, and the charred fragments of the baby Metroid's cells were somehow11 cultivated and used to create more Metroids. Samus remembers the scientist from the beginning, who told Samus that he polished her suit for her. Oh, and they were also somehow able to clone Ridley. Either Samus had Ridley's cells on her too, or they got his remains from the planet Zebes after it exploded. They never really say. At any rate, Madeline says that no one believed the little white fuzzy critter was Ridley, at least until it attacked a researcher in its cage-like booth and escaped.
Madeline explains further. The scientists working on the project apparently needed something like Mother Brain to telepathically control the Metroids. So, the Bottle Ship scientists created their own AI and called it "MB". MB evolved as it communicated with the Metroids and became self-aware. Oops.
Mother Brain can control Metroids? This is something that's never touched on in any of the games, even at a subtle level. In every incarnation of Tourian, the population of enemies has only been Metroids, which would suggest that they tend to kill other lifeforms in the vicinity. If Mother Brain could control them on any level, Space Pirates would be in there with them, safely monitoring and studying the Metroids up close and personal. And this mind control thing definitely didn't work on the hatchling, given that it attacked both Samus and Mother Brain on its own.
That's when it became clear to me just why Madeline was so afraid of the Space Pirates' resurrection. It wasn't that her story had holes in it- through the holes were glimpses of the danger that was right before her eyes. If everything she said was true…
I'm confused as to what exactly her point is here. But in a story that's so far comprised of Samus trying to save any survivors, a plotline about a traitor amidst the space marines and even a Metroid Fusion ripoff, there's now also a concern about the Space Pirates getting back together. And, through all of this, Adam and Samus still have no relationship to speak of.
Madeline tells Samus that MB and the Metroids are being kept in an area called Sector Zero, which was apparently made to be like Tourian from previous games12. Samus then tells us what we already know because again, the developers of this game still think we're all stupid:
I began to see what the worst-case scenario would look like. The ultimate weapon, the Metroid, would be mass-produced, and as soon as an AI that could control them was developed, the plan to create a special-forces unit modeled after the Space Pirates was replaced. But as the AI called MB spun out of control, the facility became a place much like the planet Zebes. If the situation were left alone, galactic society would be put in peril. Even the ringleaders of the operation wanted to avoid that, but they still wanted the Metroids. And that's why… They decided to capture the Metroids contained in Sector Zero… and "delete" the rest of the facility, including the Space Pirates, Ridley, and everyone who knew the secret. But before the ringleaders could act, Adam appeared. Adam might have known or suspected the truth about the facility from the beginning. Regardless, since the ringleaders were members of the Galactic Federation, they could no longer act recklessly. And so a Deleter was installed as a member of Adam's team to destroy evidence and plan each subsequent move. But having me added on as a member must have disrupted the Galactic Federation's plans.
So, here's what Samus figures so far. Some people with GFed started the project on the Bottle Ship that would weaponize Metroids. They created an AI called MB to help them control the Metroids and also recreated the Space Pirates organization, including Ridley, for some reason. MB gained self-awareness as it communed with the Metroids and went out of control. So, they planned to save Sector Zero and blow up the rest of the facility. Just as they were about to, Adam and his team randomly happened by, followed by Samus. So, sometime after Adam's team landed, the heads of the Bottle Ship project - without knowing that Adam would be there in the first place - somehow planted an assassin to kill everyone on his team. And, Samus coming along has disrupted their plans.
I know, I found that incredibly confusing too. There's a little flash of brilliance here, though. While the inner monologue continues to be incredibly boring and poorly acted, this scene shows Samus reasoning through the mystery herself. The thing is that the previous paragraph shows how poor her sense of logic is.
This also leaves me with a couple of important questions. First, how and when did GFed plant the assassin? Samus's supposition makes it seem that the Deleter was planted after they landed, though it could be that it happened before they were sent on their mission to investigate the Bottle Ship. If so, why wouldn't she call Adam and ask why no one suspected the new guy who was assigned to the unit the day they were deployed? Also, how do the arrivals of Adam's team and Samus on the Bottle Ship throw a wrench into anyone's plans to scuttle the facility? The 'ringleaders' would only have a longer list of witnesses, and thus even more reasons to blow everything sky high sooner.
Samus tells Madeline to stay put while she goes to Sector Zero to destroy the Metroids and MB. She tells Madeline that Adam can look out for her. Madeline is surprised to know that Adam is commanding the rescue mission. Samus ignores that, tells Madeline to stay put again, and toddles off. After Samus leaves, a mysterious figure advances on Madeline, who turns to face the presence in a very calm fashion. A gunshot is heard, and the screen goes black.
Samus makes her way towards Sector Zero, and the game shows us just now that she saw Adam's name credited on the Metroid Weaponization program file. She's attacked by a giant TV monster that will look familiar to players who have completed Metroid Fusion, purely so the game can reference past material for the purposes of cheap nostalgia.
As Samus moves on, the Bottle Ship's thrusters activate, propelling it forward through space.
The camera goes into the slow walking over-the-shoulder thing as Samus enters the hall that leads to Sector Zero. After she walks several miles, a small form emerges from the darkness of the enormous hall. It's a baby Metroid, floating about Samus's head, bringing back memories of the Metroid hatchling she found at the end of the second game. Just as she's about to fire on the Metroid, she's shot from behind, which disables her Power Suit and leaves her lying on the floor in a daze. The little Metroid hovers above Samus, bares its fangs and prepares to devour her life energy. A second blast freezes it, sending it tumbling to the ground, where it shatters into large frozen chunks.
Samus wakes up sometime later, and looks straight into the eyes of her assailant: Adam Malkovich. Adam, in the presence of a ravenous and deadly Metroid, shot Samus in the back and disabled her. Then, while she laid on the ground in a daze, he watched until the Metroid's fangs were bared before shooting it and saving Samus from dying. Then he knelt over her and waited for her to wake up. Great job, hero.
Samus asks why he shot her, and he answers by talking about a completely different subject. He says that Sector Zero contains Metroids which can't be frozen. Samus points out that he was able to freeze the one that nearly ate her thanks to him, and he replies that it's probably because the little Metroid was still in the larval stage13. He points out that the Federation would not have used the Metroids as weapons, due to their weakness to cold.
Samus asks Adam why he's credited as the creator of the Metroid military program. He reveals that he wrote a report that spoke out against the idea, a report which was then used by a small group within the Federation as the basis to start up the program. So he knew after all! Sneaky! How did a report from a soldier railing against using Metroids as weapons become the basis for kickstarting the entire program? At most, all he could say is that he filed his report recommending against it, and they did it anyway.
Adam orders Samus to kill the remaining Metroids that can be frozen, and resolves to eject Sector Zero into space from the inside and destroy it, thereby eliminating any need for the whole unfreezable Metroid conflict. Samus pleads with him to let her go instead, much like on the bridge of the ship in the earlier flashback. He kills Samus's shot at redemption by marching through a large blast door and closing it behind him. Samus is still reeling from the two black eyes her daddy gave her, and can't reactivate her Power Suit. Unable to open the door, Samus gives him a thumbs down. Adam marches into Sector Zero, causes it to separate from the rest of the Bottle Ship, and causes it to explode.
This scene is rife with so much cheap and unearned emotion that the most rewarding part was knowing that Samus's abuser would never be able to hurt her again. Credit for the tears falling down Samus's face, though. It's the first time she shows any emotion or attachment to Adam. Too bad that it's too little too late, chiefly because there was never an indication at any point in the game that they had a relationship beyond being in the military together. But in order to cover up the sloppy writing, some sloppy writing is thrown in:
Adam vanished. My best friend, the person who understood me best… the closest thing to a father I had.
Samus has a terrible idea of what friendship and fatherhood are.
Thoughts swirled through my head- I couldn't come to grips with what had happened. Such a cruel way to say good-bye. I was the only one who witnessed Adam's last moment, and though it shook me, I was calmer than I usually am.
Please tell me these things, so I don't have to relate to Samus on an emotional level! I like being constantly separated from her experiences and reminded that I'm playing a game.
I think Adam granted me that eye-of-the-storm clarity- his final gift to me. There was no time for me to grieve his death. But there was time for me to say: Adam, thank you… Leave the rest to me.
What? I thought your head was just swirling with thoughts, leaving you unable to come to grips with what just happened.
The Pacing Of A Brain Damaged Howler Monkey
Samus moves onwards to the Bioweapons Research Center. As she traverses a long hallway, chunks of the station start coming apart for some reason, which exposes the hall to space. In order to further kill any sense of satisfying progression for the player, Samus once again regains the ability to think for herself and reactivates her Gravity Suit feature. However, unlike previous games, it's not a second suit upgrade that further reduces damage so much as it's a purple aura that surrounds her when gravity goes all wonky around her. Samus is able to escape the push of the venting air and run to safety. She then has to fight the Metroid Fusion boss again, only she's not hampered by its ability to mess with gravity this time. Dat progression, yo.
As Samus takes the elevator into the Bioweapons Research Center, Ridley is already there in a large bay, still nursing his wounds14. A huge presence lumbers into the room and pounces on the weakened alien.
Samus heads into the research center and explores the hallways and rooms that look just like the rest of the Bottle Ship, even though Madeline promised us earlier that it would look like Tourian. At least it has those rings from Tourian in a couple of hallways that players would have encountered in Metroid and Super Metroid. Along the way, she finds the corpse of James. Upon spotting an open door, Samus hurries ahead, coming upon a room covered in green goo. It's there that she sees the remains of Ridley, thereby robbing players of the chance to see Samus rise above her failure to act in the Infamous SceneTM, or of getting to finish him off themselves.
Making her way to a room called MW, Samus finds a second woman trapped in a cell. As is the MO of people working on the Bottle Ship, the woman reacts with fright and paranoia. She presses some buttons on a panel, which causes a nearby door to open. Instead of trying to reason with the woman, Samus investigates and finds the place littered with Metroid eggs, all of them hatched. She's interrupted by the thundering footsteps of something approaching her. It chases Samus into a larger room and reveals itself to be a Queen Metroid, the final boss of Metroid II! Yay for banking on nostalgia!
After an extended battle that is the best showcase in the game as to how broken the aiming mechanics are, Samus knocks out the Queen Metroid, but only for an instant. As it regroups, a voice comes over the intercom, indicating that the Bottle Ship will arrive in Galactic Federation space in thirty seconds. Samus stares at the Queen Metroid as she recalls her last moments with Anthony and Adam. Before she can fire the killing shot, she and the Queen are thrown across the bay as the Bottle Ship comes to a halt, thereby solving another conflict without player participation. Both Samus and the Queen come to, which initiates a sequence that can only end successfully by using Power Bombs in the Queen's stomach.
The major sticking point here is that, with seconds to go before Samus's health is drained completely, the player has to figure out on their own that they're supposed to use the Power Bombs, despite being told during the entire game that they will never be authorized, and never receiving a prompt during the battle that tells the player when or how to use them.
Afterwards, Samus gets the captive woman to stop soiling herself long enough to answer that her name is Madeline Bergman.
Samus is understandably confused, so the woman shows Samus her ID. To show off the game's bad pacing, Madeline dumps a bunch of info on Samus after the final boss battle.
Madeline informs Samus that the woman she met before was an android that houses the MB artificial intelligence. They built the AI to control the Space Pirates and the Metroids, and gave her a physical form so the Metroids would imprint upon her as their mother. They then planned to use the mother/ child relationship developed from that as a basis to weaponize the Metroids. Samus interrupts:
I remembered the baby hatching before my eyes. When it attacked Mother Brain in order to save me- that was the result of the kind of ideal relationsip they were trying to develop with MB. They found the perfect means of control and started propagating Metroids in Sector Zero. At the same time, they were conducting genetic-manipulation experiments to create unfreezable Metroids. Apparently the queen I met earlier was the first of these propagated Metroids to mature. They wanted to preserve her as a control specimen, so they had left her genes unaltered. The fact that she'd grown into a queen was something not even Madeline and her team could have predicted. Only special infants had the genetic coding to become queens.
Samus was super lucky to have encountered the control specimen. I guess the other one was in Sector Zero? And "special infants"? Why wouldn't all Metroids have the ability to become queens? And who knows this? For that matter, why does Samus know it? I'm guessing that the significance is supposed to be that the hatchling was one of the 'special' ones, but it's a loose implication at best, and isn't so much as mentioned again.
Madeline continues. MB apparently excelled as a humanoid, being able to interface between people and computers simultaneously. But, MB started to develop her own emotions and awareness, often objecting to the ideas and theories of the people around her. MB is also apparently the first instance of an AI developing emotions, which is a HUGE discovery with the end credits looming so near.
Samus conjectures that MB developed a soul upon bonding with the first cloned Metroid. Madeline says that they decided to alter her program, in order to stunt the growth of her emotions. Because they wanted to make the process as much of a problem as they could, they had soldiers seize MB and try to haul her to wherever they were going to alter her. Madeline watched as MB was hauled away, unable to do anything.
In another masterful display of pacing and beating the player's face in with the game's theme, Samus goes back in time during Madeline's story to tell us:
Madeline had taken to calling MB "Melissa." She took the initials MB and told the AI they stood for Melissa Bergman. MB liked that name- it made it sound like Madeline was calling her her daughter. Once she felt abandoned and hunted by that same Madeline, MB telepathically commanded the special forces to revolt. The facility fell into complete chaos and suffered widespread damage.
Surely, the player was also supposed to connect the name "Mother Brain" to that.
Madeline says that Melissa plans revenge on the Galactic Federation. Her motivation so far seems to be that Madeline didn't come running when Melissa was scared.
Samus drones on, doing monologue that should be Madeline's character building dialogue:
With the Space Pirates under her control, she was able to propagate the Metroids in Sector Zero, even creating a Queen Metroid. She was well armed and planning her attack on the Galactic Federation. But Adam and I crushed her plan completely.
A Bunch More Stuff That Happens After The End
Melissa suddenly appears behind Madeline and Samus. Madeline stops Samus from firing and tries to make peace, but Melissa will have none of it. Then, a bunch of Galactic Federation soldiers crash the party in an effort to capture Melissa and Madeline, aiming their guns at Samus. Things get even more crowded when Melissa locks the doors and sics a swarm of monsters on everybody.
A quick and obtuse gameplay sequence begins, where the player has to figure out without any visual cues that they need to aim at Melissa, who is hidden behind swarms of attacking creatures. Once they do, they don't get to shoot. Instead, Madeline freezes Melissa, then some Galactic Federation soldiers that have just appeared fire rounds at the frozen android, shattering her into pieces. Satisfying gameplay, folks.
When the creatures are dispatched, some old Federation Army General saunters in and tells Samus that she did well and can leave the rest to him. Samus sees some troops arresting Madeline, and goes to help her. She's interrupted by the General, who drops some dialogue that makes it seem like he's going to be a new villain. He says, "Aran. Unfortunate, what happened to Commander Malkovich. And to think that his entire unit was annihilated… Truly a tragic day… Would you agree, Aran? Sadly, with [Adam and his team] gone, you're just an outsider. And given your unofficial status, I cannot allow you contact with the witness. With your predilection for transporting illegal cargo, like infant Metroids, I must ask that you restrict your-… Time for the lady to go home. Someone escort her!"
I'm guessing that the General's use of "outsider" was meant to be a callback to Adam's use of the word in the beginning, but it's just a guess since no attention is called to it. Also, Samus transporting the Metroid hatchling might have been illegal, but she immediately turned it over the Galactic Federation for study. Was it really that bad? Why did he stop in the middle of his own sentence near the end? It's like he got tired of throwing his own power around and wanted it all over with. I know I did.
One of the General's officers takes her arm, but it's Anthony! Somehow, he survived getting turned into molten soup. He points out that he was the one who stopped the Bottle Ship's engines and sent for the General and his men15. What does this surprise mean for the scene, besides the fact that this game is more about Samus's friendship with Anthony than anything to do with her and Adam? Well, it means that Samus and Anthony still have to leave, of course! Only, they get to take Madeline with them because Anthony is following Adam's orders, whose command is authorized via the Galactic Federation's chairman, which apparenty supercedes the General's prerogative.
In Samus's ship, Anthony marvels at how a weapon saved his life. Apparently, during his fall, his ice gun allowed him to freeze a lava creature, which somehow enabled him to escape molten death. Madeline, having fallen asleep in her chair, stirs a bit. Anthony decides that he should be quiet and let her rest. Zooming through space, Samus ruminates over the events on the Bottle Ship in a sequence that is very stunning and poetic visually, but comes off as boring and unearned because of how poorly the story has been told thus far, especially when it comes to the relationship between Samus and Adam:
Anthony was trying to be courteous to Madeline. She was exhausted and had only just fallen asleep. She needed the rest. She had a lot of explaining to do once she got to Galactic Federation headquarters. For herself and for Melissa.
Didn't need Samus to tell us about Anthony's attempt at courtesy, but at least the rest of it made some sense. It appears that Madeline plans to turn herself in for her actions, which she could have succeeded in doing if she'd allowed herself to be arrested just moments ago, and Anthony plans to, well, be Anthony.
Anthony sighed as he muttered to himself. What would have happened if we hadn't been called there? Might the furious MB have attacked the Galactic Federation and brought about its utter destruction?
Unlikely. Brilliant as she was, she would have been severely outmanned and outgunned. The Bottle Ship doesn't even have any armaments. Where would she have obtained any battle ships? "Hey guys, I'm going to single-handedly take on the entire Galactic Federation fleet. Wanna come with?"
Melissa wasn't insane, no… One day, a consciousness simply bloomed within her. And those that caused it to bloom- the humans- called it insanity. "I was the insane one." That was what Madeline muttered softly as she sank into sleep. Selfish conceits of humans drove MB to violence. It was their distorted perceptions and greed that awoke such fury in the fledgling girl's heart.
Actually, it was her getting pissed when her mommy didn't come running. They said this moments ago, and now Samus is ignoring it completely. In fact, she's also the first to mention insanity at all. One might call her actions insane, but it was anger that affected her choices, not insanity.
Her thought was to punish the foolish and conceited. But MB could not complete her mission. As Melissa, she was defeated.
Who else would she have been upon her defeat?
With their one vulnerability overcome, the Metroids were indestructible.
Mother Brain destroyed one, a huge one, without freezing it.
If some fool, just following orders, had taken the savage creatures to those who sought them… I can't imagine what would have happened if Adam hadn't recognized the looming danger.
Everyone who found out about the program recognized the looming danger. Why does Adam get special credit? Huh, I guess that question kind of answers itself.
But the cost was far too great. Why did Adam have to pay with his life? For me, I couldn't believe he was dead. For the first time, I questioned his choice.
Certainly not like that time Ian died. I also love how she just ignores the deaths of the entire rest of Adam's team.
At some building that presumably belongs to the Galactic Federation, Samus is standing in some uniform that isn't her Zero suit, her hair untied while she's still thinking. She remembers Adam saying, "no objections, right Lady?"
I heard Adam's voice in my head, and I knew in my heart that he had made the right decision, just as he had so many years ago. In that moment, I swore not to grieve his death. And for the first time, I gave him a thumbs-up, just in case he was watching over me.
Samus gives a thumbs up while doing her level best to pretend the gesture is at all meaningful or important. Anthony interrupts her with a thumbs down as a joke, and they share a friendly moment.
His amused expression looked as though he wanted to say something. His face and Adam's swirled together. That last smile as Adam drifted away…,
Not sure what exactly this is supposed to mean. Is Samus going to start creeping on Anthony now? Some weird transferrence thing? Also, did Adam smile during his last moments? Maybe the animation wasn't clear to me.
Anyway, Samus ties her hair into a ponytail, smiles one more time at the sky, then marches off somewhere. Roll hitlist. I mean, credits. Credits!
Something this scene does, in addition to the scenes like it that came before, is highlight the fact that Anthony should have been kicked out of the story completely and replaced with Adam. Anthony takes a lot more action in the story than Adam does, and is the only member of the GFed marines to have any kind of relationship with Samus. Anthony was the first to greet Samus when she arrived on the Bottle Ship, and he freed her from Ridley's grasp with his plasma rifle on two separate occasions. Hell, the two have a little heart to heart before Ridley even shows up in the power core. Then, she's spurred into action by Anthony's death. Further, it would have been more plausible that Adam would be out and about on the front lines with his squadmates, instead of sitting fully armored in a control room watching SamusTube.
In its current incarnation, the whole ending sequence would have been awesome as a sequence of visuals without dialogue. I'll definitely give it that much. In order to work though, it would have had to be preceded by a much more competent story that was capable of engaging its audience on an emotional level. As you can imagine, Samus's droning monologue is layered on top of this entire sequence, which just kills it completely. Also, the Deleter thing apparently got solved at some point. It was probably James, whose body Samus found just before meeting the Queen Metroid. My working theory is that KG is the one who got kicked into the lava river. But, none of that is ever explained or wrapped up, so they're just theories. Also, there didn't seem to be much of a purpose for Melissa's deception. There's no clear reason why she did it or what advantage it allowed her, especially given that Anthony's work behind the scenes threw a fleet of monkey wrenches into her plans anyway.
So, that's the end of the main story. But, wait. There's more!
After the credits have rolled, Samus finds out that the Bottle Ship is scheduled to be destroyed. Apparently, when the Galactic Federation wants to destroy a flying space station loaded with biological weapons, someone has to pencil it into their day planner before anyone can actually do it. So before the pre-ordained time, Samus decides to return to the Bottle Ship for a little post-game challenge in order to recover something. Something… irreplaceable…
Now that she can use Power Bombs freely, Samus is able to open a bevy of doors that lead to energy tanks and missile expansions that would have been more useful if they had been accessible during the main damn game. However, one door opens into a new path that leads her to a Control Bridge, where she fights Phantoon from Super Metroid because more cheap nostalgia. Then, Samus enters a small control room and finds what she came for: Adam's helmet. Samus turns off her Power Suit and hugs the helmet. We are treated to a scene where Adam, watching Samus's video feed from his control room, tries to warn her that Melissa is pretending to be Madeline, but isn't heard for some reason. It's difficult to say that it's because the transmission is cut off because he can still see and hear through her helmet cam clearly. It's also difficult to figure out if the scene is something that really happened, or something that Samus dreamed up.
An alarm sounds, interrupting the helmet hug and alerting Samus that she must leave before the Bottle Ship goes all asplodey. Hanging onto Adam's helmet, Samus dashes back to her ship while dodging Space Pirates and fallen debris along the way. She boards her ship and speeds off into space. Then the Bottle Ship explodes because apparently, scheduling something for destruction really means setting off its self-destruct mechanism remotely. The player is then treated to a collection percentage screen, the data is saved and the ordeal is finally over.
While doing the run in Samus's Zero Suit allows the sequence to offer a different take on the gameplay mechanics, it left me wondering why she couldn't just turn on her damned Power Suit. She had more than enough time, especially given that enabling her Power Suit would also have allowed her to use her Speed Boost capability. Also, it left me asking why Adam was so important to her, since Anthony was the only character she had any semblence of a friendship with in this game.
This game is a total mess. Everything about it was executed terribly, from the gameplay mechanics to the story. The story itself is a pacing disaster. It introduces a traitor storyline and drops it completely without having any effect on anything, and Madeline's revelations come after the final boss fight. It's like Yoshio Sakamoto wrote the whole thing and realized that the MB stuff hadn't been revealed, so he tacked it onto the end before he submitted the script.
I would have been able to connect with Samus if her emotional state and character had been shown through her actions instead of being distilled to flat and uninteresting monologues, half of which needed to be dialogue, and the other half excised completely.
The only parts of the game that did work were infinitesimal compared to the terrible execution of the game as a whole. Between its terrible shooting mechanics and every-jump-is-a-leap-of-faith platforming, the game is difficult for all the wrong reasons, which results in an experience that feels like a chore. Furthermore, between the pixel hunts, randomly locking doors and insulting storytelling, it's clear that the game has no idea how to effectively direct the player, or to deliver a satisfying sense of progression.
This is a game that hates you and wants you to suffer. In that way, it succeeds. But beyond that, be prepared for a long slog through tedium, punctuated by an uninteresting and broken story that only serves to sabotage Samus as a character and, as I keep mentioning, tries to omit the wonderful Metroid Prime games.
The game was developed by Team Ninja, who had only before done work on the Dead Or Alive and Ninja Gaiden games. While this would explain a great deal about what's lacking in the game's design, it still doesn't explain why Nintendo thought it was a good idea to farm this title out to them.
If you really want to see how bad it is for yourself, check it out here. You'll probably see a slew of details that I missed. Just be prepared for monologue. Lots and lots of monologue.
The worst part? I hundred percented this garbage. Fuck you, Inner Completionist.