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The Next Level In Gaming

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I’ve previously looked at Metroid’s 2D roots, and it’s latest saga, Metroid Prime. With four 2D titles (plus remakes) and four titles in the Prime series, it’s been a couple of years since Nintendo have had any news on the series’ future – and personally I was wondering – will the next title tip the majority of the series’ titles towards the 2D style, or the first-person style of Prime? However, along with the release of Metroid Prime Trilogy on the Wii, Nintendo have released some interesting news on the next step for the series.

In an unexpected revelation, Nintendo announced at E3 2009 that they would be teaming up with Team Ninja, creators of Ninja Gaiden, for the next installment of the series. This was perhaps the most unlikely pairing I could think of – with Nintendo’s family-friendly style, and the all-out maturity of Team Ninja’s work. Regardless, I eagerly took note of the information released about the next title in the works: Metroid: Other M.

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In an interesting twist, it turns out that the latest Metroid title will feature a mix of both the 2D and first-person style gameplay, and even incorporate some third person action as well – no doubt the influence of the Ninja Gaiden team.

Most Metroid titles so far have fairly minimal storyline, with lonely situations that are mainly built up through various bits of information Samus finds throughout the game, generally focusing on Samus and generally nothing but aliens and Space Pirates, leaving little room for dialogue. However, as Metroid Prime has progressed, the series has slowly incorporated more storyline events and characters – with scenes of various humans in flashbacks of Metroid Prime 2, and the inclusion of other english-speaking characters in Metroid Prime 3, it seems Metroid: Other M will focus a lot more on Samus’ character.

Set between Metroids 3 & 4 (Super Metroid and Fusion), Other M shows scenes of a large cast, including Samus’ commander, Adam Malkovich, who was referenced in Metroid Fusion, with a degree of affection for Samus – his trademark line “Any objections, Lady?” quoted previously in Fusion. Although perhaps not a love story in the works, Samus has yet to show any signs of family or friends to date, save for brief information on her upbringing with the alien race, the Chozo, - so this could be quite a revealing change. Also shown is a fairly generic looking marine-type character, although he uses the words “Remember me?” – I can’t think of anyone this could be, but perhaps this suggests that this character is someone we’ve seen at some point in the series before.

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So far, the game’s looking quite impressive – with a visual style not unlike Metroid Prime 3, the trailer shows snippets of the various types of gameplay. Firstly, we see snippets of what looks like a reworked 2D engine – although set on a 2D plane, the game is in the same 3D graphics and features Samus looking fairly fast, boasting a roll manoever which hasn’t been seen before in Metroid. The trailer then moves onto the new third-person gameplay, with Samus getting unusually up close and personal with what looks like an almost God of War style of attack, taking up a strangely close-proximity combat style – performing grabs and cinematic attacks which could possibly be linked with some kind of Quicktime Event. Samus can even be seen jumping and grabbing the neck of an alien and shooting it in the face as it struggles to release itself. 

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Mixed into the trailer are some shots of gameplay in a very Metroid Prime style first-person viewpoint. Samus is shown using various attacks in this mode, including an Ice Beam that she uses to actually freeze up an enemy, encasing it in ice. It’s not clear however if the first-person will be used in sections played the same way as Prime, with full exploration and visors, or perhaps just a first person mode that can be used for precision attacks by holding an “aim button” whilst playing the game’s third-person sections.

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There seem to be a range of enemies in the game, from new aliens, Space Pirates and what looks like the return of Ridley – shown in some cinematic scenes of Samus in some brutal looking cinematics. It wouldn’t be right if we don’t see a Metroid or two – but what place they’ll take in the game is yet to be known.

There are also a few shots of Samus doing various platforming and running in third person mode – according to Nintendo the game will include regular exploration – so worry not, I’m sure the classic Morph ball mode, upgrades and Metroidvania gameplay will still be there – and assuming that they’ve continued to use the open-world format it should still manage what both the original and Prime game’s managed in those areas.

The trailer does lend itself to some questions though – there are three characters that bear a resemblance to Samus, although it’s not certain who they are. Firstly, we have a shorter-haired blonde girl who is seen in military gear, and has a fair bit of focus in the earlier stages of the trailer, and she does have a Samus look to her. It’s unsure whether this is or isn’t Samus, but personally I believe this could be shots of her younger years, perhaps for the purpose of flashbacks and history to be told in the story. Next we have Samus in her Zero Suit, who is shown with her Power Suit forming around her. This is almost certainly Samus, but does raise some questions if the previous character isn’t simply Samus from flashbacks. Lastly, we see Samus meeting a character who looks almost exactly like Samus, wearing a lab coat. Now, Nintendo have stated that this lady is NOT Samus, but she is an important character. Now, I assume the similarity between the two ladies is much more than coincidence, so it’ll be interesting to find out what’s going on there.

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Graphically, the game’s looking good for a Wii title. The graphics are very reminiscent of Metroid Prime 3, and the enemies and animations look smooth and fluid. The music seems to be keeping to the series’ style with a mix of eerie tones and fast paced-music, so I think the game’s style is going to feel like a Metroid game at heart.

Metroid: Other M is shaping up to look quite interesting. It’s really unknown how the three gameplay styles will all mesh together, but hopefully the switching between 2D and 3D gameplay won’t break up the gameplay leaving the player confused and disoriented with the controls. As long as Nintendo manage to pull it off, we could find ourselves with a game that combines the best features of all the series’ titles. It will certainly be interesting to see the direction the plot takes, and hopefully we’ll see something quite special. Nintendo have done well with the series so far, so I’m hoping to see something fantastic.

Metroid: Other M is due sometime in 2010, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more toward the end of the year. We’ll keep you updated if we get any more info in the future. Check out the full E3 trailer below.

-Leon

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Leon On October - 4 - 2009

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