Metroid: Other M

When Nintendo first announced they were making a 3D Metroid, I guess something like Other M was what most people hoped for; continuing the story of Super Metroid in a setting that was mostly a 2D platformer with some additional depth, and a chance to see a lot of old content in 3D. Back then, fans were in an uproar over Nintendo’s decision to go first person and then rejoiced over the fact that Metroid Prime was in every aspect a brilliant game, perhaps the best on the platform. A trilogy and eight years later, the bar has been raised a lot for 3D Metroid games, although to be honest I do not think Other M would have satisfied fans in 2002 either.

Other M stays very true to the original Metroid games (up to and including Metroid Fusion) in the sense that most enemies and all powerups come from previous games. The problem with this is while Metroid Prime reimagined the meaning of metroid-flavored exploration in 3D and provided an incredibly rich gameplay experience, Other M seems only to want to present a story with tons of cinematics and the game is just dutifully tacked on as a quick 2D-3D conversion. Of the few things actually changed are the combat which is somewhat more spectacular with finishing moves and dodging, and a removal of the economy as Samus no longer gets pickups from defeated enemies and health and missiles can always be regenerated on the spot. While these features work well on their own they do not really fit with the exploration and gathering of powerups that are the core of Metroid games.

Making cutscenes take a lot more time and effort than making gameplay, and Other M is a lot shorter than the Metroid Prime games with a lot more story presentation. Creating games as interactive movies is something of a core value in AAA game development, but it is always painful to see a game sacrifice its soul in order to be more like the rest of them; especially since very few games actually have a good and involving narrative. I suppose this is why so many developers focus on smaller productions where they can focus more on the things that are important for their individual games.

And the narrative of Other M really annoys me, partly because it is a major reason the rest of the game is failing but mainly because it doesn’t fit the game; in particular I hate that they have taken one of the strongest and possibly the first heroine in games and turned her from a stoic warrior into a stereotypical crying little girl. It is painful to watch and downright insulting to the Metroid heritage. I can only hope that the low review scores persuade Nintendo to return to the traditional way of doing things rather than to give up the series for another 7 years, but I suppose the future will tell.

Posted on Sep 19/10 by Saint and filed under Reflections | 2 Comments »

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Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age

Again I am late to the party, but this always allows one to benefit from others’ knowledge of a game – especially so since I have friends who respect the game experience and know how to help you get the most out of it without spoiling it for you. Anyhow, among other things people told me they liked Dragon Age a lot while playing it but couldn’t remember why afterward, maybe I am still under whatever spell holds the explanation for this but I cannot agree. Rather I feel like restarting the game and see what it would offer me had I approached it differently, but then again that seems to be the case with Bioware games.

It is a lot more hardcore an RPG than Mass Effect, and perhaps I am just unused to stat maxing or micromanaging party membersĀ  but it was also a lot harder. In fact, in terms of gameplay and presentation I would say it has some ways to go; even if it was just me being crappy gamer the difficulty curve was very uneven, automatic checkpoints placed seemingly without respect to the opposition and responsiveness and feedback was subpar. Neither was it as pretty as Mass Effect on a technical level, and the game had frequent bugs in the dialogue and animations. I would assume some of the gameplay issues stem from old PC rpg tropes and people who are used to the genre do not mind them since they are used to it, but that is not really an excuse.

But really – it is not a bad game by any means, like Final Fantasy and Persona it just has some glaring issues that make fighting frustrating at times. And again like Mass Effect, what really sells it is the narrative and the experience it provides – you really feel that the game responds to the decisions you make and the way you play it. The story and world felt a little less interesting than that of Mass Effect – maybe partly due to the presentation being worse in Dragon Age – but the roleplaying and branching of the story is a lot more complex. The game throws a lot of hard questions at the player, and as the full fallout of your actions is very seldom obvious it becomes a lot more interesting – you can play the character you want, but it might not result in the situation you had hoped for.

Which is why I feel an urge to sit down and start again, I guess, but I do not really have another 40 hours to spend on it. Maybe sometime in the future.

Posted on Sep 08/10 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »