Infendo hands-on: Metroid Other M, a mix of Prime and Ninja Gaiden in contextual 3D

Infendo

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Space. Wreckage. An storm of asteroids or possibly energy particles, destroying the remainder. And in the midst of the chaos and nothingness, a familiar-looking yellow-haired child encased in a sphere of energy, rendered in beautiful CG. Cut.

“Why am I still alive?” speaks Samus in a cool, computer-like voice, dejected yet curious, as she stares out the inside of the translucent jelly of a giant Metroid. Her entire Varia Suit floats in midair, half swallowed by the creature. “The baby?” she thinks aloud, as the giant alien cyclops Mother Brain recovers from its stunned state and prepares a final, fatal attack. The eye-fired laser beam lances out, but Samus is no longer in danger, quickly dropped to the floor below as the Metroid takes the brunt of the attack for her. As the Baby Metroid withers away, shrieking in agony, Samus’ heartbeats echo in our ears. As the teardrops of iridescent Metroid fluid rain from the sky in the chamber, her resolve strengthens, as does the orchestrated music that surrounds. “Mother, time to go!” she says with quiet rage, as the camera plunges deep into the depths of her Arm Cannon — where among the myriad mechanisms, a new power has been awakened. She unleashes a ball of destructive energy… and all goes white.

A medical bed. Samus, in her Zero Suit, lies on it as diagnostics are performed. “I awoke to the familiar voice of a quarantine officer,” says Samus. “A dream. I had been reliving the tragic moments of my recent past,” she continues. “Thanks to the Hyper Beam, which was given to me by the baby, I laid Mother Brain to waste and the explosion that followed destroyed Planet Zebes, along with Mother Brain, the Space Pirates, and my long-standing nemesis Ridley. And the baby…” Cool, precise, yet hesitant – she sounds like the computer ADA from Zone of the Enders, except humanized.
“C’mon Samus, let’s go next door,” interrupts a gruff voice. Samus moves to the next room, where the quarantine advisor, behind glass, instructs her to get started. Her Zero Suit shifts and transforms into full armor, the Varia Suit. The CG sequence ends. The title screen appears, and the game instructs us to press a button to continue. I happily do so.

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After the gorgeous CG intro, what follows my button press is something of a letdown: a sparse, dull, graphically unimpressive training room where beginning players learn Metroid: Other M’s basic moveset, as instructed by the quarantine officer. But as I quickly learn, the moves themselves are surprisingly intuitive.

Co-developed by Nintendo and Team Ninja, Other M is true to its entire pedigree. Like modern Ninja Gaiden, combat occurs primarily in 3rd person, in enclosed, free-roaming 3D environments that encourage rapid, contextual acrobatics and deadly combat. The training room is the first such example.

Holding the Wiimote sideways with two hands, the D-pad controls movement while 1 and 2 shoot and jump respectively. Holding down 1 charges Samus’ beam for greater firepower (as well as splash damage) and pressing A transforms Samus into Morph Ball mode, allowing her to lay bombs with the 1 button, or hold it down to charge a Power Bomb. While I didn’t find use for it in the demo, intrepid Metroid fans should know that bomb jumping definitely works; and intriguingly enough, when Samus has a full Charge Beam she can lay five normal bombs at once if she quickly tucks into Morph Ball mode.

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What’s more, there are contextual combat moves as well. When Samus is about to be hit by an attack, a quick press on Left or Right on the D-pad allows her to quickly dodge and roll to either side, and come up kneeling with her Arm Cannon at the ready, blasting them in the back for good measure. She can jump on certain enemies’ heads, and shoot them in the skull (if they have one) from point-blank range. When enemies are stunned, she can run right up, put them in a stranglehold, and perform a powerful kick that sends them flying away. She can fire at enemies while hanging off ledges. And in my demo, all of these moves could be used in combination with a Charge Beam.