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'Metroid: Other M' melds classic story with new techniques

Heroine Samus Aran is back in "Metroid: Other M," continuing the franchise's 24-year run.
Heroine Samus Aran is back in "Metroid: Other M," continuing the franchise's 24-year run.
  • "Metroid: Other M" is the latest in 24-year-old franchise
  • Update places heroine Samus Aran on an abandoned spaceship after a distress call
  • With Wii controller, players move normally, but sometimes flip controller for shooting
  • Rated "T for Teen," the game will be released in North America August 31

(CNN) -- Twenty-four years after her initial appearance, Samus Aran returns.

"Metroid: Other M" (Nintendo) continues the outer-space adventures of the series heroine with a new control setup that will have players flipping all night long.

The eleventh game in the series, the action in "Metroid: Other M" actually takes place between the events of two other releases, "Super Metroid" from 1994 "Metroid Fusion" from 2002. The beginning of "Metroid: Other M" actually retells the ending of "Super Metroid" in a lengthy, opening scene.

Action begins as Samus answers a distress call from a floating ship and runs into a group of space soldiers who are also investigating the call. Players guide Samus through the ship, searching for survivors and looking to discover what caused the disaster in the first place.

Players see movement through the ship from many vantage points. Sometimes, it appears to be a side-scroller game with left to right movement only. Other times, it takes on first-person shooter characteristics, allowing a line of sight viewpoint and full 3-D motion within rooms and hallways.

In addition to the adventure on the damaged space ship, well-rendered cut-scenes spend a lot of time looking back in time -- revealing more about Samus' haunted past and why she decided to become an intergalactic bounty hunter.

For longtime fans of the series, these scenes really fill in the gaps about her history and motivation as a warrior.

For weapons, energy beams and bombs cut through enemies well enough. They are also used to open doors and demolish barriers, and some beams allow Samus to traverse wide gaps.

Even boss battles will often require a combination of weapons, not letting players just wail away with missiles.

"Metroid: Other M" also utilizes a "sense mode," which gives Samus the ability to dodge strikes from opponents and counterattack rapidly with a melee hit. Samus can also jump on top of enemies' heads and deal death blows from that strategic point.

The environment starts off dark. But once energy is restored, there are only a few shadows that allow creatures to hide and leap out. Most bad guys are brightly colored and easy to spot. Some creatures have specific points where they spawn, requiring the player to take those spots out or face wave after wave of baddies.

The game renders the feel of a derelict space ship nicely. It isn't gloom and doom like what's portrayed in "Dead Space," but you know not everything on the ship is going to work. Getting around some damaged areas takes some creative thinking.

As in other "Metroid" games, Samus retains her armadillo-like ability to morph into a small ball. This ability comes in handy for rapid movements, getting into tight spaces and dodging enemies that want to swoop down from above.

What really sets this game apart from others in the franchise is the use of the Wii controller to open up various actions and movements.

TheWii controller is used in two ways -- horizontally and vertically. Each has its own uses and impact on the game.

When held horizontally, the controller acts as a classic controller, with a D-pad on the left and buttons on the right. The two numbered buttons control jumping and shooting, while the "A" button on the left controls the ability to morph into the small ball.

Held vertically, the controller acts more like a pointer and gives a first-person-shooter perspective on the action. Samus can't move, but she can scan a room for enemies and points of interest. A lock-on feature helps with targeting in a room full of enemies.

Action will require the use of both modes during some scenes. Gamers should be sure to loosen up their arms because flipping from horizontal to vertical and back will be quite frequent.

There are some minor drawbacks.

It's easier to control the speed at which Samus moves when she's in ball form than when she's in human form. When moving through a corridor or room, she's moving at full speed at all times, so movement lacks some finesse.

The music is also disjointed. Dramatic tunes play during certain scenes, all but telling players to expect something to happen. But, then, Samus continues on without experiencing anything out of the ordinary, making the music seem tacked on.

As one of the first female protagonists in the video game industry, Samus has helped give the "Metroid" series a built-in fan base that has been wanting to see where the bounty hunter would go with the new generation of consoles.

"Metroid: Other M" pays homage to its past, through the cut-scenes and story tie-in, while exploring new ways to portray action with the Wii controller.

Fans and newcomers alike should be pleased with the variety and interaction in a game that was nominated for "Game of the Show" at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, in June.

"Metroid: Other M" is rated "T for Teens" for animated blood and violence. It will be released on August 31 in North America, September 2 for Japan and Australia, and September 3 in Europe.


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