As stunning as Retro Studios' Metroid Prime Trilogy undoubtedly is, we still fondly remember Samus Aran's formative years, and particularly the seminal Super Metroid. It seems we're not the only ones fond of this piece of the bounty hunter's history however, as Team Ninja and Tecmo's take on Nintendo's sci-fi franchise kicks off straight after the SNES classic ends.
Beginning with a lengthy rendered intro that shows Super Metroid's climactic Mother Brain battle in stunningly detailed action, the story focuses on the power given to Samus by the baby Metroid, and its eventual destruction. Samus's character, though still a kick-ass bounty hunter, is fleshed out with strokes of regret and loss: she responds to a "baby's cry" distress call from a nearby vessel in the hope of finding answers. What she finds instead isn't something we'll spoil for you, but Metroid fans will certainly enjoy seeing some of the backstory to series characters and situations.
The game itself controls NES-style but even the side-on sections are fully 3D, enabling you to run around your opponents instead of just into and over them. You can change to first-person view at any time by simply pointing at the screen, and this allows you to fire missiles as well as scan important areas. The transition is quick and feels intuitive, but as you can't move in first-person mode it feels disorienting for Metroid Prime fans and slows the pace down from the action sections.
One thing to be said about Other M is that when it's good, it's very enjoyable: the classic blasting action feels very satisfying, and being able to use charge beam, morph ball and wall jump right out of the gate is a big plus, setting a high pace at first. There's still classic Metroid exploration included though, with secret passages hiding the usual upgrades and save chambers. It definitely looks and feels like a Metroid game, and the traditional sound effects and musical cues are present too, yet it manages to make it feel refreshing by offering fast-paced action - with good timing you can dodge attacks with a graceful bound and counter-attack for critical damage, giving the action a slick and very cinematic feel. The first boss is a good example, with a combination of scripted and organic gameplay creating something very new for the franchise.
There are still some kinks to iron out with this latest Aran adventure, mainly in the consistency of the interface and simple navigation issues, but the action is solid and enjoyable. Hopefully Team Ninja can tighten up on this impressive start and create the killer Metroid game everyone's hoping for.