Samuel (theegad) wrote in hardcore_wii,

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Metroid: Other M "In Retrospect" - Part One

The transcript...more or less:

I recently looked up the article on Samus Aran on Wikitroid and discovered something that really bugged me and has me both confused and concerned.  It might have been nothing, I could be making a big deal out of nothing, after all, but here it is.  At the top of the article, there was a box that read:

“This in-universe article contains material in the out-of-universe (or "real-life") point of view and/or this article contains a guide (for example, a "battle guide") and needs to be rewritten in accordance with the POV policy.”

Curious, I decided to look up exactly what Wikitroid’s POV Policy was.  Here’s what I found out:

“With the exception of a few articles, all articles on Wikitroid are to be written in the in-universe point-of-view. That is, the article should treat the Metroid universe as if it were real, and the article should discuss its subject matter as if it was an actual historical event or actual person/place/etc. When writing in the in-universe perspective, think of yourself as a Galactic Federation archivist creating a database for others to access. For example, pronouns such as "I" and "you" are not to be used, as well as "the player" should not be used. "Samus," etc. should be used instead.”

Now, I’m not going to make an assumption about Other M and the Metroid franchise based on this policy; it’s just something that evokes my personal concern for certain cultural states of mind about post-modern entertainment.  It goes along with the minor detail that this whole PTSD thing that occurs in Other M has also become listed as legitimate.  Perhaps it is legitimate—but it still doesn’t mean anything objectively “good” came from Other M anyway.

Among other things, I’ve heard a common comparison to the new characterization of Samus Aran to that of the young Anakin Skywalker—a portrayal that time has shown does not hold justice to the character of Darth Vader who we were introduced to in the original Star Wars film.  The comparison is not directed towards the fictional characters of Star Wars and Metroid, but rather to those who were in charge of directing each medium themselves and how they wrote their characters into their mediums.

Yoshio Sakamoto was a man I had never heard of before I lost my lunch minutes into hearing Samus dump gallon after gallon of storyline and writer introspection into my lap, expecting me to file it all away like some robot.  Listening to this man speak and comment has lead me to the underlying conclusion that this man is either extremely pompous or just plain insane.  Thinking about George Lucas, I can’t help but wonder the same thing about him—the man who told everyone that special effects were a means unto a story and then made three films that completely drowned the story in special effects.

But this isn’t about the Star Wars prequels, they’ve been beaten to the point of oblivion and another review only makes that point redundantly apparent to those who are already well aware of their failures.

This review concerns Sakamoto, who—like I said, is either extremely pompous or just plain insane.  Or perhaps a little bit of both?  All I know is, I thought I was going to address the portrayal of Samus Aran as canonical material based on her characterization in the Metroid Prime Trilogy.  But as it turns out, I don’t have to anymore.  Sakamoto has just flushed Metroid Prime down the toilet with the advent of Other M, and he wants us to believe Metroid Prime happened in some alternate universe wherein Samus Aran actually appeals to people who might actually want to play a video-game!

Well, Other M isn’t so much a video-game as it is a movie that you can play—a script that Sakamoto is leading you through by the hand.  That’s probably the biggest problem with Other M, besides how badly it’s written.  It’s a video-game that doesn’t offer you a wide variety of choice-making or exploration either as a game-play mechanic or in the mechanics of storytelling and characterization.

Whether or not the Samus Aran in Other M is believable or not has nothing to do with many of the complaints lodged at her as a result of Other M’s characterizations.  You can have a character be as "believable" as you want, but that doesn’t mean you automatically free yourself from the risk of failure at trying to make that character likable.  And the Samus Aran in Other M is so badly written that I cannot help but dislike her.

I don’t think I made this point I as clear as I did in Part Zero, but Samus should, by no means, have become a “relatable” character, and I still don’t believe she has, even in the context of Other M.

This so-called “human” element is something many are getting hung up on—that because Samus didn’t spread her emotions all over the table, therefore she had no character at all.  She’s was blank slate.  No, there was a character there, ladies and gentlemen, but one that neither you nor I could relate to.  We can understand it from our perspective of a person playing the game and pretend to take a role in it, but by no means can we actually relate to it.  You might think this puts us at a disadvantage, and guess what?  It does—we are human beings based in reality and Metroid is just one of many imaginative worlds that are cause for our release into a world that is not reality!  That’s the point of not adding all this emotional, human baggage to Samus Aran.

Where did this mindset come from that if you cannot relate to a character, therefore you cannot understand that character and therefore that character does not have a character?  All I have to say is, I’ve never known of heard of any blond-haired beauties sporting superhuman abilities wielding genocidal death in one hand while saving the galaxy in the other.  To say you’d even want Samus Aran to be made “human” limits her and defuncts her character to something less than she already was.  The question about whether or not her character was pre-established in whatever medium occurred prior to Other M has nothing to do with how effectively she appeared to be in our minds—something many have forsaken in their desire to nod in Sakamoto’s direction regardless of how badly Other M and Metroid suffered under his direction.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—as soon as the mystery surrounding Samus Aran is pulled away, personal investment into her character will depart as well.  She just won’t be special, anymore and there will be nothing left to intrigue us about her. 

Other M, has proved extremely hard to review partially because I’ve been suffering from a bad case of writers block in coming up with a decent script.  I actually had to cut out four pages of comparisons I made to characterizations of Samus Aran in relation to Pyramid Head of Silent Hill before I came to one very startling realization.  The magic was too far gone for me to care about it anymore.  At first, I would have been satisfied with simply ret-conning Other M and leaving it at that, but in considering what Sakamoto has done with Samus, some irreparable damage has been done to my entire perception of her character that I feel as though I just need to drop out of that fandom and move on.

I’d still hold the Metroid Prime Trilogy close to my heart, of course—by I really don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at the franchise itself as anything but a twenty-year fluke that died a horrible, screeching death in Other M.  I can always hope for the best, but I very-much doubt anything will change.  True, Samus will probably show up in more games to come, but I think she shall be seen in a very similar light as to what Sonic the Hedgehog has become in recent times.  Everyone who cared about where her games were going will lose interest and the only thing she’ll be riding on is nostalgia—the fantasy that because the other games in the Metroid franchise were so good, therefore all of them must be good.

Well, let’s see how good Other M really is…

Realism…realism is an interesting subject and despite the fact it sounds like it has a firm foundation, realism has become extremely subjective when, by all means, it shouldn’t be.  By definition, it shouldn’t be.  Now, how often have I seen that word or words like it crop up in just about every argument surrounding the issue of Other M’s story or its game-play?

Think about the first Metroid game in this instance…upon beginning the game and walking to the left, you immediately come across your first power-up:  the Morph Ball.  The last thing on your mind on this instance is why there’s this technology sitting out in the middle of a cave, unguarded and untouched.  You might ask how Samus is able to turn into a morph ball without convoluting and compressing her body into a bloody pulp, but as a game-play mechanic you just accept it and move on.  Here the game is asking you to suspend your disbelief to make way for a game-play mechanic.  Most likely the only thing running around in your mind is, “Hey, cool! I got a power-up that let’s me move around in small spaces!”

Now take Other M and we’ll apply the realism that many so desperately want added to the game.  Immediately, the game screams out to you, telling you that you must take this game seriously.  The sober drone of Jessica Martin as she lulls you to sleep with her unending monologue give you sense that things are about to get real…maybe.  So, as players get a sense the there’s some added realism to the video-game ordeal, logic would dictate that we try to make sense of it—pushing our suspension of disbelief to its limits.

This is why there are so many complaints about the power-up system in Other M and the reliance upon Adam to authorize certain weapons.  It makes sense as a video-game mechanic, but our minds have been bludgeoned by Sakamoto need to elaborate his story into that video-game.  We want this to make sense because Sakamoto lead us to believe this was a game that was going to make sense!  What’s even funnier is that a video-game mechanic must receive detail and explanation because of what a cinematic story point has!  In a video-game you’d expect that criticism to be the other way around!

Now, a storyline is important to a video-game, but sometimes a bad story can be glossed over if the game-play is good enough because people who play video-games are generally interested in a video-game because…well, you can play it!  With Other M, so many video-game elements are mixed with movie elements that one cannot help but wonder what Sakamoto wanted this medium to be.  Is it a cinematic video-game with a story or a cinematic story with a video-game?

You want to know what Other M really is?  All in all, I really don’t believe Sakamoto intended to make a video-game at all.  I don’t even think he wanted to make a film.  I mean, just look at the title.  Was Sakamoto banking on this…thing simply having Metroid in the title and leaving its project name untouched?  No, this isn’t a game, it’s just Sakamoto’s pet project—something he threw out there in to test the waters of the Metroid franchise as he attempted to rewrite the series.  Call me crazy, but I really believe that’s what he was doing with this…game.  He stated numerous time in his interview that he really wanted to know what the fans would think about this game.  I believe Other M is just his attempt at rewriting the Metroid series—probably because he wants to do a 1-Up on the success of the Metroid Prime trilogy because it took the franchise in a direction that he had not intended.

I can only hope that the backlash on the part of Prime fans or anyone who dislikes what he did with Samus in Other M will be swift and severe—enough that maybe Sakamoto will cut his losses and go back to making WarioWare Games or something and leave all the big game titles to someone like Shiguro Miyamoto.

Speaking of which, does anyone know why Miyamoto actually cut out story sequences from games like Super Mario Galaxy or deliberately avoided putting voice work into games like the Legend of Zelda?  Well, part of Miyamoto’s ingenuity in the gaming industry was about giving the player the opportunity to insert him or herself into the role of that character—giving credit to the concept of role-playing a game!

Then lo and behold, here comes Yoshio Sakamoto who decides that a new trend is in order! He’s going to turn your video-game into a movie and remove whatever third-dimension that fans had concocted about Samus Aran, instead substituting his own vision of what he thought Samus Aran should be.  And, you know what, Sakamoto? Your vision is a failure!  I’ll be going into more detail about that as these videos continue.

This is the biggest reason why I want to drop out of the Metroid fandom—to wash my hands of this ordeal.  I can’t play another Metroid game and immerse myself into it knowing that this character is just following Sakamoto’s whims from now on.  What Sakamoto did with Samus in Other M has such an impact on the entire ordeal that I’m no longer in a role-playing or video-gaming environment.  I feel like I’m just following the steps of an interactive movie, wherein I have no choice but to move from one chapter to the next until it ends and I can be done with it.  Maybe Sakamoto should take up writing books.

But then I’d probably be acknowledging that Other M was worthy to be portrayed in that, if any form.  And it’s not!  Other M runs along a track completely surrounded by a tunnel that is Sakamoto’s vision of Metroid—a vision so flawed that it…well I’ll be getting into that starting with Part 2.

For those of you coming into my reviews and have no idea what I like to do, I don’t just say what I believe makes a story or characters good—I demonstrate and develop ideas that do work.  After all, what better way to avoid the “well how would you do it better” criticism by actually doing it better.  The problem with this scenario is that by doing so I’d be going against the grain of my saying that video-games shouldn’t utilize these movie elements because people buy video-games in order to interact with them!  The problem with Other M should be more than obvious from this standpoint—a video game of this caliber has a unique advantage over a film in that there’s really no need established dialogue and excessive shows of weakness to connect with a previously silent character. In many regards, this addition actually widened the gap between players and Samus and therefore degrades the interactive medium as a whole.

I’ll be going through the game step-by-step starting in Part 2 of this In Retrospect, beginning with the very first cut-scene and working my through until the end of this game.  As an early warning, spoilers are going to be all over this review, so don’t get comfortable if you haven’t played the game yet.

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