What Does Japan Think of Metroid: Other M?

I’ve gotten a few Metroid-related questions lately, and the latest one is a pretty simple question, courtesy of Matt B.:

Hey Mato, I remember you saying you were interesting in doing more Metroid related stuff. Would it be possible for you to look into how well or poorly received Metroid: Other M was in Japan?

Here in the States it seems almost universally reviled by series fans, some of them citing Samus’ encounter with Ridley in the last quarter of the game as pretty much the worst thing in game history. Did Japanese fans have similar complaints?

A quick note: I’ve never played Other M – in fact, I’ve only played up to a portion of Prime 2 and nothing after that, so I’m a little out of the loop with the more recent games. So I can’t really offer much thought or commentary on things, but here’s what a quick online search turns up.

First, Weekly Famitsu gave it a 35 out of 40 and placed it in the “Platinum Ranking”… I forget what that means, but it’s clear it was at least well-received. I don’t have a copy of that issue to check the reviewers’ comments, but that’s basically an 88/100 rating when put into a more Western-style review score.

Next, checking good the ol’ mk2 review sites, it looks like Metroid: Other M has a score of 55 and a rank of D, based on 25 different reviews. By comparison, Metroid Prime 3 scored much higher and has a rank of A. Even the Wii ports of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 did considerably better than Other M:

Here are just a few of the pros and cons that reviewers list:

Good:

  • Good graphics and attention to detail
  • Stylish, interesting battle mechanics
  • It was neat learning more about Samus’ character
  • It was cool seeing some old bosses return
  • Easy-to-learn controls
  • Quick load times
  • Originality
  • Neat bonus stuff after you finish the game

Bad:

  • Overall it felt more like a bunch of cut scenes than a game
  • Not as atmospheric as most Metroid games are
  • It felt very linear and lacked the series’ sense of exploration. Very small areas. The fun of sequence breaking is gone.
  • You can’t go around and collect items until almost the end of the game
  • The weapon authorization system was meant to make things more realistic but just came off as annoying
  • Other Metroid staples were removed, like freezing enemies to use them as steps, or enemies leaving behind items.
  • Unmemorable music
  • Samus’ voice acting didn’t fit very well
  • Samus had always seemed physically and mentally strong, but this game kills that. She comes off as too childish and naive.
  • The character direction and writing felt very childish
  • The game felt too basic and simple. It felt like there wasn’t much game to it at all.
  • Sluggish controls
  • Complaints about the “search view”, which I don’t understand since I’ve never played the game

I could go on and on but I think that gets the point across. A lot of reviewers say they’re very disappointed as die-hard Metroid fans. One even commented that Retro Studios – a foreign company – managed to do Metroid better than a Japanese developer.

Anyway, checking on Amazon Japan, it looks like the game has a decent user rating. I’ve never put much stock in Amazon ratings for anything, so I don’t know if the 3.8 out of 5 it has is good or bad.

Reviewers seem to say many of the same things as the mk2 reviews – too many movie scenes, too restricting, good graphics, Samus talks too much, etc.

So overall it looks like Metroid: Other M did well with the gaming press but for actual fans and players it was lackluster. It doesn’t seem to spark quite the same intense, mouth-foaming hatred that it has in the West though.

Or, actually, maybe I should check 2channel first – they’re usually a happy bunch! Here are some random comments about the game:

It’s a movie game. And the people keep talking and talking and talking, which doesn’t quite fit a Metroid game.

Sakamoto went crazy.

I feel that no one ever asked for or wanted a human drama from a Metroid game.

I didn’t think it was a bad game. But it definitely gave Samus a way different image than any of the others. Until now she always came across as a silent, cool-headed, lone soldier, like Master Chief. But in Other M it feels like she’s portrayed as “regular woman Samus”.

I sensed something FF13 about it

Why won’t they ever make a NORMAL 2D Metroid?

To borrow a recent phrase from Nintendo, it was a bunch of unrelatable monologue. It comes out of nowhere, never ends, and the monologue itself doesn’t really have much to do with the player’s experience, which makes it feel like, “Well, that’s not MY problem.” As a result, it all just feels like more of a chore than anything.

This is a good example of a creator raping its own work.

It’s the only Metroid I’ve 100% cleared. I had fun.

Again, I could probably write hundreds more examples, those are just a few random ones. Overall, it feels like 2ch users place Metroid: Other M between “passable” and “crap”.

I think the most interesting thing is that whenever the topic of Other M comes up on English-speaking sites or message boards, complaints often focus on Samus’ character, especially things like her submissiveness to Adam and her turning into some blubbering weakling at the sight of Ridley, who she’s fought countless times before. That and that the game somehow breaks the series’ timeline unless you discount the entire Prime series altogether? I’ll just have to take everyone’s word that these things happen in the game.

Anyway, I didn’t notice any of these common Western complaints on the Japanese sites I checked. It’s very possible some Japanese fans HAVE brought up these complaints, but I didn’t see a single one during my quick checks on multiple sites at least. I dunno, maybe it’s just a cultural difference, or maybe Western gamers expect more or different things from Metroid games.

You know, maybe I should check out the game some time just to see what the fuss is all about. I’m not sure I want to spend money on a bad game, so maybe I’ll check out a Let’s Play of it sometime. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Everything said, hopefully this answers the question and sheds some light on what Japanese gamers think about Other M!

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54 comments

  1. The game frequently goes on sale. A couple months ago I saw it for $5 at Best Buy. Even then, when I posted the sale to reddit’s /r/metroid subreddit, people were like “still not worth it even for $5″.

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  2. Here’s one: http://lparchive.org/Metroid-Other-M/. The Let’s Players really, REALLY hated it. And Sakamoto. I feel sorry for a guy who invested all of his emotion to his art, and people despise him for it. These things happen.

    It has a 6.8 user rating on Metacritic and a 7.3 rating average on GameFAQs. Not universally hated, but very low for the series.

    It’s not surprising that Metroid was done better by Westerners, given its popularity here (like LoZ, I never got that much into it). After all, most Wizardry games are Japanese, but I don’t know how good they are.

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  3. Not gonna lie, I absolutely loved Other M from start to finish. Sure, the cutscenes were a little heavy handed, but the gameplay more than made up for it.

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  4. Other M was okay. When you actually get to play the game, it’s actually pretty fun — I believe I described it at the time as “deserving some kind of award for economy of design,” since the controls use just a Wii remote on its side and still manage to be fluid and responsive. The Japanese reviews are accurate, though; it’s a movie game, like a lot of the trash American AAA studios pump out these days, which was a bit of a shock from a Japanese game.

    To clear up “search view” for you (and, yeah, it is pretty much the worst thing about the game): there are moments where the game cuts into first-person perspective and all the action stops, because Samus has just noticed something. The game refuses to continue until you find the thing she just noticed, which means panning around (in three dimensions, mind) until you’ve found it. But you have to focus on it for a few seconds before the scan reticule appears, which I’m pretty sure is a giant f-you from the designers. And in case you think I’m being overly critical: the thing you need to focus on is often almost entirely unnoticeable. It’ll be like a tiny little bloodstain on the ground.

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    1. No no, I got stuck in search view a few times…it’s like they said “Hey, Metroid Prime had that cool scanner gameplay mechanic, how can we make that horrible?” By doing some adventure game style pixel hunting, that’s how.

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      1. No fooling. I had to look them up on the internet, since as of like the second one I couldn’t even figure out what I was supposed to be looking at. Oh, it’s that patch of ground that’s a slightly different colour from all the others? Great!

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        1. Same thing for me. I had to call my brother (who had beaten it and then given it to me as a gift, so I wouldn’t have to hate myself for buying it) to get past two of those searching segments.

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  5. It always feels like people overblow their hatred for Other M. It’s not the best Metroid, it may even be the worst Metroid; yet it is still a very good game. Yes, it does have a lot of cutscenes and stories, and the search “stages” are horribly annoying and cryptic. The Metroid staples of collecting power-ups is still there, just under a different branding (that does make less sense than normal if you can believe that). Still, the platforming and especially the boss battles are good stuff and the graphics are nice and shiny. Samus doesn’t go “the baby” the whole game like most people like to point out, and something people like to forget is that Samus has PTSD (which is mentioned in the two volume Metroid comic book).

    I guess it’s because I read the Metroid comic book before playing Other M and thought of it more of a sequel to it than to Super Metroid that I was able to enjoy Other M. It’s definitely a lot more beginner friendly than Metroid Prime 2! (And shorter- I beat it in 8 hours on my first playthrough)

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    1. The PTSD thing is really stupid. If she is scared of Ridley because of PTSD, why isn’t she scared of him in ALL the other Metroids? It doesn’t even makes sense.

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      1. It’s one of those things where I think I can see what they were trying to do (especially when you consider what he did to her parents/colony), and I don’t have a problem with it exactly…but the execution was pretty bad. Again, as you say, because all of a sudden it’s like WHOAOMGRIDLEY when she’s had no problem at any point previously (there isn’t really any foreshadowing of it that I can remember).

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        1. And it’s not like it’s the first time Ridley’s resurecting, but they tried (for whatever reason) to make like the Prime trilogy did not even existed, and that’s one of the things that bothers me the most.

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          1. It’s not even the first time Ridley’s resurrected outside of Prime. He came back in Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion.
            Depending on how you feel about Mecha-Ridleys, he came back in Zero Mission too(which I think was supposed to tie into Prime while missing that Prime’s Mecha-Ridley was a cyborg and not a robot).

            Regardless of which forms and games count, he’s the one character Samus SHOULDN’T expect to stay dead. There’s no way to retcon ALL his resurrections away.
            Well, him and Kraid. Hell, she killed Kraid twice in the original game AND in Super.

            Why does no one love Kraid like they love Ridley?

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      2. Because in most of the other games Samus shows all the personality of a tin can. The vast majority of the series shows absolutely zero about her character – to my knowledge, the only real glimpse we get outside of Other M is from Fusion. That’s because in most of these games Samus has zero contact with other people, with only a brief text intro to give context at all.

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        1. many people, myself included, find it hard to believe that a person in Samus’ line of work would be as fragile mentally as Other M portays her.

          You could bring up the manga, though one wonders why after getting over her fear of Ridley THERE she has the same exact breakdown again, considering how other M supposedly happens late in the series timeline and she would’ve fought him numerous times already.

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    2. Samus does not have PTSD, and in that comic, which was pretty much declared obsolete anyway, it is merely SUGGESTED that she shows SYMPTOMS of POSSIBLE PTSD.

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  6. So one Japanese commenter said“I sensed something FF13 about it“ but what did he meant by that? What do they think of FF13 in Japan?

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    1. I haven’t played FF13 either, but my guess is that it comes off as mostly all style and poor story. And maybe being a big budget entry into a well-known series, yet still getting a lot of simple stuff wrong.

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  7. You could check the Retsupurae LP of this game, they do a good job on showing why is this the worst Metroid game ever.

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  8. Thanks for looking into it, Tomato. I personally enjoyed Other M, but its interesting to see that the complaints Japanese players had concerning the game are nearly all the same as the ones Western players had. I’m especially surprised to see Samus’ character likened to Master Chief.

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  9. @ Lichtknight

    It wasn’t badly localized, but Yoshio Sakamoto did place some crazy restrictions on the translators, such as that every time the word “baby” occurred in the script (referring to the Metroid hatchling), that word and only that word could be used, which meant that the baby Metroid could never be referred to as the “hatchling” or even just “the Metroid”. This resulted in a seemingly baby-crazed Samus babbling about babies throughout the game while shooting aliens aboard the Bottle Ship (another name Sakamoto didn’t want them to alter).

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    1. Oh really? That’s why Samus is all “BABY BABY THE BABYBABYBABY”? I got so tired of hearing that word by the end of the game.

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      1. I can no longer hear the words “the baby” without thinking of Samus monologuing, in monotone, about the baby Metroid.

        It made our chapters on language acquisition in linguistics class pretty hilarious.

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  10. Some of the 2Ch comments were pretty funny.

    Personally, while i don’t rage on it (but i do know plenty of people who do), i don’t much care for it, either. To me, the game’s just “meh”. The only part that really pissed me off was was the Ridley crap. Otherwise, the game is just mostly forgettable to me. The Prime games and SNES and GBA games keep me more then satisfied as i just brush Other M into a corner and forget about it.

    Also, I noticed some comments on the acting in the game. I’ve heard plenty of complaints that Samus’s English VA sucked (which i don’t really disagree with), but i guess the acting was just as bad in the Jp version as well.

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    1. Some people say that the English voice actress herself is not the problem, but that Sakamoto told her exactly what to say and how to say it, not allowing her to perform at her best.

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  11. This game has tons of issues (whoever pointed out the search view was bang on, how that shipped in a finish game is beyond me) but the plot is consistent with the games that came before it and there is absolutely nothing about Samus’s characterization that doesn’t fit with what we know about the character. The non-stop whining about this game’s plot makes me want to puke. (The game has a massive unresolved plot hole that no one ever mentions — it’s just constant griping about Adam, Ridley and The Baby.)

    All that said, this game can be bought for $5 and is definitely worth a quick-and-dirty playthrough at that price. Just enjoy the combat and hit up a walkthrough when the pixel hunts come up.

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    1. Sorry, but you’re wrong. There is a LOT that doesn’t fit with what we know about Samus as a character. First and foremost, in Other M, they claim that Adam is “the only father figure Samus ever had.” This is in direct contradiction to SEVERAL other official Metroid games and mangas. Samus has always considered the Chozo that raised her to be her family. Other M said “screw that, she doesn’t care about the Chozo anymore, it’s all about ADAM.” Her relationship with Adam was even changed from the first time we heard about it, in Fusion. The computerized Adam in Fusion and the still-living Adam in Other M are supposed to be the same character, and yet they have completely different personalities. In Fusion, he may have been somewhat aloof, but he was a caring guiding hand. In Other M, he’s an emotionally abusive jerk.

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    2. “there is absolutely nothing about Samus’s characterization that doesn’t fit with what we know about the character.”

      Except for absolutely everything.

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  12. I’m a huge Metroid Fan. I bought Other M when it was released, but I didn’t play it because immediately after buying it I was reading some reviews and they put me off.
    My favourite games are Prime 1 and Zero Mission. I wasn’t too fond of Fusion, and I heard that Other M is basically just all the things I didn’t like about Fusion cranked up to 11.

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  13. Hm, I’m a bit surprised, but the criticisms are mostly the same. I’m just happy that the Japanese development team even got panned by their own country after they denied the existence of the Prime series in the timeline since they were made by Western developers. : )

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  14. I read that magazines like Famitsu gave M:OM mostly positive reviews, but the Metroid fanbase in Japan disliked the game. Interesting to see how the complaints were very similar.

    The “search view” thing refers to certain moments in the game when you go into first person mode and you’re forced to pixel hunt something. You can’t walk around and you’re locked in place until you point the cursor at whatever you have to look for. I thought the game was glitching the first few times it happened until I saw an LP showing how to get past them. The worst part is that the fight against the “final boss” is just a pixel hunt also in which you clear away monsters blocking the boss and then point your cursor at the boss to start a cutscene that ends the fight. A very anti-climatic ending.

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  15. Thanks for bringing these ideas into light. I’ve been very curious about it for quite some time.

    I think someone else mentioned this but it’s worth repeating that almost everyone dislikes Metroid Other M’s story elements (which I do admit were very sloppily handled), but rarely complains about its gameplay elements.

    The gameplay was definitely non-Metroidy at times, focusing on linearity, telling a player where to go next, and being extremely cautious to not allow for red herrings. (if you don’t know what that is, go look it up) I think there’s also an item or two that you think you can get when you have the space jump, but an invisible wall gets in your way (read: a cheap workaround, not a solution) It’s a 3D game, Sakamoto admitted not having any experience with 3D action titles, and that’s why Team Ninja got involved. It has its fair share of lazy game design. I’m not quite sure but last time I checked, TN isn’t exactly a shining example of mastery in game design. (Though it’s worthy to note that one of the veteran level designers of the franchise was involved in its development, as one of the game’s 3 directors, Takehiko Hosokawa)

    The sad thing is, people will lambaste the game with its apparent “raping” of Samus as a character until the end of time, and apparently turned her into a “weak” and “subservient” woman and blah blah blah…and somehow forget that it’s a GAME and a work of FICTION that doesn’t always have to make SENSE. This is coming from one of the biggest Metroid fans out there. People just need to chill out and enjoy it for what it is. Not hate it for what it isn’t. Let’s just move on with our lives already, ok folks?

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    1. People have the right to complain about a game’s faults. Turning the previously silent and stoic Samus into such an angsty character is a very childish way of trying to move the series forward. They tried to put a lot emotion into the game, but they didn’t at all consider how it would fit into the overall timeline.

      I think one of the reasons people are so mad about it is because Other M was supposed to be the awesome 2d-style action-oriented game that was going to take the series back to it’s roots. That’s the way Nintendo made it seem like for a long time, and so naturally fans felt betrayed when it was completely different.

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  16. On a similar note to this, how was the 2009 Bionic Commando sequel/reboot/ughhhh received? American fans generally see it as a half-assed attempt to make Bionic Commando a “serious” series, and it almost seems aimed at the American market, but what do Japanese fans think of it? Was it recognized as part of the series, in fact, given that it was released under the Bionic Commando name rather than the Top Secret name even in Japan?

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  17. If you prefer reading a super in-depth analysis of the game’s story to supplement the above linked Let’s Plays from the lparchive and Retsupurae, I suggest you read this link: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/lb_i.php?lb_id=13373815860B43920100. It’s a very in-depth look at the game’s story (not the gameplay because the story is told purely through cutscenes, and there’s a Theater Mode, which clearly means Sakamoto wanted the game’s story to be viewed this way) and all of its flaws. It also debunks many of the defenses made in favor of the story.

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  18. Mato if you ever have a chance to analyze this to a greater depth please do because, apart from the gameplay mechanics and perhaps the PTSD with Ridley that Samus experiences, I always felt the criticism leveled at Other M was a direct result of much being lost in translation.

    Many felt that Samus’ dependency on Adam and her former team, to the point of putting herself in danger in order to follow some seeming arbitrary rule enforced by her former commander, was completely uncharacteristic of the strong, silent heroine we all came to know and love. However, this is something pretty common in Japanese society. If someone was instrumental in shaping, teaching and leading you through any portion of your life, you can never fully pay them back for that. You are always indebted to your former teachers and (theoretically) your former commanders and thus must always show them a due amount of respect. Should memory serve this is called “on” in Japanese. Within that context it makes sense for Samus to be quite conflicted and thrown by the presence of her former commander not to mention her strong desire to show him respect by obeying his every command.

    Anyway, the game is decent. The gameplay is flawed in many places and the story is…well steeped in a distinctly Japanese mentality. Something which understandably is unpalatable in that universe as Metroid has always been Nintendo’s most western game in terms of aesthetics and gameplay. Whether or not Samus is “in character” during the game is up for debate. It is the first time her character has been really present and distinct in a Metroid game and one of the few times she’s had someone to interact with in any meaningful way. Hopefully Nintendo learns from it and responds appropriately. Definitely worth checking out though Mato as it’s also one of the few times Nintendo is sooo tellingly Japanese in it’s story telling.

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    1. Even considering the concept of “on”; it doesn’t really fit her characterization in the game itself as being someone with respect for her CO, but also a dislike of authority. At least as I recall.

      Glad to see the Japanese fans seem as mortified as the Western fans.

      One thing I remember about Other M contradicting continuity though was that in Metroid II, the Metroids naturally lose their resilience to cold as they grow from their larval stage that we came accustomed to in the first game. Granted the game kind of describes this as occurring only on their home planet, it seems like a minor detail. But Other M has Metroids which have been genetically engineered to withstand the cold. Which considering the details of Metroid II, makes little sense, as jump starting their growth to an adult seems a much more sensible way of dealing with the issue (and they do just that by creating a Queen Metroid anyway…). But Samus killed several of these cold resilient Metroids using missiles, yet in Other M, a certain character seems to think she isn’t up to the task of killing the genetically engineered Metroids, and decides the whole modular block has to be jettisoned with said character inside. Which I think in turn contradicts Fusion. The scene humorously also contradicts the game itself, because Samus gets immobilized with a freeze gun, despite her suit at that point being able to resist extreme temperatures.

      Considering some of the other quirks of the game (“Samus shouldn’t be purple there, that’s definitely odd”…um, hello? Gravity Suit?!), I can’t help but think that one Japanese commenter is right, Sakamoto really did go crazy. Or at least more crazy. He has been saying weird things about Metroid for years, such as being “the only one who knows where Samus’s mole is” And that was back when Super came out!!!

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  19. Something I think you’d find interesting relating to this is that I believe much of Other M ties into or relates to the Japanese Metroid manga that appears to be canon to the series? The design for Adam in the game is taken from one of them, as is the idea of Samus going into PTSD in reaction to Ridley, which happened once in the manga because she first saw him when she was a kid, as he was eating her parents in front of her.

    I can imagine that the story could have been heavily based on these kind of things along with not taking the Western-made Prime games into account(removing them, Samus last saw Ridley vaporized with a planet, rather than be rebuilt and refought several more times) which could make a lot of the story sort of come out of nowhere. Combine that with general different more Japanese story writing style, odd translation requests(the baby thing mentioned above) and you get, well, Other M.

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    1. Excellent point. Everything in the opening cutscene of Other M seems to suggest that even Samus herself is putting the whole Metroid/Space Pirates part of her life behind her for good. I’m not sure if they counted the Prime Trilody or not, but here’s some of my theories.

      Meta Ridley shows up pretty early in Prime 1, and her reaction is NOT small to this unexpected event, even with a silent protagonist. Then, when you go across this same room that Ridley just left, you can get the first non-essential scans foreshadowing the Meta Ridley battle. Lots of warning, there.

      Also, this was the Galactic Federation, who we, the player, know are not trustworthy from their future actions in Fusion. But Samus didn’t know that in Other M, and would not have expected them to recreate a beast as dangerous as Ridley. Didn’t expect the GF (or disparate parts of it) to be so negligent to recreate the DNA of EVERY creature, known or not, from the cells on her Power Suit.

      However, it shows some very poor storytelling that it took me four years of pondering and discussion with other fans to get to this point. XP

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    2. Actually, her panic attack in the manga was merely suggested to be possible PTSD, and it happened because Ridley taunted her with a graphic description of what he did to her parents, deliberately triggering the memory of the incident, as opposed to Samus turning into a whimpering wreck at the very sight of him.

      Also, she got over whatever fear she had of him in that same manga. She blew him to smitheroons, stood over his smoldering ashes, belted out a primal scream and afterwards stated outright that she’s over her fear of him.

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  20. I’m a hardcore Metroid fan, have been ever since I discovered Metroid via the original Smash Bros. back in 1999 or 2000. I was one of those many fanboys who sore Metroid Prime would be a pile of shit, while Fusion would be the true sequel to Prime, so I felt like Other M was probably going to be awesome, because this seemed like the exact same situation over again. Well around the time Other M came out, my life hit rock bottom, and I lost most of my video games and consoles and had no money to buy any new ones, so I didn’t get to play it when it first came out. I did check its reception and noticed it was mixed, but even people who liked it would emphasize that it’s no Super Metroid or Metroid Prime. Now that I have actually played it, I have to agree with everyone who says it sucks.

    Interesting to see the Japanese largely agree. I would have figured it would have been more popular there, since it does seem more geared toward a Japanese audience (a bad move in my opinion).

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  21. “This is a good example of a creator raping its own work.”

    A bit late, but do you remember what the original text was here? I assume it was vulgar in the original too as it came from the “anus of the internet”, but is it literal vulgarity or equivalent vulgarity.

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  22. More and more I begin to think I should play it at least once to completely understand why it is so hated (I played Metroid, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, Metroid Zero Mission and Metroid Prime 1-3). I like hating things even though not as much as loving things.

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