Before we go hands-on with the Team Ninja-developed Metroid: Other M at Nintendo's European Gamers Summit, held at Matter in London's gargantuan O2 Arena, we're shown the game's GCI intro movie on a huge television. When it finishes, we are agog. We have just witnessed the greatest intro movie we've ever seen in a Nintendo game.
This is not to say that it is one of the greatest intro movies in all of gaming. It is to say that it's great - by Nintendo's standard. What this says about Nintendo is revealing: really, Nintendo has never "done" CGI. The Mario series focuses on pure platforming goodness. The Legend of Zelda series' cutscenes use in-game assets. As for Metroid, well, the formative franchise has always been about platforming AND shooting - across multiple viewpoints - and little else.
This time, though, it's about more. It's a kind of gaming melting pot, a collaboration between Nintendo (Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto is involved) and Team Ninja that hopes to broaden Metroid's appeal. Ingredients include the old school mechanics of Metroid, the third-person action of Team Ninja's Ninja Gaiden, and the first-person shooting of Retro Studio's Metroid Prime series. The result is a broth that's unashamedly different, and one hell of an intriguing proposition.
Let's jump back to just before we're shown that intro movie. A lovely German Nintendo chap describes Other M as a "reboot" (isn't everything a reboot these days?) and a "cinematic action game". There's loads of voice over dialogue and cutscenes, all edited to a breathless pace with constantly shifting camera angles; the intro movie is long (at least ten minutes); and there's more of a focus on storytelling and backstory. Remember, for years Samus was a silent bounty hunter, a mysterious character who preferred to do her talking with a hand cannon. In other M, she won't shut up.
Now, for that intro movie. Other M takes place after the events of Super Metroid, the much-loved 1994 SNES classic, but the intro movie recounts the game's epic conclusion. We see Samus hanging in mid-air with her head stuck up Baby Metroid (yes, really, that's how crazy the Metroid series is). Facing her is the towering, terrifying Mother Brain. Samus is defeated, but Baby Metroid recharges her in a final act of defiance. Mother Brain destroys Baby Metroid, but not before Samus falls to the ground. Then, gunarm charged with a new, devastating power, Samus destroys the end boss, the underground facility, and the planet of Zebes. Boom.
The recounting of this epic gaming moment in modern-day CGI sends shivers down our spine. It rekindles memories of a hazy summer spent playing Super Metroid on the SNES with nary a care for the outside world. It sends us scampering to YouTube to check out the boss fight in its original form. It's as clear today as it was then: Super Metroid was 16-bit processor-fuelled 2D action par excellence. Even now, some 16 years later, Samus' defeat of Mother Brain is hair-raising - disturbing, epic, and awesome in equal measure.
Now, it's Team Ninja's turn to carry the burning Metroid torch. Samus' new adventure begins in a Galactic Federation ship. She has been reliving her recent memories in the form of nightmares - unsurprising, really, given how creepy those Metroids are. We hear her narrate from some unknown point in the future. She laments the loss of Baby Metroid, talks about the "power the baby gave me", and says, no doubt with a look of concentrated self-awareness, "the finality of it struck me again". Clearly, Samus has issues.
After a brief tutorial, we skip forward. Samus is travelling through space in her ship. She tells us that at that point the galaxy had begun to forget about Metroids and Space Pirates and all that she accomplished. But her peace is disrupted by an SOS. It is the "Baby's Cry". Samus immediately alters course and heads to its origin. "It was as if it was crying specifically for me," she says in a monotone voice. She lands on a huge, apparently deserted "Bottle Ship", the title sequence appears, and Metroid: Other M officially begins.