Narrative flaws aside, this Metroid game creates a fitting atmosphere.
Samus passes through the door and lowers her arm cannon. The camera pulls in to flank her as she takes slow, echoing steps through the abandoned civilian quarters. Her visor burns a bright, greenish yellow against the dark as it sweeps the room, confirming the spaceâ€™s emptiness.
But there is something there, in one of Other M's taut, quiet spaces: a legitimate tension.
It's the last thing I expected to stumble across in a game that manages to foul up so many other world-building devices. When Samus wraps up an emotionless spiel, though, and finally sets off on her lonesome into the Bottle Ship, Other M can conjure a proper dread.
An initial part of this stems from the game's figurative and literal darkness. Before she remedies a power situation early on, the corridors and tight stretches Samus dashes through are almost prohibitively darkâ€”the kind of dark that's paired with ominous drones and far off rattles, bangs, and organic skitters. Powerful as she is, these situations border on scary, encapsulating the sense of clawing isolation the series is closely associated with.
And when the tension breaks and enemies swoop in, their arrival is heralded by contextually appropriate music; low on melody, detail, and personality (a musical theme throughout Other M), it acts as a racing pulse for combat. These tracks, heard in the game's frequent kill room-type encounters, donâ€™t let up until the threat is dealt with; afterward, they drop back down to a current of ambient noise under the clanks of Samusâ€™ feet.
Unlike most other games in the series, Other M's music generally has one of two practical purposes: to heighten the state of vulnerability in loneliness, or to make sequences of combat as heart attack-intense as possible. No one atmosphere is ever made distinct or memorable because of music. A rumbling slurry of almost industrial tones backs most; there are no Norfairs, no Brinstarsâ€”no meaningful themes to punctuate the moment. And in this case, there doesnâ€™t necessarily need to be.
If certain aspects of its presentation were stripped away, the atmosphere of Other M would make great fare for a purely 2D game. The dynamic of vulnerability and distance in playing as Samus from an outside perspective it creates isn't wholly unique to the series, but, unlike other parts of Other M, it is done well.