Obviously I haven't played Metroid: Other M, and I'm not saying it will necessarily be a bad game. But if it is good, it will be good in spite of the limitations Nintendo has put on it. Let me explain.
When Nintendo first revealed the Wii, my head flooded with possibilities of the new and incredible experiences the tech could make into reality. As the system's limitations became clear, one idea still lingered; a game that would combine the precision aiming of a mouse-driven PC shooter with the fluid movement controls only possible with an analog-joystick. We know from The Conduit that the Wii is capable of the first, and by virtue of the nunchuck's analog stick, it's capable of the second. The Wii has the potential to host a game with an unprecedented level of control over the charater. The the kind of game that could put the player into the body of an ultra-mobile combat superhero. The kind of hero who would jump from cliff to cliff, shooting the wings off baddies as she went. Someone like Samus from Metroid.
The Metroid series, since the beginning, has been about shooting and platoforming. I personally love the series, primarily because of Super Metroid on the SNES. For whatever reason, that game holds a special place in the hearts of many a hardcore gamer.
Metroid: Other M is Nintendo's and Team Ninja's continuation of the Metroid series on the Wii. It doesn't utilize the control scheme I had dreamed of, and that's ok. What's not ok is the that Metroid: Other M's control scheme is a giant step backward, and a slap in the faces of the hardcore gamers who have supported the series through all these years.
For those who haven't read the previews, Metroid: Other M is basically a 3d platformer with a good helping of autoaim and a toggleable 1st person mode. The game only utilizes the wiimote. The nunchuck (with its analog stick) isn't used at all. The player holds the wiimote sideways, as if he was playing a virtual console game, and he moves Samus around with the digital d-pad. The 1 button shoots, the 2 button jumps, and the A button turns Samus into a ball. At any point, the player can point the wiimote at the screen in order to enter a first person mode. In the first person mode, the player can look around and shoot, but he can't move. Without the nunchuck attachment, how could he?
Take a second to let that control scheme sink in. Remember how difficult 3d platforming was without an analog joystick? Remember the original Crash Bandicoot circa 1996? Without the joystick, you can't vary your character's speed or move her in the direction you choose. It's up, down, left, or right for you, buddy. The moment you encounter any real platforming gameplay, you'll be longing for Mario 64's controls. Of course the game's level designers are smart enough to know how difficult it is to execute 3d platforming with a dpad, so they will only include the most basic platforming sections. Great.
Then you have the aiming element. Since pressing 'up' on the dpad will make samus move into the screen rather than point her gun up in the air to shoot, your aiming will be limited to the horizontal plane. But even there your aim will be limited since you can only point Samus in 8 directions using the dpad. So the game will do virtually all of the aiming for you via autoaim, as long as you're in 3rd person mode. At least the autoaim works well, according to the previews. But without aiming, shooting is not much more than pressing the fire button.
Of course you can always go into 1st person with a flick of your wrist. Here you can aim precisely, but you can't move while you're doing it. Some game critics have complained about this limitation in the playable demo. I can only imagine how bad it will get in the full game. The idea of Samus having to come to a full stop in order to aim and shoot blows my mind. Resident Evil 4 had the same control limitation. But Samus isn't Leon Kennedy, Resident Evil 4's star. Samus is not meant to be an everyman who fights slow-moving zombies. She's meant to be a super-powered badass who fights futuristic, often hyperactive, alien monsters.
I ask why, when the Wii is fully capable of great 3d platforming controls and great 3d shooting controls, did Nintendo give us a control scheme that's in such conflict with the very idea of a 3d platformer-shooter? The answer is accessibility. In Nintendo's crusade to make every one of their products as casual-friendly as possible, they've trampled all over their most hardcore franchise.
There's no denying that a control scheme that only uses only wiimote is less intimidating than one that utilizes the wiimote and nunchuck together. There's no denying that my dad is more likely to play a game that does the aiming for him rather than one that makes him manage moving and aiming at the same time. But hardcore gamers are used to complicated control schemes. We've played Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty. We'd rather have a complicated control scheme that actually puts us in control, than a simple one that makes the game play for us. We want to feel like we're actually wearing Samus's powersuit. Nintendo would rather that my grandfather be able to pull off a screw attack.
As I said, I don't think Metroid: Other M will be a bad game. Nintendo won't allow it to be anything less than good. But it will be good in spite of its limitations. It will be like the original Playstation 1 Resident Evil games, which were good in spite of the fact that the characters controlled like tanks. It will be like iPhone action games, which are good in spite of the fact that virtual joysticks are terrible. Metroid: Other M shouldn't be good. It should be great.
Nintendo calls it the sequel to Super Metroid, but Super Metroid was groundbreaking. Metroid: Other M could have been groundbreaking too. It could have been something that Microsoft and Sony, even with their far superior hardware, couldn't touch. Instead Nintendo took a hardcore series and gave it to the casual gamer. Maybe they should change the name to Metroid Party.