With the coming attention on Hyrule Warriors, made by Team Ninja, I’m hearing people grumble about how much and how badly Team Ninja fucked up Other M and how it’s a bad idea to have them involved in the creation of another Nintendo title. The implication seems to be that Other M is bad because Team Ninja made it, and that’s where it ends.
Resist this idea.
Metroid: Other M was made by three groups working together. You had Team Ninja doing the gameplay, level design, combat and, you know, the bits people tend to call ‘the game.’ That’s what they do. Typically speaking, that’s their job. They typically work with a group called D Rockets, who pre-render their movies for them. The writing of Other M was this guy named Yoshio Sakamoto, from Nintendo. Yoshio Sakamoto’s previous writing credits as director include Metroid (1986), Super Metroid (1994), Metroid Fusion (2002) and Metroid: Zero Mission (2004). Yoshio Sakamoto, as much as we can easily nail down in the shared-creativity world of early 80s Nintendo, is one of the creators of Metroid, and of Samus Aran.
That’s hard fact, easily found if you just check the credits of the game. What follows is extrapolation from the information we have.
That is to say, the writing of Other M is very close to the canon source. Yoshio Sakamoto was this product’s link to Nintendo. I will bet you good money that there is basically no person in the Team Ninja structure who during the production of Other M had say-so over Sakamoto in the writing process. Maybe someone on the dev team would tell him ‘we can’t do that’ but the words chosen, the ideas told, they, I will lay you odds, came from Sakamoto.
Since Other M was going to be a Wii title, to look, well, like typical Team Ninja games, it had to have its cut-scenes pre-rendered. That way they could be compressed and as small as possible so the hardware could handle them. This probably meant that D-Rockets needed a script as quickly as possible in order to start their rendering early, and then compress them. Chances are, what this meant happened is that Sakamoto had to create, in a narrow breadth of time, an outline of a script, with the key cut-scenes fleshed out so D-Rockets could work on them. He had to get that to Team Ninja, who then had to add their environmental information and visual assets they were using, and then, that product had to get swept off to D-Rockets to be made.
We can infer from this that while Team Ninja were involved, Team Ninja aren’t the ones who decided the theme was Motherhood. Team Ninja aren’t the ones who wrote Adam Malkovich shooting his significant other in the back to teach her a lesson. Team Ninja aren’t the ones who chose to put into the plot Samus freezing up in response to Ridley. In fact, if you sit down and pick apart Other M, you’ll find most of the complaints about it, the hate for that game that lasts beyond the game’s lifespan, is the stuff Team Ninja probably didn’t have anything to do with.
Then they went on to make Ninja Gaiden Z. Which had a trailer that featured you crashing an oil tanker into a massive sign’s vagina.
What I’m saying is that you can’t save the Metroid franchise by blaming Team Ninja. The Samus that was presented there was, in some way, chosen by the man who is as close to an ‘owner’ of Samus as exists. Hyrule Warriors is going to come out, and it will probably be a pretty good game, in the style of the games that come after it. But stop blaming Team Ninja for the work of a man who hasn’t been there for four years. Blame them for their own stuff.
Extra Credit question: What does it tell you when Nintendo were happy to go back to Team Ninja?~ Does it perhaps suggest that they think that Other M worked out fine?