Nintendo's Q1 Media Summit was clearly the Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M show, no matter how valiantly other titles may have struggled for attention. While Galaxy 2 was out in the open for all to see, though, Other M was in a semi-private darkroom, with various booths dedicated to some solid single-player gaming. No one was allowed to take any footage, and for a title that's completely retooling a franchise, that's a damn shame. Let's cut the intro crap and get right to what everyone's looking for: the nitty gritty.

Other M begins with a CG cinematic that retells the final moments of the Mother Brain battle from Super Metroid. Samus, fully voice acted, ponders why she's still alive. The camera pans to reveal the baby Metroid gripping Samus protectively, while the fully transformed Mother Brain tears into it mercilessly. Finally healed, Samus drops heavily to the ground just as the baby Metroid is killed, exploding in slow motion into a mass of clear liquid that rains down on Samus's armor and her outstretched hand. Imbued with the Hyper Beam, she charges a shot that's sure to end the fight.

I can't say enough good things about the quality of this cinema, be it in terms of direction or fidelity. Mother Brain is terrifying, and already Samus is very humanized. It doesn't end there, though. Samus wakes up in a Galactic Federation facility, musing about how she's been reliving that moment. She speaks later in the demo about the baby Metroid's death, and how there's nothing she can do about it. She seems pretty well obsessed with it, really, almost as if she had personally lost a child.

The cinema ends by setting up a training session that functions as a tutorial. The Galactic Federation scientist running the test is, unfortunately, the first example of how not everything can look as good as that Mother Brain battle. Human faces in this game look pretty terrible. Not flat and weird like in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but rather just weirdly deformed looking. Their features are often too exaggerated for as realistic a style is being attempted here. I have to say, the art direction in the Other M demo is without a doubt the low point, coming nowhere near the high standards set by Retro Studios in the Metroid Prime series. Where Prime would have locales suffused with detail, debris, and history, Other M feels sterile and empty. That said, this might be part of why media wasn't allowed to take any pictures or video. The opening screen of the demo even says that the graphics are far from final, so I'll reserve judgment for now.

So let's talk controls, all of which are explained via this initial tutorial. Other M is primarily controlled NES-style, with the Wii Remote held sideways. The d-pad will run her around, yes, in third-person, on a full 3D surface. Any 2D-looking parts of the game typically have at least a little bit of depth, and allow Samus to run towards and away from the screen to a degree. Other areas are unabashed in their 3D-ness. Samus feels a bit stiff in how she runs around, perhaps because you're controlling her with a d-pad in a 3D environment, perhaps because she moves very quickly. She's very responsive, though. In fact, tapping any direction on the d-pad immediately before an enemy attacks will prompt an evasive dash, which positions you in perfect position for a counterattack.

The 1 button shoots, and holding it will fill a bar at the top of the screen that indicates your charge shot, which functions as expected. Pressing 2 will make Samus jump, which is a nice, quick, and spinny arc. If you're in a wall-jump situation, pressing the d-pad towards the wall when you jump at it will cause Samus to hug the wall, and continuing to hold the d-pad while jumping (you don't have to alternate directions on the pad) will see her hopping up between any two close walls. If you're fighting certain enemies, you can also jump on their heads, where you can either jump off behind them or deliver some point-blank face-shootin'. The final basic moves you can perform are morph-ball related. Hit A to enter the ball, 1 to drop a bomb, and 2 to jump. You can hold 1 to charge up a super bomb, and you can rapidly hit the button to drop a series of bombs, resulting in the predictable bomb jump. Bomb dropping and bomb jumping feels more like the old 2D Metroids than the Metroid Primes, where you can lay a whole mess of them and there's no clear 1-2-3 timing.

New to the series is the notion of entering a "concentration" stance. Hold the Wii Remote up on its end, pointing upwards, and Samus will grip her gun arm and focus. While in this stance, you can hold the A button to replenish all of your missiles at any time. (More about missiles in a second.) If your health is at a critical level (15ish or lower, flashing red), this will also replenish your health up to 99 (one full energy tank). It takes a second or two to perform, so you shouldn't do it in the mix of things, but it's an interesting way to ensure that you're never completely screwed in a combat situation.

All this 3rd-person action dovetails curiously into a full-on 1st-person aiming mode that you can switch to at any time by pointing the remote at the screen. While behind the visor, you can aim your reticule around within Samus's point of view to focus on certain items. By holding the B button you unlock the position of the visor and Samus will look up, down, and all around when your cursor hits the edges of the screen. What you can't do is walk, which makes this extremely awkward in combat. The visor mode works well enough when your intent is to examine your surroundings (you can focus on items worthy of attention with B), but when you want to shoot at dudes, you'd better be happy with where you're standing. The A button will shoot, and if you lock on to a guy with B, the A button will fire a missile from your stock. When you're able to fire a missile, actually, a series of icons appear at the bottom of the screen that it seems you'll eventually be able to switch between, perhaps for different sorts of first-person weaponry. Regardless, though, you'll find yourself swapping between first and third-person perspectives in certain combat situations, which can be pretty weird. Angling the controller back and forth in your hands, going into third-person view only because you need to run backwards to get away from a guy who got too close... it needs some kind of streamlining, to be sure.

There's one final perspective that you'll find rarely, where the camera zooms up behind Samus and all you can do is slowly walk around. Presumably it'll be used in situations where they're trying to build drama, or just want you examining things up-close without being able to attack.

The demo proper begins with Samus responding to a distress call, coded "Baby's Cry" or something like that, another reference perhaps to her baby Metroid obsession. She arrives at a "Bottle Ship," a space station where she encounters a federation force that has already responded to the call. Among them is everybody's favorite "remember me?" guy, finally named as Anthony Higgs. Supposedly he's the only one who ever calls Samus "princess." It seems everyone has a nickname for her these days, as the troop is led by Adam Malkovich, Samus's superior before she left the Galactic Federation to become a bounty hunter, who always called her "Lady." (Perhaps Other M will tell the story of his death, seeing as how it takes place before Metroid Fusion, where Adam's consciousness has been transplanted into Samus's ship after whatever circumstances resulted in his demise.) There's some clear animosity from Adam, who seemingly wasn't pleased with Samus's decision to leave. Regardless, Samus chooses to accompany them to figure out what's going on in the station.

Exploring the space station is reminiscent of past Metroids, with corridors, platforming, and dude-shooting in plentiful supply. Your combat situations are almost all against familiar Super Metroid enemies, which arrive in large groups that you have to blast through. Samus's beam will aim at anyone that's within a cone that extends in front of her, so she'll automatically aim upwards or slightly to the side if the enemy isn't in a straight line parallel to the ground. If you get close enough, you can even shoot enemies that are grasping on to the ceiling this way, though you may want to enter first-person at points to take care of these guys. After all, it's the only way you can use missiles. Enemy groups will usually respawn as soon as you leave a room, again harkening back to the 2D games.

I didn't shoot any doors in the demo, any that were green would simply open as I approached them. Red doors didn't indicate missile dependency, but rather just that they were locked. Some could be opened by standing in front of a console that Samus would automatically operate, while others remained locked forever. There was a save station that functioned with no real surprises, automatically saving when Samus stood on it and replenishing all of her health. Curiously, there were no health pickups dropped by enemies, but they weren't really ever needed, since I could always recover from a critical situation with the concentration mode. There was an energy tank and a couple missile tanks, the latter which only increased your maximum missile stock by one, rather than the expected five.

The first time I tried to use a morph ball bomb outside of the training room, I was informed by a text display that "Adam has not yet authorized the use of bombs." It would appear that Adam's wont will determine how your abilities unlock as the game progresses, which is somewhat similar to how Metroid Fusion handled certain upgrades. It's really quite clear that this is a followup to the groundwork that Fusion set, with many structural elements echoing its philosophies.

When bombs (and later missiles) were finally "authorized," I had a brief glimpse of the game's inventory menu. There were areas for beam, bomb, suit, and misc upgrades, as well as two curious items at the top of the screen identified as "energy parts" and "accel charge," each of which had three empty slots. I used the bombs to acquire a couple of those missile and energy tanks, which appeared on the minimap as glowing white dots before I had found them. The minimap also has an arrow around its fringes which indicates the direction you need to travel in to achieve whatever your next objective might be.

A key part of the demo is a boss battle against a big blue blob that takes a somewhat humanoid form. The battle is fought along with the troop of federation officers, and you have to work with them to take it down. The battle boils down to evading attacks while trying to find a good place to go into first-person so you can use a missile to strike either its eye or a part of its body that the troopers have frozen. (Adam "authorized" them to use their freeze guns during the fight.) As I mentioned before, swapping between perspectives like this is pretty awkward. I think what I'd really want is the ability to move while you're in first-person, because as it stands, it's just flat-out unpleasant to have to go behind the visor when you're also trying to evade.

And that's pretty much it. Other M is showing off some really interesting ideas here, but there are others that still need a lot of polishing. Adam sends the soldiers to investigate different parts of the space station at one point, in a real-time cinema, and his face actually looks really good there, so maybe there's still some hope for the art. Also, the character development Samus received during the demo probably eclipses what she's received cumulatively throughout the entire series already. I guess those who prefer her as a silent protagonist may not be a huge fan of this direction, but she's still her stoic self. Learning more about her is already proving to be pretty interesting. Let's just pull together some of the rough edges, and we'll have a real winner here.