Whether intended or not, the progression of achievement in Metroid resembles a kind of virtual striptease. Playing well results in seeing more flesh.
Abbie Heppe’s review of Metroid: Other M over at G4‘s web site provoked a bit of debate a few weeks ago. It’s an interesting review that goes well beyond a discussion of game mechanics by considering the significance of the presentation of Metroid series protagonist, Samus Aran, within the context of the newest game’s plotline. Much of the discussion surrounding the review concerned Heppe’s focus on the infantilized version of Other M‘s Samus: “Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man” (“Metroid: Other M for Wii”, G4, 27 August 2010).
Heppe offers a number of interesting examples of this phenomenon throughout the review, to which commenters to the thread responded in various ways. Some agreed with Heppe’s criticism of the game. Some merely found it refreshing that a game reviewer would consider such issues at all. Some dismissed the criticism given that Other M is “just a game” and, thus, unworthy of gender analysis. Still others noted that the presentation of women as submissive and child-like is simply indicative of developer Team Ninja’s standard approach to female presentation (after all, these are the folks responsible for titles like the voyeuristic Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball) and that Nintendo’s choice to place development of this newest iteration of the Metroid series in their hands would, of course, necessarily lead to this kind of representation.
I am, likewise, unsurprised that Team Ninja would present Samus in such a way. Their “aesthetic” and “themes” are pretty obvious. However, what did surprise me is the sense that many players had that Samus is a female figure in gaming that has previously been presented in a non-sexualized way. Even Heppe herself says as much about the bounty hunter when she calls Samus, “the most iconic (and nonsexualized) female characters in gaming history”.