The game that singlehandedly caused me to lose faith in Nintendo, Yoshio Sakamoto and the overwhelming majority of the Internet critic culture at the time. It also caused me to stop liking Metroid for…Well, I’m just starting to get over it right now, so I’ll let that speak for itself.
It is obviously (at least to me), a misogynistic nightmare. It is sexism of the most rote and banal kind, positing that all women are destined to be and dream of being mothers and need to be subservient to their fathersXhusbands, and as such comes out of extremely conservative Japanese attitudes towards gender roles.
The allegation that it is character assassination of Samus is, tragically, a more dubious claim. Sakamoto was one of Metroid’s original creative figures, and absolutely all of his hateful and reactionary tendencies are plainly obvious in every other game he was heavily involved with. That would be, for the uninitiated, Metroid II: The Return of Samus, Metroid Fusion, Metroid Zero Mission and, though nobody wants to admit it, Super Metroid.
Super Metroid is, in fact, blatantly about motherhood: Notice how every boss Samus fights has two forms, the first of which resembles a miniature “child” version of the second, the family of Etechoons and Dachoras you can rescue, the more prominent role of Mother Brain when compared to the first game and Samus being rescued by her “child” in the climax. It is, in point of fact, heteronormative garbage.
So, while Other M was ethically reprehensible, it wasn’t actually bad in ways the series hadn’t been before, the only difference this time was themuch more noticeable degree to which it was bad. Had people read Super Metroid more closely, and perhaps not let their memories of being awestruck children marveling at the admittedly quite technically impressive achievement that game was cloud their judgment, we might be seeing the same backlash against Super Metroid we now see against Metroid: Other M.
(This is the other thing about Other M: It’s also shit from a mechanical gameplay and production value perspective, which no other Metroid game had been up to that point, and that helped accentuate what was wrong with the rest of the game. It doesn’t have Super Metroid's lustre and classic status to distract people from its moral problems.)
But then after all that I still say I’m a fan of Metroid and Samus. Well…I’m actually not so sure about that any more. Though I appreciate the “Metroidvania” style, do still like the first game and quite enjoy certain ROM hacks of it and Super Metroid, I think what I really am is a Metroid Prime fan. Which is, of course, a side series produced by an entirely separate team from the one that did all the other Metroid games. And Retro Studios, who did the Metroid Prime series, was of course overseen by Shigeru Miyamoto during its development, and Shigeru Miyamoto is one of my idols.
Small wonder I like it as much as I do.
Without wanting to disagree with the larger argument, I’m puzzled by the critique of Super Metroid here, as I can’t see how, under this argument, one can construct a narrative that is about motherhood (a perfectly real and valid concept worth writing about) but is not “heteronormative garbage.” Which seems like a problem, to say the least.