Being a Nintendo fan is meant to be simple. In the absence of real third-party support, you’re forever waiting for the same heroes to go on their next adventures; despite accusations of lack of originality, you find it exciting, a reward for your loyalty, and it makes you happy. A fifteenth Zelda game? Yay!
You’d expect this happiness to feed back to the company itself, and for decisions on game development to be made with this feedback in mind. A key example is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, which was finally announced in a Nintendo Direct shortly after E3 2014, following months of fan demand. Nintendo had listened.
Which makes the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s announcement all the more baffling. With its official trailer the subject of over 68,000 dislikes at the time of writing (just the 7,000 or so likes), Federation Force has annoyed the Metroid fanbase in a way that no extended hiatus ever could. In what appears to be a Metroid Prime game only in name, Federation Force is an online multiplayer FPS in the style of 2006’s DS title Metroid Prime Hunters. Blast Ball, first shown during the Nintendo World Championships, has been confirmed as a mode in Federation Force, and the whole thing has a chibi feel to it. Even more noticeably, series protagonist Samus Aran is nowhere to be seen in gameplay footage. The latest entry in a series about a completely isolated Samus Aran battling through dark and creepy worlds is a multiplayer party game without the heroine herself.
Simply put, who asked for this?
With fan demand for a new, ‘proper’ (have to start differentiating now) Metroid title at an all-time high, the release of Federation Force is one of two things – either a precursor for a soon-to-be-announced ‘proper’ Metroid title, or evidence of Nintendo’s complete disconnection from its fans. If we assume it’s the former, using Majora’s Mask 3D as an example, Nintendo may choose to announce a Metroid title in one of its Nintendo Directs later this year. However, following a five-year wait since the generally poorly-received Metroid: Other M, fans have taken the announcement of what is essentially the complete opposite of a Metroid Prime game as confirmation that the Big N has lost interest in one of its biggest and most revered franchises, regardless of consumer feedback. Nintendo have not listened.
And it was strange that they hadn’t, considering that all signs were pointing towards a Metroid revival. The last year has seen both Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion made available on the Nintendo eShop, as well as the Metroid Prime Trilogy. It’s well known that Prime developers Retro Studios have been hard at work on a new project, and they hinted at their presence at E3 this year on Twitter. There had to be a new Metroid. The closest we got to a Retro Metroid announcement, however, was Microsoft’s unveiling of ReCore, a title created by “the makers of Metroid Prime”.
Without sounding like a fanboy, Samus is undisputedly one of the most powerful characters in gaming, and the Metroid series is one of the highest standard, having pioneered the Metroidvania ‘genre’, and having brought two of gaming’s finest moments in Super Metroid and the original Metroid Prime. At this point in time, however, it’s hard to see Samus as anything past her status as Smash Bros veteran and Amiibo model. Nintendo have undoubtedly struck gold with Amiibo, and a Samus Amiibo remains appealing through Samus cameos (DID YOU SEE THE SAMUS YOSHI THO??) and eShop releases of older Metroid games, in the way that an Amiibo of F-Zero’s Captain Falcon does. Type ‘Samus’ into Google and see the first predicted result. Amiibo is arguably Nintendo’s biggest focus at the moment, as disenchanted Animal Crossing fans will tell you. While I don’t necessarily link the lack of a new Metroid title to the rise of Amiibo, it’s worth noting that a Samus Amiibo would seem more appropriate for the Blast Ball mode than it would for a Metroid Prime 4, and maybe that plays a part in things.
All of which brings us back to Federation Force. Some rumours suggest that with the series’ version of space police, the Galactic Federation, set to play a key role in an upcoming Metroid Prime 4, Federation Force gives us an insight into how the GF operate; a much needed positive PR boost following the events of Metroids Fusion and Other M. I’m a bit more sceptical. I feel that Nintendo are unsure of what to do with Metroid. Other M supports this; a character that was known for her stoicism, efficiency and professionalism is portrayed as childish, petulant and naïve, to the point where it’s hard to believe that Samus is responsible for the events of all of the series’ previous events. The series’ continuous change in style is labelled ‘innovation’, when it could be something else entirely.
I’m not interested in a title that was labelled ‘Metroid: Baby’s First eSports’ on Twitter. The fact that Retro Studios’ new project remains a secret is hope that a real Metroid is still alive and due for announcement in an upcoming Nintendo Direct, because, quite simply, if we don’t get a new ‘proper’ Metroid soon, it’s quite probable that we won’t get one for a long time. Being a Nintendo fan is meant to be simple. Might be worth trying out that Axiom Verge on the PS4…