Nintendo is famous for making a ton of iconic franchises over the years but Metroid is a very interesting case for Nintendo. Its a series that has been on hiatus since 2010 and is finally coming back with Federation Force today on the Nintendo 3DS….but the game isn’t exactly the Metroid game many people wanted. Focusing on Multiplayer & Co-Op Action rather then the isolated mazes we explored in Prime 1 & Super Metroid too a radical shift in art direction compared to past titles in the series, many didn’t know how to take this game.
Today, we will be taking a dive into the history of this new chapter in the Metroid series and will see the good & bad sides to Nintendo’s management of this iconic franchise.
Other M & The Series Long ‘Pause’
The story beings back in 2008 when the Metroid series was highly regarded as one of Nintendo’s finest franchises, with Retro Studio’s Prime 3 releasing on the Nintendo Wii back in 2007 & one year later, the entire Prime Trilogy releasing on the Wii with motion control support. Many held hope for the future of the series, considering the high quality of the Prime series and with word one of the minds behind Super Metroid was working on a new project, many wondered what the future held for the series.
Would we get another Prime game? Will the long rumored Metroid Dread release on the Nintendo DS? Or something brand new for the series releasing and surprising us all? Well, it was the last option with the tag-team duo of Nintendo & Team Ninja working together to produce Metroid: Other M. It would take the 2D action of Super Metroid and bring it to the 3rd dimension.
Maker of many of the iconic 2D Metroid games, Sakamoto, wanted to tell a story bridging the gap between Super Metroid & Fusion. In addition, he wanted the game to be controlled ONLY with the Wii Remote on its side with the first person mode of the Prime games being used for missiles. Story was a big focus and for the very first time in the entire series, Samus has a voice and English & JP Voice Actors.
While fans were nervous about all these changes and new additions, many still held excitement. Then the game released in August 2010…..and it was critically panned by both fans and critics. Both shared frustration at how the iconic character of Samus was portrayed in the game, being far more passive and weak compared to how she acted in prior titles. Gameplay issues and design problems also came into play and it lead to many disliking the game.
Personally, Other M is one of my most disliked Metroid games but I enjoyed the combat focused gameplay and the presentation (visuals and music) a good deal. Many blame Other M for putting the series on another hiatus, with this happening for the series back in the N64 days. After Super Metroid, many waited a very long time before new Metroid games released (a whole generation wait). That happened again, with no future Metroid games outside of re-releases on the Virtual Console & cameos in games like Super Smash Brothers.
The reception to Other M also pushed Sakamoto, who wrote the story of Other M and demanded Nintendo’s localization house (Nintendo Treehouse) stick closely to the JP script, completely away from the Metroid series. He now works mainly on the Warioware & titles like the successful Tomodachi Life, happy working on those style of games.
Going to the Next Level – Nintendo’s Partnership with Western Studio ‘Next Level Games’
Back in 2005, a studio called Next Level Games worked with Nintendo to release Mario Strikers for the GameCube. It was a soccer game that showed Mario & Crew having a bit of an edge to them, with more gritty and in-your-face animations and the core gameplay blending a lot of Smash Brothers elements with soccer (or football).
It was successful enough to have Nintendo fund another title in the series and in 2007, we got Mario Strikers Charged. This added a lot to the series, with challenge missions to complete, new characters to unlock, more power-ups and some fun usage of the Wii’s controllers. I loved the game personally and its one of my favorite Mario Sports titles.
This lead to Next Level Games mainly making Nintendo games going forward, pitching a Mario Volleyball game that was scrapped and later working on the Wii version of Nintendo’s Punch Out!!!. Punch Out was a game that really impressed many, taking the concepts of the original game and adding a lot of personality to the series cast & overall being a really fun game.
When the 3DS released, they got to work on pitching a 3DS concept to Nintendo, with the Metroid IP being on their mind. With a more stylized look and a focus on 2.5D visuals & gameplay, it would push the 3DS hardware while giving fans the long awaited 2D Metroid game many waited a long time for. But, they were instead pushed to work on a sequel to Luigi’s Mansion.
It is a funny story, as they were ready to pitch their Metroid concept but Nintendo didn’t even give them a chance to show it off; they just told them ‘We want you to work with the Mario IP again and make a sequel to cult GC Classic’.
Thus, Dark Moon entered development and in 2013, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon released on the 3DS to critical and commercial success. It cemented the studio as one of Nintendo’s primer second party studios and work soon resumed on Metroid, but not in the way they expected.
The Rise of the Federation – Nintendo Announces a New Metroid Title
During Nintendo’s June 2015 E3 Direct, many were hoping for a lot of Nintendo Wii U announcements and sequels to many franchises like Animal Crossing, Star Fox & Metroid to land on the Wii U. What we got, was something else. Star Fox got a new mainline installment called ‘Star Fox Zero’ which uses the Wii U’s motion controls for aiming your shots, Animal Crossing got an Amiibo focused title which was a simple board game with a few mini games sprinkled in….and Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
It was a very short trailer but many instantly hated what they saw. The art style was very stylized and chib-inspired designs for the realistic Federation Troopers we saw in Prime 3, the gameplay looked very Monster Hunter like (where you team up with friends to complete missions) and overall, the game just didn’t ‘look’ like Metroid for people.
And fans expressed there dislike for the game with full force; the games trailer on Nintendo’s YouTube page got the most dislikes of any trailer they ever put out and the internet was filled with ‘vivid’ comments.
To say people were upset, was an understatement. However, Metroid Prime producer Kensuke Tanabe wanted to make a game like this for a very long time, since 2009. Exploring the Galactic Federation is a concept not really done in Metroid before & seeing after-effects from the Prime series from their perspective is a novel idea. Next Level Games developers showed the game off on Nintendo’s Treehouse live and it looked promising; the team work mechanics were novel & the controls LOOKED to control like Prime.
As the months went on, Nintendo released more footage of the game and we learned more about how it will play. Fast-forward to July 2016 and Nintendo released the Blast Ball portion of the game as part of a demo to help promote the game. I got the demo and it controls almost 1-to-1 like the original Metroid Prime but with the ability to aim/look around with the 3DS’s gyroscope.
Metroid was in a very odd state; many were not looking forward to Federation Force and wanted the game to fail. To the point where people made a petition when the game was announced to cancel the project. I wish that I was making that part up but nope. There really was a petition to cancel a video game.
The Federation Releases – Post Release Impressions
Today, August 19th 2016, Federation Force finally releases. And what is the critical reception? Mixed. Some people enjoyed the game and thought that despite not being a proper Metroid title, was still good fun as a spin-off of the series.
However other outlets compared the title to games like Destiny and lamented the lack of modern online features like voice chat and a lack of different weapons to use making the experience feel bland and weaker compared to other MP shooters on the market. Issues like these popped up in another Nintendo MP title on the 3DS (Triforce Heroes) regarding voice chat and its a shame that wasn’t fixed with Federation Force.
There’s little overlap in content or gameplay between Metroid Prime Federation Force and another recent release, the PS4 and PC game No Man’s Sky. There is, though, a mirrored case study in expectations, so low for the former and so high for the latter. Both have arrived differently than forecast. One is still cooling off from overheated hopes, settling in with an audience that may like the game for what it is rather than what they hoped it would be. Federation Force benefits from comparatively low expectations. While it may not be a classic Metroid, it proves to be the kind of strategic shooter not seen from Nintendo before. Its designers enter such uncharted territory with aplomb, and the resulting game is one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.
The gaming communities reaction to the game is also very mixed, with some people enjoying the game while others being sour on it not being a strong Metroid adventure.
marmoka: Well, it seems that the game is good, but not for Metroid fans. This is not for me then. I don’t even like online multiplayer FPSs, so I wouldn’t enjoy this even if I didn’t care about Metroid. Anyway, even if I hate the game, I must confess I’m getting some curiosity about it, because I want to see myself how bad it is. Maybe I will get it later, when it’s cheap, in second-hand stores. It’s even weird to see different opinions in Nintendo fansites. I never trust them because there may be lack of neutrality. Some loved it, and other didn’t like it. What about a Metroid Prime port for 3DS? All of them say that the Prime controls adapt well to the handheld. And this would have been well received.
Chairhome: Played up to mission 6. Still a decent game. There is some variety in the missions, and i may go back to a few stages to hit bonus objectives to get higher scores for higher levels. I still want to try it out in co-op. I’ll see if I can get a game going with my son tomorrow.
My stance on this whole ordeal? Next Level Games produced a FPS game on a system not really known for this genre of gaming the best they could. It works and can be a lot of fun based on gameplay footage I saw online, but I can see & understand the issues many have with the title. As someone content with the lack of a proper Metroid release in the mainline series, I am happy that Next Level finally worked on the Metroid series & it looks like a game I will enjoy in the future.
The Future of Metroid – Hints At What is to Come?
Nintendo talked about future Metroid games not being viable on the Wii U but with the NX on the horizon, I have hope that they will make a new adventure for Samus. This is supported by the ending to Federation Force, further hinting at more prime adventures in the future.
But with the toxic image Federation Force has with the gaming community, I’m not sure that we will be seeing a new Metroid game in the future. Considering how Nintendo can misread the gaming community sometimes, I could picture them just assuming many hate Metroid, when that clearly isn’t the case; they just want more 2D Metroid or another ‘proper’ Prime adventure.
I feel Nintendo can do this, as both Next Level Games & Retro Studios are great developers for a future Metroid title. I would also like to see what internal Nintendo developers do with Metroid but I hope that if Sakamoto comes back to work on the series, he remembers that people enjoyed his work on Super Metroid, Fusion & Zero Mission not for there stories but for the maze-like level design and the tight gameplay those provided.
Lets blast off to the great beyond and wish Samus & the Federation luck on future ventures.