Why fans are angry about Metroid Prime: Federation Force

The above YouTube video is the 2015 Nintendo E3 trailer for a new Metroid title coming to the Nintendo 3DS handheld sometime next year: Metroid Prime: Federation Force. If you haven't seen it yet, go ahead and view it now.

Are you a Metroid fan? If so, what are you likely feeling right now? I know what I was feeling right after this: mostly shock, disbelief, and disappointment. Apparently, I'm not alone: at the time of this writing, the video has roughly 6,000 likes, and about 58,000 dislikes. That's a 91% disapproval rate amongst everyone who felt like rating the video.

Clearly, there is a problem. And like any major problem, it is worth investigating to see why it exists (especially since I consider myself a fan of the franchise).

What is the game about?

This is what I know about the game at this point in time, based on the above trailer. That being said, anything could change as the game continues along the development process up until its release sometime in 2016.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force will be a Metroid title for the Nintendo 3DS. The name suggests an association with the acclaimed Metroid Prime trilogy of first-person shooters, and so does its gameplay... somewhat. The game will have two main modes: a series of 4-player co-op missions, and a 3-versus-3 "Blast Ball" mode which superficially resembles soccer, but with guns. The graphics are reminiscent of Metroid Prime: Hunters on the original Nintendo DS, but a bit more cutesy.

All Metroid games so far have had a strong focus on single-player exploration in the role of intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran. This game appears to break that tradition with the focus on multiplayer and the absence of Samus.

What is Metroid about?

Contrast the above description of Metroid Prime: Federation Force with other titles in the Metroid series. The games generally focus on the missions and adventures of the aforementioned Samus Aran. They are predominantly single-player. There is of course lots of shooting involved, but also platforming, exploration, and some light puzzle elements occasionally. The best players aim to get all of the available items and suit/weapon upgrades, and to do so as quickly as possible. The Metroid games are basically split between two flavors: the traditional 2D titles, and the newer 3D first-person shooters considered part of the Metroid Prime subseries.

So, what's the problem?

Metroid fans have been waiting patiently for another entry in the series, since neither the Wii U console nor the Nintendo 3DS have received their own titles yet. Metroid would probably look pretty awesome in stereoscopic 3D or full HD. The dated Metroid Prime: Hunters for Nintendo DS (with its heavy emphasis on now-defunct online multiplayer) and the controversial Metroid: Other M on the original Wii console were the most recent entries, neither of which was as good as most of the other games in the series. If fans could get just one more solid game, in the vein of another Metroid Fusion or a proper Metroid Prime game, then these recent goof-ups could probably be easier to forgive.

Unfortunately, Metroid Prime: Federation Force does not appear to be that game. Many people got excited when Nintendo hinted that they were looking into making a new Metroid title for both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS which combined the 2D and 3D gameplay styles. Instead, we are treated to what appears to be a 3DS-only 3D title.

The best Metroid games had decent background stories and plots to go with them, often revealed with little to no dialogue and with Samus as pretty much the only character. This really helps draw the player into the game's universe. Since Metroid Prime: Federation Force appears to be primarily multiplayer, there seems to be little chance for this kind of plot development to occur.

More recent Metroid games are generally also highly regarded for their graphics, particularly the games in the original Metroid Prime trilogy. The trailer above seems to suggest a level of graphical quality not far above that of Metroid Prime: Hunters on the Nintendo DS, despite the graphical capabilities difference between the DS and 3DS being analogous to the difference between the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube or Wii. Previous games captured the look almost perfectly for a lone warrior exploring an unknown alien environment, but Metroid Prime: Federation Force seems to go for something a bit brighter and simpler. Heck, even the main characters' body proportions alone tell us this game will not be as serious or mature as others we have already played. Visually, it is a parody of the rest of the Metroid series, which would have been marginally more tolerable if it didn't bear the hallowed Metroid Prime designation.

There are also doubts regarding the gameplay. The original games let players experience Samus Aran's "one-woman army" approach to taking on an assortment of extraterrestrial foes, no matter how big or numerous they are. This new game does away with that, for multiplayer missions or some bizarre soccer variant that was tacked on. Neither quite captures the heroic scope of Samus' past triumphs on her own terms.

More fan reactions can be read at Destructoid, but it basically boils down to this: Metroid Prime: Federation Force does not appear to fit in the Metroid series. The visuals, plot, and gameplay all appear way off from what loyal fans would expect from a Metroid title. I own and have played just about every title in the series, but this is the first one I am actually considering skipping. In fact, somebody already made a change.org petition requesting Nintendo to cancel the game which is already most of the way towards its signatures goal. Nintendo should have learned its lesson following the backlash they received due to Metroid: Other M, but unfortunately they appear to only be making matters worse with this trailer.

But, there could be hope

Stephen Totilo at Kotaku has an interview with Nintendo's Kensuke Tanabe, in which the former relays many of fans' concerns to the latter, who then addresses them as much as he can for an in-development game. Mr. Tanabe assures us that the game will make more sense when we actually get to play it, and is actually focused on the conflict between the Galactic Federation and the Space Pirates (I'm reminded a bit of Halo here), with the Blast Ball portion geared more towards being a sort of tutorial for the main missions mode.

In other news, Nintendo is taking its time to create a proper new Metroid Prime entry which will likely release on the codenamed "NX" console, and may include features like a time-shifting mechanic and bringing back Sylux (whose ship is now officially confirmed to be the mysterious ship following Samus in the bonus ending to Metroid Prime 3: Corruption).


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