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E3 Opinion: What are Nintendo’s Plans With Federation Force and Metroid?

Through this E3’s Nintendo Direct, a new Metroid game was finally unveiled. Five years have passed since the last 3D iteration in the series with Metroid: Other M, and a whopping eleven years before the latest foray into 2D with Metroid: Zero Mission. Fans have been clamoring for anything Metroid related, and with Retro dropping hints for this E3, excitement was unsurprisingly high. What we got however, was Metroid Prime: Federation Force. I can’t help but wonder, what is Nintendo thinking?

Federation Force is a co-op first-person shooter on the 3DS starring the Galactic Federation of the Metroid series, featuring the side sports game, Metroid Prime: Blast Ball. Fan reaction has been expectedly incredibly negative, with most fans disappointed in the lack of a core Metroid game. The last entry into the series, Other M was also met with mostly negative criticism and was a different approach to the series, with an emphasis on story and switching between third and first-person. Taking the backlash against that game into account, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption from 2007 is seen as the last well received Metroid game, and the thirst for more hasn’t died down over the years.

A very different sort of Metroid game.

With games like Ori and the Blind Forest and Axiom Verge this year, interest in Metroid has only grown. Axiom Verge particularly shares many similarities and is obviously heavily inspired by the Metroid series, and felt like a glimpse at what a new generation 2D Metroid game would be. Shockingly made by a sole developer, Tom Happ, the reception to the game is no doubt a sign that fans are eager and ready for a new Metroid. Metroid: Zero Mission, being a remake of the first game, makes the last original 2D title Metroid: Fusion, released thirteen years ago. With the DS seeing only Metroid Prime: Hunters, and the rise in 2D Metroidvania style games, why would Nintendo delegate resources towards Federation Force instead? Has the Metroid main series really faded from Nintendo’s future?

If this was a done by single developer, what could Nintendo accomplish?

Earlier this year, the same developers of Federation Force, Next Level Games, were shown to have scrapped a very different looking concept for a 2D Metroid game for the 3DS. To see their ambition to develop a Metroid game shifted towards making Federation Force begged the question of why Nintendo thought it would be fit to have a spin-off of the Prime subseries, which I had honestly originally assumed concluded with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Metroid Prime and now Metroid: Federation Force producer, Kensuke Tanabe, was interviewed by numerous news outlets after the Direct’s reveal, shedding some light on future Metroid plans.

In an inverview with IGN, Tanabe reveals that there is “a little more work left for me to do in the Metroid Prime series”, it seems he has some big ideas for the 3D games. Fans might recall the ending to Corruption, which saw a hint at the return of enemy bounty hunter Sylux from Metroid Prime, a plot thread seemingly abandoned after Other M. Tanabe however, goes on to say, “There’s still more I want to build around the story of Sylux and Samus. There’s something going on between them. I want to make a game that touches upon [it].” It seems Federation Force is meant to reintroduce players to the universe of Metroid Prime and explain the Galactic Federation’s presence in it. Tanabe states that this is all just concepts right now, but he speaks on some very specific details for the game that give his story a little more credence.

Sylux’s ship spotted at the very end of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

As Nintendo has stated, their E3 Direct was not going to showcase any plans for their future platform, codenamed the NX. Commenting on the state of this new Metroid Prime game, Tanabe told Eurogamer, “If we started for Wii U now, it would likely take three years or so. So it would likely now be on Nintendo’s NX console.” Despite the apparent confirmation that no mainline Metroid game is currently in development, Tanabe goes on to mention explicit ideas the game may incorporate. Along with the focus on Sylux, he mentions the notion that, “Instead of broadening it to more planets, I would have one and would focus on the timeline, and being able to change that.”

As revealed by an interview between Kotaku and Tanabe, Federation Force will in fact have its own single player mode, feature Samus in some form, and Metroids will have a presence. At first glance, I had speculated it to be a game that had previously been entirely separate from the Metroid series, with the brand simply slapped on during development for recognition. This news apparently shuts down that theory however, and it seems Federation Force may be the first step towards a new fully fledged Metroid game. Much of my frustrations with Federation Force stemmed from my confusion towards whether the game was actually the only substantial plans for the series, but it seems this may not be the case.

Still, many mysteries about Nintendo’s goals with Metroid are yet unsolved. Is there no 2D Metroid game in development? Tanabe actually mentions Yoshio Sakamoto, director of the previous 2D Metroid games, and that he does not wish to speak for him. Federation Force may not be the substitute for a 3D Metroid game, but is it for a 2D one? What exactly is Retro Studios working on if work on this next Metroid has not actually begun? Is the life of the Wii U really so short that work hadn’t even started on a Metroid game? And perhaps most importantly, was Federation Force the best choice for Nintendo to get fans back into the Prime universe? Now that the smoke has settled and some information on a true successor to the series has been given, maybe fans will give Federation Force a chance. I know I’m finding myself a little more welcoming of the game if it’s a means of introducing us to some new concepts that will play out in a possible fourth entry into the Prime games.

Is this the end of Metroid or a new beginning?

Hopefully if Nintendo can take anything from the huge backlash and immediate questioning of a new mainline game, it’s that the world is ready for a new Metroid Prime.

With E3 2015 in full motion, we still have plenty left to say about everything happening down in LA. For more opinions on the gaming world, stay updated @ButtonMasherTO.

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