It may be the contrarian in me, but after the negative reception so far… I kind of want this game more!
I love Samus Aran.
In a completely non-romantic way, of course. Samus is one of those characters who is both iconic and memorable yet just bland enough to impose on her your own kind of identity – a female version of Link, in that respect (sorry Linkle…). Yet the world of Metroid has often alluded to matters far beyond the scope of a simple freelance bounty hunter; a sprawling universe full of characters and worlds that Samus alone would either not see the need to visit, or have enough time to visit. Whilst we no doubt enjoy the boundless adventures of Ms. Aran, the series has been asking – nay, begging – for a spin-off series for a while now to start to flesh out this vast stretch of space and its political connotations.
That’s not to say Federation Force is the best example I can think of – though its creation and indeed, tone reminds me of Halo Reach. Perhaps this is where much of the negativity stems from; the Metroid franchise, for all its devotees, has never enjoyed the same level of success that Microsoft’s Master Chief series has routinely enjoyed. Though the seeds of this tonal change to tap into the success of the Halo series was sown during Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – a game which jettisoned the somewhat more exploratory tone of the first two games for a more direct and sometimes linear action-packed approach. I was never entirely sold on this, I’ll admit – but time, as always, is a great healer and I’ll concede that I may have been unduly harsh on it for its attempt to ape the Halo franchise a little; it was inevitable, and Metroid Prime 3 still did enough “Metroid” during its playtime to remain distinct enough a game on its own merits, only feeling liberally seasoned with ideas and concepts from Microsoft’s juggernaut rather than feeling like Samus was stalking Master Chief.
But it’s the negative reaction that leaves me somewhat aghast.
Look, I get that we all want a proper Metroid with Samus Aran in it. I, like most people, think it has been far too long since we were taken to the impressive bosom of our favourite female bounty hunter and given a new story campaign. But having said that – the Metroid Universe has been running dry. The battle against the Space Pirates remains a key point, but Samus is a freelance and takes on missions that are important to her. Right now, in the frachise, there are few directions to run without creating an entirely new thing on an entirely new planet with entirely new things to do; the main reason I see that we haven’t had a proper Metroid isn’t simply that it’s not the strongest seller in Nintendo’s deck – rather, that in terms of plot and scope, they’ve been struggling to set up something more for Samus to remain engaged with.
It’s here that Metroid spin-offs become important; creating new tales and new events in the overarching narrative that may eventually lead to Samus Aran becoming involved. Samus isn’t one of those people who’d drop everything on a whim; she needs a reason, a purpose. That is what we love about her – she’s a free agent, a lone wolf, straddling the line between her own personal vendetta against the Space Pirates and her attachment to the Federation at large. The universe needs more story, more background and ultimately more conflict – building up a strong backbone which Samus can grab a hold of and return to the front lines. Federation Force presents the series a great new opportunity to actively take hold of what has already been established within this universe and expand on it, give it greater depth and breadth with the ultimate goal one presumes of getting Samus Aran back for a meaty new game on the Nintendo NX. Not so much a diversion, if you will, as an expansion of what we already know. To do this was always invariably going to lead to Samus sitting out on one or two games.
Thing is, we don’t know enough of this game yet to establish whether this is worth the effort. The graphics are a little more chibi in style, but it’s hardly the worst example I’ve seen of this and let’s all remind ourselves that tons of people slammed The Wind Waker for its chibi-anime stylings back in the day, and that game has aged with deft grace and style and holds up better than… oh, I don’t know, Twilight Princess for example. Judging a game based on an alternative art style – especially one which is meant to denote that it is different from the main bulk of the franchise – is crude and rather unfair. It’s “different”, but different isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s just what the Medic ordered.
Nor will I hold its team-based play against it either – co-op shooters like this have been doing the rounds for a few years now and remain rather popular, even if the likes of Evolve did try their damnest to kill the genre off. Sometimes they’re a bit bland, sometimes they can be a lot of fun; you never know until you’re playing it, and the brief gameplay snippets so far showcase a game with methodical purpose and intent – built from the ground up to embrace co-operative play, which is always the best thing for this genre. It never bodes well if it looks like you’re shoehorning it in, which if Samus Aran was a key character it might well have appeared to be doing.
Perhaps it’s just that it’s not on the Wii U – until you think about this; the 3DS has several times the Wii U audience, and presents this spin-off the best possible chance of selling more copies. Could they have waited for the NX? Sure – but if they’ve got an NX game in the works that requires Federation Force to set the tone, it’s perhaps also sensible to give both games distance from each other. There’s little doubt that we’re going to get a proper Metroid for the NX – all signs point to this already being in the works, even.
So I sit here and struggle to contemplate what exactly has people so riled up.
It’s one of those situations where you can’t help but feel for Nintendo; the sheer entitlement and aggression from their userbase on this game has been breathtaking, and if I were to be really cruel but honest, that right there is enough for Nintendo to stop work on any new Metroid game. How utterly ungrateful the audience has turned out to be! It’s a spin-off, an attempt to expand the universe beyond Samus, and what you end up with is an audience that spent the duration of the last Nintendo Direct simply whinging like little children being told they needed to eat their greens before they got dessert. It was one of the most uncomfortable displays I’ve ever seen from the otherwise quite supportive Nintendo Fanbase; a real eye-opener that truthfully, Nintendo Fans are just as bad as any other fanbase when they put their minds to it – or not, as the case may be. Some real anger and aggression over one spin-off? I mean, Neo-Ridley Riding A Recycled Renegade Rocket, think about this!
If this is a good game – it will expand on the Metroid story and create a new thread for which Samus can return with a vengeance when the time comes for the NX Metroid to finally hit the shelves, whilst delivering an interesting take on the series. If it’s a bad game – and it may well be a bad game – chances are it will, like Hunters, sink without trace and be largely forgotten by everyone, retconned from the franchise itself faster than you can say, “Oh shi- RIDLEY COMING IN HOT!” Which ultimately will simply mean a renewed focus on the main storyline and Samus in particular for the next decade or so.
As I see it, this is a win-win, whichever route the game ultimately takes. So no, I’m not going to complain about this game. In fact, I’m going to actually buy it and see if the game stands up on its own merit; I of course hope the game does. I’d rather like to see this do well, and the deserved success of Splatoon has demonstrated to us that Nintendo can get its hands into an unfamiliar genre these days and work some magic. But if it falters, it’s on the 3DS – and has a graphical style different enough from the series to be left to wither and die, alone and unloved, in much the same way Resident Evil: Gaiden was left to die alone and unloved. It can be cut off without any real damage to the Metroid saga as a whole.
If it works – awesome. If not – meh, we’ve got other things to look forward to. Star Fox Zero got a bit of a graphical overhaul during the last six months – which isn’t surprising but welcomed nonetheless. And we have the NX reveal in June; along with rumours that Nintendo is funding Beyond Good and Evil 2. What a poke in the eye that’d be! Do it Nintendo, and I will be over your place with a bottle of champagne and a box of EXTREMELY expensive chocolates!
Federation Force will be what it is – for better or for worse. So please, Nintendo fans, give it a rest. We’ve had plenty of these examples; Hyrule Warriors got dumped on, but that game turned out to rock my world and rock many peoples worlds and was a genuine hit! And so did Wind Waker, and that got an HD Remaster that all the original haters now magically tell us that they supported all along! Seriously! They just didn’t see its dark undertones – and Wind Waker has some very, very, VERY dark undertones (as well as the grizzliest conclusion the series has ever had – I’m not kidding!).
The creators of this game are making something they wanted to make – and it’s not even being made by Retro Studios, so it’s not like this is adversely affecting a proper Metroid game anyway! You aren’t really going to lose anything – it’s a spin off that might lead into a proper Samus-led Metroid game. Or it might sink without trace and be forgotten. Who knows?
I’ll give it a chance. I think it deserves that much.