For many, the reveal of Metroid Prime: Federation Force was a slap in the face.
After waiting six years for a new game in the series, Nintendo debuted a soccer-themed mini-game set in the Metroid universe. Obviously, fans were upset: the idea of replacing the exploration-based gameplay and high-speed combat with space soccer seemed ludicrous. Thankfully, Nintendo stepped in and explained the situation, clarifying that Metroid Prime: Blast Ball was a mini-game and only a single part of a full-size title.
Unfortunately for Nintendo, fans were even more upset when the full game was revealed: as it turns out, Metroid Prime: Federation Force would not be a traditional Metroid game, but a multiplayer-centric, mission-based shooter starring four faceless soldiers. Even Samus Aran, the star of the series and pioneering video game heroine, was relegated to support status — needless to say, fans were not happy.
Nintendo has been understandably quiet since then. Save for a release date and a few short teasers, the team behind the game has kept things under wraps — until earlier today, that is. With just weeks left before release, Nintendo has released upwards of 15 minutes of brand new footage ... but is it enough to finally win over longtime Metroid fans?
The demo was split into two distinct sections: one standard mission and one boss fight, with a short technical discussion filling in the gaps.
Right off the bat, Federation Force evokes a "Monster Hunter-in-space" feel: teams of four can tackle different missions, and each player can choose to specialize their roles via gear and perks. Obviously, the gameplay mechanics themselves are vastly different from Capcom's action-RPG, but the overall structure feels similar.
Once the mission begins, it's clear to see that Federation Force is a successor to the original Metroid Prime trilogy. Combat still centers around locking onto enemies and peppering them with fire, which is typically followed by quickly strafing or jumping out of the way. From a purely functional standpoint, it looks similar to the formula that Nintendo established on the GameCube — but the mission structure itself changes things up quite a bit.
For one, missions don't seem all that big. That doesn't mean that they aren't long enough, it's that the environments shown weren't very open (save for a few select areas). Combine that with the complete absence of backtracing or exploration — two elements that Metroid is known for — and Federation Force already feels like a smaller package. The fact that most of the mission shown was dedicated to escorting a payload along a linear track didn't really help alleviate that cramped feeling, either.
There's also the fact that power-ups and supplies are handled much different in Federation Force than in any other Metroid game. Players pick loadouts at the beginning of every mission, with each player ideally gravitating toward a particular role. From there, power-ups and ammo are found in crates — in terms of permanent upgrades, perks can be found hiding away in containers in certain missions. However, judging from the perks that were shown at the beginning of the video, these upgrades don't fundamentally change the gameplay. It's still about shooting and strafing, but the idea that upgrades are incremental tweaks is yet another deviation from classic Metroid games.
The video concluded with the announcement that a Metroid Prime: Blast Ball demo is available now on the eShop, and Nintendo recommends that players try it before diving into the full game when it launches in August ... but given the fan reception to the mode's reveal last year, we'll have to wait and see if it gains any traction.
To be fair, the gameplay itself looked good. As a clearly-abridged look at a pair of missions, the video did its job: the idea of shooting through sci-fi worlds with friends sounds fun, and there aren't many experiences like that on the 3DS. Again, Federation Force shares the same appeal as something like Monster Hunter, and few would ever claim that Capcom's co-op monster slugfest is anything less than fantastic.
Again, the problems with Metroid Prime: Federation Force come down to its legacy: Metroid fans simply don't want a mission-based multiplayer shooter. They want a slower, more atmospheric game, rife with hidden power-ups and challenging combat. For all its apparent strengths, Federation Force is fundamentally different from the rest of the series — and while that may work with other franchises, making fans wait so long for a game they really don't want is just asking for trouble.
Regardless of what players were hoping for, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is almost here: Nintendo's latest multiplayer title is due out on Aug. 19.