It's been nine years since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was released. Many would cite it as the last worthwhile entry in the series — while 2010′s Metroid: Other M was far from the worst game that Nintendo ever published, most fans rejected its drastic change of tone and lackluster gameplay mechanics.
For the past six years, Metroid fans waited for something, anything — and yet, save for her regular cameo in the latest Smash Bros. game, Samus Aran has been MIA. There was, for a moment, a faint glimmer of hope: in early 2015, rumblings of a new Metroid game started to surface, and in the weeks leading up to E3, anticipation was at a fever pitch.
Then, at E3 2015, Nintendo revealed Metroid Prime: Federation Force, and fans went ballistic ... but not in a good way.
Everything that had made the series so iconic in the first place was gone: instead of a long, lonely trek through hostile aliens worlds, Nintendo promised a co-op multiplayer shooter with an emphasis on short, replayable missions. Even Samus herself — the star of the series — was absent, instead replaced with a group of faceless soldiers.
Despite the fan reaction (which was absolutely brutal), Nintendo stuck by its decision. Whether or not Federation Force will be worth playing is still anyone's guess — but if history is any indication, Metroid's new direction may already be in trouble.
Let's get this out of the way: Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not an inherently bad game. To be fair, the recently-released Blast Ball demo wasn't great — the controls can be extremely awkward, and it feels a lot like a discount Rocket League — but aside from a few select individuals, no one knows what the full game will be like.
Also, despite what the internet may say, there's a chance that Federation Force could be a perfectly playable game. It probably won't set the world on fire, and Nintendo's marketing team doesn't seem to care that the game's release date is just a few weeks away, but the game itself has some serious potential. The super-blocky art style has a simple charm to it, and a recent gameplay demo seemed to hint at a Monster Hunter-style structure.
The problem is that, when a series hits a certain age or number of entries, fan expectations start to take hold. That's not just a Metroid thing, either: just about every long-running franchise has a number of recurring tropes and mechanics that fans hold dear. It's when a developer tries to shake things up by either ignoring or replacing the defining aspects of a particular series that fans really start to push back.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force is hardly the first game to make such sweeping, dramatic changes to its formula — plenty of different franchises have tried to reinvent themselves over the years. The only problem is that, more often than not, these changes end up doing more damage than anything else.
Let's take a look at some examples, shall we?
Released back in 2002, Star Fox Adventures was an action-adventure game in the same vein as The Legend of Zelda. On its own, that doesn't sound too bad — except for the fact that Star Fox had always been an on-rails space shooter. In the span of a single game, the franchise had gone from focusing on space battles and dogfights to fetch quests and backtracking.
Needless to say, fans hated it. For whatever reason, Nintendo had decided to follow up on Star Fox 64 with a bad Legend of Zelda knock-off. Nothing about the game, save for a few characters, was even remotely related to any of the previous Star Fox titles — fans weren't just upset that Nintendo had released a bad title, it was that the publisher had slapped the name of a beloved franchise onto the cover for seemingly no real reason.
Final Fantasy XIII was butchered by fans for similar reasons: sure, it looked and sounded like a Final Fantasy game, but the final product was a long, linear set of hallways and an invasive, never-ending set of tutorials. All of the personality and charm of previous titles was gone, replaced with the feeling that Square Enix had simply checked all of the boxes off a list and called it a day.
As one might expect, fans weren't happy: the feeling of freedom and exploration was gone, and by-the-numbers blandness was all that remained. The box may have said Final Fantasy, but fans would argue that Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels are about as far removed from the series as you can get.
Then, there's Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better Nintendo 64 platformer than Banjo-Kazooie. Rare's classic action-adventure is widely considered to be one of the best titles on the entire system, and many believe that it eclipses Nintendo's own Super Mario 64. Somehow, Rare managed to create a sequel that was just as beloved as the first, and there were plans for a third entry in the franchise ... but the series went dormant after Rare was purchased by Microsoft.
Then, in 2008, Microsoft released Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. At first glance, the game looked great — but as soon as it launched, fans quickly realized that this was not the franchise's grand return.
Absolutely everything that had come to define Banjo-Kazooie — great platforming, colorful characters, open-ended gameplay — was scrapped in favor of building cars and completing physics-based missions. It was almost as if the development team had never played a Banjo-Kazooie title before and simply dropped the characters into the game at the last second. It wasn't the worst game that Rare had ever made, but it didn't matter — Nuts & Bolts was so far removed from the Banjo-Kazooie formula that there was nothing for fans of the series to enjoy.
Again, there's a good chance that Federation Force will be a lot of fun. There's a reason why co-op shooters are everywhere these days: people like playing with their friends. If Federation Force has any of Nintendo's trademark polish, it'll be worth trying out at least once.
... but that doesn't make it a Metroid game. Aside from a vaguely familiar control scheme, there's nothing about Federation Force that connects the game to the series that spawned it. If the only familiar piece of the puzzle is the name, why bother calling Federation Force a Metroid game at all? New fans wouldn't have any connection to the older games, and longtime fans will resent Nintendo for changing the series so drastically — especially when it's been so long since anyone has played through a new, more traditional Metroid adventure.
History has proven that, whenever a publisher tries to completely reinvent a series, fans are going to get upset. Granted, there are a few exceptions to this rule ... but most of the time, angry fans turn into low review scores and poor sales numbers.
One way or another, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is set to launch on Aug. 19.