If you’re a keen Metroid fan, you’re no doubt acutely aware that there hasn’t been a decent game in the franchise since the Metroid Prime trilogy on GameCube, Wii, and Wii U. You’ll also be aware of Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s existence and potentially have come to your own conclusions on the recently released Blast Ball multiplayer off shoot for the 3DS. It’s a game that could hardly be much further from the lauded adventures of Samus Aran, and one that could – as much as I hate to say this – herald the end of the franchise.
While the main game announcement was met with a incensed response from the community as a whole, with the announcement trailer receiving 88,079 dislikes to a miserly 10,269 likes. Sure that’s not Ghostbusters or Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare level of hatred, but Metroid fans are a passionate bunch. I’d count myself among them, as my initial response was one of irritation more than anything else.
Yet I’d heard that Blast Ball was genuinely one of the better experiences from Nintendo at E3 2015. People were talking about it favourably after they played it. This was of course before the Metroid name was slapped onto it like a Nintendo Seal of Quality sticker on an LJN produced NES game, but again the notion of not being one of those who played the game means I was taking it at face value.
So with that in mind I booted up the game after its release at the end of last week. I was immediately disheartened to see that the tutorial didn’t give me any option at the very start to choose which control scheme I wanted, opting to go for the more cumbersome control scheme by default. I would not play this game again on a standard 3DS control scheme, as it’s clearly designed with the New 3DS or Circle Pad Pro in mind. However, even on the New 3DS XL, I started experiencing hand cramp.
Once the tutorial was over, there were two modes on offer to play online, as well as AI and Local Multiplayer via Download Play. The first is a standard 3 vs 3 match where the first team to score three wins, while the second pitted me and two teammates against 5 waves of ever-increasingly difficult AI controlled opponents. Bonuses are awarded for not only scoring and assisting goal scoring, but also defending the goal with blocks, thus rewarding defensive play.
Judged on its own merit and once I got into the swing of things, it’s alright for a few matches, but something felt off. While the effectiveness of a well-placed charge shot cannot be understated when it happens to score a goal, I just couldn’t get over the impression that games such as Rocket League seem more polished in their concept.
Key to this thought is just how well Rocket League gelled in my first match compared to how Metroid Prime: Blast Ball did. Players in Rocket League worked out relatively quickly that having one defensive player while the other two worked together to get the ball into the goal was an effective strategy, but I didn’t feel that here.
Due largely to the fact that the ball hurts players in Blast Ball, there was more chasing from players from all angles, while defensive play was much more difficult to be effective at thanks to the sluggish speed of the mechs. On top of this, a power up that ejects all players is just too imbalanced, meaning that it’s a free run to the goal for the team that activated it.
In any case, the thing about Metroid Prime: Blast Ball is that it’s obviously a marketing ploy in order to somehow drum up interest in a game that’s so far seen a huge amount of negativity. Once I played a little bit of the PvP however, the tutorial for the main game unlocked to give a sneak peak of what’s to come in this cover shooter.
A lot of the tutorial expanded on the main concepts found within Blast Ball mode; moving around and locking onto enemies to shoot them. The key difference here is the fact that you have sub-weapons, such as health packs that must be fired to drop a healing node for teammates to pick up, or missiles that blow things up. It adds a little more to the squad-based shooter genre that the game is going for, but nothing brand new.
Various tests such as a shooting gallery and protecting a lone stationary ally from holographic Space Pirates stood in the way of completing the exam. However, the ever building cramp from the New 3DS XL’s button layout was proving to be a massive hindrance.
So am I sold on Metroid Prime: Federation Force by the release of Blast Ball? Not even close. It’s clearly heading in the direction of not being the Metroid I know and love, but rather a cramp inducing mess that will further diminish the franchise in the minds of Nintendo. I hope I’m wrong and it turns out to be a sleeper hit, and I want to be wrong so that there’s a chance of seeing a brand new “Metroidvania” or true Metroid Prime game from Retro Studios, but the signs are pointing to a more harrowing conclusion…