During Nintendo’s E3 2015 Digital Event, they unveiled a new entry in the long-running
Metroid franchise, but it’s not what fans were expecting. Next Level Games is working on a 3DS spin-off of the series called Metroid Prime: Federation Force, and the initial reception to the reveal could not have been more harsh. While it’s unfortunate to see so many fans angry at Nintendo, it really can’t be seen as surprising. From what has been shown far, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a slap in the face to the Metroid faithful.
It’s been a long wait for
Metroid fans, as the last new game in the franchise launched in 2010. Metroid: Other M saw the series sharply depart from many of its staples, creating a more linear, combat-focused, story-driven experience, rather than the exploration-fueled isolationist experience that typically defines the franchise. These changes left most of the Metroid faithful craving a return to form for the series, but Samus’ franchise would remain dormant for years to come.
Fast forward to 2015, and Nintendo re-releases the
Metroid Prime Trilogy as a downloadable title on Wii U, sparking hope that they haven’t given up on the franchise after the poor sales and critical panning of Other M. Finally, Nintendo was acknowledging the series again, building up to a revival at E3.
We’ve seen very little of
Metroid Prime: Federation Force so far, but one thing is clear: this is not what the long-suffering fans were waiting for. From the early footage and details, we know that Federation Force is a co-op adventure starring Galactic Federation soldiers, and, thus far, series protagonist Samus is nowhere to be seen. Additionally, there’s a sports-inspired multiplayer mode called Metroid Prime: Blast Ball included in the game, which was first unveiled (without the Metroid Prime title) at the Nintendo World Championships.
Based on what we’ve seen, this isn’t a bad game. I can’t help but feel bad for the development team at Next Level Games having to see
a petition calling for the game’s cancellation with thousands of signatures. The YouTube footage has roughly ten dislikes for every one like, showing an overwhelmingly negative fan reaction. The sad thing is, the fan backlash wouldn’t be nearly this harsh if the game simply didn’t have Metroid in the title.
Nintendo’s E3 was dominated by spin-off titles this year, with Nintendo toying and experimenting with their established franchises. It’s something they’ve done a lot in the past, mostly with
Mario, and it’s an effective way of launching a new idea. Rather than starting fresh with a new IP, they can piggyback a new idea off an existing series. However, Nintendo should have known better than to do so with Metroid.
Mario or Donkey Kong, Metroid is not a universally recognized brand with a large, general audience. No Metroid game has ever eclipsed 3 million sales on its own (combined sales of the original Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime Trilogy meet that mark), and most Metroid games sell just over one million units. Metroid is a very niche series with a small but very dedicated core audience—a small but very dedicated audience that has been waiting a long time for a new game and a return to form for the series that they love. By spinning off Metroid into something new and drastically different, Nintendo is not strengthening their new game. They’re just weakening faith in an established brand. As the almost impossibly bad early reception has proven, this a move that’s both bad for Nintendo and the Metroid faithful.