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E3 2014: The case for a new Metroid

Sections: 3DS, E3, Opinions, Wii U

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So it’s almost E3 time again, when we get to sit here and make wild, baseless speculations about what games are going to be announced this year. Rather than toss out a whole list of games I’d like to see, I’m going to focus on a single game: Metroid. As a huge fan of the series, I’m probably more than a little bit biased, but there really does stand a good business case for Nintendo to release a new Metroid game right now. Nintendo has two pieces of hardware that could make for a wonderful new Metroid entry, the WiiU and 3DS both offer compelling reasons to house a new entry to the franchise, so let’s break them down separately, starting with the WiiU.

Nintendo needs to start moving consoles. Period. They need something that will show off what the system is truly capable of, outside of more Mario games. Mario Kart 8 is a big step in the right direction, but they need to keep their momentum going. The big thing that the WiiU is really missing right now is a good first person game. Something unique and exclusive to the system that people would want to buy the console for. This is where a new Metroid Prime comes in. Way back when in the Gamecube days, a little studio named Retro came along and decided the world needed more Metroid, but that the series needed to be brought into the modern era. Their solution was Metroid Prime, a game that Retro Studios called a “first person adventure game”. While it may have ostensibly been a first person shooter, the mechanics were nothing like anything seen in the genre before. For all intents and purposes it was a first person Super Metroid, and it was brilliant. Metroid Prime showed off what the Gamecube was truly capable of. Using an art style that more than made up for any technical limitations of the console, Metroid Prime was not only one of the best looking Gamecube games, but one of the finest looking games of the entire console generation. How many first person shooters from the Gamecube era still look good today and not horribly dated? Not many, and two of them are Metroid Prime entries. Now Nintendo is in a very similar situation with the WiiU, their console is in a distant 3rd place, and while it’s a fairly capable machine in and of itself, it lags behind the competition noticeably. What they need is to prove what can truly be done within the limitations of the console, something to bring out the very best of what it can do. Retro Studios have proven in the past on both the Gamecube and the Wii that they can bring out the best of Nintendo’s hardware, and Nintendo desperately needs a convincing first person shooter to not only keep up with the times, but to surpass them with the deep, unique adventuring that only the Metroid series can provide.

Super_Metroid_Grapple_Beam

The other option is a side-scroller for the WiiU. Again, Retro Studios showed their chops in this arena on the Wii with Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for the WiiU. Both were excellent games that took full advantage of their hardware. More importantly, the games stayed true to Donky Kong Country’s SNES roots. There hasn’t been a true side-scrolling Metroid game made since Zero Mission on the Game Boy Advance. Other M was trying to be too many things at once (among other problems). While a side-scrolling Metroid could certainly work on the WiiU alongside Tropical Freeze, I don’t think it’s the best place for it.

Enter the 3DS. Metroid and handhelds have a long history together, going back to Metroid II: The Return of Samus on the original Game Boy. In fact, there has been a Metroid title on every handheld Nintendo has made, something which can’t be said about their consoles. The last portable  entry was Metroid Prime Hunters, a slightly delayed launch title for the original DS. The series is long overdue for a portable entry.  The problem with Hunters is that it tried to be a competent first person game on a handheld that just didn’t allow for it. The horsepower was there, but the controls weren’t. With the 3DS’ slide pad, and wide screen format, it is very much doable now. Especially with the increased power.  First person would still be tricky with a single analog stick, but look at what Retro did with the controls for the Prime games on the Gamecube’s controller; I think they could find a way to make it work, but I’d prefer they didn’t. What the 3DS needs is an awesome new side-scrolling Metroid. What I want to see is an all new adventure for Samus, done with an art style not unlike The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, they could even tack on some 3D to add depth to the backgrounds. The 3Ds has everything needed to finally give us a modern take on Super Metroid: it has the controls, the horsepower, the features, it’s all there. The 3DS doesn’t need the help that the WiiU needs to sell units, but the Metroid series needs help from 3DS to sell itself.

Metroid Other M

You see, as much as you could make a strong business case for a new Prime on the WiiU, I don’t really think it would succeed. I have no doubt the game would be amazing, but I do have serious dounts that it could draw in enough people right now to truly be a system seller. For one, the Metroid series may be fantastic, but it’s also a bit niche, and the number of people who are die-hard Metroid fans, and would buy a console just to play it, but don’t already have a WiiU is probably pretty small. Plus, as great as the games are, they aren’t likely going to be enough to pull most FPS fans away from Call of Duty, not if they have to buy a new console to do it.

Furthermore, before a mainstream console release would have any real chance of success, the Metroid series needs to play damage control. Team Ninja dropped the ball pretty hard with Other M, and the sales figures reflected it. The damage that was done to the series’ reputation cannot be ignored. Before gamers are going to trust another big-budget hyped up Metroid console release, they need to know that they won’t be getting another Other M. The series needs to redeem itself by going back to its roots, but also by being put out to the largest possible audience. The 3DS offers a much, much wider player base than the WiiU, so what better place to get the game into people’s hands than by putting it onto one of the most successful video game systems ever made? After Nintendo has regained gamers’ trust in the franchise, then they can try and make their big console play with a new Prime title.

Metroid_Prime_Yellow_Exo

So what’s the take-away from my little rant here? If there is one thing I want from E3 this year, it is for an announcement trailer for a new side-scrolling, Retro Studios developed Metroid for the 3DS. There is nothing else in the entire industry that could make me happier than that announcement.

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  1. Really don’t want to be too much of a dork but isn’t the wii u currently in second place for home consoles? I didn’t think the xbone had caught it yet, so saying it’s a distant third is a bit unnecessary. That being said your idea for marketing a new metroid on 3DS first to gain some community support after other M is a good one, however, even with that last game released the community is always asking for metroid and if a Wii U iteration was reviewed well and spoken of highly by the wii u fan base it could do the same.

    Paul
    • In terms of total sales, you’re probably right (I haven’t looked at the numbers) but remember the WiiU had a full year advantage. The fact that it isn’t solidly in first place when its been on the market more than twice as long as the PS4 and XB1 gives you an idea how slow it’s selling, and it is only a matter of time before the other two leave it in their dust if Nintendo can’t turn things around in a huge way.

      As far as the Metroid community goes, I agree that the demand is there, but Nintendo needs to build demand to a wider audience than the existing Metroid fan base. It’s pretty common knowledge in the gaming community that Other M was a bit of a disappointment, so even with a lot of hype, it will be that much harder to get people off the fence when the last release was a flop. A lower budget 3DS title that gets praise will build more buzz and help people forget about Other M, so that when a new Prime comes along for the WiiU, the non-fan’s most recent memories are of success not failure. Kinda the same reason game sequels tend to sell better than their first entry, everyone who didn’t ever take the chance has been listening to their friends talk it up for a year, and decide it’s time to jump in now amid all the hype being built up on top of the previous game.

      Jerimiah Mueller
      • I’m sure it would help and like I said I think it’s a good idea, I just wonder by how much would it actually affect sales over the normal route taking into account the amount of time it would take to make a 3ds one then a wii u one, perhaps it would be too late to save the console? Yeah I know there is a year head start but then the Wii U had a strong launch and had over 3 million sold by Christmas that year. Xbox One has had a couple of boosts and sold a little bit more in that time frame but MS hasn’t released sales numbers since that launch period and only reports on how many have been shipped to retailers meaning it’s probably in an almighty slump and they don’t want to end up in the media graveyard wii u is in. I hope this price reduction increases the xbones chances.

        Paul
  2. It’s hard to say how much it would help, but really I don’t think there would be all that much time between the two releases. For one a smaller separate team could make a 3DS game concurrently with a full WiiU release. There is also the possibility of Nintendo themselves making a 3DS game, while Retro handles a WiiU one, similar to how Prime and Fusion came out practically at the same time, then again with Prime 2 and Zero Mission launching basically together.

    Sales-wise, I have a strong suspicion you’re right about the XB1, but even if it is in a slump, I expect it long-term to do better than the WiiU unless something crazy happens. I also agree that the WiiU isn’t in as bad a position as a lot of people would like to think it is, but the fact is it is nowhere near as far ahead as it should be by this point, and week to week it’s lagging pretty far back, at least in the US. Globally, the XB1 may not be doing much better, but I’m thinking more specifically the US market anyway. A strong Metroid release wouldn’t help Nintendo much globally; the franchise has always been far more popular in North America than elsewhere, but I also think the US is where Nintendo needs the biggest boost right now. Which is why a good strong Metroid release is one of the best shots Nintendo has, barring some major new IP showing up. Toss in a killer Zelda title and Nintendo may really be getting somewhere.

    Jerimiah Mueller
  3. I can get behind those sentiments completely I just don’t have a lot of faith in Nintendo tpbdeliver fast enough I suppose. I understand they have had a lot of problems getting software back on track after the tsunami hit Japan but I doubt anyone outside of Nintendo knows how far into game development that is going to impact. I do agree though a fairly quick release of a decent shooter like metroid (with proper online like hunters had) and a fully fledged Zelda can only mean good things for Wii u sales and probably be more effective than Super Smash Bros (although that’s still looking like it’s doing a whole load of good stuff for the hardcore crowd).

    Paul
  4. With PS4 slowing down pretty quick in Japan, Mario Kart 8 causing WiiU to more than be doubling PS4 sales and XB1 to never likely make a dent in Japan in its life, WiiU has more than enough potential to succeed. I’d agree with the others, distant 3rd is extreme. Wait 6 months, and if WiiU is down by millions of units, then call it distant 3rd.
    And as for Microsoft, the original XBOX, hardly sold better than Gamecube, 360 was clear second at best, and XB1 experiencing its own woes (no presence in Japan included). Microsoft could be considered the failing company. With the first XBOX sporting more power, their infinate wealth, and already having solid Operating Systems and online infrastructures before they even started in consoles, Microsoft should have by rights utterly obliterated Sony and Nintendo from the very get go

    Col
  5. I strongly agree with the take away here. I was just imagining the impact of the level design that Retro brought to the table with DKCR applied to the atmosphere that Super Metroid had. One of the biggest problem with Other M was that the levels lacked the atmosphere needed for a true metroid game along with the right amount of exploration.

    Another thing that Retro did with Prime 3 was to incorporate Samus’s ship. This was not fully realized. If they carried this further there could be flying sequences that are in the control of the player, I’m not sure why this series has not taken it to the realm of flying combat. Nintendo wants to broaden the series and this could be a good way to do it like they did in Nintendoland Metroid Blast.

    Max
  6. I just have to say that Jerimiah Mueller is my hero for writing this article. I 100% that nothing in the entire universe of gaming would excite me more than a new Metroid game. I really hope this is the year it happens… And I want it to be Metroid Dread on 3DS, OR Metroid Prime 4 on Wii U. Thanks for sharing your love for Metroid Jerimiah.

    Brendan
  7. I 100% agree*

    Brendan
  8. Love for Metroid* ack so many mistakes…

    Brendan
  9. It’s okay man, Metroid love is enough to make anyone too exited to type!
    Super Metroid will forever remain my favorite game of all time, and I really want to see the series return to its Prime (fun with puns!)

    Jerimiah Mueller
  10. You guys do know that the prime trilogy is over and that the person who wrote this shows that he isn’t familiar with the series. The next metroid can go three ways as I see it: a prequel that could also be a fp remake, a sequel advancing the story from fusion, or a completely different story line that could piss off some people or really hit like prime 1.

    Juanpablo Martinez
  11. You realize I have been playing the Metroid series since I was about 6 years old, every entry in the series, going so far as to read the Manga right? I am intimately familiar with the series.

    The original Prime series is over, yes. So was the Halo trilogy and look how that went. Just because the “Prime Trilogy” is over doesn’t mean there won’t be future Prime style first person entries to the series. Or a spin-off. Be realistic, if another first-person Metroid title were released they would likely tack the “Prime” name on it for marketing reasons alone, even if it has zero connection with the trilogy story arc.

    That being said: I don’t see them continuing forward from Fusion, the plot pretty well cornered them into being stuck with the Fusion suit. It would take away too much of her iconic look, unless they came up with a hand-wavey way to have the Fusion suit suddenly de-intermingle with Samus’ DNA, which is always possible, but wouldn’t sit well I don’t think.

    I would expect a new game to be crammed some place in between all the other games. The chronology is becoming incredibly crowded from a canon perspective, and they are going to need to do something about that eventually. I don’t think fans would be happy with Samus being stuck in the Fusion suit forever, and convincigly removing it from future canon will be tricky, but sooner or later they need to do something, they can’s keep cramming too many more games in between Metroid/Zero Mission and Fusion.

    A prequel is a possibility, but they would have to go the Hunter route and go completely away from the whole actual “Metroid” thing, seeing as Metroids hadn’t been discovered yet in the time-line, and I don’t think getting that far away from the premise of the series again would sit well in a major release.

    Jerimiah Mueller