It’s not uncommon, for a popular franchise to get spinoffs of some sort. Whether its a new character that has surprising depth, or fan love, or a new line of thinking that could add a fresh take to a franchise, spinoffs are in a way, inevitable. From the Yoshi Island series, to Halo Wars, spinoffs can work in unexpected ways. However, the reverse is also true, stray too far from what made the franchise work, and you’ll get nothing but tragedy. Nintendo relearned this lesson the hard way with Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
From nearly its inception, the game has been met with much hate. To the extent that the reveal trailer from E3 was at one time the most disliked video on Youtube. Fans HATED that Samus wasn’t even a cameo in the game, and that the Federation Force looked like Chibi characters, instead of what could’ve been well detailed characters.
Then once it was released, critics and fans ripped into its gameplay style, the need for co-op, but having no one to play with, and yes, the graphics. Even the few that hoped the game would be good (like Outhaven’s own Patrick Murphy) were thoroughly disappointed. In Japan, the game sold less than 5,000 units in its first week. That’s terrible on numerous levels, and it doesn’t get much better in the states.
But what does this mean? What will this mean for the future of Nintendo, and of course, Metroid? Here are my thoughts.
No More Metroid Without Samus
In a way, this should’ve been a no brainer. Unlike Mario, Donkey Kong, Pokemon, or even Legend of Zelda, Metroid doesn’t exist without Samus Aran. In fact, if you asked most fans what the most popular Metroid character is other than Samus, they would likely say Ridley (which is why fans want him in Smash Bros.) or Mother Brain, arguably the best villain of the series.
What Federation Force proves is that statement has never been more true. Without Samus, even a potentially interesting Metroid gimmick won’t work. If anything, Other M should have shown what happens when divergence goes off the deep end. As that one added more story to Samus, but had the backlash of making her look like a PTSD victim, and a stooge for the Federation due to her taking orders from Adam. When in past games, and even referenced in Other M, Samus only takes light orders from the Federation. Usually in the form of completing missions they themselves cannot do. Thus, she’s given the maximum leeway, instead of being told what to do.
Now that Federation Force has failed, and failed spectacularly, hopefully the focus on Metroid will return to where it needs to be…
The True Return of Metroid
Metroid is a very weird franchise in context. Why? Because technically it hasn’t had a lot of games. In fact, including Federation Force, the series has only had 12 games. Compare that to say Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Pokemon, or even Donkey Kong, and that’s a rather low number. Also though, one was a pinball game, and one was a remake of the original (Zero Mission). So it’s even less if you think about it.
But what it lacked in games out there, it made up for in loyalty. The Metroid fanbase is a very loyal bunch. They love the gameplay, both in 2D and 3D. They love Samus, there’s a reason she’s one of the most beloved video game characters out there.
So it’s not really a surprise that fans want a true return to form for Metroid. It was at an all-time high with the Prime Trilogy from Retro. And despite the dislike for Other M, it did do some things right. It’s just that it got more things wrong, and fans remember those more. Federation Force is the all-time low for the franchise, and fans quickly want to get back to what works.
The question now is, “where does it return to?” The obvious answer is the NX. Because it’s a console shrouded in mystery, and potential hype. If it starts out hot, it will open doors to bring back franchise to bank on the success. Metroid is easily one of these franchises. Now, should they go back to classic 2D style? Or should they try more like Prime and its sequels? The answer is…I don’t know.
Both have been proven to work, sales back that up. What Nintendo decides is best is truly up to them. They have a buffer in that fans like both styles, so as long as they keep it true to the Metroid games of the past, fans will totally buy it.
More Thought Into Spinoffs
Spinoffs in and off themselves is not a bad thing, it only gets bad when its clear there’s not a lot of effort going into it. The reviews I’ve read for Federation Force all have a similar line of problems. Which makes one wonder who playtested it, and why weren’t these issues fixed?
A lack of caring can be a nail in the coffin for certain game companies. Now, Nintendo won’t fail because of Federation Force, but it does brew ill will.
With hope, Nintendo will see this not as a hindrance per se, but a way to improve. Nintendo will make more spinoffs, again, it’s inevitable. But, with this game serving as a reminder, it can help make better ones. No matter where they come from. Failure is something we learn from, and Nintendo has had a lot of failures, and they do work hard to prevent future ones. Hopefully, this failure will push them to be even better with their future titles, both main and spinoff.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force will likely go down as one of Nintendo’s worse “core” games, as it does bear the Metroid name, and invoke the name of the classic trilogy from that franchise. But it’s how Nintendo moves on from here that’s important. If they focus, bring back Metroid to what it could be, what it was before even, it won’t be in vain.
Then of course, for future spinoffs, it can serve as a reminder of what not to do. Sometimes we need an example of this to know what to do next. Let’s hope Nintendo takes the hint.