With highly anticipated titles and the supposed rise of VR gaming, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2016. Even Nintendo have an exciting year ahead with news about project NX coming soon. 2016 will also mark some major milestones for the company, with franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon celebrating important anniversaries. So in the coming weeks I’m going to be looking back at some of Nintendo’s most iconic and memorable properties.
Let’s start by looking at the sci-fi series; Metroid. The original game launched 30 years ago on the NES in 1986 and was similar to games such as Super Mario Bros in that it was a side scrolling platformer. It was also similar to The Legend of Zelda in that it offered open exploration as opposed to a level system. But unlike the Mario and Zelda games, Metroid was dark. Armed with only with an upgradeable power suit, the player takes on the role of bounty hunter, Samus Arran. The player is then tasked to explore the foreboding alien world of Zebes in order to prevent the evil space pirates from using the parasitic life forms known as Metroids to conquer the galaxy. The dark and brooding caverns of Metroid, as far removed as they might have been from Nintendo’s light-hearted roots, were truly captivating.
The next Metroid game released in 1991 on the original Gameboy. The only major issue that people had with Metroid II was that it was somewhat limited by its platform; the Gameboy simply couldn’t handle a full-blown Metroid game. The game that followed however, didn’t have the same problem. Super Metroid launched on the SNES in 1994 and remains one of the most critically acclaimed games ever made. It retained what made the originals such a joy but also expanded upon key concepts exponentially. It featured amazing graphics, a stellar soundtrack and added a plethora of new weapons and upgrades for Samus. The charge beam, grappling beam, reserve tanks, and many others were all introduced in Super Metroid.
After Super Metroid however, there was a bump in the road. The 2D games in the series that followed, 2004’s Metroid Zero Mission for example, were still enjoyable games but lacked the innovation that made Super Metroid so compelling.
Also, Metroid as a series, despite technically being around for 30 years now has had long many breaks in between releases. This meant that the series underwent an 8 year hiatus during the lifespan of the Nintendo 64. Although in 2002, we got two brand new Metroid games; Metroid Fusion on the Gameboy Advance and Metroid Prime on the GameCube. Metroid Fusion, in being a traditional 2D Metroid game, was the same core experience. However Prime was different. Developed by Retro Studios, it completely shook up the Metroid formula by being the first 3D Metroid game. It also made use of a first person viewpoint that really upped the level of immersion for which the series was so well known. You weren’t just controlling Samus anymore, you were actually Samus. Coming face to face with the dreaded space pirates as you investigated abandoned underground labs or explored the barren tundra of Tallon IV. It was a game of both high thrills and satisfying chills. Prime also spawned two sequels with 2004’s twisted Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and 2007’s expansive Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
You weren’t just controlling Samus anymore, you were actually Samus.
Unfortunately for the Metroid series, the game we got next, Metroid Other M, was very polarising. Released in 2010 for the Wii, Other M was neither a 2D game nor a first person experience. Instead it appeared to be a hybrid of the two styles. Additionally, Other M was extremely cinematic with an overdependence on highly polished cut scenes. Similar to Super Metroid or Metroid Prime, the developers should be commended for trying to take the series in a unique direction. However, innovation doesn’t always make a great game. Reviews were mixed and with sales just under 1 and half million, it’s hardly surprising that we are still yet to see another main series Metroid game.
Metroid has had its highs and lows over the years, and right now we appear to be in one of the lows. We haven’t received a good Metroid game since 2007 and it looks like that Samus will be skipping another console generation with no scheduled game set to come to the Wii U. In addition Metroid will soon be dragged through the dirt with the spin-off abomination that is Metroid Prime: Federation Force. A child friendly version of the monster hunting game Evolve with a FIFA style mini-game tacked on for good measure. Metroid isn’t a series about getting together with your mates and playing multiplayer, you have games like Mario Kart or Tower Fall for that. Metroid has always been about the atmosphere, the story, and the sense of tension it creates. Thankfully, I believe that proper Metroid will come back better than ever.
Nintendo’s latest presentation at E3 was lacklustre; many of Nintendo’s main developers such as Retro Studios were absent and very few interesting titles seem to be coming to Nintendo’s current hardware. This combined with the fact that Nintendo’s upcoming project NX will be spoken about soon, makes me think that there are numerous unannounced Nintendo games currently being developed. Although another 2D Metroid game is possible, I feel a new main series Metroid Prime game developed by Retro Studios for the NX is far more likely.
It would explain why Nintendo are bothering to release Federation Force this year; to keep the Metroid Prime brand relevant. I personally would love to see a Metroid Prime 4; the 100% ending to Prime 3 contains a cliff-hanger which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t played it, but to see a continuation of the story would be fantastic. I can picture the game expanding on the multiple planets of Prime 3 and being similar to the upcoming No Man’s Sky with regards to the freedom that it offers players. Also given that the next Metroid game will presumably be the first HD entry in the series, we can expect some truly amazing visuals. I for one, can’t wait to don the power suit once more and explore the perilous planets of the Metroid series in stunning high definition. Hopefully the wait won’t be too long.