This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Metroid Prime Federation Force.
The relationship between Nintendo and its fanbase is a royally fucked up one, I think it's fair to say. And all that business with broken televisions probably classifies it as abusive. Albeit the kind that's gotten so weird that the domestic violence shelter eventually blocked their number. If it weren't just Nintendo getting drunk and punchy because nobody bought the new Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, then perhaps it could be understood. But there are some bizarre mind games going on here as well. Nintendo fans, don't you see that this isn't healthy? Remember when Nintendo abandoned you on the highway because it thought it had a good thing going with the casual gaming audience and you had to hitch a ride home in the back of a dog catcher's van? "No, no, they apologized for that! And it was my fault anyway, I should have liked Wii Music more." Things have reached a new low with Metroid Prime: Federation Force. It's not just not catering to the fans anymore, now it's going out of its way to finally break their spirit once and for all. It's like Nintendo promised to buy them a puppy and they came downstairs on Christmas morning to find a load of Korean takeout containers under the tree.
If you weren't familiar with Metroid and think it's the word for a haemorrhoid exclusive to people who ride inner city public transport, Metroid is a classic series of sci-fi exploration games, and the protagonist Samus Aran is as inseparable from them as a dose of the herps. A stoic, independent space bounty hunter fighting a lone crusade against the evils of the galaxy, except in Metroid: Other M, where she was a squeaking, catholic schoolgirl wearing a collection of plastic mixing bowls. Meanwhile, the Federation are a military force that occasionally show up in Metroid games to get indiscriminately murdered and humiliated by whatever needs to be established as threatening today. Making a game entirely about them is therefore precisely the same logic that brought us Aliens: Colonial Marines, another game that was a dripping stalactite of frozen piss above a once respectable dinner party. And what makes it all the mightier a kick in the tits is that there was no need for any of this.
Federation Force looks and plays passably like a Metroid Prime game with the usual 3DS provisos that turning around is as ponderous as a merry-go-round full of elephant seals and playing for too long makes my hands feel like a pair of broken deck chairs frozen to the pier in a Blackpool winter. So why didn't they make another Metroid Prime game with Samus Aran in an atmospheric alien world and a free exploration Metroidvania style to which the franchise once lent its name? Instead of something very conspicuously un-Metroidy, besides the fact it stole Metroid's underpants and wore them on its face. Why must we play as a midget inside a robot suit? And since the missions are spent more or less entirely inside the robot suits, why even establish that we are actually tiny Rice Krispie elves, except to make things all the more humiliating?
I can tell you that it's not because they didn't want to include Samus Aran, because she constantly shows up in dialogues and missing briefings. It's like the game's holding her over you like a cruel dog owner whose closed hand might not even contain a biscuit at all. "Samus Aran just showed up and told us about another pirate base. Shame that you missed her, she's such a cool and stoic with crackin' tits. She also brought us some homemade fudge, but we ate it all before you got here." The only justification I can see is that the game goes for four-player co-op focus and there's only Samus Aran to go around. But if four clones of Luigi can be sucking each other off in Luigi's Mansion 2, then I'm sure Samus could have gotten a sorority sister slumber party going. Besides, who the fuck turns to the 3DS for their online multiplayer-focused games? I'd nominate a more suitable platform, but my list basically starts with, "all of them". Or are Nintendo still trying to normalize the idea that people might show up to a dinner party with their 3DSes as an alternative to post-prandial Pictionary without it seeming weird? Perhaps a slightly more realistic scenario in a school setting, but it still hinges on not only at least four people buying this game, but on them also not being ashamed to admit that they bought this game.
The story is, there are three planets: the ice world, the desert world and the world that also turned up, and the Federation are tasked to go there and murder wildlife until the space pirates appear, which we know for absolute fact will happen because at the start the commander-type bloke goes, "Don't worry, there's no way the space pirates will show up." Rather than each planet having a big, interconnected world to explore like it were some kind of fucking Metroid game, it's entirely mission-based and we get dropped into small collections of rooms to complete single objectives. There is a solo-play mode, but it is a trap. It'll sucker you in with some easy stuff early on, but eventually will bring out the missions that are next to impossible without other players. There'll be 500 of those space pirates that totally weren't going to show up smashing up the thing you're supposed to defend. And you can have all the missiles in the world, but you can only be in one place at a time, slowly rotating like a microwave dinner.
There is also another multiplayer mode which is Rocket League. That's about all there is to say about it. It's Rocket League, except everyone's shooting at the ball instead of hurling themselves at it like six excitable dogs with only one biscuit. And I imagine it would have been very thrilling if I could have persuaded the connection to remain intact for the duration of an entire match.
You know what? I have formulated a theory. From the things we hear about in the missing briefings about how Samus Aran has been running around offscreen being the best at everything, Federation Force feels like The Darkness II-style co-op campaign running in parallel to the plot of the main single-player campaign that isn't actually there. So maybe there was an actual Metroid Prime 3DS game being developed at some point that had the shitty multiplayer mode that must exist as part of the game industry's pact with Satan. But resources ran thin and something had to be cut out, so they cut the single-player campaign because the crazy-pill salesman came around that morning giving out free samples. And then someone said, "Wait, people will be annoyed about this decision." And their boss popped another crazy pill and said, "You're right! We'd better put in a soccer minigame to mollify them. After all, the kind of fanboys who wasted their tender years learning to speedrun Metroid on the slim promise of pixel titty are also notoriously keen on team sports."
Metroid Prime was the game that successfully translated the atmosphere and feel of Metroid to a 3D first-person format. But Nintendo seems to have treated it like the red-headed stepchild ever since. First the sequels were kinda shit, then it's officially declared non-canon in favor of Other M, which is like taking away your child's Christmas present so that the cat can choke to death on it, and now this. "Oh stop comparing it to the Metroid you wanted it to be, Yahtzee. Can't you just accept that Nintendo wanted a new direction and made something a bit more family-friendly? After all, they've only got like ninety billion other franchises that do that." Well, then why did they even call it Metroid Prime, except to deliberately fuck with Metroid Prime fans? They could easily have chucked Samus Aran in the airlock and more honestly called it Interstellar Midget Footballers, or Tangential Metroid Universe Thing Starring The Cast Of Willow, or Don't Buy This Game, It's Shit.
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