It’s been nearly two years since Retro Studios released their conclusion to the Metroid Prime trilogy. After making such a consistently great sequence of three games, Retro stepped down from the Metroid franchise. They’ve done some work porting Prime 1 and 2 into the “new play control” series on Wii but aside from that, Retro has moved away from Metroid and is working on something original.
And I’m completely fine with that. I loved the Prime trilogy but Retro has earned the right to do something new, and this way a new development team can take a fresh approach to the Metroid property. Do you remember the late 90s—and I’m talking to Metroid fanboys like myself here—when the thing you wanted Nintendo to do more than anything was to make a 3D, third-person Metroid game, the same way they brought Mario and Zelda into 3D? That’s why all you Metroid fans were so skeptical of Prime; it was a freaking FPS for all you knew. So Prime was great and the majority of us loved it, but now that it’s over wouldn’t it be great to have that game you imagined all those years ago, before Prime was even an idea in the gaming consciousness?
That, my friends, is where I think Nintendo should take Metroid next. It’s not that big of a jump really; just pan the perspective back and make Samus as dynamic and graceful a character as, say, Altair. But if we’re just playing the Prime trilogy again in third-person, the gameplay will get stale. Retro brought a lot of new things to the Metroid table but they didn’t get to use the Wii until Prime 3—with WiiMotionPlus arriving in June, a new team could make Samus more mobile, flexible and intuitive.
The third-person perspective will finally let developers show off Samus’ acrobatics in 3D, something that was hard to pull off in first-person. A lot of the flashier elements from the Game Boy Advance games, specifically Zero Mission, will be visible in a 3D game. Zero Mission was the first and only Metroid game where, for me, playing Samus felt almost organic, like I was actually in the armor and it was merely an extension of me. Nailing that sharp, precise agility could be the main paradigm for a new game. As a result items like the Screw Attack, Space Jump boosters and especially the Grapple Beam will really get to shine this time.
Having Samus visibly represented will also let Nintendo make her character more interesting, at least visually. I for one like what they did in Smash Bros. Brawl by essentially making her two characters in one (and not for the fanservice reasons). What if Samus’s armor degraded as it took damage, eventually falling apart altogether and leaving her stuck in her Zero suit? She can’t repair or re-arm until she makes it back to her ship (or at least a save station), so this opens up a whole new gameplay dynamic. The armor-less, stealth-heavy sequence at the end of Zero Mission was tense, fun and original. Having Samus switch play styles could push how the environments of Metroid are built, how enemies are fought and what items are used to achieve the same goals.
A good mechanic to build this Zero suit gameplay around would be Samus’s reserve energy tanks from Super Metroid. In that game they were essentially emergency health for when you were really in trouble; in a new game they could support the Zero suit, as Samus’s last reserves to keep her energy shields up and weapons online.
Another element that Retro considered but eventually left out was ship combat. Samus’s gunship was a big part of Prime 3 but you never got to pilot it yourself. In a new game you could take the fight to the skies, or do a more thorough survey of an unfamiliar planet.
Reworking Metroid is a good idea on the home console side of things, but if they really want to bring Samus back in a big way they need to do another console-handheld tandem release, like the simultaneous launch of Prime 1 and Fusion. We still haven’t gotten a side-scrolling Metroid on the DS, and while Prime Hunters was a decent spin-off, the franchise really deserves another traditional portable entry. I’d like to see them integrate parts of the Prime gameplay into a sidescroller, through the use of the touch screen—things like tapping enemies to scan them, tracing multi-lock missiles, and dragging the grapple beam to hook points. There were rumors of a “Metroid Dread,” a 2.5D game similar to New Super Mario Bros, but that title never materialized. Still, it generated a ton of fan speculation and Nintendo would do well to listen to what the fans want out of a new 2D Metroid.
In terms of story, any new Metroid games, be they console or handheld based, should take place after Fusion, at the most recent point in the continuity. The Prime series was a nice side story but after three big games and a spin-off, the time span between Metroid 1 and 2 is getting stretched pretty thin. I know it’s hard to come up with a new story, especially now that the Metroids are extinct, but this is Nintendo—they’ll think of something. It might just be my fanboy optimism but with the announcement of the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection dropping in August, I have a feeling that Nintendo is slowly building the Metroid hype again, maybe for something big in the near future.
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