When the trailer for Metroid Prime: Federation Force was first shown, reactions were mixed. True, we were getting a new Metroid game for the 3DS, but it didn’t look like a Metroid game in certain aspects. Fans were hoping for a true sequel to the series and possibly a new 2D entry similar to Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission, so when the trailer for Federation Force hit, the reaction wasn’t as stellar as one could hope. However, I’ve stated in previous reviews that a game should stand or fall on its own merits, but with an IP like Metroid, that’s still a pretty tall order. Time to find out of Metroid Prime: Federation Force can deliver.
When first starting up a new game you’re given a few training exercises to help you learn the controls. The game is compatible with the 3DS Circle Pad Pro which likely means it can also take advantage of the second control stick on the New Nintendo 3DS. However, I only have the original 3DS so it can take some time to get the controls down. Thankfully that’s what the training exercises are for. If I had to take a guess, I’d wager that the second control stick on the New 3DS or Circle Pad Pro would be used to freely look around and aim. Without it, you get the luxury of the 3DS’s gyroscopic sensors to look around by holding R and moving the 3DS.
One major difference in Federation Force from past games is your mech...well, aside from the point that you’re in a mech to begin with. In previous games you’d explore the caves and caverns of planets like Zebes and SR388 and would come across various weapons and power ups along the way. In Federation Force it’s a bit different as your mech can utilize various mods and weapon loadouts. You start the game with only one mod slot but will gain more over time. Mods you can equip range from things like increasing damage, reducing damage taken, and even auto-repairing your mech should your energy hit zero. While it’s important to choose your mods carefully, the game actually recommends one at the start for solo play, which is something I’ll get into in a moment.
After you’re arrived at the planet for your mission you’ll get the opportunity to equip weapons and abilities to your mech and this brings my first complaint. Each mission lets you choose from several auxiliary weapons to equip, but your mech has an ammo capacity that will be upgraded as the game progresses. Each weapon uses up a certain amount of this capacity every time you add it. For instance, missiles uses up one block for every pack of three missiles. Early on this can be slightly annoying as it means carefully choosing the weapons and items you take in with you, but there’s not really anything that will really screw you over unless you’re really bad about losing energy. There is a repair capsule you can take in with you which is somewhat recommended because enemies don’t drop energy in this game.
As opposed to the “linear” format of how story progress worked in past Metroid titles, here you get to choose your missions from a selection screen. After each mission you’ll get a scoring screen where you’ll get your final score and between one and three medals depending on how well you did. After completing a mission you may go back to it at any time to try and improve your score or uncover anything hidden that you might have missed, such as extra mods. Bonus points are awarded for completing a mission within a certain time limit or for completion optional goals usually related to the main goal, such as defeating a boss without getting frozen. They’re not required but if you want those medals you’ll have to find a way to do them (you get one medal just for compleing the mission).
Despite Federation Force being a bit of a departure from what we’re used to seeing in Metroid games, I did actually enjoy it but there is one thing that seemed to stand out to me as I was playing, even in the early missions: this game was meant to be played with multiple players. Metroid Prime: Federation Force can support up to four players via either local or online co-op. I didn’t have much of a chance to check out online multiplayer as the few chances where I had some free time I couldn’t find an existing game. When you create an online game you’ll go to your mission selection screen and can choose to form a group with either just friends or anyone who wants to join. It appears to work like games such as Borderlands 2 where the missions you can choose from depend on who’s hosting the session.
More to the point though, the first three missions are tackled in order, but after that you get three more you can do in any order, and this is where it felt like this was more geared towards multiplayer. There would be times where I either had to lure giant Ice Titans into cages and then squeeze back out before the door closed, or I’d have to tackle a large group of enemies that seemed to never stop spawning. The missions are possible solo, but a lot of them feel like they had multiplayer in mind and were intended to be tackled with other players. That said though, the missions have a decent blend of action, stealth, and puzzle elements, two of those really aren’t much of a far cry from the main series.
If you need to take a break from exploring planets you can check out Blast Ball. Blast Ball is essentially a weird version of soccer where the goal is to shoot a giant ball into your goal. Do this three times and you win the match. You can go through some training to learn the mechanics as well as get some interesting info such as the ball damaging your mech if it touches you or using L will always lock onto the ball. That’s fine until you get into a match and discover that the mechs can shoot each other and take them out of the match for several moments. Blast Ball can be played with one to six players via local, online, or download play. While it may seem like a bit of a diversion from the main game, winning matches can unlock mods and paint jobs for your mech depending on how you do.
I’ve already talked about a few issues but there are a couple more to bring up, the first of which is what happens when you fail a mission. Failing a mission means starting it over from scratch. I don’t have an issue with that. My issue is how long it takes to get back into the mission. If you fail a mission you have to go back to the mission selection screen and choose your loadouts and everything all over again. What would have been nice is if the game gave you the option of just restarting the mission with the current loadout. To use the previously mentioned stealth mission as an example, I had to restart that mission several times due to some stupid mistake on my part such as hitting the wrong button to jump or accidentally hitting a space pirate’s line of sight, and it’s just frustrating to have to sit through all of the loadout and selection screens again just to get back to the mission. It’s not that it takes a while to do and it’s more of a personal nitpick more than anything.
The other personal nitpick to address is probably something a lot of people will complain about, and that this doesn’t feel much like a Metroid game. Sure you have your various types of weapons and missiles, plus Samus does get involved with the story and you also have to deal with space pirates showing up to ruin your day, but beyond that I just don’t really get a huge Metroid vibe from the game. That’s not to say the game is bad; once you get the hang of the controls it’s actually quite enjoyable. However, a lot of people are likely to pick this up and complain about it because it might not feel like a traditional Metroid game. To me, that’s fine. Again, a game should be able to stand or fall on its own merits. That doesn’t mean that the game gets a free pass because it’s a spinoff, but I’m not going to give it a low score because it isn’t like the main series it’s based off of.
In the end, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is an enjoyable game, though a lot of the time it feels like they had multiplayer in mind with some missions. If you’re looking for a game that plays like the main series or even just the Metroid Prime series, you might enjoy it as long as you’re not expecting the large amount of exploration from the main series. However, if you’re able to put that aside and check out the game and judge it based on its own merits, Federation Force is an enjoyable experience. If Nintendo decides to put a demo up on the Nintendo eShop at some point, you’ll probably want to try that out first before picking up the full game, especially if you’re a diehard Metroid fan.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.