Metroid Prime: Federation Force launches in just a few days, and though it coincides with Metroid‘s anniversary month, it’s not exactly a celebration. When Nintendo first unveiled the game, it was met with overwhelmingly negative reactions, and Nintendo has hardly said anything about it in the time since. The list of mistakes with Federation Force is enormous, but the most important one of all is that it’s simply not a Metroid game.
The heart of the
Metroid series lies in a lone bounty hunter named Samus Aran, left stranded in haunting-yet-beautiful alien worlds and slowly becoming their master. The minute you step into a Metroid game, you’re alone. You’re in danger. And no one can hear you scream.
Federation Force takes place in the Metroid universe, but it’s not an Action-Platforming game; it’s a team-based co-operative First-Person Shooter. It’s an interesting spin on the Metroid universe, to be sure, but its fundamental design as a multiplayer game undermines everything Metroid has always been about. And Nintendo’s relative silence suggests to me they too think it’s a lost cause.
In comes AM2R, or “Another Metroid II Remake,” a 2D Action-Platformer that strikes every chord Metroid fans have been waiting for. It has a vast alien world, the pulsing dread of deep space, and an orange-clad bounty hunter kicking ass through it all. It was the one way Metroid fans could meaningfully celebrate the anniversary of the series they love so dearly.
The only problem is Nintendo didn’t make it. In fact, when it took the public by storm,
they extinguished it.
Many say that
Metroid is Nintendo’s IP, and it’s their right to do what they want with it. They’re correct, of course, but the truth goes even further: protecting their IP is Nintendo’s legal obligation. It’s an unfortunate reality made even harder to bear by the fact that Nintendo’s lineup of 2016 games is bone-dry, and their next console is still shrouded in mystery. But it’s reality nonetheless, and as AM2R‘s creator himself explains, nobody should be mad at Nintendo for it.
Nintendo does it all the time, in fact, and usually nobody bats an eye. But the issue with
AM2R runs much deeper than any random fan project or any random takedown notice.
Nintendo has been mismanaging the Metroid series for six years—even more, some might argue, given that it’s now been twelve years since the last 2D Metroid game launched, and wannabe titles like Axiom Verge have found tremendous success in Metroid‘s absence.
Nintendo fumbled passing the series off to Team Ninja for
Metroid: Other M and seems not to know how to revive the series after its negative backlash, but the answer has always been abundantly clear: take the series back to its roots and make a new game just like the classics.
Nintendo’s been doing exactly that with dozens of other franchises in the last several years:
Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, Kirby, Yoshi’s Island, and even Punch-Out!! have all had back-to-roots games inspired by their past successes. Nintendo can’t help themselves from revisiting their glory days, so how could they possibly forget for so long that Metroid ever existed beyond Metroid Prime? It’s unthinkable!
Nintendo has waited all this time for answers that are not only staring them in the face, but that they’ve actively been implementing into their other series for years. It’s totally staggering to me, and I hardly even care about
Metroid. For the fans who have made Metroid a million-plus seller nearly every single time, that surprise is a genuine pain.
Nintendo’s mistakes created a void that not only hurt fans but gave AM2R its popularity in the first place, and what Nintendo failed to recognize was that AM2R was a remedy for both sides.
Fans had the opportunity to play a great
Metroid game that they actually want, and Nintendo could look inwards on its success to better understand what really fuels the Metroid series and right their wrongs in the future.
AM2R was a much-needed bridge that could help heal the schism between Nintendo and its fans—and whether or not it was intentional, Nintendo lit that bridge on fire.
I just hope Nintendo saw what it was made of before it burned.