A, perfectly understandable, piece of criticism that is often leveled at Nintendo is that they waste their IP by producing virtually the same game for generations. Many would agree that they have built their franchises by finding a formula that works and sticking to it; and most fans are totally ok with that. However, certain fans of two Nintendo franchises might disagree with this sentiment. In terms of their favourite franchises, Nintendo might not pump out any games at all, let alone the same game. The first of these two franchises is F-Zero, a series that hasn’t seen a new installment since the Japanese-only GBA title F-Zero Climax in 2004.
The second franchise, and the subject of this editorial, is Metroid.
A series that is four years older than F-Zero, Metroid has been dormant since the, heavily criticised, release of Metroid: Other M in August 2010. Fans of the series have since been clamouring for any details surrounding a new Metroid game, but Nintendo have remained tight-lipped about bounty hunter Samus Aran’s future. Perhaps it is due to the critical reception of Other M that Nintendo are now cautious in their handling of the franchise, or maybe even steering clear of it altogether. The game was heavily criticised for it’s elimination of agency and exploration combined with a jarring characterisation of Samus that many fans felt was completely different to her portrayal in every other Metroid game. For years the Metroid franchise had built itself upon the sentiment of ‘show, don’t tell‘. However, Other M seemed to reverse this formula with lengthy monologues and cinematic cutscenes. To make a comparison with another successful Nintendo franchise, the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda was met with much fanfare; a video tribute at E3 2011, two new entries into the series (Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword), multiple game re-releases, a special edition 3DS design and worldwide symphony orchestra concerts.
The 25th anniversary of Metroid garnered a tweet from Nintendo of America. It is clear that The Legend of Zelda is the more successful series worldwide, however to disregard Metroid’s influence on the explorative nature of video games makes Metroid seem like the disappointing stepchild.
On the subject of what the future might hold for Metroid, there is speculation that Retro Studios, the developers behind the critically acclaimed Metroid Prime trilogy, may be working on a new installment of the franchise. Retro have no announced games since the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in early 2014, however the company has confirmed that they are working on an, as of yet, announced title. In the past, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto has also noted the possibility of Retro returning to work on the Metroid series, “And, obviously, Retro is a very high priority in terms of the potential team that would be considered for working on a Metroid game” (via Digital Spy). Frankly, it would be foolish of Nintendo to not allow Retro to work on another Metroid game, as the Prime games are three of the most highly-regarded games ever, let alone on just Nintendo consoles. The perfect blend of exploration and a focus on the alien landscapes surrounding Samus is the reason that Metroid Prime instantly felt like a Metroid game, even though it shifted the series into the world of 3D. The lack of exploration and the insistence on a forced, linear narrative is perhaps part of Other M’s downfall as a Metroid game. The best piece of criticism that I think sums up Metroid Other M, at least in terms of game play, comes from TheGamingBrit on YouTube, who remarked that Team Ninja created a great action game with Metroid: Other M, but a bad Metroid game.
Personally, I would be happy to see the series return in any capacity. If the speculation surrounding Retro Studios turns out to be true, it can be assumed that they are working on a Wii U addition to the Prime games, or at least an FPS in a similar vein. However, I would also love to also see a more traditional 2D Metroid game released on 3DS. The last 2D Metroid game Metroid Zero Mission, a re-imagining of the 1986 NES game, was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004. A return to the series’ roots, with sprawling exploration and tight platforming would be welcomed back with open arms. It’s actually very strange that Nintendo haven’t explored the option of a 2D Metroid since Zero Mission, as both ZM and Metroid Fusion received positive reviews on the GBA. Although Metroid Prime Hunters was an excellent display of the DS’s power, it seems strange that Nintendo didn’t attempt to advance the 2D side of Metroid.
For now, all Metroid fans can do is wait patiently. Perhaps this E3 will finally will be the year, perhaps Nintendo will catch us unawares with a surprise Nintendo Direct, maybe Smash Bros is all we’ll see from Samus this year…
See you next mission!
– Jamie Goodchild
RonnieRaccoon on Deviant Art –
Metroid wikia –