Metroid is a good example from Nintendo not giving a damn. Once one of their name franchise on the NES, Game Boy and Super Nintendo, and sure, why not on the GameCube as well. Now Metroid‘s a little more than another piece to use Nintendo’s creators to do whatever they wish to very little acclaim. While GBA’s Metroid Fusion has a cult following without a doubt, and was the Metroid to many, it was without a doubt the first step towards what would end up being Other M.
Much like any other long-running franchises, Metroid has a raving fanbase. Most of them have credited Super Metroid to be the best entry in the series, despite it being more or less a straight up remake of the NES original. You could say that one game per console was more than enough to Metroid, as the games in the end didn’t innovate on the formula or furthered it. It refined the action-adventure genre for sure, but it wasn’t the only one to do so. Castlevania: Symphony of Night gave it further twists with role-playing elements in form of stats growths next to equipment collection. It was Gunpei Yokoi’s passing that can be cited to end the series as it stood.
Metroid Fusion took the franchise backwards, mainly in that turned a series that was known about its adventure into a more linear direction, and the solitary elements were softened with a constant companion A.I. Fusion‘s story is a good example where it simply stops the gameplay for not good reason than exposition. The franchise at this point was more or less a good example of gameplay doing all the storytelling, adventure being the story itself. Super Metroid had an opening cinematic that gave the game a setting, and the rest was told during gameplay.
Fusion and Metroid Prime could be described to be the beginning of the second era of the franchise. Super Mario 64 could be argued to be the first good transition from 2D to 3D, and Metroid Prime an example from 2D to first-person action. Whatever sort of success the Prime series had is for another time, but it can’t be argued that it lifted the franchise to the public mind once more, even if in somewhat limited manner.
Nintendo’s Japanese branch didn’t really care about the series in the end, and Other M was more or less their take on what they regarded as true Metroid. It’s not a surprise that when you start discussing motherly instincts and essentially destroy Samus Aran’s character by giving her a character. Not to mention that the simple but expansive core gameplay from the previous entries of the series was abandoned for a more complex and unintuitive mechanics. Most, if not all fault can be but on Sakamoto for essentially doing Other M what it is, though the execs at Nintendo, Miymoto included, should’ve put stops on the game. Other M starts the third era for Metroid, that’s essentially where it all went to trash.
What made the Metroid is pretty much lost in the franchise. Federation Force is less a Metroid game than a school project to practice game development. There is arrogance with the game, and that same arrogance made the Wii U a failure. 3Ds was more successful, yet when compared to the Game Boy and DS, the 3Ds’ success has been more or less abysmal.
The trailer above just shows how Nintendo continues to make non-Metroid games. The producer of the game, Kensuke Tanabe, wanted to do a first person shooting game for a handheld console. That already had been done few times over, and Metroid Prime: Hunters did it better on the DS.
Hunters wasn’t a small game either. It had demos and a rather large marketing campaign, and while it’s success was rather lukewarm, Hunters is more or less a decent spin-off. Its multiplayer was fun with Quake 3-esque gameplay and was fast paced. The visuals fit Metroid as a franchise, something Federation Force fail at. Hunters is a serious game, whereas Federation Force is a cutesy, soft and rather laughable in its gameplay.
Both Tanabe and Sakamoto have done whatever the hell they wanted with the series, and it shows. Nintendo has barely recognized Metroid for some time now to the point of ignoring its anniversaries. While Nintendo has been DMCA happy with some of the fan productions, Return of Samus‘ remake has been left alone for years now, and now that it’s out, Nintendo can’t really take it out. It’s out in the wild and you should check it out.
Metroid‘s future looks bleak. It hasn’t seen any good entries for some time now and it’s clear that Nintendo is not interested in creating anything special out of it, and seeing how they’re intending to the Prime subseries towards more Japanese style, they’re not going to let another Western company after Retro Studios.
Metroid hasn’t made good money for some time, so it’s understandable that Nintendo wouldn’t want to invest resources in making a new game. On the other hand, if Nintendo would have invested in making good Metroid games in the first place. Taking Metroid to its roots would probably be the best option Nintendo has now. However, making a new 2D Metroid in the vain of the first three games requires effort and hard work. The whole action-adventure genre gets a new entry almost every other month nowadays, as it seems to be one of the more popular genres with the smaller developers. Axiom Verge is even taking similar cues from H.R. Giger’s designworks. Aliens Infestation is an interesting specimen in that the gameplay takes after Metroid to a large degree, or perhaps after Pharaoh’s Curse if we want to back to the originator.
A good entry in Metroid is not enough. Whatever entry Metroid will needs to be stellar and be true to the core of original Metroid. Otherwise we’ll see the 40th anniversary with no entry whatsoever and the franchise will go way of the dodo.