‘Metroid’ spins-off to disappointment

Courtesy of Nintendo “Federation Force” is the first entry in the “Metroid” series not to star Samus Aran. Instead, players take control of a Galactic Federation space marine.

Courtesy of Nintendo
“Federation Force” is the first entry in the “Metroid” series not to star Samus Aran. Instead, players take control of a Galactic Federation space marine.

By Sean Ray | a&e editor

It’s rare that a video game is despised upon announcement, but “Metroid Prime: Federation Force” was the target of massive fan backlash. After the controversial last entry in the series, “Metroid: Other M,” most gamers were likely expecting a more traditional, back-to-form game.

What they got was a multiplayer first-person shooter, lacking the exploration and isolated atmosphere the previous games promoted. Perhaps the biggest blasphemy was the fact that the main character of the game would not be long-time series protagonist Samus Aran, but instead a faceless, generic space marine.

However, now that the game is finally out, is it as bad as fans are making it out to be?

Eh… kind of.

Taking place at an indeterminate point in the “Metroid Prime” trilogy, “Federation Force” follows a squad of Federation marines as they combat the insidious Space Pirates using experimental mech-armor. Similar to “Metroid Prime 3,” the game’s story spans multiple planets, each with their own environmental hazards and enemies.

And this is where the similarities to the previous games end. Instead of going in alone, the game encourages players to team up with three friends to tackle the campaign’s missions, which are small, objective-oriented and a far cry from the open world exploration “Metroid” is known for. Gone are the cool upgrades found in hidden spots,the lore entries found via scanning and the minimalistic plot.

Instead, there is a boring stream of passive mods that just do not have the wow factor of upgrades like the Screw Attack or Ice Beam and overly intrusive cut scenes that explain every facet of the story that the game possibly can, leaving nothing up to the imagination.

This is invariably going to disappoint the legions of “Metroid” fans out there. But to the casual gamer, or someone new to the series, there is a good deal of fun to be had.

To Nintendo’s credit, they did a great job converting the first person shooter game style to the 3DS. The use of a lock-on helps alleviate the difficulties of only having one control stick, while the handheld’s gyroscope can be used to aim at angles.

The only major complaints I had was that tilting the console to get difficult shots often made the 3D screens hard to see, resulting in a bad case of double vision. Further, tapping the fire button always seemed to mess up my aim when my 3DS was tilted, as the handheld rocked in my hand with each button press.

The game does heavily encourage playing with more than one person. There is an option to play by yourself, with the game giving you increased armor and fire power to compensate, but this did little to alleviate the difficulties. Often you’ll find yourself facing too many enemies, or the bosses will have so much health that battles are overwhelming and overly long. Bottom line: find a friend.

All of this leads to one conclusion: “Federation Force” is NOT a game for core “Metroid” fans. It is a spin-off, with only surface-level similarities to the “Metroid Prime” games. Regrettably this means it could not have come out at a worse time.

While it is okay for the “Mario” and “Zelda” franchises to have spin-offs, those series have frequent entries in the core game line. It has been six years since the last “Metroid” game, and that one was almost universally despised. If Nintendo had waited until after a real “Metroid” game came out, I have no doubt “Federation Force” would have been better received.

As it stands, I can only recommend the game to those unfamiliar with the series, or to those who are not so heavily invested in the franchise. For fans, there is a bright side. The game’s end did leave off with a hook that promises a true “Metroid” sequel. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take too long to come out.

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