In the lead up to E3 we'll be doing a series of features covering game franchises that we want to make an appearance at the show, and what we'd like to see out of a potential next entry in each series. In this entry Nintendo Life news, reviews and features regular Mitch Vogel thinks over the Metroid franchise.
To kick things off we'll take a look at Metroid, a fan-favourite franchise that Nintendo has been somewhat worryingly hesitant to address. Arguably the greatest example - and half of the original concept - of the fairly popular "Metroidvania" sub-genre, the Metroid games have consistently nailed an excellent blend of platforming, shooting, exploration and creating a creepy, isolated atmosphere to tie it all together in an intergalactic setting. We do know that the series hasn't been officially axed, but rumours of a cancelled Metroid game for the 3DS don't do much to dispel the notion that Nintendo is wary of giving the series another shot; after the mixed reception of Metroid: Other M, it seems as though Nintendo is almost afraid to develop another entry. However, given that it's been roughly five years since the last Wii outing, now seems to be as good a time as any to give Samus her first shot at starring in a current generation game.
If Nintendo chooses to go the 3DS route, I think it'd be best if Samus starred in a 2.5D title. Let's not forget that such a game did exist at one point; was to be for the DS and it would've been called Metroid Dread. We don't know why it was cancelled, but there's likely enough pieces of it left over that the project could be resurrected. Beyond that, Nintendo has proven through the likes of New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Country Returns, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds that it knows how to properly reinvigorate classic gameplay design with a modern touch; yet it hasn't applied this design philosophy to Metroid in the past few years. Potentially, we could have a game with the overall aesthetic look of Super Metroid, but with much bigger environments that would benefit from the 3D depth.
In terms of gameplay, perhaps it could take a leaf from the book of Xeodrifter - Renegade Kid's bite sized Metroidvania - and incorporate the usage of multiple screen layers into level design. The bottom screen would display available gear and an interactive map; StreetPass could work by highlighting the locations of some upgrades that were already found by another in their game, perhaps in the form of a hint that corresponds to a particular upgrade type.
As for what I'd like to see out of a possible Wii U entry, I think another third person 3D game is in order. The Prime series was great, but Metroid: Other M gave us a glimpse of just how a 3D Metroid could also work from a perspective outside of the suit. Whatever the new game would take shape as, hopefully this one would take the story past Metroid Fusion and explore the effects of Samus' actions in that game. Alternatively, I would not be opposed to a true "Metroid: Zero Mission" that precedes all of the other games by several years. In every game up to this point the Chozo society is long gone, so what if we got to experience a game that took place when they were at the height of their power? Perhaps in a big paradigm shift, players could be in control not of Samus, but of a Chozo warrior with a Power Suit that'd be a precursor to the one Samus would one day wear.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Metroid: Other M have proven that the Metroid series has plenty of potential for an engaging and intricate universe, so perhaps this game could feature expanded interplanetary travel and a few new races of intelligent aliens like the Luminoth or Chozo. Of course, it wouldn't be a Metroid game without a great sense of isolation, so perhaps both the main story and a plethora of side quests would be primarily driven by "bounties" given to you from locals or from command.
Each one of these could see you sent off to a distant, abandoned planet or ancient ruins in search of a particular alien or item, and completion of bounties would net you certain upgrades in addition to whatever you found while exploring. Rather like exploring the Great Sea in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the gunship could be directly flyable and planets or space stations in a sector would be added to the map as you discovered and explored them, while occasional dogfights with space pirates and other baddies could spruce up the journey in between. As an added bonus, the GamePad could be put to great use here with a control scheme reminiscent of the one that showed up when piloting the gunship in the Metroid mini game in Nintendo Land.
Of course, this article wouldn't be complete without a mention of another Metroid Prime from Retro Studios. In many ways it would make more sense for Nintendo to play it safe and go with the tried and tested gameplay of the Prime games than it would to go in a new direction, as this would certainly reinforce fan faith in the franchise after Metroid: Other M unfortunately fell short of the high standard set by the series up to that point.
While I think the gameplay in the Prime games has been properly and fully expanded upon across three excellent games, it would still be a treat to get the opportunity to see the beautiful and ruined worlds presented in glorious high definition. On top of that, the GamePad could be used for scanning and the various visor modes, and perhaps the motion control aiming from Splatoon could be borrowed for a snappier shooting experience. Some of the ideas highlighted above - related to exploration, dogfights in space etc - could clearly easily be incorporated into a Prime adventure, too.
Considering the fact that one of the Metroid Prime 3 endings was technically a cliffhanger, perhaps Nintendo will go forward with Metroid Prime 4 as the next entry in the series.
As always, we'd like to hear what you think. Do you think Nintendo will announce a new Metroid this year? What would you like to see out of another entry?