Blast Ball had a peculiar reveal and presence in recent weeks. It first appeared in the Nintendo World Championships without Metroid branding, and was then revealed in the E3 Digital Event to be part of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, the divisive 3DS title in development by Next Level Games. It'll serve as both a side-mode with full 3 vs. 3 local and online multiplayer in the game, but also as the tutorial for the main campaign. It's also been the part of Federation Force shared with the press both in LA and at a subsequent event we attended in London.
Tom Whitehead and Anthony Dickens sat down to take each other on in a Blast Ball match, and share their thoughts below.
As it's not a game in its own right, it is difficult to know how to approach Metroid Prime: Blast Ball. I'm a big fan of Metroid Prime, I'm a big fan of football, so this game should take 2 and 2 to make 5, right? Kind of… 5 was actually the number of minutes the game held my interest.
The controls were easy enough to get the hang of, however the game itself was simply a battle of constant button spamming leaving very little room for any tactics or variety of gameplay. I felt like even my finest firing had minimal effect on the lumbering sphere as we slowly edged it towards the opposition goal. Yes, charge shots had more impact, but it still felt laborious and with all players taking the same approach it quickly felt like an evenly matched tug-of-war, with both teams making little to no progress and settling for stalemate.
It's emerged that Blast Ball also serves as a tutorial environment for Federation Force, and that's probably for the best. The game would need a significant amount of work to be able to stand on its own merits, even for a budget eShop download. This certainly isn't the beautiful game.
In terms of the gameplay I'm pretty much in agreement with Anthony, and Morgan made similar points in his own way in our First Impressions of Blast Ball. The controls are functional, but when a group of competent gamers are battling it out it can be a tedious button mashing frenzy. The ball is too heavy and immovable, frankly, and regardless of tactics and charge shots moments of fun and spontaneous movements are exceptionally rare. It was a case of move, hold L and tap the attack button as quickly as possible, over and over again, while power-ups didn't do enough to shake it up.
As a mini-game it's acceptable, if on the low side of the quality spectrum, and I hope Nintendo doesn't try to spin it off into an eShop title (like with the Kirby: Triple Deluxe minigames) unless it's improved a lot. My frustration, though, is that this is what was shared of Federation Force. This is a game that's already having a tough time in the court of public opinion, and frankly Nintendo's put its weakest foot forward.
A good demo to share would probably have been the second mission in the Treehouse video below (skip to about 15 minutes in), which is a battle with Space Pirates. You know, something Prime-like.
Blast Ball, though, is just a poor first impression. Its only redeeming factor is a decent set of visuals, but I'd had enough about half way through our five minute match. I would rather have been fighting space pirates, shooting down ships and tackling monsters, which I'm sure is what Federation Force is really all about.
My impression is that Nintendo thinks Blast Ball could have hit the spot with observers and press with quick bursts of frantic fun. Perhaps with better physics, stronger mechanics and enticing design it would have, but I was left wanting more of the real game, not its spin-off.