This week — today, in fact — marks an astonishing four years since the announcement that work on Metroid Prime 4 had been restarted from scratch and shifted over to original developer Retro Studios.
We all remember the day when Shinya Takahashi, Senior Managing Executive Officer at Nintendo, spoke directly and apologetically to audiences to announce that "the current development progress has not reached the standards we seek in a sequel to the Metroid Prime series". The news came as somehow both devastating and exciting for fans of the franchise. Disappointing that Prime 4 was inevitably a very long way off, but also heartening to see Retro back at the helm.
Since then, other than a brief update (if you can call it that) prior to the announcement of Metroid Dread, we've not heard a peep on how development is going on the latest Metroid Prime title.
Unless Nintendo has decided to save the game for its next system — which is totally possible! — we imagine some sort of announcement or update can't be too far off. So, to mark the four-year anniversary since Metroid Prime 4 rebooted development, we thought we'd take a look at half a dozen things we'd like to see in the sequel. It's been quite a while since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (over 15 years, in fact) and the gaming landscape has changed a lot in that time; we're obviously expecting prettier graphics and a more cinematic experience compared to the first three games, but here we'll dive into more specific desires that we reckon would appeal to both long-term fans and newcomers alike.
So, set your visors to scan and dive right in...
SPOILER ALERT: Be aware that this article will contain spoilers for several Metroid games. If you're not fussed, then crack on, but don't say we didn't warn you...
#1 - A Renewed Focus on Isolation
To be clear, all three core Metroid Prime games did a pretty good job at maintaining a sense of isolation, requiring you to navigate your way through a number of beautiful, yet dangerous biomes with your trusty scan visor active to find out more about the local fauna and flora. However, that as the series went on, it introduced more action elements along with a host of secondary characters that didn’t feel like they belonged quite so well.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption brought a handful of bounty hunters on board to aid (and hinder) Samus' progress, and while their overall involvement in the plot was fairly limited for the most part, it was still a jarring experience for long-time fans, particularly when a couple of them were clearly intended to provide comic relief (which for a Metroid game is just weird, y'know..?).
Metroid has always worked best when Samus is on her own. We wouldn’t mind a couple of secondary characters here and there (we personally loved Quiet Robe in Metroid Dread), but just whack us onto a deadly, derelict planet with nothing but our arm cannon and morph ball and we’ll be good to go. Some characters and their games just work better alone.
#2 - No More Dark Samus, Please!
Dark Samus is a great antagonist, there's no doubt about that; heck, her involvement in the Super Smash Bros. franchise is testament to her impact on fans since her introduction. Honestly, though, we've seen enough of Dark Samus now, thank you very much. The character was more or less obliterated at the end of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, so logically, we probably won't be staring down the barrel of her veiny arm cannon again, but we all know how big franchises like to retcon their big bads back into the fold.
The problem with Dark Samus (for this writer, at least) is that outside of Metroid Prime's secret ending, her proper debut came after the arguably superior Samus clone dubbed "SA-X" in Metroid Fusion. So by the time Dark Samus swaggered into view, it was already a case of "been there, done that".
Now that the character has featured as the main villain in not one, but two Metroid Prime games, we reckon it's high time Retro Studios retired Dark Samus for good to focus on new, more menacing beasties.
#3 - Resolve the Sylux Cliffhanger, But Quickly
If you were skilled enough to complete Metroid Prime 3: Corruption with 100% of the items obtained, then you would have been treated to an extra scene after the credits rolled. Here, it depicts Samus boarding her ship and shooting off into the unknown, after which a second ship, confirmed to be piloted by Sylux, hovers for a moment before taking off after Samus.
Hang on... Who on earth is Slyux? Well, first introduced in Metroid Prime: Hunters, Sylux is a bounty Hunter who harbours a deep hatred for the Galactic Federation and Samus. Little else is known about the mysterious character beyond very short appearances here and there, but fans of the series are expecting him to play a big part in Metroid Prime 4.
Here's the thing, though. Since we know so little about Sylux, why should we be so invested in him? 15 years have passed since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and we don't know about you, but our interest in this particular cliffhanger has waned considerably in that time. We wouldn't be surprised, therefore, if Retro Studios will take a leaf out of Metroid Dread's book and reference the character briefly, but ultimately take the story in a separate, fresh direction.
On the other hand, the whole Samus Vs. Sylux plot could well be the main narrative thread that drives the new game. Which would be fine, if predictable. Either way, though, let's get this thing sorted.
#4 - New Visors, Weapons, and Suits
This is somewhat of an obvious desire, but one we have to mention.
The Prime trilogy did a great job at introducing new items and abilities, which is good since this is a key factor in providing the quintessential 'Metroidvania' experience. We've seen excellent visors (Thermal, X-Ray, Echo) along with awesome suits (Gravity, Phazon), but rather than bring these back again for Metroid Prime 4, let's try something completely new, shall we? The same goes for the weapons.
Of course, the very basic abilities need to remain intact. The Scan Visor — essential to gaining information on your whereabouts and enemies — was key in making the Metroid Prime games stand apart from their 2D counterparts, and if this isn't present in the fourth entry, then something's up. Other than this, though, we hope Retro Studios really go wild with the abilities in Metroid Prime 4, new suits that provide protection against extreme elements are frankly too obvious, and we want to see something that will truly surprise us.
Like what, you ask? Hey, we're not game devs! How about a suit that absorbs the DNA from your enemies, letting you take on their abilities in true Kirby-like fashion? Or perhaps a visor that scans for hidden items in adjacent rooms or areas? You'll have to help us out with your own ideas in the comments for this one!
#5 - Take What Works from Metroid Dread
The fact that Metroid Dread even exists is honestly a miracle, but that it turned out to be one of the best Metroid games in the entire franchise was astounding. It's top five, at least, right..? So we reckon it would be foolish to ignore the new elements it brought and implement them into Metroid Prime 4.
So which elements do we mean, exactly? Well, the slide ability comes to mind first and foremost. This was an excellent way to quickly manoeuvre your way through small gaps in the environment without impacting your momentum, and we can't imagine it would be impossible to implement in a 3D environment. Heck, lots of other first-person shooters have already added a slide as standard, so it just makes sense.
The other core ability is the melee attack, which Samus can utilise defensively or whilst she's on the move. Introduced in Metroid: Samus Returns and expanded upon in Dread, it's actually mindblowing how well this parry works without hampering that iconic 'Metroid feel'.
This might be a touch trickier to implement in a 3D environment, but we reckon Retro Studios has the skills to make it work within the Prime universe.
#6 - Introduce a New AI Companion
Yes, we know this sort of goes against our desire for more isolation, but hear us out. Metroid Fusion and Metroid Dread both featured an AI that Samus affectionately named after Commander Adam Malkovich, a member of the Galactic Federation who featured heavily in Metroid: Other M (and yes, before you say "well, actually...", we know it wasn't technically Adam for the majority of Metroid Dread). The AI would show up in Save Rooms to provide Samus with hints and background information to help her in her mission.
We believe the AI companions provide a nice break from the otherwise relentless isolation in the Metroid titles, so for us, bringing this feature back and adding it for the first time in a Prime title makes some sense. Now, timeline-wise, we're quite sure an AI companion in Metroid Prime 4 wouldn't be named after Adam, since the events of Other M, Fusion, and Dread all take place after the Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Then again, could Retro Studios really go wild with this one and set it up as a kind of quasi-sequel to Metroid Dread? Stranger things have happened..!
So there you have it, those are six things that we'd love to see in Metroid Prime 4! Now we just have to wait for the thing to get revealed properly, never mind released... Good things come to those who wait, apparently.
Now, we'd love to know what you think. Be sure to vote in the below poll and let us know what you'd like to see most in the next Metroid Prime entry. Comment with your choice and share your opinions on where Retro Studios might take the next game!