With the recent release of the much-anticipated Metroid Dread, we have seen a trend towards a more ballsy approach that publishers and developers are taking with their golden geese franchises.
The ‘safe’ aspect has flown out the door, and thankfully for us gamers, more risks are being taken in improving the direction and quality of the franchise titles.
As good as it is, Metroid Dread is little more than a stop-gap when we look at the bigger picture: Metroid Prime 4.
The eagerly anticipated 4th main title in the Prime series of games has had more news about it flying in, and we are here to do a complete breakdown of what has happened so far and what’s about to transpire.
Known for showcasing their excellence through all-time classic efforts such as, obviously, the entire Metroid Prime franchise, Texas-based Retro Studios was founded as a collaborative effort between Japanese giant Nintendo and now-defunct American game studio Iguana entertainment.
The purpose of this collaboration was clear. Nintendo saw the skyrocketing sales of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox systems from Sony and Microsoft respectively and went for a more reactive approach.
To cater to a much broader, more mature audience along with the kid-friendly classic titles, Retro Studios was established and immediately went to work on their concept which would ultimately become one of the best-selling franchises the world of gaming has ever seen.
Metroid Prime was released in the year 2002 and received 9s and 10s across the board, showing how much it was being loved by the critics.
But on the other side of that coin, Nintendo got exactly what they wanted; a mature audience at their fingertips, gushing over Metroid Prime, and a talented studio that could provide more of the same.
Prime became the best-selling game on the GameCube for that year and still remains the sixth-best at units sold, a cool 2.84 million.
This meant that Retro had a huge job on their hands; to always deliver. And oh boy, did they ever deliver.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, released two years later, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, released three years after the second one, registered huge sales and widespread critical acclaim, shooting Retro Studios into the stars and firmly placing Metroid Prime in the list of console-selling franchises.
However, the last entry into the mainline was all the way back in 2007, which now seems like a lifetime ago. So, with Dread being well and truly past the door, will we see a return to form for Samus on the Switch?
Behind The Veil
“A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” – Shigeru Miyamoto.
If there is one thing to take away from the numerous delays that the Metroid Prime 4 on Switch has experienced, it’s that it is being helmed by Kensuke Tanabe, the original producer of the series.
Tanabe is reported to be the leader of a “talented new development team”. Whatever the reason might be, we can take solace in the fact that Prime 4 isn’t going to be a mess of ideas.
According to the game’s fan wiki, during the release of a 2.5D combination remake of a few older Metroid titles, it was said that Prime 4 was “beyond 2017”, which was never a promising statement.
However, in 2018, with the official re-registering of the Metroid and Metroid Prime licenses by Nintendo, a sequel was all but confirmed.
Amongst bated breaths and useless press conferences, Nintendo has given us nothing as of yet in terms of any kind of gameplay or story hints, but we still have some news to present to you: The Japanese publisher has the protocol of showing off their titles about 6-8 months before release, which means we were on course to see something in 2019-20.
After a short development teaser in 2017 however, Nintendo threw another Luigi’s mansion-sized curveball at us two years later when they published a video onto YouTube that was ominously titled ‘Development Update on Metroid Prime 4 for Nintendo Switch.
They explained that they were not satisfied with the direction that the development was taking, and wanted to refocus on providing the best Metroid experience that they could. This makes a lot of sense considering the time that we had waited for another Prime, it could have been that the creative direction went in a lot of…well, directions.
That being said, production got back on track and we’re on course to receive the fourth installment in this blockbuster franchise sometime in 2022, according to the latest reports.
So, let’s take a look at what we should be expecting.
Setting, Gameplay, Cast and Characters
While not much is known about whether the next Metroid is going to drive with the conclusion of Prime 3 and move on from there or have a new approach with it, we do have some theories as to where the game might go.
For a short recap (spoilers!) We know that if you got a 100% completion on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, you were shown a visual where Samus jets off into space and is then followed by an ominous-looking ship.
This was confirmed by Retro at E3 2015 to be Sylux, a mysterious bounty hunter who was only seen twice, in the aforementioned Corruption and Metroid Prime Hunters, a handheld game.
So it remains to be seen whether the story continues from there, or the ending of Metroid Fusion, which is seen as part of the canonical mainline, wherein Samus is infused with Parasite X and then Metroid DNA to make her even more powerful in the process.
Although we would like a return to form for either Dark Samus, the Metroid Fusion storyline, or a rivalry between Sylux and Samus, it is very likely that we are in for a classic ride.
Although all of these story beats are possible directions that could be taken as far as our hypothesis goes, there has been an absolute boatload of rumors that have circulated and only grown in strength owing to the time that Metroid Prime 4 is taking for development.
Worst case situation?
It was reported earlier that Nintendo might as well cancel the next Metroid due to production and budget concerns, but it is highly likely that that was a hoax, since Metroid is one of the biggest and best-selling franchises for a long time, and this could be the return to form a desperate Nintendo needs to grow the Switch user base in America.
A release in 2022 right as we are moving into another possible pandemic sounds just about right for a Metroid Prime launch, and we cannot wait.
In a recent podcast, the lead designer for the Metroid Prime series from Retro, Mike Wikan, was quoted as saying that “the Metroid is going to be great.”
Wikan also spoke about the change in work culture after the release of the first two Metroid games, stating that
“At the end of that time everyone was ready to quit, we were like ‘we’re done.’ I had two job offers from two different companies, and to their credit, Nintendo realized what was going on and took over the company, bought it out. They put Michael Kelbaugh in charge. He’s a sweetheart, real good, he was head of Nintendo’s QA department. He said, ‘guys, give me a few weeks to turn it around.’ And he did”.
At surface level, the team over at Retro seems to be in high spirits, and we as gamers couldn’t be happier. This means that the game is going to be polished to a supreme shine, and that is exactly what we want.
Also, according to an article published on Nintendo Life, Retro Studios was to undertake a remodeling of their HQ sometime in 2021, spending about $530,000 with an extra 40000 square feet custom office and new talent from the likes of well-established franchises such as God of War, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Tomb Raider and Borderlands.
Our Wishlist for Metroid Prime 4
As the Prime series of Metroid games follows the first-person format, with shooter elements, we believe that the best course of action is to keep the soul of the game intact while delivering on a fast-paced, player-driven narrative.
First-person action games are something that the Switch sorely lacks, and Metroid could drive a lot of the masses that seem to only run on endless cans of G-Fuel.
Other than that, there is the curious case of Kraid. One of the most iconic antagonists of the entire franchise, it was initially shown that Kraid was at least on par with one of the series’ other iconic villains, Ridley.
But it remains that while we have seen Ridley in all of his glorious monstrosity displayed to us in boss fights in the Prime series, Kraid is suspiciously not present in any of the trilogy.
Seems pretty basic to have old antagonists back, but this is a great opportunity for Nintendo to tackle a great misstep and include Kraid as part of the Metroid rogues gallery. A Meta Kraid, perhaps? No?
Again, we have mentioned this before, but Dark Samus sincerely needs to make another appearance. We know, we know, it was just Metroid Prime in a suit, but if the antagonist the entire game is named after never makes an appearance, what’s the fun in that?
It could be an interesting side mission or the climax sequence, but Dark Samus needs to be present in the game in some form or another.
Three, and we hope Retro follows in their own footsteps in repeating this, but high on our list is an escape sequence at the ending.
With almost every mainline game apart from the entire Prime series, the escape sequence has been a very important part of the direction and the entire reason we sat behind with a 100% completion to watch the end credits bonus scenes to get a hint of what was going to happen next.
Preserving the game’s DNA is crucial, and Retro should work to fit a daring escape in.
Adding to that, multiplayer.
We know with the state of video games today that a loot box or any kind of other microtransaction system would spell the end of even the most widely-loved franchises, Metroid needs to integrate a functional multiplayer segment to make sure that this game continues to expand into other spheres of gaming and transition into a full-blown AAA title for years to come.
And that will come from a solid FPS multiplayer wherein you play as the multiple bounty hunters present in the game a la Halo and/or in a squad like The Division.
The story would obviously take center stage, but we feel that the multiplayer would also add to the replayability of the game.
The advantage that the Prime series has over its counterparts is the FPS element and the detached narrative, allowing the game to potentially have much more widespread appeal and the direction to go any which way.
We love the fact that Metroid Prime 4 is in the hands of the original developers, and absolutely cannot wait for the day Nintendo decides that they have a gameplay showcase to release!