The reaction was contentious, to say the least. The Metroid franchise had gone years without a new title, and the fan base was eager to see what would come next. While fans were aware that a new entry was in the works, what Nintendo unveiled wasn’t at all what anyone was expecting. Fans weren’t happy, and they made Nintendo fully aware of that fact. While this may sound similar to reaction from E3 2015, this isn’t about Metroid Prime: Federation Force. It’s about the reaction to the original Metroid Prime on the Nintendo GameCube.
The early days of the GameCube were filled with tension for Nintendo fans. Despite strong early releases like Super Smash Bros. Melee and Pikmin, the console’s first year hadn’t exactly lit the world on fire, and there was a lot of pressure on Nintendo’s key franchises to help salvage GameCube’s reputation and sales. While the company’s profitability remained high, rumors persisted that it would end up a third party, like Sega. Luckily, GameCube’s second holiday season promised Mario, Fox McCloud, and the long awaited return of Samus Aran. When fans got their first real glimpse at the newest Metroid title, however, the reaction was one of confusion and derision. A first-person Metroid title seemed baffling, as if Nintendo was attempting to compete with Microsoft’s Halo. Fans wanted a third-person entry, not whatever this was supposed to be. On top of it all, developer Retro Studios’ unproven track record made it appear as though Nintendo didn’t care enough about the franchise to entrust it to a veteran. Fans and pundits anticipated a disaster.
There are a lot of parallels between the debut of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Last week, Nintendo debuted the latter title. While the game certainly looks to keep the spirit of the Prime series alive, most notably in the control scheme and overall look and feel of the universe, fans have met the game with similar feelings of uncertainty, and even anger. Fans are clearly unhappy with the game’s co-op focus, and with Samus Aran’s role being seemingly relegated to that of a supporting character. Some have even gone so far as to petition Nintendo to cancel the title, labeling it “disrespectful.” Even worse, some have attacked the company on Twitter, demanding apologies for the game’s existence.
Ignoring the extreme hyperbole of these reactions, what Nintendo fans have to remember is that the company does its best work when it’s giving fans something that they don’t realize they want. Metroid Prime was hardly the only title from the GameCube era that was met with skepticism. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker proved to be just as difficult a sell for audiences, at first. It wasn’t until the game’s release that fans realized they had overreacted. The title is not only considered one of the best GameCube had to offer, but one of the best games in the history of the franchise.
In many ways, it isn’t surprising that Nintendo’s moves are so often called into question. After all, Nintendo’s very entrance into the video game industry was initially met with skepticism. After the collapse of Atari, video games were considered a dying industry. People expected the Nintendo Entertainment System to fail right from the start. The company proved doubters wrong then, and it’s done it countless times since. While everyone seems to think Nintendo is Glass Joe, the company has proven time and time again that it’s closer to Little Mac.
Nintendo’s track record isn’t the only reason fans should give the game a chance. Metroid Prime: Federation Force has an impressive team working on the title. Retro Studios might not be involved in the game’s creation, but it is being produced by one of the producers on the original Metroid Prime trilogy, Kensuke Tanabe. While Retro Studios was a relative newcomer when it began work on Metroid Prime, Federation Force comes courtesy of veteran developer Next Level Games. Next Level Games has been responsible for a number of strong collaborations with Nintendo, including the fantastic reboot of Punch-Out!!! on Wii and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on Nintendo 3DS. The level of talent at the game’s helm is nothing short of impressive.
Metroid Prime released in late 2002 to universal acclaim, spawning a pair of sequels and giving the franchise the most attention it had ever received. Nintendo and Retro Studios did something radically different with the franchise, and it benefited everyone in the long run. It’s far too early to know if Metroid Prime: Federation Force will be able to follow in that game’s footsteps. After all, the title isn’t expected to release until sometime in 2016. Nintendo fans probably shouldn’t bet against the game’s quality, however. There are plenty of reasons to believe that the game will end up being quite strong. Then again, maybe fans should doubt Nintendo. It seems like the company does its best work when everyone else has already counted it out.