They did it! After nearly 10 years of radio silence, the madmen finally did it! Metroid Prime 4 is officially in development for the Nintendo Switch!
As some might know, I optimistically listed Prime 4 earlier this year as one of the 5 games that would make the Switch a slam dunk. Needless to say, when I saw that logo and heard the Metroid Prime intro music creep in during Nintendo’s E3 Direct stream, I was so pumped that I nearly tackled a coworker.
Excitement aside, we know virtually nothing about this new entry to the series. Not even the year it will be completed. It is very possible that the game will release near the end of 2018, or even as far out as 2019 and beyond. Most of us will be tied over in the meantime by Metroid: Samus Returns, the remake of Metroid 2 that Nintendo is bringing to 3DS. But if you’re like me, your head is absolutely swimming with ideas.
What is this new Prime game going to be like? Will it play and look exactly like the other three, or will it be different? Well I have a few thoughts on what I’d like to see, and they go a little something like this:
1. Push The Switch To Its Limit
Nintendo’s new console still has a lot to prove in terms of horsepower. It is notably weaker than both the Xbox One and PS4, and with the 4K iterations of these two consoles entering the limelight, that gap is looking more like a canyon every day. The original Metroid Prime stunned many with how beautiful and immersive it was, and proved to the world that the GameCube wasn’t just some kid’s plaything. Although the Switch won’t be able to compete graphically with other mainline consoles, I believe Metroid has the perfect environment and aesthetic to really flex the Switch’s muscles.
2. Make The World Huge And Lived-In
Environment is definitely the name of the game when it comes to Metroid. Planet Zebes, SR 388, Taloon IV, there is no shortage of interesting and memorable locations throughout the series. Being the first entry in the Prime series in more than 10 years, Metroid Prime 4 needs to deliver a location of epic scope and proportion.
Now don’t get me wrong, I DON’T mean that Metroid should be an open-world game. Rather, I’m saying that Nintendo needs to create a large, explorable, interconnected world with massive vistas and high levels of detail. Picture creeping your way around a dense, sprawling rain-forest in the middle of a thunderstorm—droplets of water littering your visor, while unsettling noises call to you from the darkness. The sense of isolation and wonder MUST be front and center. I want to feel lost and alone, with only my blaster to keep me company.
3. Give Samus Some Sweet New Abilities
One of the most rewarding things about Metroid in general is the sense of progression via suit and weapon upgrades. It’s an intergal part of the series, and absolutely needs to be a driving force in Metroid Prime 4. There have undoubtedly been a large amount of creative upgrades in both the 2D and 3D series, but I believe Nintendo still has a few new tricks up their sleeve.
Make the gravity suit get an upgrade where you can walk on the ceilings. Give Samus a plasma torch ability, letting her cut through sealed doors and violently melee-execute foes. Hell, I’d even settle for a first person version of the Speed Boost, letting Samus shoulder-bash through venerable walls like the Juggernaut or Hulk. I’m fine with bringing back some of the classics, but more than anything, I can’t wait to see how Samus’ suit evolves in this new game.
4. Take Advantage Of Switch’s Best Features
Outside of its portability, the Switch has some interesting new features that few games have taken full advantage of. One of the most prominently-pushed features is what Nintendo calls “HD Rumble”. Unfortunately, the only game so far to really tap into this feature was 1-2 Switch, which felt like a $60 glorified tech demo. No thanks.
Metroid is a spectacular place to really give HD Rumble its time to shine. Everything from explosions, to charging a blaster shot, to simply scanning the environment should have varying styles and intensities of rumble. Perhaps a cloaked enemy could be detectable by sensing its footsteps. When the space ship rattles, when a platform creaks and cracks under Samus’ weight, the rumble feature could be just as robust and complex as the sound effects. They could even give the player a message in Morse code and have their suit decode it. Seriously Nintendo, go nuts!
Oh, and one other thing. They should absolutely NOT go overboard with the motion controls. I don’t mean that they should ignore the Switch’s gyro functionality completely, just that they should use it sparingly. Using it to do things like scanning the environment or controlling the ship could work, but using it to aim would just be clumsy. I know that motion controls are kind of Nintendo’s thing at this point, but they need to practice restraint. Metroid Prime 4 isn’t a Wii game.
5. Surprise Us With Something Completely New
This is one of those make-or-break kind of topics. On one hand, if the game is too different from the first 3 Prime titles, fans will riot like they did with Federation Force. On the other, if the game doesn’t have enough new ideas and plays it too safe, it may run the risk of being critically panned.
Take for example what they showed of Metroid: Samus Returns at the Nintendo Treehouse event during E3. In a nutshell, this is a modern day re-imagining of the Gameboy classic Metroid 2: Return of Samus. It’s a 3D side-scroller (aka “2.5D”) instead of the more traditional 2D style of the original title. It also implements several new features, including 360 degree free-aim, and the new melee-counter move, which allows you to do Metroid-Other-M-style executions.
I believe that Metroid Prime 4 could do some interesting things to the formula now that it’s on a console with more “traditional” controls. All of the games so far, excluding Hunters, have had a very unique and claustrophobic control scheme that reflects the world and theme. If Nintendo changes the movement from single joystick “tank-style” controls to the more widely-used “twin stick” method, it could be a welcome change. That being said, it still worries me a bit.
This may not seem like a huge deal to some, but Metroid Prime has never been a traditional FPS-style game. If Nintendo decides to go the dual-analog route, they need to tread carefully. Giving Samus CoD-like reflexes could totally undermine the atmosphere and feel of the game. It should be apparent at all times you are in a heavy battle suit that is armed to the teeth. Without that genuine feeling of weight, it will end up being just another shooter, and nobody wants any of that noise.