Hey all. So recently I was listening to the latest Retronauts episode about the early Metroid series, and toward the end the panelists began speculating about what they wanted to see in a new game in the long-neglected series. It got me thinking about my own ideas, which I readily mixed with some of the ones put forward on Retronauts and I thought it'd be fun to share them here. Share your own ideas or suggestions in the comments, ya dingus!
So, to begin, they mentioned wanting to avoid the issue with power-scaling in Metroid titles where Samus always seems to lose her powers at the beginning of the next adventure. Some calamity (or terrible plot device [*cough*Other M*cough]) always seems to strip Samus of her former abilities as well as scatter them evenly across her new environment. Well, I also think that formula is a bit tired but personally I think there could be some life breathed into that old cycle yet.
They also mention wanting to move on from the Prime series, citing that story arc as being complete. I fully agree, in fact I also think the next Metroid should probably avoid as many direct similarities to the Prime formula as possible without diverging too far from what makes the series identifiable. It shouldn't be a first person game and the next big game in this series on home consoles also probably shouldn't be a sidescroller. I'd want something more akin to a modern Zelda title -- a third person game with a good lock-on mechanic, perhaps some ability to shift into a first person perspective at times, but I want to be able to emphasize Samus' mobility in a way that I feel the first person perspective tends to restrict. She's a nimble power-suited warrior, all of that should be conveyed on screen at all times.
The specific scenario they put forward once again has the last metroid in captivity and, after the events of Metroid Fusion, that means Samus. She's attracted a lot of attention, blown up a few planets, and is arguably pretty far from human at this point so the Galactic Federation (or whatever they're called) deem her too dangerous to be on the loose (perhaps a misunderstanding or foul play is afoot?). Before the events of the game, the collective force of a star fleet surround her and take her alive.
The problem I have with this scenario, and where my ideas diverge, is that captivity means company. Even if Samus were to escape, she'd still be amid a populated world being hunted by other people. It just doesn't seem like Metroid any more. It's missing the most important element to any successful Metroid game: isolation.
So here's my idea for a set up: Samus is captive, reasons currently unclear. Once captured she's put in a holding cell with plans to extract her from her suit. So far, they can't get past some of its defense mechanism but they are able to hold her in Morph Ball mode indefinitely and suspended in a durable blast cage she can't bomb her way out of. But as time goes by, and Samus remains captive, she begins to plan an escape. Diverting as much power as possible to her Morph Ball Bomb ability, over the course of a while she stores up enough energy to blast loose of her containment. But she finds herself in an unexpected place. Everything is in ruins. Something terrible has happened to the planet on which she was being held captive. The facility is blasted out, no one seems left alive.
That represents a way I'd like to see Samus be placed in an isolated environment that is both similar and different to the ones she's been in before. It's not a Space Pirate station or an ancient Chozo ruin, it's a recently obliterated sci-fi human civilian planet. Another mechanic that would shake things up in good way would be a power consumption/resource management dynamic for her suit. Starting off, she'll be at a lower power level because she's used most of her resources creating the blast to get free. Perhaps it could be an open-world scenario taking place partly on a military base where she has to scrounge through ruined tech to regain the requisite power to perform her usual abilities.
The more interesting part would be the player's ability to choose which abilities to divert power to, like a skill tree, rather than finding staticly placed upgrades. Once you save up enough power to unlock something, you can then keep spending from that same pool of power to use that ability -- everything from the Space Jump to the Charge Shot would consume small amounts of that power (missiles would probably still use missiles), or you could save it up to unlock a new ability. Large chunks of power could be earned by beating bosses or uncovering hidden power caches, but the same resource could be earned bit-by-bit from defeating the new enemy of the game: a mysterious machine race.
It's initially unclear how much time has passed since Samus was captured, perhaps it's difficult to assess such things when in Morph Ball mode for extended periods of time, but it eventually becomes clear that a lot of time has passed. The area she's in has not only been the subject of conflict but is now over grown in places and dilapidated. The machines roaming around appear to be scavenging for something. Perhaps for Samus.
Eventually, you'd come across your ship locked down in a hanger bay, deep under ground, but the structure has collapsed on it. The ship is still functional, but hopelessly stuck. You'll be able divert some of your power resources toward reactivating components of your ship which could give you gameplay benefits, and the ship begins to act like a base of operations that feeds you intel remotely, perhaps it was able to pick up news reports about what happened to the area.
Beyond all that, you'd have to figure it out as you go. No NPCs telling you what to do, no buddies, no intended upgrade path (which seems like an honest progression of Metroid's long history of player-based sequence-breaking), and ideally no reliance on old elements like Dark Samus or Ridley. It should be something new, perhaps only distantly familiar.
So? Thoughts? An open-world third person post-apocalyptic and mysterious Samus adventure with no set upgrade path? I'd play that game. I'd play the poop outta that game.