A community member’s critique on Federation Force

I’m about to get seriously real for a second

[We in the imaginary community management office batted around opinions about this cblog. Like Amethyst to Peridot, let’s be real here: any talk of Federation Force is going to result in a fire storm of Californian summer brush fire proportions. But the managers in favor of promoting Torch’s blog believed it was a fine, levelheaded critique of a game that mostly gets knee-jerk hate comments. So submitted for approval by the Midnight Society, I call this story, “Please be civil in the comments below.” ~Strider]

Oh Federation Force. When you come out next week in North America, it’ll have been almost six years since Other M happened, and almost nine since Metroid Prime 3 happened. Yet here we are, looking at a spin-off with no main 2D or 3D entry in development. This also comes off the heels of the Metroid II remake being hit with a C&D, the Nintendo Power collection on Internet Archive being taken down, and next to no PR, not even a single tweet, acknowledging the series’ 30th anniversary on August 6 from the various Nintendo branches. On top of this, Federation Force will not be appearing at the upcoming gamescom. If there’s ever a surefire sign that a game, and arguably a franchise, is being sent out to die, it’s this game.

Given that we’re less than two weeks out (ed note: at the time of this blog), I thought I’d share my thoughts on the game itself, along with a couple of other things. However, before you try running to the comments section to scream that I’m right or wrong, like mister construction bot below, please read the blog before doing so. Also of note, this isn’t going to be formatted like my other blogs because a) I’d rather spew this all out and b) for something that will be out and forgotten within a month to two months time, I don’t care enough to.

First and foremost, I’m not against the idea of a game in the Metroid universe, or any universe really, that puts the player in the shoes of someone else other than Samus. A different viewpoint can help bring bring a unique perspective to various enemies, creatures, and factions in a universe, much like games like Republic Commando or Battlefront II’s story mode put things in a different light.

Hence, seeing the Metroid universe from the eyes of a soldier rather than a bounty hunter. Especially since it’s often a viewpoint not explored within this universe, with only minor occurrences really happening in Other M and Fusion. This is when the game went immediately wrong, as it chose to utilize nameless grunts, rather than an established band of characters.

‘But Torch,’ you cry out, ‘There are no characters that could have filled the role!’

To which I respond, yes there are.

Federation Force is confirmed to be post Prime 3, but before Metroid II, meaning that entire squad? Still kicking around. The game could have just as easily been from their viewpoint with them as the main characters. It would have helped thread the games together, do some world building, as well as help flesh them out so that, if someone plays Other M for the first time after Federation Force, their deaths sting even more. Plus they’ve worked with Samus before! If anyone would have been convinced that working with a copy of Samus’ armor was a good idea, it would have been them.

Speaking of copying Samus’ armor, the mechs. Everyone knows I love mechs, and I’ve seen mechs: Gundams, Overmen, Custom Robos, Megadeuses, Arms Slaves, VOTOMS, Getter Machines, the Mazinger family, etc., etc. I’ve seen poorly designed mechs and I’ve seen mechs with excellent designs. I’ve seen boring mechs, and I’ve seen exciting mechs. I’ve seen mechs out of place and I’ve seen mechs that seem perfectly in place.

So when I see the Federation Force mechs, well… they’re boring and uninteresting. They feel like toys and a worse version of Samus and the PED troopers that appeared in Prime 3, seen below.

Let’s not even get started on how bad the mech looks compared to the superior designs of the demolition troopers, either.

Look at them. It’s a fantastic design. With that art direction, I’d play a game as them. Hell I’d take a game playing as a squad with several different types of troopers.

Which ties into the story justification for the mechs. To be like Samus’ armor. Except, what’s the point? I’m being serious here. The troopers have arm-mounted cannons, they have plasma guns, they were the ones who created and installed the PED technology in Samus’ suit, and they have Ice Beams in pistol form in Other M. Morph ball tech becomes more and more situational as the user becomes bigger. The only real reason would be mobility. Even then though, the mobility advantage is being redundant as the game is going to change mobility based on the weight of equipment equipped.

I’d also like to remind everyone at this time that this is also the same organization that developed Nightmare, a bio-mechanical organism with built-in lasers that can manipulate gravity. They are full-on capable of creating technology that could recreate the gravity suit along with who knows what else.

So literally nothing changed from being a foot soldier to a mech except being a bigger target, upping firepower, and having some protection, and MAYBE having a built-in missile launcher. The story justification for the mechs themselves falls apart more and more due to the fact Metroid is the sole Nintendo franchise that built up a lore and story from the very beginning.

If you have to start justifying it, perhaps it would’ve been best to have reworked things more for a class-based game, whether with different divisions of marines, story-assigned protagonists previously mentioned, or using other bounty hunters, a concept Metroid Prime Hunters toyed with. It could have been class-based like TF2 or Borderlands with unique equipment/powers for each class, instead of insisting all mechs be jack-of-all-trades. It could have resulted in unique characters with personalities that could have made the game more enjoyable and memorable.

Now some will be quick to remind me that the mechs, and the resulting art style, are a result of attempting to get around the power limitations of the 3DS. At which point I ask, would it not have been more preferable to have moved it to the Wii U or to have waited for NX? To get Next Level Games more experience with Nintendo hardware and HD development? Look at what you have right now as a result.

A game that suffers from a chibi art style that directly clashes with the previous art directions, themes, and atmospheres of previous entries. That lacks any notable face or character to rally behind, only generic machines and helmeted soldiers. Almost unrecognizable returning enemies. A game that has arguably the worst graphics of any Nintendo game this generation besides Code Name S.T.E.A.M.

Now before you go ‘There’s a demo! That will surely change your mind!’, I’ve already tried it. Blast Ball, much like Lucioball in Overwatch, is too slow and clunky to be fun. It lacks the speed and mobility that makes Rocket League such a thrill. As a Metroid game, and as a mech game, it is the absolute worst mech I have ever had the displeasure of controlling. It is clunky and slow, with no satisfaction in using its weapons whatsoever. It feels like its controls lack the refinement of Prime, and Hunters had better control. If that’s what Blast Ball is like, why should I have any reason to believe that the main game will be any better?

I honestly was willing, like many others, to give the game a chance with the Blast Ball demo. Instead, not only did it end up being an unenjoyable experience, but it was worse than I expected. This is the first Nintendo game with a demo that I do not even want to spend $5 on. Even with Code Name S.T.E.A.M.‘s demo I could see the diamond in the rough, the parts that would make someone enjoy it. With Blast Ball? I’m struggling to find a single aspect that was even decent.

Come next Friday, I’m not buying Federation Force. What I’ve seen and experienced of it is not the standard I expect out of Nintendo, and while it does have aspects of what I’d like to see in future Metroid titles, there’s too much I don’t want there to support it. If you’re going to get it, good for you and I hope you enjoy it. As for me, I’m going to wait for the next main Metroid title, and play the excellent Metroid II remake since the original has not aged well.

Mike Sounders