DF Retro: Metroid Prime – Nintendo’s first-person masterpiece

Welcome to the world of Digital Foundry Retro. Every weekend, DF Retro brings us a new story based on a significant release in gaming history, backed by exemplary, clean capture taken using original console hardware. It’s a great way to revisit the classics while reflecting on what made each game so special in its day. Check back often for brand new episodes as we update this article with the latest videos.

In this week’s episode, John Linneman examines Nintendo’s phenomenal Metroid Prime. With the series originally designed as a 2D platformer, the Metroid titles enjoyed huge success on NES, Game Boy and SNES – but there was no Metroid title for Nintendo’s first true 3D console, the N64. In truth, it seemed that the platform holder just didn’t know how to evolve the franchise.

A collaboration between Nintendo and the then newly formed Retro Studios, Metroid Prime is a technical masterpiece for the GameCube – a 60fps mostly first-person adventure that sees the platform holder dare to radically evolve the franchise to make the best of new technology. It’s a fascinating story and one we’re happy to share with you.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force may point to a Metroid Prime 4

3DS Metroid Prime spinoff Federation Force may not appeal to all Nintendo fans – but a big hint for the next Metroid Prime game likely will.

Federation Force is a largely self-contained story, although a post-credits scene sets the stage for what may come next.

There’s no discussion of Federation Force’s main ending below – there’s no need – but here’s a final spoiler warning for its post-credits scene. No complaints if you decide to read further!

Metroid Prime: Federation Force may point to Metroid Prime 4

3DS Metroid Prime spinoff Federation Force may not appeal to all Nintendo fans – but a big hint for the next Metroid Prime game likely will.

Federation Force is a largely self-contained story, although a post-credits scene sets the stage for what may come next.

There’s no discussion of Federation Force’s main ending below – there’s no need – but here’s a final spoiler warning for its post-credits scene. No complaints if you decide to read further!

Metroid Prime Federation Force review

This, then, is how Nintendo has chosen to mark Metroid’s 30th anniversary. And this is how Nintendo has elected to break six years of silence for one of its most celebrated series: a co-op shooter with chibi visuals in which Samus Aran, the stoic bounty hunter who’s fronted every Metroid to date, is relegated to the sidelines. Ever since its announcement at last year’s E3, the reaction has been resoundingly negative. Given the path Nintendo’s taken with this 3DS entry, it’s no wonder some noses have been put out of joint. 

The lonely exploration that’s long been a series staple has been jettisoned in favour of levels explicitly designed for four players to work through together. The backtracking and world map that slowly unfurls is torn asunder, now simply a run of 22 partitioned missions with a neat through line. The cold, cool art-style has been swapped out for a world of Tonka toys and throwabout mechs, all of which look like they’ve been freshly wrestled from a toddler’s hands. 

Federation Force is a bizarre spin-off from the Metroid series, though despite all the hostility thrown its way since its unveiling it’s far from a bad one. The work of Canadian developer Next Level Games – previously responsible for the wonderfully charming Luigi’s Mansion 2 – it’s a game that’s full of neat ideas and a fair amount of novelty. You’re one of the Federation Force, a small bobble-headed soldier that clambers into a hulking armour suit at the outset of each mission as you explore three different planets in events that take place just after the climax of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

ReCore’s new trailer does a good job of showcasing Metroid Prime dev’s next game

There’s not been that much fanfare over ReCore, the Xbox One and PC exclusive that’s coming primarily from Armature and that’s being directed by the talent behind the legendary Metroid Prime series. Which is something of a shame – when it comes out in a few weeks time.

The new Gamescom might do a better job at selling people on it, as it does a pretty good job of showcasing the exploration and combat as well as ReCore’s winningly bright visual style.

It does showcase something else, though: an absolutely awful jump animation, which seems like something of a shame when much of your time exploring is spent jumping and double-jumping around the place. Is it too late to put in something a little more weighty in there? Given that ReCore’s out on September 13th it probably is, though I’d be more than happy to see something a little less limp in its place. Still, there remains a lot to like about ReCore.

ReCore feels more Metroid than Mega Man

If you’re looking for pedigree, it doesn’t really come much stronger than this. Directed by the man who helmed the Metroid Prime trilogy. Written by the man who helped build the Halo universe. And with the involvement of an outspoken Japanese development legend who’s never far away from the headlines.

So why aren’t more people getting excited about Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusive ReCore?

Perhaps it’s the less than stellar reputation of Comcept, the Japanese studio headed up by Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, most recently responsible for the troubled Mighty No. 9. Maybe it’s the price point – ReCore will be coming in at £29.99, undercutting its competition by some margin – giving rise to a perception of it as something of a budget game.