Another Game? Any Objections Lady? Pt 1
Metroid: Other M marked a definite turning point in the Metroid series, in more ways the one. The most controversial was the role of Samus and her portrayal, but the updating of the classic side-scrolling mechanics first perfected in Super Metroid was another important landmark moment for Nintendo’s sci-fi series. With the release of Other M, the Metroid series has now been released in three very distinct forms, so the question now is a difficult one; where to now?
In the first of our two week look at the future of Metroid, we shall consider the three current guises of the Metroid series – 2D side-scrolling, 2.5D corridor shooter and first person adventure. Each of these styles of Metroid gameplay have been brilliantly executed, and there’s no doubt that any one of them could be the next Metroid game style, but each has their own unique characteristics which will impact on plot, game pacing, and the console it is released on.
We begin with Metroid’s classic style, that of the 2D side-scrolling shooter. This style was first introduced in the original Metroid, and is akin to Mario (in that it’s flat), just with a more space-y theme. This style was perfected in Super Metroid, and extended in Zero Mission and Fusion many years later. The success of the last two prove that this style is still popular, and the renewed success of the 2D game thanks to New Super Mario Bros means that this could very easily be Samus’s next big outing. The 2D style probably wouldn’t suit Wii, unless it could be implemented in a very intelligent way, but this style could be ideal for the 3DS. We’ve already seen, or at least heard of, tech demos of classic 2D NES and SNES games being pushed into 3D, so a 2D Metroid game in stereoscopic 3D would also work as well.
This would allow the developer to work in front and behind Samus, but keep her on a 2D plane. This would add a touch of depth to the levels, and aid immersion, and this being Nintendo, who knows what other inventive hooks they could throw in. Just look at Paper Mario 3D. That is the flattest of flat games, but the layering effect can be brought right out of the screen on the 3DS, and a similar effect could be done with a new Metroid. However, the classic Metroids generally had a basic plot, and in today’s plot driven single player experiences, this style may find itself coming in short. But, Fusion managed to strike a balance, so there’s no reason we couldn’t see a 2D revival on the 3DS.
The next style we shall consider is the most recent one from Other M, which I’ve dubbed 2.5D corridor shooter. Other M gave off the air that you were free to go where you wanted, and in a few cases, you were, but on the most part, the game boiled down to run and gun corridors, which harkens back to the classic 2D style. This is by no means a bad thing, and I personally enjoyed Other M, due in part to the inventive first person switch. This style of gameplay shows a lot of promise, and I would be surprised if we didn’t see it return in some form, most probably on the Wii. The remote functions well for the switch to first person, so there’s no need to change it. However, the 3DS would suit the game perfectly, especially as the game relies on the fact that you are a 2D character in a 3D world. By bringing out the 3D effect, it would be clearer to gamers that they can move in all three dimensions, and with the analogue slider, you could finally move Samus in more than eight points of direction.
The only drawback to this style was the storytelling, which, if given to another developer, could be fixed. The problem is that this style doesn’t lend itself to expansive environments, and Other M felt clunky when it attempted this, so a deep story is needed to keep this enclosed style fresh and not just a grey corridor shooter. If Nintendo decide to go in this route, it will be a tricky balance to get right.
Finally there’s the first person shooter; the form of Metroid that was absolutely perfected by the team at Retro Studios. For me, this is what Metroid should always be, as it was my first proper introduction to the series, and in my opinion, the finest shooter ever created. Putting you behind Samus’s visor gives you a startling realistic view of the world, and allows desolate landscapes to be formed in front of you, creating a definite sense of loneliness, something the original games successfully achieved in 2D. While Other M did in places get this right, the essence of it being a corridor shooter forced it to have other player interactions, and hence the loneliness was lost. With the Prime series, it’s just you alone. The only assistance given is through scans of your surroundings, just as it would be if you were dropped onto a desolate planet attempting to hunt down a giant blue meteor. I guess. The Prime series is successful in not only putting you behind the visor and keeping the tradional Metroid spirit alive, but it also allow brilliant worlds and landscapes to be formed, and some of the most epic and strategic boss fights in the series to be played out.
The Prime series though, has it’s home truly on Wii. While I have no doubts a 3DS version would work, Hunters proved that the DS just isn’t the ideal system for a Metroid game. Hunters was great, don’t get me wrong, but it was just a tad uncomfortable to play first person on it. 2D yes; 3D, probably not. With the Wii though, the pointer controls are perfect. Nothing compares to the control scheme on Prime Trilogy, so if a new Prime game is in the works (and I believe it may be), then it’s home should be on Wii.
So now Nintendo have a choice. Do they pursue the new Other M style or do they go back to the classics? Do they make a return to the first person view or do they stick with the best of both? And perhaps most critically, what system do they want the next Metroid to be released on? Because have no doubts, the system the game is released on will have a huge bearing on the developer and the gameplay style. All we can do is wait, but be sure of one thing; Samus will be back.
Join me next week for the second part of this look at the future of the Metroid series, where we discuss an issue that has divided fans – the plot. Any objections lady?