It seems that out of all of Nintendo’s many IP’s, Metroid is the one fans get the most passionate about. With Metroid Prime seemingly being the high point of the series, (The GameCube title is the highest selling Metroid game to date with 2.84 million units sold.) To say fans were upset when Metroid Prime: Federation Force was announced for the 3DS rather than a traditional Metroid is to put it mildly. Despite the initial fan backlash, as a spin-off title, Federation Force manages to be an entertaining ride through the Metroid universe. If you’re curious about the game, then grab your battle-mech and let’s dive right in!
One of the biggest selling points of any Metroid game is the atmosphere created by the world around you, and Federation Force does this as well, albeit with its own unique flavor. Instead of playing the role of lone bounty hunter, Samus Aran, you’re a part of the Galactic Federation’s latest military achievement, the mech-riding Federation Force. As part of an elite team meant to help stand against the space pirate menace, you’ll travel between three different planets in the Bermuda system as you take on different missions for the Galactic Federation. Each planet has its own theme, with Excelcion being the desolate, snowy wasteland planet; Bion, the desert planet with ruins that belonged to a now extinct ancient race, and Talvania, the mechanized planet full of technology and toxic waste. Despite being in contact with your commander via video communications, the planets themselves still feel foreboding. As you complete more missions, you’ll discover new areas and hazards as you revisit the planets. Examples include an underground frozen lake, and violent sandstorms that no life form or mech can withstand. These touches really make the planets feel alive, and for a title that focuses its game play on the teamwork and comradery of your friends, exploring new areas can still make you feel like you and your buddies are in over your heads.
In the visuals department, Federation Force is pretty decent. The environments you explore work well to complement the theme of the planet, and although the Federation Force themselves may look somewhat cutesy, that is all quickly forgotten when you’re in the middle of gunning down a horde of space pirates or making a stand against a boss. Enemy waves and bosses can be pretty challenging, making the action intense. The music also lends well to the experience, with tracks being eerie or simply ambient whenever the mood of a stage calls for it.
In terms of game play, as a member of the Federation Force, levels take the form of missions on three different planets. Before starting your task, you’ll be able to equip mod chips to your mech and fill up on supplies. Mod chips grant your mech a variety of abilities, such as increasing damage, improving health recovery, and even increasing damage resistance. With up to three mod chip slots to unlock, it’s easy to customize your mech to fit your playstyle. Mod chips can be found hidden throughout the stages, so the game rewards you for exploring. Mod chips also have a chance of becoming destroyed if you fail a mission, but the average gamer shouldn’t have a problem amassing a nice mod chip collection.
With your mech fully customized, you’ll also need to stock up on supplies. After your commander briefs you on the mission details, it’ll be up to you to decide what supplies will be most needed. Are you defending something? Then you might need more health than usual to heal both yourself and the object you’re defending. Attacking a boss or large horde of space pirates? Maybe more missiles or elemental attacks is the way to go. Of course when playing with others you’ll be able to carry more stuff, but whether you are together or alone knowing when and how to use certain items is critical to your success. This is a fun mechanic because it forces you to rely on others for certain tasks, yet also forces you to think critically about the mission when playing alone.
As a first person shooter/action-platformer game, the controls have their merits and faults. Using the left stick controls your movement, while holding down the L button allows you to lock on to nearby enemies. Using the R button will allow you to manually aim your shots with the 3DS’ gyroscope. While the gyroscope aiming works well, playing the game for long lengths of time will cause hand fatigue as you hold the shoulder buttons down and furiously mash the A button to take down your foes. Other times, when the action is intense, you’ll be fighting both land and aerial based enemies. At these times, it can be a struggle to try using both the gyroscope aiming and the automatic targeting system in conjunction with each other in order to prioritize attacking specific enemies in a large group. Despite these hiccups, for the most part controlling your character is a pleasant experience.
As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock multiple missions at once, so you’re able to tackle them in any order you choose. You’ll undergo jobs where you’ll simply have to gun your way through a stage to reach a powerful threat, but there are also quests where you’ll have to defend an object or retrieve an item. The missions also do a good job of keeping the game play varied, even if a level revisits certain ideas. A perfect example of this is a mission that required me to manually push a trolley full of cargo to a pick up point; all while protecting the goods from enemy fire and ducking into safe houses to avoid the planet’s environmental hazards. In a later mission, I was given the same objective of transporting a cargo trolley to a pick up point, only this time I was able to ride on top of the cart and use a conveniently placed turret to fend off any wannabe attackers. It may be the same objective, but the slight variances in game play keep it fresh enough to still be fun.
As far as the multiplayer aspect of the game is considered, playing online is a much different, although still fun experience. Instead of relying on yourself, you’ll have to place your trust in your fellow players. While you’ll be able to carry more items to each mission together as a unit, most likely each team member will specialize in either damaging items, healing, or support. This is the game’s way of getting you to work together as a team, and you definitely feel a bond when everyone is properly supporting one another. The absence of voice chat in-game is common with Nintendo games, but using the touch screen or the D-pad to communicate with your team mates is easy enough with the variety of preset phrases they give you. As with any online experience, there is always the possibility of trolls, but the game does offer you a player blacklist, and any player who drops out mid-game will have their equipped mods destroyed as punishment. Blast Ball is also a fun distraction you can partake in when you need a break from the main story. The inclusion of a soccer-style mini-game is all well and good, but most likely you’ll find yourself getting bored of the simplistic game play rather quickly. Overall, even if you are not into the online gaming scene, the multiplayer is still worth checking out to get the full experience of the game.
When it gets right down to it, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not the Metroid game everyone was hoping for, but as a spin off title, it manages to bring its own unique style to the series. As a Galactic Federation soldier, it’s interesting learn more about the game’s story through mission briefings, and receiving intel from Samus as she conducts her own jobs is a cool change of perspective. The game play encourages thought and experimentation with the mod chips and limited supplies, and the inclusion of a scoring system for each mission gives you a reason to try playing both alone and online as you attempt to collect all the medals if you want to %100 the game. While the controls are serviceable, you can experience hand fatigue when playing for long periods of time, and using the auto and manual targeting system in tandem can be a little frustrating when the action heats up. Despite this, if you can go into this game with the mindset that Federation Force is a spin off meant to add some variety to the Metroid series, then you can certainly have a lot of fun. However, if the game play doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, or the very idea of a non-traditional Metroid game turns your stomach, then it might be best to avoid this one.
Review: Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS) (Updated)
A Fun Romp In The Metroid Universe
While it may not be the Metroid game fans were hoping for, Federation Force manages to be a fun Spin off title that brings some variety to the table despite some control hiccups.