Last year two friends and I played through Metroid Prime: Federation Force together. Overall, we invested about 80 hours into the game each, completing both the main campaign and Blast Ball on both difficulties and with all medals and unlocks. Needless to say, we enjoyed the game very much and being the savvy folk we are, we wanted to dig deeper. So over the past few months the three of us have been trading notes and partaking in a series of podcast discussions to better understand Federation Force‘s cooperative take on the Metroid Prime template. As you may have noticed from my screen name, I’m particularly fond of the Prime games. The original Metroid Prime changed my perception of the video game medium and remains a personal favourite. So I’m pleased to finally share this project with you.
Each podcast runs for about an hour in length, with hosting duties taken by yours truly. We generally start out by introducing the particular design element we wish to discuss, teasing our its nuances, and then working our way towards the higher order questions. The topics tend to follow in a sequence, so it’s probably best to start with the first podcast. However, the final podcast (a standalone recording on Blast Ball) includes our conclusion on Federation Force and isn’t a bad taster either. Unfortunately, our recording process for the first two podcasts meant that some of the audio wasn’t as clear as we would have liked. By the third episode though, everything is cleared up.
Episode 1: Core Mechanics
We discuss the player’s abilities and how they’re tuned to create clean gameplay and accentuate the spatial and timing dynamics. Understanding the role of space and time in Federation Force is essential for understanding the core moving/shooting gameplay.
Episode 2: Mission Variety
Federation Force was rightly praised for its mission variety. We identify the different types of missions and discuss how the mission types are arranged to create variation across the campaign.
Episode 3: Incursion
For the next three podcasts, we analyse our favourite missions starting with my pick, Incursion. This podcast focuses on the spatial arrangement of each room in conjunction with the nuances of the particular enemy sets.
Episode 4: Blender
Greg discusses Federation Force‘s “mine cart” level, Blender. We break down this unique level and how roles are created through the natural limitations of perspective and space.
Episode 5: Insurrection
Adrian’s favourite level, Insurrection, divides the crew into mech and mech-less players. We discuss how Next Level Games were apply to explore this gameplay concept through the differentiated catacombs of Bion.
Episode 6: Boss Battles
Federation Force‘s bosses are both generous in their number and variety. We break down each boss and analyse the gameplay challenges and play strategies we employed to secure victory.
Episode 7: MODS and Loadouts
MODS and Loadouts modify the core moving and shooting gameplay by changing the player’s viable options. We discuss the implications and share our favourite combinations and strategies.
Episode 8: Blast Ball
In our final podcast we dissect the sports side-game, Blast Ball and conclude by discussing Federation Force‘s place in the Metroid Prime series (sans Pinball).
I feel like we were able to have so many deep and constructive discussions because we really listened to each other, kept the conversation grounded, and chewed through our ideas collaboratively. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, I’ve include links to the other podcasts which I’ve recorded with Adrian and Greg as part of the VG Commune on the About page.
On a final note, I can’t help but feel that our completion of this project was quite timely. At E3 Nintendo announced the development of Metroid Prime 4. However, they didn’t reveal the studio developing the game. Personally, I suspect that Next Level Games (the developers of FF) are at the helm of Metroid Prime 4 (most likely partnering with Nintendo Japan and possibly with some oversight from Retro). My reasons for are as follows:
- Kensuke Tanabe is overseeing the project and was also the producer of Federation Force, among other Western-developed Nintendo titles.
- Retro aren’t developing the title (given the rumours of bad blood between Tanabe and Retro)
- Next Level have experience working on a Prime game (and most certainly the design chops to tackle a “mainline” Metroid game) .
So, in saying all this, I think the podcasts provide a useful lens for considering how Next Level may develop Metroid Prime 4, if they are indeed working on this project. A tasty proposition in my books.