By Alexander Jones / March 13th, 2016
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect oprainfall as a whole.
The most recent Nintendo Direct revealed a lot of new information on titles releasing this year, both those we knew about and those that had been previously unannounced. The Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem project finally got an English title as Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, and it was revealed that the game would retain its Japanese voice cast, likely because of how reliant the game is on music and the J-pop scene (and to save some money as well, I’m sure). A new Paper Mario game, Color Splash, was officially announced. Though I appreciate how Nintendo continues to try something different with the franchise, I would like a true RPG like the original N64 game and The Thousand-Year Door, both of which were simple-yet-fun experiences. New Star Fox Zero footage, Dragon Quest VII, and Bravely Second also shined in the Direct, and overall, I found it to be a very pleasing array of games. But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about.
There was one part of the Direct that stood out to me much more than any other moment. The producer of the Metroid Prime series, Kensuke Tanabe, spent some time discussing Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a 3DS title that created a great amount of controversy when it was unveiled at E3 last year. After the trailer aired during the presentation, the Internet blazed with an unholy fury. As a response, the dislike bar on the YouTube video dwarfed the number of likes, and as of writing currently stands at 85,524 to 9,899 likes. Criticism ranged from accusing Nintendo of just slapping the Metroid license on a totally unrelated game to make money to complaints about the art design, and emotions ranged wildly from sheer disappointment to unyielding rage. The message was clear: “This was not what we wanted.”
Nintendo has tiptoed around the game for the last few months as a result of the enormous backlash until last Thursday when the game and its unfavorable reception were addressed. Bill Trinen introduced Tanabe thus:
At E3, there was one game we introduced that left fans with some questions. Today, Kensuke Tanabe, the producer of the Metroid Prime series, is here to help you understand how Metroid Prime: Federation Force will become an integral part of the Metroid Prime universe.
“Questions?” Understatement of the century right there, Bill. Quips aside, this statement boldly asserted that Nintendo was sticking to their guns: this was not just some title that they slapped Metroid onto mid-way through development, a la Star Fox Adventures. Not only that, they were not going to cancel the game, like one Change.org petition urged them to do (though I never considered for a second that they’d actually listen to that). No, they were standing by the game they had presented and impressing that it was an “integral” part of Metroid Prime, not just an unrelated spinoff or meaningless side story–sticking it to the haters in the most professional way possible. Yet, the best was yet to come.
Kensuke Tanabe has been the producer of Metroid Prime since the beginning of the series in 2002. That is at least 15 years (considering development time) of dedication to a series that has been very well-received and clearly means a great deal to a lot of people. Tanabe has been involved in the industry since the NES days, having directed and been the level designer for Doki Doki Panic/Super Mario Bros. 2, and he has filled many roles since then, from being a Scenario Writer in various Zelda games to a Screenplay Advisor in Super Mario RPG to an Assistant Manager for Kirby 64. It is clear that he loves being involved with video games and has a passion for them. Though not as pronounced or publicly known an individual as Satoru Iwata was, he clearly is a creative mind working in an industry where he can put that mind to work.
So Tanabe talked for about three minutes about many different aspects of Metroid Prime: Federation Force and its development, which started around 2009. Originally the game was being developed for Nintendo DSi, and it was always intended to be a cooperative online game set in the Metroid Prime universe, but the DSi could not perform to what the dev team wanted, so the project was shelved for a while until the New Nintendo 3DS entered the scene. In terms of the story, the team was greatly interested in showing the conflict between the Galactic Federation and the Space Pirates, which had been alluded to and talked about a great deal in the rest of the Prime series. Tanabe admits:
I had always imagined the battles between these two within the universe, but we had never really explored that in the previous games. I had been wanting to do it for over 10 years, so I was ready and excited to try.
But, given the focus on the Galactic Federation and Space Pirate battle, while Samus would appear in the story, it meant that she couldn’t be the main player character this time. So using the Galactic Federation soldiers as the main characters was the natural course of action for this game.
Tanabe then continued to explain some of the mechanics of how cooperative play works, teased more information to come in the future, and finished by ensuring, as Bill Trinen did, that Metroid Prime: Federation Force definitely belongs in the canon of the franchise.
So I must admit, I have no idea what the general Internet’s reaction to this part of the Direct was as I heard almost no one talk about it. I can only assume that means that hardly anyone cares about Federation Force, or that everyone hated it all over again and I just missed the reaction. Either reaction really wouldn’t surprise me; in fact, I would not be shocked that the vast majority of people who saw the Direct totally tuned out during this part of it. If that is actually the case, though, I cannot help but feel disappointed that so few people are willing to give the game a chance.
Sure, you can be as cynical as you want. You can say that Tanabe’s speech about Federation Force was just a big ploy, a phony plea in an attempt to get people to pay more attention to the game. To that, I would just say: well, of course he was trying to get people to pay attention to the game. As a company, their main prerogative is to sell the product that they’re creating for consumers. I’d like to take a different angle to his presentation, however. This is a man who has been involved with this game series since its initial release. He is a content creator through and through, taking on multiple roles in order to ensure the products are released. He clearly has a lot of passion and interest in the franchise, so it follows that his creative mind would want to do interesting, unique things in the universe, which potentially involves taking risks, going in new directions, or focusing on never-explored aspects of that universe. This is precisely what Tanabe and the team at Next Level Games are seeking to do with Federation Force, and that resolve should be applauded. To use a parallel, aren’t people looking forward to new information from J.K. Rowling about the Harry Potter universe all the time? Not only has she written the screenplay for the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (based on her own book of the same name) which does not feature Harry at all, she consistently updates her website Pottermore with new facts, backstories, and facets of her Wizarding World. Many people, myself included, are looking forward to delving into areas of her world that have never been seen before. As such, I cannot fathom the disdain for exploring new aspects of a universe beloved by many.
Well, one might say, it’s not necessarily that it’s exploring a new facet of the universe so much as it doesn’t have anything to do with exploration or Samus, two integral parts of Metroid. Other counters people might have are that they hate the art style, or that they don’t like how dated the game looks, etc., all of which I have seen before as complaints. And they are legitimate reasons to not like something. There are plenty of art styles I dislike or don’t prefer. I’m also sometimes not the biggest fan of shaking things up for the sake of shaking things up, yet Tanabe and the developers’ intentions seem genuine and all things appear to have been done to best fit the story and experience they are attempting to craft. Because of all the time, effort, and passion that goes into game development, there has to at least be some credit given to that, and some respect because Nintendo has been forthright and open about how much Tanabe loves this project. Nintendo does like to cart out their producers and game directors at times to gush about the games they’re involved in, and after this Direct, I think I understand why.
As a consumer of media and friend to several people with tremendously creative minds, I understand the various motivations to create art, to create worlds, to create something unique, outside themselves, and permanent. Sometimes it is just for the pure joy of the art, the simple love of making something that was not into something that is. Other times it is for the enjoyment of others–creating a world or story for others to enjoy as much as the creator has. Another motivation for making media for consumption is a bit tricky and often frowned upon, and that is making it for the money it brings. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. While we may question why an actor would denigrate themselves to take a certain role, the truth is that many actors of stage, film, and TV fail to get cast in most roles they audition for and are out of work a great deal of the time. Though we often have the perception that actors are all living the easy life in Hollywood, the greater majority of actors across the board are not and a lot of the time will take roles they can get so they can keep doing the roles they want to do for the sake of the art. I realize this is generalizing a lot and I don’t have a whole lot of factual basis for this that I can source, but I have a lot of respect for those who make art and can do it for a living.
I’ve gone on long enough about this, but I just really wanted to get across how I found Tanabe’s speech about the game an effective effort to promote Federation Force. I have a great deal of respect for an artist who is willing to stand by his art no matter what others may think about it, and that to me is reason enough to check the game out and give it a chance. While I want a new Metroid game with Samus, exploration, and all the trappings of older titles, I’m willing to give a game a shot when one of the leads on the project is willing to step up and stand by the work he’s behind publicly. Plus, he made the game sound even more interesting than the E3 presentation did, so there’s that too. In any case, I’d urge everyone to at least re-think their notions about Metroid Prime: Federation Force and at the very least give the game a shot. After all, it is still a ways out from releasing.
Check out the Nintendo Direct presentation here. Do you agree or disagree with what I had to say? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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