How can Nintendo step beyond the already great Prime games?
During E3 2017, Nintendo announced that Metroid Prime 4 was officially in development, to the excitement of Nintendo fans the world over. Since then, I began pondering what an evolution of the Prime series could entail. What changes or advancements could the developers of the game make to the already great Prime formula? Well, here are some thoughts.
A Natural World
One of the things I’d like to see a Metroid game tackle would be to create a more realistic and natural world to explore. With more power behind developers these days, we should be able to have larger areas that don’t have to hide behind loading doors. This could allow the developers to create a world that doesn’t even have the standard Metroid colour coded doorways. Now, yes, there would be other roadblocks that require new weapons or tools to progress, but having more natural barriers would be great.
The design of this world would ideally be more realistic too. The Prime games were already fairly good at this, but expanding on having logical biology or geology-based solutions and themes for the varying areas is something I think could be expanded on. The layouts could have rooms/areas that don’t even really have a use, just for extra flourishes and story.
While the progression of typical Metroid games is non-linear exploration, progression is often fairly constrained and rarely do gateway solutions expand beyond a room or two. What I am thinking would be to make whole areas of the game holistic, in the sense that there is a larger puzzle to unpick that spans across the whole area. Looking to games like Myst could be a good fit for Metroid, though hopefully not quite as obtuse as those types of game. Naturally solving puzzles through gameplay could “add up” to solving a much larger puzzle later on—the whole thing could come together like clockwork.
I think it could be interesting to have several areas to the game, but each area quite a bit larger compared to what they were in Metroid Prime. The player focuses on progressing through one large non-linear area then eventually comes out of it and into the next, without as much obvious transitioning as in previous games. Much as Breath of the Wild’s environments blend together, so could the environments on a new Metroid planet. It could feel more like Samus is traversing across a planet from A to B than having it all seemingly take place within a more constrained section of the planet.
Between major areas we could have sections that provide a bit of a break from the deep exploration. Coming out onto a wide plain or desert field with strange alien life could be quite exciting, sections like this could allow us to control some vehicles too. Xenoblade Chronicles X or even Monster Hunter may provide a useful analogy here, with alien life simply existing alongside the player and their specific goals.
On New Gameplay
I wouldn’t mind it if we started the game as Zero Suit Samus. I actually think that could be quite fun and would enhance having to be cautious of the alien environment, along with having that larger gap in abilities when later in the game, which could make the player feel even more empowered than usual after acquiring new abilities.
On the subject of Zero Suit Samus, what if it was possible to leave the suit at will? Samus may need to use her hands to repair things or having the use of two hands may be needed in some instances. She could also have to make manual additions or fixes to her suit that she has to get out of it to do.
The gameplay between Zero Suit and Power Suit could change the gameplay styles too. What if ZSS changes the perspective to third person and then when stepping inside we return to the normal first person Prime gameplay.
Another big aspect of Prime’s gameplay relies on switching to various visors. An idea that could be toyed with in regards to the visors would be to make it possible to activate multiple at once, even just two might be good enough. Say you have the X-Ray visor on, but want to scan something, you can press the scan button to overlay that onto the X-Ray visor. Perhaps scanning could have a dedicated button that functioned regardless of what visor was active at the moment.
The World is Ahead
A variety of different alien environments is a must of course, I’d hope that the team decide on themes and looks that are different to the more general, fire, desert, snow. All the Prime games have had great art and variety, so it shouldn’t be a huge issue. Corruption took a step in this direction, although Bryyo was a typical fire/ice world.
Life-form wise, what if they take a page out of Xenoblade and start including some towering beasts and bosses more often? I think that could be very cool and Samus may be able to use them in various ways to tackle the environment. This could also extend to plant life, where maybe certain plants have energy storing or powering properties. The larger life forms could provide some great moments when in larger more open areas, it could sell the eco-system of this strange world even more.
Pushing the Boundaries
Really, the take away for me from thinking on how to add to the Prime/Metroid series is that I want them to be ambitious, much like how the Zelda team was with Breath of the Wild. While a conventional Prime 4 would very likely be a great game, I do hope whoever is making the game tries to take it several steps further, but whether those changes are small or large I just hope it will be exciting.