During their E3 2017 Spotlight video, Nintendo announced that Metroid Prime 4 was in development for Switch. Anyone who ever enjoyed the Metroid Prime Trilogy was sure to have been excited by this announcement – it has, after all, been over ten years since the last proper Metroid Prime game has been released. While we don’t know much about Metroid Prime 4, we do know that a “talented new development team” that isn’t Retro Studios is working on it, and that longtime series producer Kensuke Tanabe is overlooking the project. It will play in the first-person, as all other Metroid Prime games have and we can assume that this talented new team is a western studio as every Metroid game with the Prime moniker has been made in North America.
With the Wii U having been completely devoid of a Metroid game, and the excellent Samus Returns for the 3DS being the only good game in the series since 2007, this announcement came as great news. The thing is, making Metroid Prime 4 doesn’t exactly make sense. Don’t get us wrong, Hardcore Gamer wants another 3D Metroid game as much as the next fan, but the things that made Metroid Prime what it was have largely been wrapped up at the end of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Between finished narrative threads and the absence of Retro Studios, this upcoming game could go with a different title completely and would probably be all the better off for it. Here are some of the reason why making Metroid Prime 4 doesn’t really make sense.
[Spoiler warning: if you don’t want major plot points for the Metroid Prime games spoiled for you, we suggest bookmarking this article and hurrying the heck up to play through those masterpieces already!]
Because Metroid Prime is Dead
Fun fact: Metroid Prime is an actual character and she’s dead as a doorknob.
In the first Metroid Prime game, a giant, living meteor known as a Leviathan crash-landed on the planet Tallon IV. The Leviathan was filled with Phazon, an extremely poisonous and mutagenic substance that soon began to transform the landscape of Tallon IV. The Chozo, an ancient race that raised Samus after her parents were murdered by Space Pirates, lived on Tallon IV when the Leviathan crashed. They created “The Cradle,” a structure that was locked by 12 cyphers, in order to contain the seeping Phazon from the Leviathan. Decades after these Chozo died out, Space Pirates came to Tallon IV in order to weaponize this Phazon, and they brought dangerous creatures known as Metroids with them as test subjects. Somehow, a single Metroid escaped and managed to sneak past The Cradle and enter the Leviathan, slowly feeding on its Phazon from the inside and growing immensely in size and power in the process. During Metroid Prime, Samus manages to unlock The Cradle and enter the Leviathan, facing and defeating this heavily mutated Metroid in the process. This creature was known as Metroid Prime.
After defeating Metroid Prime, tentacles appear from the creature’s body and strip Samus of her Phazon suit. Unbeknownst to Samus, what’s left of Metroid Prime manages to inhabit this suit, obtaining Samus’ powers and DNA in the process. Metroid Prime thus becomes Dark Samus, the antagonist that Samus faces throughout Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Dark Samus is defeated at the end of Echoes, but manages to reform itself using scattered Phazon particles. At the end of Corruption, Samus once again defeats Dark Samus – this time destroying her for good. It’s clear that she’s truly gone, because the Phazon that Dark Samus corrupted Samus with at the beginning of Metroid Prime 3 disappears upon Dark Samus’ death. Furthermore, Phaaze, the living planet that generated Phazon, was destroyed, and the continued existence of Phazon disappeared along with it. The Metroid Prime Trilogy, which was intrinsically tied to the presence of the creature known as Metroid Prime and the poisonous Phazon, tied up its loose ends wonderfully, and constituted a complete narrative arc that should have remained left alone.
Of course, Nintendo didn’t feel that maintaining the integrity of this highly cohesive Trilogy was worth not making more money off of, so they made a couple of the least liked games in the Metroid series: the actually pretty decent Metroid Prime Hunters, and the game that nobody asked for, Metroid Prime Federation Force. Neither Hunters nor Federation Force includes the character Metroid Prime or Phazon. They do include a heavier focus on bounty hunters and the Galactic Federation, which Metroid Prime 3 focused on as well. They’re also in the first-person, and were both made by western studios. In those ways, their inclusion in the Metroid Prime sub-series makes a bit more sense. They weren’t, however, made by those responsible for the Metroid Prime Trilogy: Retro Studios.
Because Retro Isn’t Working on it
When Nintendo announced that a game called Metroid Prime was being developed for the GameCube in 2001, fans were puzzled, not just because it was going to be in the first-person, but because it was being made by a completely untested western studio called Retro. Of course, history rendered their concerns moot, as Metroid Prime and its direct sequels are often considered to be among the greatest games ever made. Retro immediately sealed their place among the pantheon of great developers with their first three games.
After finishing off the Metroid Prime Trilogy, however, Retro tried their hand at another big Nintendo franchise: Donkey Kong. They cranked out Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for Wii U. Both garnered critical praise, though neither made quite as much of a splash as the Metroid Prime Trilogy did. Now that it’s clear Retro isn’t working on Metroid Prime 4, they’re either working on another Donkey Kong game, have moved on to another Nintendo property or have started making their first new IP. All of these possibilities are exciting in their own right, but it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed that Retro isn’t taking on the mantel of Metroid once again.
Of course, a new studio working on the series isn’t at all a bad thing. After all, Retro was once a “talented new development team” that nobody knew what to expect from. And it’s not unheard of for other developers to tackle games in the Prime sub-series: Nintendo Software Technology based in Redmond, Washington made Hunters and Next Level Games from Vancouver, Canada worked on Federation Force. In the end, however, the only Metroid Prime games that fans really cared about are those in the Trilogy – and, of course, all three were made by Retro Studios. To that end, the Prime sub-series should just be retired already, especially after the poor reception of Federation Force. A new era could start for Metroid and that’s what’s really exciting.
Because There are More Interesting Directions for the Series to Take
Back in 2005, an internal document from Nintendo was leaked that contained a list of various Nintendo DS games that were planned to come out. Every game on that list was eventually announced and released except for one: Metroid Dread. Then, in 2007, near the end of Metroid Prime 3, a data terminal scan read “Experiment status report update: Metroid project ‘Dread’ is nearing the final stages of completion.” The terminal next to it, however, had this to say: “Experiment results unsuccessful. All attempts at using Metroids as a weapon power source have failed.” Metroid Dread, as it turns out, was totally in development for the DS at some point in time, but unfortunately was canceled for unknown reasons. Dread was to be a sequel to Metroid Fusion, which is technically Metroid IV in the main series, and would be another 2D entry in the franchise.
Naturally, Metroid Prime 4 will likely not have anything to do with this canceled title, though we do have a general idea of what it will be about. Prime 4 will almost definitely take place after Prime 3, and more likely than not take place after Federation Force as well, according to statements made by series producer Kensuke Tanabe. He’s gone on record saying the next Prime game will probably involve the bounty hunter Sylux from Metroid Prime Hunters. He’s a bit of a blank slate without much of a personality, at least at this point in time. His species isn’t known, he holds an extreme hatred towards Samus and the Galactic Federation for undisclosed reasons, and he uses a shock coil weapon that shoots electricity. Beyond that, his ship did make a surprise appearance in the 100 percent completion ending of Metroid Prime 3, and he forced a Metroid egg to hatch prematurely in the 100 percent completion ending of Federation Force as well. More likely than not, Sylux will end up being the primary antagonist of Metroid Prime 4, and potentially the rest of the Prime sub-series up until its events run right up to what occurs during Metroid II: Return of Samus (which Metroid: Samus Returns is a remake of).
It’s not that this narrative thread isn’t interesting, it’s just that the events that constitute the Metroid Prime Trilogy have been pretty nicely wrapped up. By Nintendo’s own admission, Prime 4 will take the plot in a new direction away from Dark Samus and Phazon – because, frankly, it has to. Most of what made Metroid Prime the sub-series that it was is finished. Between the completion of its major narrative threads and Retro’s departure from the series, why doesn’t Nintendo just begin a new sub-series? Or at the very least, why would they even put the “4” in “Metroid Prime 4” in the first place? This new development team should have the freedom to set themselves apart from the original trilogy, and slapping this number on the title might hold them back – might make them feel beholden to do the same things that came before.
Refreshingly, Kensuke Tanabe has talked about how he’d like the next game in the series to be restricted to a single planet again and perhaps involve time-based mechanics. The story and gameplay elements are sure to go far beyond what we know and assume now, and will continue to buck trends set by the Metroid Prime Trilogy. This unknown team deserves to begin their own chapter in the series. Furthermore, the main Metroid series deserves to move forward as well. After all, Metroid Dread never saw the light of day, and if the main Metroid games remain in 2D, Nintendo could easily have an internal team work on a fifth entry into the main series as well. Some of the most interesting narrative moments in the series came during Metroid Fusion and fans would love to see what Nintendo can do with that going in to the future. Even though it looks like Metroid Prime 4 will retain its number, the quality of the series going forward is what ultimately matters. With the potential of both 2D and 3D entries to take it into uncharted territory, for the first time in about a decade, the future is bright for Metroid.