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"I was quite surprised by the backlash": Kensuke Tanabe on Metroid Prime Federation Force

The producer of Nintendo's controversial new Metroid game lays out his vision for us.

Interview by Jeremy Parish, .

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Metroid Prime: Federation Force has struggled to make a good impression on fans, it seems — including myself. While I didn't share the Internet's kneejerk rejection of the game when it was announced in Nintendo's E3 Direct, I found the playable demo at the show somewhat lacking.

A training tutorial in the guise of a soccer game, the Blast Ball demo felt somewhat undercooked. It didn't have right-stick controls despite its immersive 3D perspective, and the rules for the team-based space football match didn't seem as clear as I'd have liked. Jaz and I teamed up to take on a bunch of people we never met, and we won... but I'm not entirely sure how.

That said, I'm not down on Federation Force. I feel like we've barely seen the game in action, and in any case I'm OK with Nintendo exploring the Metroid universe with a spinoff if they don't have any solid ideas for a new core title. I was eager to sit down with the game's producer, Kensuke Tanabe, to learn more about his plans for the game, slated to arrive early next year... and to get his take on the negativity that immediately greeted the announcement.

USgamer: We've seen Metroid Prime Blast Ball in action, but that’s just a part of Federation Force. Could you talk more about the full game experience?

Kensuke Tanabe: Ever since I was working on the Metroid Prime series, I had this idea to start work on something other than just focusing on Samus to put an emphasis on the Federation Force – their battle against the Space Pirates as I mentioned briefly in the E3 Nintendo Direct. I didn’t quite have the chance to work on a project like that for quite a while, but when I learned about the development of the new 3DS and the hardware has a C-stick, I thought this could be a great idea to implement or come up with a first-person shooting game for the hardware.

USG: Yes, I was going to ask about that. In the demo, the C stick doesn’t do anything.

KT: I apologize for that on the show floor. You only have the gyro control available, but in fact as I mentioned, the game will be compatible with both kinds of control schemes: C stick and gyro. It’s also because the game is compatible with the 3DS as well, so that people who don’t have the new 3DS can play with that control stick.

USG: Besides the right stick controls for the camera, will there be any other enhancements for the new 3DS?

KT: Nothing specific but I do have something on the system side that I wanted to create. Is it ok if I talk a little bit more about that?

USG: Yes, please do.

KT: So the basic idea here is to have an up to four-player co-op. You collaborate with your friends and you go into battle. So all of the mechs have the same stats, but they will be given load-outs to pick from. For you to choose those load-outs, you have to put into consideration that there are weight considerations for each of the mechs so you have to choose wisely. While you have super powerful weapons like Super Missile, they’re quite heavy, so you won’t be able to carry a whole bunch of them. On the other hand, repair capsules are relatively lighter so you can carry a little more of those.

If you would like to take an RPG example and be a fighter-warrior type, you carry the heavy weapons like a Super Missile. For people who are carrying repair capsules, you take the role as a healer. There are some other items such as Slow Beam that slow down the enemy’s movements that allows you to have a wizard type of character. You can choose from all of these available items, i.e., load-outs, that vary from Decoy or Slow Beams that I mentioned earlier, to change the way you play in that stage and basically find the best and most effective way to finish that mission.

USG: You say "stages." Does that mean the game does not have the traditional structure of a Metroid game where it’s a large interconnected world?

KT: So there will be a huge universe, but there will be little missions that you will be assigned to. There’s a starting point and an end, which can be kind of long, depending on the kind of mission that you choose. The whole story takes place in this universe in which there are three planets; each having a different environment. One is covered in ice, one is made of gas and one is in a desert area. If you look at it as far as having different sorts of environments that you experience depending on the type of mission that you have to tackle, you will still be able to get that different atmosphere just like in the previous Prime games.

USG: So would you describe the structure of the game to be more like Metroid Prime 3, which had the different kinds of planets, or is it even more broken into or subdivided into missions like that?

KT: It’s broken down a little more. However, there is a story that involves the whole game.

USG: Is this mission-based structure why it’s not a game about Samus? Because it does seem like Metroid is always a story about Samus’ growth and development as a warrior in each game.

KT: As far as the reason why the focus is not on Samus this time, it’s mostly because the whole idea was to have a game that focused on the Federation Forces, the battle with them against the Space Pirates. Since there was no title along that line, I wanted to be able to bring that out this time.

USG: So it’s not so much that the characters came out of the game structure, but the game structure came out of the characters?

KT: In Metroid Prime 2, we did have a multiplayer, but it was not like a cooperative mode, but that you fight against each other. Another reason for the focus not to be on Samus as the player-character... if you have a co-op mode where you have all of your friends playing up to four players at the same time, having four Samuses wouldn’t fit the environment very well.

USG: Do you find that it’s limiting to have characters who aren’t Samus? She’s supposed to be the greatest bounty hunter and warrior in the galaxy. That means these guys can’t be quite as good, right?

KT: Not all of the items or things that Samus could do would be available for the main characters of this game. We are creating a new experience here by introducing this environment where you can have multiple players playing at the same time in the Metroid Prime universe as opposed to previous Metroid games where you’re playing by yourself in the lonely environment.

USG: Have you had to come up with new concepts and challenges given the limitations and the differences between Samus and a Federation soldier?

KT: Not so much just because of the differences between Samus and the member of the Galactic Federation — as you pointed out, they have different abilities – I kind of didn’t feel like that there were so many challenges there. If you look at it this way, up until now you’ve always been playing Samus and in this game, you’ll be able to see Samus from a different perspective. You’ll actually be able to see her from the eyes of a Galactic Federation member, which is something that has never happened in previous games. Here, we’re not only creating a new different experience as far as game play, but we’re finally getting that chance to meet with Samus in game for the first time since she’s not going to be your player character in game.

Even though it's named after him, Metroid will barely appear in the game at all!

USG: So she’s still going to be a part of the game even though she’s not the protagonist?

KT: Yes, that’s right, so she’ll be in the game. I can’t quite tell you exactly where.

USG: What happens if I’m playing on the New 3DS and I take my Samus Amiibo and tap into the 3DS?

KT: So while I do have a few ideas, I can’t quite tell you at this time since they’re not all finalized, but there are some ideas coming. If possible at all, it would be nice to have an Amiibo of the mech.

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  • Avatar for TrustyPanda #1 TrustyPanda 3 years ago
    Maybe it's judging a book by it's cover, but Federation Force isn't a pretty game. And really Metroid games have been pretty solid in the looks department. It could be a timing issue too, it's been too long since a real Mettoid game came out.

    I feel for the guys working on the game, they have a real uphill battle ahead of them. But I played the soccer-like multiplayer mode and wasn't blown away. It's the Metroid game nobody asked for.

    Also, I know people love to bring up Wind Waker but I'd say that game more divided the fan base than alienated them. Federation Force feel like it's pleasing nobody. Time will tell I guess.
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  • Avatar for Mooglepies #2 Mooglepies 3 years ago
    I think the backlash was unfortunate, although very predictable. It's been so long since Metroid had a game at all (Nintendo didn't even celebrate the 25th anniversary of the series did they?) that having a spinoff game instead was less than ideal. I also think it's very hard to sell 3ds games on their visuals - even though it has some lovely looking games, blown up still images and even video do the system no favours at all. All of that would have combined to create some very negative pushback, which is a shame.

    I think the success or failure of Federation Force is going to come down to whether a good demo of the game makes it out -if the game is good (and Next Level Games have done some great stuff so I have no reason to doubt them) it'll shine through if people can play it. Nintendo are better with demos than most companies, so fingers crossed I guess.
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  • Avatar for Aeonrelic #3 Aeonrelic 3 years ago
    I'm honestly looking forward to this. I've always liked the idea of expanding the universe a bit beyond Samus, so it gives them more ideas to play with for the mainline games. But it just sounds like it might be fun to play.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #4 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    This is one of those games like Diablo 3 and DmC that backlash and defense are dominated by extremes.

    This also has a wierd effect of shading the sheer ambivalence in everyone else.
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  • Avatar for Makgameadv #5 Makgameadv 3 years ago
    The interview covered everything and got across that they're interested in the core gameplay experience of the game than advancing Samus' adventures.

    Federation Force seemed like a followup to Hunters, and having the series producer working on it made sense. The backlash is from it not being a traditional Metroid or Metroid Prime game.

    The Wind Waker comparison makes sense when you compare the game to the more realistic Space World 2000 demo they were working on that followed Ocarina of Time's style before changing the artstyle, and essentially the main character, Link.

    Either its a typo or mistranslation, the Prime games should be between Metroid 1 and 2. There was another interview recently where Tanabe "said" they were between II and Super, which seemed like a mistranslation.

    Tanabe originally said that the Prime games took place between Metroid 1 and 2 because there were no more Metroids after 2 and they needed to use a lot, and had consulted with Sakamoto. Also for the reason he said about placing all of the games in that specific time pocket, it was to give the Prime games creative freedom without interfering with the R&D1/SPD1 games.
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  • Avatar for camchow #6 camchow 3 years ago
    While most of us on this site weren't shouting for trashing of this game I am someone who is completely uninterested in this game. This type of game just isn't for me, Metroid branding or not. I just hope Nintendo isn't using this to gauge interest in the Metroid series as a whole. If this game doesn't sell well I don't want this to be the project Nintendo points at when they say there is no interest in the Metroid series.

    I mean, this isn't as bad as Konami using Castlevania or Silent Hill for slot machines but it's not much better either and no one is ashamed for giving Konami flak for those. This just isn't what most Metroid fans wanted from the series.
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  • Avatar for detten17 #7 detten17 3 years ago
    never been a big metroid fan, when I saw it I was curious on how it would play rather than the looks, the 3ds is already rough for me to hold for long periods, I didn't like playing MH4U for partly that reason, i have a standard XL so having to to have a free hand to turn the camera kinda puts a stop in the momentum of the game.
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  • Avatar for detten17 #8 detten17 3 years ago
    never been a big metroid fan, when I saw it I was curious on how it would play rather than the looks, the 3ds is already rough for me to hold for long periods, I didn't like playing MH4U for partly that reason, i have a standard XL so having to to have a free hand to turn the camera kinda puts a stop in the momentum of the game.
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  • Avatar for Dreamcaster-X #9 Dreamcaster-X 3 years ago
    I'm reserving judgement on this for now. It could turn out to be a decent game for the Metroid universe, it just had the unfortunate timing of arriving before a proper sequel. Had this launched alongside ala Prime/Fusion I have a feeling the reaction would have been much more positive. I remain hopeful though.
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #10 renatocosta90 3 years ago
    So... it's Helldivers, but in the Metroid Universe?
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  • Avatar for Namevah #11 Namevah 3 years ago
    @camchow "I just hope Nintendo isn't using this to gauge interest in the Metroid series as a whole."

    Given that so much of the backlash was centered around "this isn't a real Metroid game," I think Nintendo got the message that Federation Force's negative reception no way extends to the whole franchise. At least, I really hope so.
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  • Avatar for ShadowTheSecond #12 ShadowTheSecond 3 years ago
    The "Metroid won't be in his own game!" joke caption was enough to make the article, but the interview was quite good too!
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  • Avatar for Spectreman #13 Spectreman 3 years ago
    I hope this multiplayer focus is not a top down trend inside Nintendo, in one way that can harm the chances of building single player games like a new 2D Metroid.
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  • Avatar for TrustyPanda #14 TrustyPanda 3 years ago
    @retr0gamer I don't think that's an apt comparison. Mario Kart starred Mario and featured a bunch of iconic characters from the series. Metroid Prime Federation Force doesn't have the star of the series as a playable character and seems to have taken a series about exploration and made it a low-rent lock-on shooter. Mario Kart was a total genre shift, this looks like a regression for the Prime series, especially to fans who were hoping for more.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #15 Sturat 3 years ago
    The mission structure in this game sounds like a total slog.
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  • Avatar for HTraffic #16 HTraffic 3 years ago
    I really dug the multiplayer of metroid prime hunters so I am cautiously optimistic for this one. I have faith that nintendo will release something of quality though that may not be what series fans want or expect. Instead of blast ball I feel they should have included something as simple as a deathmatch/team deathmatch mode that was a blast in metroid hunters. Another minor thing that I would have liked to see is a bit more visual differentiation between the members of the freedom force.
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  • Avatar for HTraffic #17 HTraffic 3 years ago
    I really dug the multiplayer of metroid prime hunters so I am cautiously optimistic for this one. I have faith that nintendo will release something of quality though that may not be what series fans want or expect. Instead of blast ball I feel they should have included something as simple as a deathmatch/team deathmatch mode that was a blast in metroid hunters. Another minor thing that I would have liked to see is a bit more visual differentiation between the members of the freedom force.
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  • Avatar for WindGuru #18 WindGuru 3 years ago
    It's Sylux, not Silux.

    Interesting info though. Seems he really was taken aback by the backlash.
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  • Avatar for Damman #19 Damman 3 years ago
    The game needs a hook to it, something unique or surprising. Right now it comes off as a known quantity: 4-player coop, first person shooting, short replayable missions, downsized for handheld, etc. It's a style that seems aimed more for the Japanese audience where that structure dominates their handheld gaming.

    Space marines have enjoyed easy success in plenty of sci-fi, but in the Metroid universe, Samus is by far the coolest chess piece. There's no reason this game shouldn't be made, but what they've shown doesn't seem to cash in on what people love about Metroid. It's got an uphill battle to garner positive attention if it doesn't show something standout.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #20 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 years ago
    One thing I don't get -- maybe I missed it -- is why they decided to go with the "chibi" style here.

    Unless maybe they're all really aliens and this is their actual proportions, and when we see Samus she looks normal. That could be fun.
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  • Avatar for Immortallix #21 Immortallix 3 years ago
    Did he really say The Prime series takes place in between Metroid 2 & Super? How does that make sense?
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  • Avatar for Samuel-Wise #22 Samuel-Wise 3 years ago
    @LBD_Nytetrayn I agree, this is the only (and the only thing) that is making me wary of this game. No Samus? I'm all right with that (the Metroid universe is so large it would be nice to branch out). But, what is with the graphics?
    I understand comparing them with Wind Waker, but Wind Waker did not go against the spirit of Zelda (with Link's get-up you don't have to take him seriously). However, the Metroid world is a lot grittier and harsh, then Zelda.
    And again, as you said, perhaps it is just how these videos look and it is just disproportionate in the video, but it sounds like that is not what the developer is going for.
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  • Avatar for James-Viana #23 James-Viana 2 years ago
    So there como plantar alface will be a huge universe, but there will be little como plantar alface em garrafa pet missions that you will be assigned como plantar rosas to. There’s a starting point and como plantar rosas em vasos an end, which can be kind of long, depending on the kind of mission that you choose. The whole story takes place in this universe in which there are three planets; each having a different environment. One is covered in ice, one is made of gas and one is in a desert area. If you look at it as far as having different sorts of environments that you experience depending on the type of mission that you have to tackle, you will still be able to get that different atmosphere just like in the previous Prime games
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