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

"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.

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USG: Have you been surprised by the backlash against this game and how negatively people have responded to it?

KT: I was quite surprised by the backlash, because as far as from a development perspective, I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis into game play and the way the game feels when you play it — as well as the creation of the universe to be within the Prime series, but at the same time I get the feeling that people are talking a little too much about the visuals they have seen through videos they have seen so far. Again, it will be different once you have the hands-on experience.

While there is a lot of backlash as you pointed out, this a perfect chance for me to turn the table around and get people to start liking it. If people are already paying attention to it, there’s always room to get that to work in a positive way – to get interested in a nice way about the game.

USG: The way you were talking about seeing Samus from an outside perspective reminds me of what Hideo Kojima did with Metal Gear Solid 2, where he made players take control of a different character. There was a lot of backlash against that, too. Is that just how gamers think?

KT: I do feel that this is a similar reaction to when we first announced Wind Waker from Zelda. Eventually people started to understand what the game was about, and I still believe that there is still going to be something similar in that respect here.

USG: So to people who are upset at having seen this announcement, what would you tell them to win them over?

KT: First off, I’d love people out there experience the game, to see how the game feels when you actually play it, not just by looking at how the graphics look.

USG: You mentioned it’s a co-op game, is it possible to play it solo or do you have to play it with other people?

KT: So you can play as a solo player and up to four people. When you play as a single player, you have the choice to get the drones to help you and support you throughout the mission. Of course, you can always play by yourself too, if you don’t want that extra help. If you don’t need any drones, then that’s perfectly fine as well. However, if you do so, you’re basically raising that bar and making the mission quite difficult for yourself. But I do know that Metroid fans like that extra challenge, so I can totally see players making things difficult for themselves.

Tanabe sees Federation Force as the new Wind Waker.

USG: This is a portable, multi-player, first-person Metroid game. Obviously, I think it invites a lot of comparisons to Metroid Prime Hunters. How would you say this game is similar to Hunters and how would you say it’s different?

KT: It may look like there are similarities, but it is quite different from Hunters. In Prime Hunters, my idea was to introduce new bounty hunters to the universe. The game itself was more focused on single play and in multi-player mode; there was a side story — as an extra. It was more like a survival mode type of environment. However, this time you work as a team and strategize your battle as you go through the mission to end each of them. If you look at the way game feels when you actually play, it is pretty much exactly the way previous Prime games have been, if you actually get the chance to take a look at it.

USG: Where in the Metroid series timeline does this game take play?

KT: First off, [Yoshio] Sakamoto is behind the main series, taking care of all of that, the timeline. I’m in charge of the Prime series. I had the conversation with him to decide where exactly would be a good spot for me to stick the Prime universe into that whole timeline and the best place would be between Metroid II and Super Metroid. As you know, there are multiple titles in the Metroid Prime series, but everything takes place in that very specific point. Metroid Series go down the line, but with the Prime Universe, we have to stretch sideways to expand it as much as we can in that specific spot.

USG: So where in the Prime timeline does it take place, then?

KT: There isn’t a very specific place within the Metroid Prime timeline, but somewhere in the Prime 1, 2, 3, Hunters, and Federation Force, it’s somewhere within that.

USG: You really haven't pinned anything down, then?

KT: One of the bounty hunters that appeared in Prime Hunters was named Silux. I do have an idea to have Silux back and to have a story that involves Silux and Samus. In that sense, that story would possibly take place after Prime 3. But for that the Federation Force would also be involved. It would be in the big picture of it as well.

USG: So how much narrative do you expect to exist in the game, e.g., light on story? Heavy on story?

KT: I do have a story for the game. The player will be a member of the Galactic Federation. The player will be a selected member who will go through some training and eventually prepare for a mission as mentioned earlier, to conduct research on these three different planets that are in this universe. As part of that training, Blast Ball is included. As a player, after you go through all of these things, when you get to conduct your research on the planets, you find out that while you thought the planet was just ruins, the Space Pirates were plotting something against the Galactic Federation: They were making this hidden weapon and you accidentally find it when you get to that. Your mission as a player will be to stop them from proceeding with that. Along the lines with those missions, I’d like to have one special mission that will connect that to the future.

USG: In the original Prime, Prime 2, most of the story was told passively through the documents, logs, and computers you read. Three was much more direct with people talking to you directly. Where do you expect Federation Force to fall?

KT: This is closer to Prime 3. As you accomplish each mission, you will be able to unfold the story. You will be able to obtain more information. So you have to proceed a little further along the mission in order to find out what the Space Pirates were actually plotting against you.

USG: Will the story be told very linearly? Or will you be able to unlock side missions, or special side stories by completing certain in-game objectives and finding certain secrets of things?

KT: There is not a very set way to go through these missions, but the plan is that you have three missions. You can jump into any of those, but if you clear all three of those, you unlock three more missions that you can go through and choose from, unfolding the story in that way.

USG: You mentioned the story leading up to the future. Is that the "future" as defined in Metroid Prime 3, or are you thinking ahead to future games in the Prime Series?

KT: The whole story around Dark Samus and Phazon are complete stories. But for the future, what I have in mind is something involving Silux and Samus with the Federation Force, so to put a focus on that. While I still don’t have a concrete idea on how many games that could be involving between these two, there’s something relating to Silux that has made Silux hate Samus. So in that way, it might be backtracking a bit in the timeline to explain that a little bit, to clarify what is going to happen between the two of them.

USG: So in a way, you envision this game as a Prologue to future chapters in the Prime Series?

KT: You can say it that way, but obviously, you will be able to learn something about the Prime Universe with this game. I am definitely creating this game with it in mind that players can enjoy it as much as they did previous Prime titles. With that in mind, I would love players to experience this as well.

Can a game by the folks who made Luigi's Mansion 2 really be bad?

USG: Is Retro involved in this project at all?

KT: The whole development has been done by Next Level Games. There was just one part — for the design for the mechs, Retro had the supervisory role for this game.

USG: Next Level is great; they make fantastic games, but it was surprising to see a new Metroid Prime that you’re working on and Retro isn’t.

KT: I’ve always been working with Next Level Games in titles like Mario Strikers, Punch-Out!!, and Luigi's Mansion 2, so we’ve always had a good relationship. While there were other titles like Hunters that was developed by NST, this time, timing-wise it didn’t work well, so when I brought this idea to Next Level Games, they were very excited about it and said, “We would definitely want to work on this!” And that’s how we started working on it together.

USG: Should we expect to hear news on what Retro is working on some time soon?

KT: I’m not quite sure about the stuff that they’re working on at this time.

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