Opinion: Nintendo Delaying Metroid Prime 4 is Fine Because Metroid Games Aren’t That Great Anyway
Metroid Prime 4's delay has certainly caused sorrow for longtime fans -- it's just too bad I'm not one of them.
Metroid is fine.
Yes, it’s one of Nintendo’s most popular first-party franchises. Yes, Samus has become a gaming icon over the years. And yes, the idea of a cool sci-fi bounty hunter game where you’re fighting dragons, pirates, and weird jellyfish-looking things sounds rad as can be. The only problem is that I don’t think any of the Metroid games are very good.
For the life of me, I’ve never been able to understand the overwhelming hype for Metroid that so many have. I’ve played Super Metroid to completion, I’ve toyed around with all three Prime entries, and I even played the most recent “proper” game in Metroid: Samus Returns, which I found to be overwhelmingly mediocre. Even our own reviewer of the game agreed with me on that final point (bless you, Lou Contaldi).
So when Metroid Prime 4 was revealed at E3 2017 and the entire Los Angeles Convention Center felt like it was going to cave in on itself due to the screaming and yelling from everyone in the building, I was left confused. Why does everyone love this series so much? What is it that I’m not “getting” about Metroid? Is this the most that a JPEG image of a game title has ever excited so many people at once?
Every Metroid game that I have played has always felt drastically underwhelming to me compared to other titles in its own genre. If we’re comparing the two titans that essentially created the “Metroidvania” genre with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid, then I easily fall on the side of SOTN being vastly superior — and I don’t think it’s really close at all. I think what’s always stood out to me most about Metroid is the aesthetic of the worlds that it offers. This hybrid of ancient and futuristic looking designs all throughout the many locations seen in the Metroid series is great. Combined with each game’s soundtrack, which I have increasingly been turned on to more and more over the last six months, and I really enjoy the overall vibe of each game.
The act of playing Metroid games though I think is where I get lost. All in all, I just don’t think they’re great Metroidvania games–ironic, I know–because the rewards they give the player for exploring the world never feel worthwhile. When I first played through Super Metroid a few years back, this was my biggest issue with the title. Every upgrade in the game felt so underwhelming. More missile capacity and health? That’s cool I guess.
Outside of the main path suit upgrades that you need in order to beat Super Metroid, the ones tucked away in the game’s nooks and crannies felt so bland and meaningless, especially after a certain point — I don’t really need 200+ missiles, but okay. A Metroidvania game needs to provoke players to want to explore, in my opinion, and this is something that a Metroid game has never once instilled in me.
If I’m being honest, the one thing I love above else that Metroid has given us is Ridley in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate — and not just because of the memes. Somehow, when Smash Ultimate ended up releasing a became a Ridley main of all things. I love that dragon boy as if he was my own son and I have thoroughly enjoyed launching my friends off of the stage with his side-B over the past month or so since release. Ridley is great. Metroid as a whole is fine.
This article is less of me expressing happiness at the expense of others about today’s announcement that Metroid Prime 4 has now been delayed indefinitely by Nintendo, and more just me asking out loud what it is that I’m not getting here. Why is Metroid so beloved? And why should I be left feeling crestfallen after the delay of Metroid Prime 4? I acknowledge that today’s move for Nintendo is certainly frustrating, but it’s not one that personally hurts me. I kind of wish it did, though.
I want Metroid Prime 4 to turn out incredibly well. Despite having a somewhat negative attitude towards the franchise in this piece, I’ll likely be there day one playing the new Prime with all of you. I want Metroid Prime 4 to be my “aha!” moment where this series finally clicks with me on another level. In fact, I’m hoping that in the interim, Nintendo now brings the Metroid Prime Trilogy to Switch so that I can give those games another go.
Despite being one of Nintendo’s and all of gaming’s most iconic franchises, Metroid has never once resonated with me to the point where I’d put it alongside other all-time greats. The Metroid franchise is one that I have respect and reverence for purely because of its name, but that’s about it. It’ll likely be quite a long time until Metroid Prime 4 is playable on my Switch at this point, and that’s fine with me. I’m more than content with playing other (better) games in the interim.