Just as I was heading to bed, I received an urgent distress call. Nintendo tweeted that METROID PRIME BLAST BALL (actual HOME menu name, all in caps) was now on the 3DS eShop, with a free early version of the game available immediately. I had been hyped for this game ever since it debuted at the Nintendo World Championships in 2015, and giddy at the thought of having a Metroid game on 3DS. After a pretty quick download, my 3DS was ready.
Go! Go! Go! Blast Ball is intense from the word Go, and even more intense by the third Go. After a brief controls tutorial I jumped straight online and started spamming gestures. Despite the game launching 10 minutes ago, I found an eager group of players straight away. It was like we all saw the same tweet, and we were having a great time before the match had even begun.
I’m playing Offense.
Go! Go! Go!
After such a deep level of discourse I felt like I’d known these people my whole life. I’m loving this trend in Nintendo games lately. The emotes in Tri Force Heroes are hilariously expressive to the point where they defined my experience with that game (although I’ve still only played the demo). Even Splatoon with its minimal 2 options creates a strong feeling of empathy or encouragement when someone says “Nice!” to your awesome shot, or reveals a great place to Super Jump with “To Me!”. Federation Force takes it even further with 16 different messages. You can assign 4 of them to the dpad, while the others can still be pressed in-game by opening the speech box. I have a feeling I’m going to be using the “Sorry” button a lot, I’ve always wanted that in Splatoon for those unfortunate Super Jumps. There are also 6 languages available for the voice, as well as a Miitomo-style pitch slider. Oh yeah, this game has gameplay too.
The atmosphere in the Blast Ball arena is tangible. The music has an epic “eSports in 2078” feel to it, and the graphics are WAY more impressive than any video I have seen before. The sky outside has a very rich atmosphere to it, with tons of stars and two mysterious planets. The G.F.S Aegis looms above the arena reminding everyone that Metroid Prime 3 happened. I don’t know anything about this new ship, but MP3 had ships. Not a spoiler.
Charged shots are very effective on the ball but everyone was just shooting like mad. The Metroid Prime side-strafe is back, so you can tap B to travel sideways a bit faster with a dash jump. This is really useful for positioning yourself at the right angle to the ball quickly. The first match I scored a goal almost instantly with a charge shot that seemed to take the other team by surprise. I guess I just got lucky and they didn’t do any shots themselves for some reason. After that it wasn’t so easy, with some very tight back-and-forth matches and a 50% win-rate for the night.
As well as being introduced to Blast Ball, there’s a playable sneak peek at Federation Force’s campaign. Metroid Prime 3 controls are miraculously back, with free aiming, and the ability to move the cursor even while locked-on as I’m doing above. I was skeptical that this could work without the Wii remote but it feels completely fine. There are two control options, one with free roaming on the circle pad, and the other requires you to hold R to activate the free aiming. I don’t mind holding R since I’m used to it and you can use the circle pad for movement without thinking too much, which is especially important in Blast Ball. Even with 3D on I’m having no problem moving the 3DS. I think there could be some amazing boss fights in Federation Force with this control scheme, you can put a weak point anywhere on a moving boss and have it be actually hitable. Imagine 4 players doing this and there’s some crazy possibilities. Boss battles are one thing Prime 3 did better than 1 and 2 in my opinion, and I’m really looking forward to discovering how this interaction is used in a co-op game with different players targeting different spots.
One final thing, in case one Metroid fan is shaking their fist at the screen right now. I’m just guessing this is the year 2078 with my eSports joke above, since that is when Metroid Prime 3 took place, and this seems to be just after it. Not sure if that’s right, but it’s something. There’s a hint of mystery to Federation Force that is really drawing me to the game. As an ENORMOUS fan of Metroid Prime Trilogy, I can’t wait to find out about the lore in this game. The scope of Metroid Prime’s universe is absolutely gigantic, to the point where even the little things in this game are going to be cool to discover.