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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.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

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.