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Five Wishes for ‘Metroid Prime 4’

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Nintendo shocked the world when it announced Metroid Prime 4 at its Nintendo Spotlight, surprising gamers who had been looking for a quality Metroid experience for almost ten years. Without any in-engine footage and absent veteran developer Retro Studios, there is little idea of how the final product will look and feel when compared to the other games in the series. However, with the pedigree that a series like Metroid typically carries and the high expectations that new games in the series evoke, here are five changes that Metroid Prime 4 would be wise to implement.

[Warning, post contains light spoilers]

5.) Give the Series a Fresh, Interesting Villain

Short of a retcon so contrived as to make even comic publishers blush, Metroid Prime 4 needs a new, interesting villain. While Dark Samus, Mother Brain, and Ridley have served as the antagonists for almost every game in the series, it’s long past time for a new villain to take center stage. If the secret endings of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Metroid Prime: Federation Force are any indication, then the bounty hunter Sylux from Metroid Prime: Hunters is the logical choice. Possessing both a stolen Federation suit and a virulent hatred for Samus, Sylux has both the means and the motive to serve as an intriguing foe. If implemented correctly, he could add a much needed personal element to Metroid Prime 4, giving Samus her first real human antagonist, a welcome change of pace for a series that has typically been defined by its one-dimensional, primal villains.

Sylux is the best candidate for the main villain in Metroid Prime 4.

4.) Return to Separate, Non-Stackable Weapons

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is one of the best games in the Metroid series, improving upon almost every aspect of its predecessors. However, if there was one major change that felt more like a step back and that irked long-time fans of the Prime series, it was the decision to stack, rather than separate, the different beams that Samus obtained in the game. While beam-stacking is by no means a new feature of the Metroid series, having been an integral part of every 2D Metroid, as well as Metroid: Other M, its inclusion in the Prime series felt odd, to say the least. Part of the appeal of obtaining new beams, especially powerful ones such as the Plasma Beam in Metroid Prime and the Annihilator Beam in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, was the feeling of choice it gave the player. It allowed for a more nuanced way to solve puzzles and defeat enemies, an element not as pronounced in Corruption. While not a necessity, a return to separate beams in Metroid Prime 4 could add creativity and flair to a combat system that, in Corruption, often didn’t measure up to the standards set in Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.

The Nova Beam was an awesome weapon in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but without the ability to change beams, the game as a whole suffered.

3.) Adopt Smooth, Dual-Analog Controls

The original Metroid Prime is, no question, one of the greatest games of all time, aging well in almost every discernible way. Regardless, the controls in Metroid Prime, despite being mostly amenable, are far-and-above the weakest part of the game and a significant barrier of entry to gamers inoculated by nearly ten years of annualized, dual-analog first-person shooters. If, as their strategy has suggested, Nintendo is making the Switch as appealing as possible to core gamers as possible, then there is a need for one of their most popular franchises to adopt dual-analog controls. Without the Wii Remote to make firing as seamless an experience as in Metroid Prime: Trilogy and with the need for Prime 4 to run in the Switch’s handheld mode, dual-analog controls are the logical, if mundane, choice for Nintendo. While it would undoubtedly feel strange at first, adopting a familiar control scheme is a must for Nintendo, especially if they wish to use the latest Metroid Prime game as a means to reach out to fans of first person shooters on other consoles.

Metroid Prime‘s control scheme was workable back in 2002 but feels practically antediluvian today.

2.) Return to Isolation

Metroid Prime 3: CorruptionMetroid Fusion, and Metroid: Other M, while as dissimilar as games in the same franchise can be, all shared a similar flaw, disruptive dialogue. All three games were, for the most part, linear experiences that had Samus talking to and with others for a large part of each game, something not typically seen in the series. They all lacked a true sense of isolation, instead belaying the player with a litany of voices at any given time throughout the story. Despite how great almost all of those games were, isolation is one of the keys to an excellent Metroid experience and its absence lessened the games’ ambiance. In Metroid Prime, the lack of other voices provided the game with the atmosphere it needed. Neither the depths of the Phazon Mines nor the crevices of the Impact Crater would have felt as atmospheric with another voice around to interrupt the immersion and defuse the tension. Likewise, Super Metroid leaned heavily upon isolation to make the planet Zebes feel as threatening and atmospheric as possible. While some games in the series that leaned less heavily upon isolation, such as Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, were excellent games, the Metroid series needs isolation and the atmosphere it creates. It is as core to the series as the Power Suit, Wave Beam, and even Samus herself.

As long as we never have to hear from this guy again…

1.) Stick to the Metroid Formula

With games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo has given more creative leeway to developers making new entries in popular series. It worked for Breath of the Wild and seems poised to work again for Super Mario Odyssey. Despite the wishes of some fans, however, Nintendo cannot do that with the next Metroid PrimeMetroid can not be reworked into an open-ended adventure game because the series has never been about its huge worlds or its excellent sense of exploration. Rather, it has always emphasized two concepts that don’t work well with open-world games: speed-running and tight, measured progression. Metroid has never been a series to let players off at the beginning of games to explore to their heart’s content. In fact, it has done much the opposite, limiting player progression with doors, enemies, blocks, etc. that force the player to search for the items needed to progress in the game. Nintendo doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel for the next Metroid game, they simply need to perfect what has been working for the past thirty years, and deliver an experience as classic as the one that launched on the GameCube fifteen years ago.

Nintendo doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel with Metroid Prime 4, they simply need to keep making good games.

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Brent Middleton

    July 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    I wonder if they’ll release an HD Trilogy pack for the Switch next year (assuming Prime 4 is coming 2019) to build up some hype and introduce players to the trilogy who never played the originals 10 years ago.

    • Ricky D

      July 4, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      Nintendo clearly had the 3DS game planned for a while. I think they gave fans a shitty Photoshop title card of Metroid 4 because if they didn’t, fans would have lost their shit and made a fuss about Nintendo giving them a Metroid game for the 3ds and not the Switch, and worse, a remake.

      I’m willing to bet one hundred dollars they haven’t even written a single line of code yet. I don’t expect it out until 2020.

      • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

        July 5, 2017 at 10:57 am

        Thanks for commenting, Rick. I would honestly expect it to be out by Holiday 2018, barring an unforseen delay.

      • Brent Middleton

        July 5, 2017 at 9:34 pm

        There’s no way it’s coming 2020. Barring Zelda, Nintendo typically shows games close to when they’re released. I think we’ll see gameplay at next year’s E3, and then it’ll be 2019’s major release. Next year’s major release will probably be Pokemon Switch in Holiday 2018. It’s definitely already in the works.

        • Ricky D

          July 6, 2017 at 1:20 pm

          You guys are both crazy. There is no way, Metroid Prime 4 will be out in 2018. No way. There is just no way. Even if they work on the previous build, it will still take time to make. Late 2019 is the EARLIEST but I estimate 2020.

          • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

            July 6, 2017 at 2:10 pm

            I don’t know. They’ve surprised us before with releases. I personally never expected Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to come out this year.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      July 5, 2017 at 10:56 am

      Thanks for commenting, Brent. If they release an HD remaster for the Switch, I would totally buy that.

  2. Booski

    July 9, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Exploration is a huge part of Metroid. I agree it’s always been less open, but I think the series can at least take a cue from BOTW and change up conventions a bit. In particular they need to rethink boss battles in the prime series. Most are very slow paced and formulaic. Battles usually end up losing tension quickly. Other M had many faults but the bosses were almost always exciting and never dragged on. Other M also had easily the best screw attack of a 3D Metroid, and a pretty decent shine spark! Anyway, I don’t want them to make the game similar to BOTW, but I want that feeling of playing something familiar but totally fresh and unexpected that BOTW gave me.

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      July 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I don’t know if I would agree with your comment about Prime’s boss battles. Meta Ridley, the Omega Pirate, and the final boss were all pretty tense, in my opinion. Prime 2’s boss battles were even more intense as well. Remember the Boost Ball and Spider Ball Guardians?

      • Booski

        July 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

        I agree about the first Prime’s bosses. Thardus is great too and the final boss might be my favorite in the whole series. But I think in the later games many either became tedious or dragged. Or maybe the pattern/repeat stuff just became played out to me. I actually hate the boost and spider guardians and the grapple guardian is awful too. Chykka from Echoes and Mogenar from from Corruption stick out to me as being unenjoyable as well. I guess I just want something fresh in the series. I kinda feel the Prime series was wrapped up after 3. One of the nice things about each new Zelda game is it’s not bound to the previous one. I know my post sounds super negative but I’m actually really excited for both new Metroid games.

        • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

          July 14, 2017 at 11:10 am

          Yeah, I understand. Chykka was probably the most tedious boss in the entire series. Metroid is prone to being more static than Zelda, but that’s honestly something I’m fine with. I don’t expect Prime 4 to relate the other Prime games except in gameplay design. Thanks again for commenting!

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

Awesome Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s that time once again in which I bring to you my awesome mixtape featuring the best tracks from the best video game soundtracks of the year. Last year, my mixtape featured tracks from Triple-A titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and indie darlings like Celeste. In 2017, my picks for best soundtracks included tracks from some of my favorite games including Cuphead, Breath of the Wild and Into the Woods, to name just a few. Well, 2019 has been another banner year for the industry and as always, the games were blessed with an astounding selection of musical scores— some would argue the soundtracks were even better than the actual games at times. As always, it wasn’t easy deciding which songs to include and what to leave out— and as always, I’ve also mixed in some audio clips from various cut scenes while trying to keep it spoiler-free. Feel free to share this link and let me know if you think I’ve missed any great soundtracks in the comments below.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019 Playlist

Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding
: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Life is Strange 2: Seyr – “Colour To Colour”
Life is Strange 2: Jonathan Morali – “Into the Woods”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Sayonara Wild Heart”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Wild Hearts Never Die”
Death Stranding: CHVRCHES – “Death Stranding”
Afterparty clip
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “Title and Credits”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Hades Gonna Hate”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Schoolyard Strangler”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Main Theme
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Cyrus the Scholar
Kingdom Hearts 3 clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Main Theme”
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Blue Skies and a Battle”
Devil May Cry 5 clip
Devil May Cry 5: Kota Suzuki – “Urizen Boss Battle Music”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
FAR: Lone Sails: Joel Schoch – “Colored Engine”
Days Gone: Nathan Whitehead— “Soldier’s Eye”
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Metro Exodus: Alexey Omelchuk – “Main Theme”
Resident Evil 2 Remake clip
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki – “Mr.X Theme Music (T-103)”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Begin Again”
Life is Strange 2: Lincoln Grounds, Pat Reyford – “Morning Good Morning”
Life is Strange 2: Sufjan Stevens – “Death With Dignity”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 clip
Luigi’s Mansion 3: Koji Kondo – “Main Theme”
Ape Out: Matt Boch – “Intro”
Deltarune: Toby Fox – “Field of Hopes and Dreams”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “Loose Cargo”
“Star Wars: Imperial March” Hip Hop Remix
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Death Stranding: Silent Poets – “Asylum for The Feeling”
Catherine: Full Body: Shoji Meguro – “Tomorrow”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: Koji Kondo – “Marin’s Ballad of the Windfish”
Metro Exodus – Alexey Omelchuk: “Teardrops”
Sekiro: Yuka Kitamura – “Ashina Reservoir”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “The Doom”
Medley: Eye of Death / Wild Hearts Never Die / Dragon Heart / Clair De Lune

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Game Reviews

‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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