First of all, I want you all to know that I ADORE the Metroid series. My favorite game ever switches between Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, depending upon what color socks I’m wearing. When I was much younger than I am now, I drew maps of Metroid 2: Return of Samus in an attempt to not get lost in the sprawling landscape of SR388 (it didn’t work). I’ve even played through Metroid: Other M twice, though, admittedly, the second time was to see if it was really as bad as I remembered (it was a little worse). I love Metroid.
I’ve had few gamer highs as high as seeing the Metroid Prime 4 tease during the E3 2017 Nintendo Direct. This was the first Metroid news since Other M launched, and I really didn’t know how anxious Nintendo was to revisit the series after it completely flopped. I didn’t even need more info. Just knowing that it was in process was enough.
That said, I’ve felt few gamer lows as low as finding out that the development of Prime 4 had been scrapped, meaning it was going to be starting over from scratch. Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad news, but there is the bad.
Metroid, while held in high esteem, is not among Nintendo’s biggest sellers. The games are almost all reviewed wonderfully (excepting the aforementioned Other M), but for whatever reason, a Metroid just isn’t going to inspire the same type of sales as a new Zelda or Mario or Smash Brothers or Pokemon etc… The best-selling Metroid game is Prime at 2.75 copies sold, and only has around 17 million games sold as a franchise (my numbers are from 2018, so add an “-ish” to everything). By comparison, the Kirby series has sold over 35 million copies (though there are just a few more games in the Kirby series). 17 million is hardly bad, and I’m not saying it is, I’m just wanting to point out that Metroid, for reasons I can’t understand, doesn’t have the same name value as some of Nintendo’s other franchises.
I point this out because, with the Switch selling the way it is, Metroid Prime 4 was poised to cash in on that success, especially with a holiday 2019 or early 2020 release (I’m obviously speculating here). For a series that has struggled to find it’s place beyond it’s own dedicated fanbase, being pushed back years is a pretty big setback. It could end up being launched on the Switch at the same time that Sony and Microsoft are about launch the PS5 and the XBox Godonlyknows. This is not an enviable position for any game, much less one in a series that needs some extra push behind it.
All that said, all is not doom and gloom. With the announcement of the delay, Nintendo also let us know that Retro Studios is once again taking the helm of the Prime series. If you’ve only recently arrived on the gaming scene, Retro developed the previous Prime games to great acclaim, as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, also to great acclaim. Retro has proven themselves, and they made the Prime series, so in that regard, I feel very comfortable. I was less than happy that Nintendo was having another developer handle Prime 4 (Namco, rumor has it), so hearing that it was returning to Retro did take some of the sting out of knowing Prime 4 was starting from scratch.
The big question now is, when will we get Prime 4. If development is truly starting completely over, you have to think it’ll be at least 2021, and that’s probably optimistic, and assumes Nintendo is going to put more resources into the development. Xenoblade Chronicles was made in 3 years, and it’s a massive game, so squeezing Prime 4 in by late 2021 is possible, I guess (though this may just be me having a case of wishful thinking).
Fortunately, for those of us that are diehard Metroid fans, rumor has it that other Metroid projects are in the works (someone speculated on Samus Returns being ported to the Switch, which would be awesome, though there’s nothing to back that up). There’s also a rumor afoot that a Metroid Prime Trilogy HD for the Switch is done and is only awaiting announcement. Yes, I will buy it again. This wold all be great because it would keep Metroid in the minds of the game playing public and give people that never played the Prime series a chance to give it a go.
Ultimately, this stinks, but at least Prime 4 is still out there, and will be seen one day. I think that Shigeru Miyamoto said it best: “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.”
Brandon Nicholson is a blogger for TMRzoo.com and the founder of Just Another Video Game Blog and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3 and PS4, Microsoft XBOX One and XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Brandon provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.