Monthly Archives: July 2016

I wanna be part of a Zeitgeist

AlmostFamousWhen I first watched Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous – ashamedly more recently than I care to admit – I was instantly jealous of the people the characters in the film were based on. When I sit down and listen to Led Zeppelin II  I am instantly transported to a time where teenagers grew up with their backs glued to shag carpet in their bedroom while a crackling vinyl record spins in the corner. When I listen to The Who or Jimi Hendrix I invariably comment to my wife that “I’d love to go back in time and be at Woodstock 1969” because that’s the time the music industry for mine was at its most exciting.

This period in rock music is a bonafide cultural zeitgeist, paving the way for almost every band that has come since. The people that were there at the time were witnessing some of the who would be the most important musicians of all time playing some of the most important songs of all time.

I want to be part of a zeitgeist.

To place myself in a point in music history: I was just old enough to remember Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit being played on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s enduring Rage programme, but wasn’t really old enough to understand just how important they were in the scheme of things. And the remainder of the 90’s was when Australian rock really hit its stride – with soon to be mainstays  You Am I, Something For Kate, Regurgitator and Grinspoon really coming into their own.

Despite this though I grew up fascinated by music and in awe of the people that made it. My first real music love was the Smashing Pumpkins. I still vividly remember hearing Siamese Dream single Disarm on my not-so-great-sounding clock radio for the first time. The unforgettable nasal drawl of Billy Corgan was hauntingly beautiful, coming to life amidst a symphony of acoustic guitars and an arranged string orchestra. And that was it, I was hooked.

When I finally bought the album not long after hearing Disarm for the first time it was practically on constant rotation. I’d wake up and play it while I was getting dressed for school in the morning and fall asleep to it playing on repeat. Siamese Dream – and subsequent Smashing Pumpkins albums for that matter – was a soundtrack for a period of my life.


Still one of the greatest albums of all time.

But that wasn’t the moment I fell in love with the art of music. That moment came much later when I was laying on the floor of my bedroom – probably brooding – listening to track 7 on the album. Soma is an incredible song in almost every way; building from a slow and sombre affair to a bona fide hard rock anthem . It was that very moment that music went form being something that just kind of happened to something that was a work of art and passion. It was probably the first song I ever had a serious conversation with a friend about; one I distinctly remember devolving into praise for its brilliant pacing and progression. And that guitar solo; well that just takes the cake.

In 1998 I saw the Smashing Pumpkins (sans drummer Jimmy Chamberlin who was replaced by Matt Walker) at Melbourne Park in what I would’ve described as the best moment of my then-young life. Those larger-than-life character who I’d idolised for so long were less than 100 metres away, playing the songs that had accompanied me as I grew into an adult. As I looked around the crowd peppered with black ZERO t-shirts and shaved bald heads it hit me that this was a shared moment we’d all remember and treasure for years to come.

But despite how much those couple of hours meant to me and thousands of others it still didn’t feel like I felt a cultural zeitgeist should.

Watching the fervour around Pokemon GO I can’t help but feel that this thing – this game – somewhat resembles the sort of zeitgeist. Sure, they’re not sneaking into a Kiss concert à la Detroit Rock City, but people are doing some pretty mental and/or stupid things to ‘catch ’em all’ as it were. But despite this is feels like a bunch of people connecting through something rather than because of something; like a bunch of people who want to be a part of something. These people aren’t drawn together because they share the same interests or passions necessarily, they’re drawn together because Pokemon GO is the next big disposable thing. Whether I’m right or not, one thing is for sure;  it’s a phenomenon.

I don't get it.

I don’t get it.

And here’s the thing:  I have never associated that feeling of being a ‘part of something’ with video games. Make no mistake; I’ve had great times with video games. Playing Pro Evolution Soccer 5 waiting for the next match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup to play out was epic. Playing Persona 3 FES all day every day over a hot Melbourne summer was brilliant. Days playing Forza Motorsport 6 are memorable. But they’re not the sorts of things I would ever clamber over people to experience, or find groups of like-minded people to share them with. And even if you did it’s a culture that likes to be at odds with itself much of the time that it probably wouldn’t be much fun.

I was inspired to write this, in part because of Lucius’ fascination with Pokemon Go, but also because I’ve been reflecting a lot on how we capture culture in a world that moves so quickly. Who will remember cult Australian music show Recovery except for those who saw it, for example? Or what it was like sitting in the local independent record store, The Muses, when it held a listening party for the long-awaited Tool album Lateralus?

But everyone knows about Woodstock 1969 and when the Beatles came to Australia in 1964.

Perhaps I’m searching for something that will never happen. Perhaps my expectations are out of whack. Perhaps, even, I’m romanticising a point in time I could never understand. Who knows. But one thing I do know is this: in 2010 I saw Glassjaw live in Melbourne; a moment I’d been waiting for for a decade. The moment they came on – opening their set with a sneaky rendition of Cosmopolitan Bloodloss – the few dozen sweaty blokes down the front held onto each others’ shoulders and screamed the words to the song right back at singer Daryl Palumbo. That is a moment that will stay with me forever.  I didn’t know these blokes from a bar of soap but we were connected by sharing something we loved. I just wish I could have that same feeling with millions more people. But not because an app told me to.


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Spiffing Reads: Nintendo NX, Sonic The Hedgehog and horrendous feet

Welcome to Spiffing Reads, our weekly round-up of the best games writing. This week, the big story is Eurogamer’s leak of details for the upcoming Nintendo NX.

Nintendo NX mockup by NeoGAF's Pittree.

Nintendo NX mockup by NeoGAF’s Pittree.

NX is different, and different is Nintendo’s best option (Eurogamer)

Part of me wants Nintendo to release a super-powerful console, one that will have third-party publishers rushing back, that will put the wind up Sony and Microsoft, and that will see Nintendo competing with the big boys again, just like in the 1990s. I’d love to only have to buy one console that I could play everything on, rather than having a Nintendo machine as my ‘second console’ (although to be honest, the Nintendo Wii U is really my first console, seeing as I’ve played on it more in the past couple of years than on anything else). But as this article argues, the route Nintendo has chosen with the NX might be its only option – and the quirkiness of the hardware reflects the company’s ethos.

How Nintendo’s NX Could Go Very Wrong or Very Right (IGN)

So far, so obvious – the NX will either succeed or… um, well, it won’t. But the writer makes some good points about no longer having to worry about which machine – portable or home console – to release franchises on. One machine for everything has a lot of appeal.


Microsoft rolls the dice in a huge Xbox gamble (

Will the announcement of Project Scorpio put people off from buying the Xbox One S? We’re in uncharted territory here, the first time a more powerful console refresh has been announced mid-generation. It’s interesting to note that Microsoft is measuring success in ‘monthly active users’ rather than sales figures – an indication of its priorities in terms of a unifying Xbox gaming platform across multiple devices, including PC.


Foot Hell: Ashi Wash Introduces Awful Japanese Spirit (Rock, Paper, Shotgun)

Did you know there’s a Japanese spirit called an Ashiarai Yashiki that takes the form of a giant, disgusting, disembodied foot that breaks into your house and demands that you clean it? Well, now there’s a game about said disgusting foot ghost. “It has the very worst toenails I’ve ever seen in a video game.”

Can too much choice be a bad thing? (Eurogamer)

“Too many choices are painful, but losing choices is also painful. This is gives us insight into a couple of notorious game design traps. In five minutes you can find five Early Access Unity games from talented, inexperienced developers making something like their favourite game but with MORE FEATURES MORE OPTIONS MORE WEAPONS.”

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Brings Borrowing Full Circle (US Gamer)

An old NES game called Crystalis borrowed heavily from The Legend of Zelda, but added a few ideas of its own. Now the new Zelda game is borrowing ideas from the borrower.

sonic mania

Why I Was Completely Wrong About Sonic The Hedgehog – By Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)

“However, stripping the nostalgia out of the equation leaves me wondering how good Sonic The Hedgehog – the original – actually was in the first place. I find myself questioning whether it was all style and branding over substance. Maybe Sonic has never been that good.”

Unofficial Totoro GIFs Make the Internet a Better Place (Kotaku UK)

Just because Totoro.

Pokémon Go transforms Republican convention into gym full of rare catches (The Guardian)

“Despite numerous attempts to take the stage, my comparatively puny Pidgeot was forced from the convention floor with the speed and humiliation of a Rick Perry presidential campaign.”


Pokémon Go Players Are Trolling Gyms With Magikarp (Kotaku UK)

Childish, but very, very funny.

Pokemon GO and the good things that can come from a bad UI (Gamasutra)

Pokémon Go’s lack of hand holding may be one of its strengths, but there are still loads of things that could be done to improve its design – and Chris Furniss makes some cracking suggestions here. “Let’s either move the Transfer button up to a more accessible location, or better yet how about a long press on a Pokemon brings up a menu of common actions, including Transfer.” Yes, Chris, YES.

Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.


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Is the new Prey taking itself too seriously?


At E3 in June, Bethesda revealed footage of a long-awaited sequel to Prey. The teaser trailer arrived ten years after the release of the original, a game that itself was in development for nearly ten years.

But the game previewed by Bethesda isn’t actually Prey 2 at all. In fact, in a follow-up video released this week, the developers claim that “Prey is not a sequel, it’s not a remake, it has no tie with the original”. Rather, it’s a ‘reimagining’ of the first Prey – and in fact it looks like a completely different game.

In the trailer, we see footage of a man named Morgan repeatedly waking up in his apartment, and gradually looking more and more worse for wear each time. There’s the insinuation that he’s become part of some dreadful experiment, and we have gameplay footage of some eerie, black, smoke-like aliens scuttling around and looking creepy. We end with a sinister computer voice greeting Morgan and suggesting that it’s about to reveal some terrible truth.

All well and good – but I’m baffled as to how this links to the previous game in any way at all. In fact, the developers explicitly say that it doesn’t. So why is it called Prey? The cynic in me suggests it might be a case of slapping a brand on something to boost sales, a la Metroid Prime: Federation Force. But even if that isn’t the case, the footage released so far seems far distant from the spirit of the first game.

It all just feels slightly off.

The spirit of Duke

3D Realms, the makers of Duke Nukem 3D, helmed the development of the original Prey, and the mark of the Duke is all over that game. Not that it features titty bars and a cigar-chompin’ muscle museum for a lead, more in the sense that it’s surprisingly playful for a game with an outwardly grim plot.

An organic spaceship called The Sphere is harvesting life forms throughout the Galaxy to either mulch into fodder or genetically and cybernetically manipulate into becoming slaves – so a bit like Mass Effect then, except that Prey came out a year before that game. But whereas Mass Effect is all shiny spaceships and galactic politics, Prey is like a B movie horror film, complete with gags and grisly effects. Near the very beginning, for example, you discover what’s been happening to some of the kidnapped humans – an enormous steel machine spattered with blood is winching the screaming victims into position and then skewering them with ridiculously large spikes, before clamping a metal hood over them and chewing up the remains. It’s hideous and shocking… But also kind of funny. It’s funny because it’s just so ludicrously over the top. (Skip to the 5:00 mark in the video below to see what I mean.)

There are moments like that all the way through Prey. It was an astonishingly good looking game at the time of its release, a proper AAA title in terms of graphics, but it had an anarchic, OTT sensibility that gave it a real indie feel – like a genre movie made by a bunch of uni kids that ended up becoming a mega hit.

It’s also very, very silly – and it knows it. At one point early on you get shrunk down and placed on a tiny planet with its own microgravity inside a display case. Then a guard spots you and decides to give chase by shrinking himself down too, and so ensues a Benny Hill style pursuit as you circle around and around this tiny sphere. Can you imagine the same thing happening to Commander Shepherd? (Skip to the 5:30 mark in the vid below.)

Another example is the gravity walkways – white paths that let you walk up walls and across ceilings. They don’t really make any practical sense whatsoever, but they’re an awful lot of fun, especially when you’re attempting to fight enemies above and to the side of you. It leads to a pleasing sense of vertigo as you quickly lose track of which way is up.

Basically, the game embraces fun at every turn, while giving realism a sideways squinty look – and it’s all the better for it. I mean, one of the weapons is a lobbable crab.

Inflated spleens with fangs.

Inflated spleens with fangs.

Which brings me back to Duke Nukem 3D, a game that doesn’t even know the definition of realism but that probably has ‘FUN’ tattooed across its buttocks in magenta. Prey has the Duke’s DNA running right through it – even the aliens bear a passing resemblance to DN3D’s space pigs. In particular, the weird dog things that look like an inflated spleen with fangs could be right out of a Duke Nukem game.

What makes you worry?

All of which makes me worry that the new Prey sequel/remake/reimagining could be missing the point of what made the original so good. The trailer is breathtaking in its sincerity, a super-serious set-up for what looks like a space conspiracy thriller. Its enemies are dark, mysterious and scary. It doesn’t look like the sort of game that has lobbable crabs in it.

Yep, that's a tossable crab.

Yep, that’s a tossable crab.

More to the point, it doesn’t look like anything particularly new. One of the delights of the original game was the depth of ideas – the gravity walkways, the puzzles with portals (a full year before Portal made a whole game about them), the shrink ray, the fact that you could leave your body and enter the ghost realm to nip through walls and pull switches. I mean, you’ve got a bloody spirit animal – how many first person shooters do you see that in? It’s also worth mentioning that the main character Tommy was a Native American, and it’s still the only game I can think of that has a Native American in the lead. Indeed, Tommy’s voice actor, Michael Greyeyes, praised the sensitivity with which the character was conceived, comparing it with the way Hollywood regularly relegates indigenous cultures into a “single pan-Indian construct”.

In other words, the original Prey was a breath of fresh air, something noticeably different from what went before. The impression I get from the ‘reimagining’, on the other hand, is of a game that doesn’t seem to offer anything new – and that might very well be taking itself a bit too seriously.

Hey, wait! It might be good!

Of course, this is all just mere speculation based on a tiny scrap of game footage. I’m sure that Arkane Studios know what they’re doing, and judging by how well Dishonored turned out, the franchise is probably in safe hands. The trailer is just what the studio and publisher want to show us, after all – the spleen dogs and shrink rays could be just out of shot.

Next-gen coffee in the Prey trailer.

Next-gen coffee in the Prey trailer.

One point from the trailer that did make me think of the original was the loving detail that’s been put into Morgan’s apartment. It put me in mind of the ludicrously detailed bar that the original game opened with, featuring a fully working jukebox, flushing toilets, a massive mirror (something that was impressive at the time) and even a fully playable arcade machine with a reworked version of Pac Man called Rune Man. Indeed, so much work had clearly been put into that bar, which features in the game for all of five minutes, that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the reasons why the original Prey took so long to make.

Seeing Morgan wake up, grab a coffee and look in the mirror (mirrors again!) got me wondering whether that toilet is flushable, whether you can play around with that coffee machine and whether there’s a fully playable version of Rune Man on his laptop, just out of sight. Perhaps there are still plenty of silly, OTT touches – we just haven’t seen them yet.

There’s nothing wrong with being serious – and in fact the original Prey had a shocking twist near the end – but it would be a shame if this remake forgot to add the fun.


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It’s almost impossible to earn Pokécoins in Pokémon Go

I’ve been playing Pokémon Go for more than a week now, and I’ve yet to earn any Pokécoins whatsoever. I’m level 10, I’ve filled up a good chunk of the Pokédex, and I’ve fought in my fair share of gym battles, but I’ve yet to receive any sort of Pokécash for my troubles. It’s getting a bit frustrating.

A suspiciously rich Pikachu.

A suspiciously rich Pikachu.

There are various items you can buy with Pokécoins in the Pokémon Go shop – really useful things like extra egg incubators, storage upgrades and lures to attract Pokémon. Most of the items in the game can be picked up for free at Pokéstops, locations in the real world which spit out three to six random items every time you visit them. But as far as I know, lures and storage upgrades can only be obtained via the shop (or if they do appear as free item drops, they’re incredibly rare).

You can buy Pokécoins, of course, with prices ranging from 79p for 100 to £79.99 for 14,500. But – supposedly – you’re also able to earn them in-game by holding onto gyms. For each Pokémon you have installed in a gym run by your team at the end of each day, you earn 20 Pokécoins. It’s a pretty paltry amount considering that the cheapest item in the shop costs 80 Pokécoins, and that earning those meagre 20 Pokécoins is colossally difficult.

I partly blame my choice of Team Instinct. When you reach level 5, you’re asked to choose a team to join: Team Mystic (blue, mascot Articuno), Team Valor (red, mascot Moltres) and Team Instinct (yellow, mascot Zapdos). The decision was purely made on the fact that I like the colour yellow, and I’m rather fond of the legendary electric-type Pokémon Zapdos on the basis that it looks like an evolved version of Snoopy’s mate Woodstock.

Zapdos: an evolved version of Woodstock.

Zapdos: an evolved version of Woodstock.

Seems like I chose the underdogs, though.

People are already making fun of Team Instinct’s leader on Twitter, and a quick scan of the gyms near my house reveals that all of them are controlled by Valor or Mystic. Occasionally one will turn yellow briefly, and I’ll dutifully drop one of my Pokémon in to defend it, but within half an hour said Pokémon will be unceremoniously kicked out. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I even spent a good while taking down a gym in the park the other day and installing my all-conquering Snorlax as its supreme leader, only for it to turn red again THE VERY MOMENT I WALKED AWAY. It’s basically impossible for me to earn any Pokécoins.

It turns out that Team Instinct are very much the Liberal Democrats of the Pokémon world - perennially in third place.

It turns out that Team Instinct are very much the Liberal Democrats of the Pokémon world – perennially in third place.

The way gyms work is that if you keep training your Pokémon at your own team’s gym, you can level it up to allow you to install more Pokémon in it. At level 9, the maximum, 9 Pokémon can be placed in a gym, and any attacking trainer will thus have to defeat 9 Pokémon in a row with their team of 6 Pokémon.

The thing is, the highest gym level I’ve seen is level 4, and it’s relatively trivial for a trainer with sufficiently powerful attacking Pokémon to take down any gym. The number of Team Instinct gyms in Edinburgh may be vanishingly small, but I see the Valor and Mystic gyms regularly changing colour too. Which means that NO ONE is earning any Pokécoins, because gyms have to be controlled by one team for at least a 20-hour stretch (I’ve heard it’s 21 hours) to pay out any money.

I very much doubt that this Weepinbell will last long at this level 2 gym.

I very much doubt that this Weepinbell will last long at this level 2 gym.

The only way to really earn Pokécoins is to get together with a group of high-level players on your team, then pick a single gym and tirelessly boost it up to level 9, installing extremely powerful Pokémon. Then it would be a case of returning regularly to keep the gym prestige topped up and stop it falling to another team.

But this basically means that only really high-level players have any hope of earning Pokécoins, and they also need a group of similarly high-level friends on the same team. But right now, so many people are playing Pokémon Go and constantly taking down each others’ gyms that it’s absolute carnage out there and no one is getting a Poképenny.

"Daddy, what did you do in the Pokémon Wars?"

“Daddy, what did you do in the Pokémon Wars?”

In other words, if I want that damn storage upgrade, I’m going to have to damn well pay for it.

And yes, I know the game is free, and it’s ridiculous to be complaining about not getting free stuff in a free game, BUT I’M DOING IT ANYWAY.


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PES 2016 has been chock-full of “oh yeah” moments

FeyenoordI’ve played Pro Evolution Soccer every year since I was a teenager who was just about to start studying at uni. To put that into some context I am now in my early thirties and have been working in my (perhaps poorly) chosen career for more than a decade.

That’s a lot of life stages Pro Evolution Soccer has been around for and with how good the game has been in recent years there’s no sign of it going anywhere. Unless Konami decides to do a Konami and decide its done with video games again, that is. Bar that though I don’t see myself dropping off the PES bandwagon any time soon.

For good reason too; the PES 2016 has delivered a plethora of “oh yeah” moments this year. Perhaps more than any game since PES5 way back when.

Sure the Euro 2016 update may have been a great way to retcon the miserable road the Netherlands have had since the World Cup, but taking my beloved Feyenoord to the top of the Eredivisie is still where it’s at for me.

And taters deep into Tits McGee’s tenure at the club, things are going from strength to strength at De Kuip. Captain Kuyt is having a whale of a year, Korean import Yun Il-lok is running rampant in the midfield, and the defence is rock solid backing up the safe as houses Vermeer. Life is good sitting at the top of the table and well clear of second-placed PSV Eindhoven.

And it’s goals like the one below that win matches, as a sneaky cross finds the head of Vilhena, and the back of the net. Nothing left to say but “What. A. Header!”, really.

No other games deliver quite the same feeling sports simulations do. Which is why no matter what else is sitting underneath the telly waiting to be played, I’ll always find time to get my virtual sport on. Even if they don’t quite capture the magic and unpredictability of the sports they’re based on.

Still, if this is as good as it gets for the time being, that ain’t half bad.


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Spiffing Reads: Pokémon Go, Video Game Cartoons and the Joy of Repetition

Welcome to Spiffing Reads, a new section on A Most Agreeable Pastime where every Friday we list gaming articles that have caught our eye this week. We’re always on the lookout for interesting gaming sites, so if you’ve found a brilliant blog, or you’ve read something amazing this week, please share it in the comments. OK, here we go!


First Footage of the Football Game From the Man Who Knows Nothing About Football (Kotaku UK)

I love the idea behind Behold the Kickmen – it’s wonderfully silly. After you’ve watched the video in this link, make sure to click the first link and have a read of the original story – Dan Marshall’s responses to tweets are priceless.

How the internet was invented (The Guardian)

Despite the fact that I use the internet every day, I only had the vaguest of ideas of how it came to be. Well, this is how, as it turns out.

The Unexpected Joy of Repetition in Video Games (Kotaku UK)

Games are often criticised for lengthy grinding or repetition. But sometimes this is also why we play them.

captain n

10 Video Game Cartoons That You’ve Completely Forgotten About (Digitiser2000)

I fondly remember Captain N: The Game Master – essentially a massive advert for Nintendo, but fun nonetheless. It took me a long time to work out what game Mother Brain was from, having never heard of Metroid when I first watched it. And in those pre-Internet days, it took even longer to work out where the mysterious Eggplant Wizard hailed from.

Car crash trauma depicted in VR (BBC News)

The emergency services team in Leicestershire is doing their best to scare the crap out of young drivers with VR footage of car accidents.

Premium Early Access (Aidy’s Gaming Rambles)

Some well made points here in an incisive article. Why should gamers pay full price for games that are unfinished or light on features at launch? Perhaps we need an equivalent of Steam’s Early Access on consoles.


I’ve Had Enough of 90’s Gaming Nostalgia (OnlySP)

There’s something of a love affair with the 1990s in gaming at the moment, particularly with the launch of Mighty No. 9 and Pokémon Go. But is this a case of rose-tinted spectacles?

Actually, Pokémon Go isn’t really a Nintendo game (Eurogamer)

This article on Eurogamer took a fascinating look at who actually owns Pokémon Go and how Nintendo is involved in it all. I presumed that Nintendo was behind the game, but it’s not quite as simple as that…

And speaking of Pokémon Go, here’s a round up of the most interesting Pokémon stories I came across this week:

Can you learn anything playing Pokemon Go? (

Pokédex Battery Case is The Most Authentic Way to Play Pokémon Go (Kotaku UK)

Pokémon Go Is Bringing People Together (Kotaku UK)

The 7 stages of Pokemon Go addiction (VG24/7)

Finally, here are a couple of bits of Pokémon Go fan art that caught my eye. The first is a series of alternative loading screens from artist Magdalena Proszowska – click the link to see them all.


And finally, this brilliant Pokémon Go comic strip by Alex Law:



Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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To brand, or not to brand? The Metroid misstep


Metroid Prime: Federation Force has come in for a bit of a kicking from Nintendo fans, which seems to have taken the company somewhat by surprise. In hindsight, perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a shock.

By all accounts it looks like quite a fun game – a cooperative 3DS shooter with added cosmic football for good measure. But as a Metroid game it falls somewhat short of expectations. Fans have been clamouring for a new Metroid game for years – the last entry in the series was the divisive Metroid: Other M back in 2010, and there was an expectation that a new Metroid game might arrive for the Wii U, perhaps one that took advantage of the second screen for scanning and shooting. That expectation peaked this year, which is the 30th anniversary of the Metroid series. What better time to bring out a new game, perhaps even one that could beat the high of Metroid Prime?

Well, we did (or will) get a new game in 2016 – but it’s a co-op shooter that has nothing to do with Samus Aran, and doesn’t really seem to have much in common with any of the other games in the series. Cue the sound of a deflating balloon.

To be fair, Federation Force does have a precedent of sorts. Metroid Prime Hunters was a first-person shooter for the DS with a multiplayer element, but it wasn’t amazingly well received – and it has the lowest sales for any entry in the series, bar the Metroid Prime Trilogy rerelease. So it’s probably not the best route to go down if you’re planning a new Metroid game.


But as I said above, as a game in it’s own right, Federation Force looks quite fun. If it was launched as a new IP, I suspect it would have received a much warmer reception. But launching a new, untested IP is a risky business for a company – attaching the game to a brand is a much safer bet, and will probably result in much higher sales.

I mean, you only have to look at Pokémon Go to see the logic of this. The game is essentially a reskin of Ingress, a game released by Niantic in 2012 that seems to have been modestly successful, but that pales into insignificance nest to the phenomenal success of Pokémon Go. Nifty game + appropriate branding = ker-ching!

I suspect what may have happened in the case of Federation Force is that it never started out as a Metroid game. This is just a hunch, but I reckon one of the dev teams at Nintendo came up with a fun coop shooter, and at some point someone decided it needed to be attached to a brand to generate sales. Looking at Nintendo’s brands, very few of them fit with the model of a first-person shooter – many are just too ‘kiddy’ to fit with the game’s ethos. Metroid is one of the few brands that can be coaxed into becoming a coop shooter, so it’s no surprise that Federation Force ended up as a Metroid game.

But of course, it has left fans who were hoping for a ‘full-fat’ Metroid game disappointed. And many have pointed out that coop shooting is very much against the ethos of Metroid, which built its reputation on solo exploration. I mean, it even spawned its own genre – Metroidvania – and the fact that Federation Force isn’t a ‘Metroidvania’ game seems to indicate that perhaps the branding isn’t so appropriate after all. Sure, Metroid is ‘adult’ and ‘scifi’, unlike many of Nintendo’s other brands, but it’s also synonymous – literally – with Metroidvania-style exploration.

Then again, that’s not to say brands can’t be diversified. I mean, look at the insane range of games that Mario has appeared in, everything from tennis to football to art packages. There’s undoubtedly room for diversifying the Metroid brand across other genres – but in this case that comes at the expense of the Metroidvania-style game that fans have patiently been waiting more than six years for (or nine years if you want to skip Other M and go back to Metroid Prime 3, the last first-person game).

Perhaps it’s a case of right brand, wrong time. If Federation Force was released soon after an entry in the ‘main’ Metroid series, I have no doubt it would be warmly welcomed. But coming when it does, thrown out into the hot white ball of hungry Metroid fans’ pent-up frustration, it’s no wonder that people were upset – it’s the equivalent of flinging meagre crumbs from the high table.


Will this anger hit sales? Possibly. Would the game have sold more if it had been launched as a new IP rather than a Metroid game? Probably not, but who knows? As it is, Federation Force has given Nintendo’s reputation a bit of a knock – and reputation is much harder to measure, and harder to accumulate, than games sales.

Still, I’m sure all will be forgotten and forgiven as soon as a new ‘proper’ Metroid game is announced – and I’m sure Nintendo knows that, too.

Buy Metroid Prime: Federation Force on Amazon (and we get a little bit of cash if you do).


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