It should be pretty obvious from our Nintendo E3 Staff Predictions that Metroid is one of our most-wanted games for Wii U. I think there’s something to that - Metroid Prime 3 had a great E3 showing on Wii, with the pointer-controlled aiming being a fairly easy sell to anyone who’d played and enjoyed the first two Primes. Imagine if they could convey the same confidence with a new Metroid for Wii U. If Nintendo’s going to draw in the FPS crowd - and regardless of what you think about shooters, that’s a demographic they need to target to avoid having the rug pulled out from under them a few years into the next generation - they’re going to need to provide some content of their own.
The real question, I think, concerns the style of gameplay that would best suit the platform. Prime‘s first person shooting and adventuring style transitioned well to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk setup because its pointer aiming was superb, but I’m not so sure that it’d work quite as well with the tablet controller. That’s not to say that the tablet can’t do “pointer” aiming - that functionality works just fine - but the idea of holding up a giant brick with a screen in it the whole time you’re playing in order to aim your weapon just doesn’t seem like it’s going to be as intuitive. This is especially true when the game’s so dependent on pointing the reticule for navigation through the world as well.
Nintendo could just defer to the old Wii Remote and Nunchuk setup (but they probably won’t) or use a dual-analog control scheme (which I personally don’t want)... or they could use the Wii U controller to make all those changes people asked for with Other M. It’d be fairly easy - they could keep the same basic setup, where Samus moves around and blow up enemies in third-person, but when the player points the controller at the screen, the view switches to first-person for more accurate aiming, essential for taking down some tougher foes. When in first-person, the display could switch to the tablet screen, meaning that you don’t lose any visibility.
The main differences between this and Other M‘s existing setup: No clumsy flipping around of Wii Remotes to swap perspectives; full analog support for movement (plus the ability to move around while in first-person); and more buttons that mean that the beam/missile setup doesn’t have to be so god-awfully unintuitive.
Why the Other M style? Because frankly I think the potential for exploration is better thanks to Samus being a lot more agile. Other M had some golden moments in this department; now they just need to amp up the ambition and add in some classic-style non-linearity and I think it might just be a better 3D transition for the series than Prime (even if I think Prime is the superior game at the end of the day).
I’d personally like a blending of the best of both styles. Keep the third-person exploration and flashy dodge and kill moves of Other M but make first-person aiming more versatile for Prime style combat, which is a lot more satisfying than third-person auto-aim.
Of course, whatever style they choose, something I’d like to see for first-person is the ability to switch between visors Metroid Prime style to get different views of the area you’re currently in. It’s already been done, of course, but something about the ability to hold up the tablet screen in front of you to layer that visor view over the main game screen just seems like it’d be a good extension of the concept to me. You could also swap out visors using the touch screen, with a HUD setup similar to what we saw with the original Metroid Prime.
Speaking of the touch screen, I’m adamant about it being used for map display, and not just a mini-map but a larger map view. Having to switch in and out of a menu to plan out travel through the overworld is a pain in the butt in Metroid, which traditionally involves a series of pretty vague objectives that require you to simply find new routes and hope they lead somewhere. With the map on the touch screen, we’ll also not only be able to see which doors we couldn’t enter so we can come back with better weapons that can blast through them later, but we’ll also have the power to flag certain points on the map that normally wouldn’t be marked, such as environmental features, unreachable switches, and so on.
In the end, though, the only real essential element is a good game that closely adheres to the style of Metroid play that fans of the series wish to see upheld. Whether it’s R&D1, Retro Studios, or another development group doing the leg work, we just want a solid experience with great content and gameplay that works well on the new platform. Things like top-quality HD visuals, use of the new controller, and so on are all secondary to that central mission (but please do a good job with HD; I think Metroid of all games needs and deserves it). Will we see Metroid this E3? It’s been almost two years since Other M, so maybe - just maybe...