For those that venture into the PSVG forum from time to time, you already know why I'm interested and excited for Metroid Prime: Federation Force. If you haven't clicked into our forum in a while - AHEM... Shameless Plug
Today Nintendo released Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, a sub-game that comes with the Federation Force, as an extended demo on the 3DS eShop. If you haven't kept up with Metroid Prime: Federation Force, this is the same game that drove many Metroid fans to set YouTube down-vote records at E3 in 2015. Driven mostly by the game carrying the superb "Metroid Prime" name, the backlash was unlike anyone at Nintendo could have predicted at the time. While I can understand why longtime fans of the series might be upset, I can't say that I'm a member of the club. I've never honestly been a huge Metroid fan, even having played Metroid, Super Metroid, and all of the Metroid Prime games on Gamecube and Wii. What I can report is that Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, as a game, is delivering a game experience that is one of a kind on 3DS and I'm in love with it already after one day of play.
In Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, the player takes control of a mech in an arena on either the gold or indigo (purple) team with two other mates. A ball lowers from the ceiling and drops into play and your team frantically use your Samus arm cannons to blast the ball into the other goal. Its a very rocket-league experience at first glance, but considering this game is on a 3DS there's more to it than simple comparisons. The 3DS, as great a system as I think it is, really lacks good games in two genres - Sports and Shooters. Granted we have Mario Golf and Moon Chronicles / Ironfall, but those aren't the highlights any gamer comes to expect on any platform. Where are the Madden, NBA, and Call of Duty games? Before you say portable, these franchises were represented on the DS. Yes, even down ported games can still be worthy additions to libraries. With Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, Nintendo has effectively hit two birds with one stone. On one hand, the game's first person shooter controls are respectable and easy for any 3DS owner (New 3DS, 3DS, and 2DS players) to implement and enjoy. On the other hand, Blast Ball features a great Splatoon-esque short match experience with all the tension and strategy of a close soccer or hockey game. Even with the demo only being out for one day, it was apparent that teams with strategic focus would have an advantage over drop in and drop out players.
The reason I said I was excited for Metroid Prime: Federation Force was my hope for decent, hopefully good, 3DS shooter. What I found with Blast Ball was so much more impressive. I played 14 matches today and finished with a 987 rating, 4 goals, 5 assists, and 9 blocks. I played with my kids via local play, online players with online matchmaking, solo play with bots and a very fun target-practice training mode. More importantly, I can honestly say I had gaming experience that made me shake my controller as well as fist pump and scream GOOOOAAALLLL!! The matches have much more than shoot the ball mechanics. First off, the ball will actually damage your mech, a lesson not so easily learned if your the aggressive, striker type chasing the ball towards the goal. It took me maybe 4 or 5 matches to realize the damage that can be done chasing after the ball when the other team reverses the momentum and ball comes screaming back at me. Second to learning how to play off the ball is learning how the power ups work. As with any Nintendo sports games, the power ups can become a key in turning the match one way or the other. In Blast Ball you can make power ups drop by repeatedly blasting the ball. Either a shield, a speed bonus (lighting icon) or an eject power up (arrow icon) will drop on the playing field making it a race to the bonus for all players. The gameplay overall is very much a Mario Strikers experience from a first person perspective.
Some minor notes that should be mentioned before closing - Metroid Prime: Federation Force looks nice in the visuals department. The chibi style that many have attached to the games previews and artwork isn't as bad as I believed. In fact, the game actually looks really good with the 3DS enabled on my New 3DS and I really love the honeycomb-Matrix style effects found on the edge of the arena and on the player view inside the mech. In fact, I would describe the game visually like an early Halo game which is to be appreciated considering this game can run on hardware that fits in your pocket. Also, Blast Ball features amiibo compatibility with Mario, Luigi, Rosalina, Peach, and Bowser. Each of these amiibo will grant you access to different mech custom designs. All other amiibo, at least for my experience, will just grant you access to a generic "skull" design.
Now I'm not here to tell you that Metroid Prime is the best 3DS game ever made, but I am telling you that it deserves your attention even if you were upset with it being associated with the Metroid Prime brand. Blast Ball brings something new to your Nintendo handheld in a way that I'm positive won't be repeated in the near future. I can honestly tell you that as a family game (local co-op), there has not been a game that provided as much excitement, laughs, triumph, and defeat as Blast Ball did my house this evening. I wanted to get Metroid Prime: Federation Force for the shooter based missions, but in Blast Ball I discovered a game that hits that sports itch like very few on 3DS can. Like Nintendo discovered with Hyrule Warriors, this gamer hopes Nintendo takes notice of how their brands can be used it different ways and pushes the idea forward. More arenas, more mechs, different modes and we very well could have a successful Metroid based spin off to play for years to come.