To the surprise of many, July 21st saw the release of the Blast Ball portion of Metroid Prime: Federation Force on the Nintendo eShop. No previous day announcements, no teases, just dropped right there. This has given many a player the chance to get used to the feel of Federation Force a full month before it’s release in late August/early September. I’ve played quite a bit of the game myself, so my opinion based on about 20 Blast Ball matches is imminent.
As someone who was perfectly fine with Metroid Prime: Hunters’ control scheme, the button only configuration of Federation Force/Blast Ball left me skeptical at first, but after playing a few matches, the latter’s configuration completely annihilates that of Hunters. Everything I need to do is accessible with the limited array of buttons and the gyroscope(or C-stick for New Nintendo 3DS owners) works well with the control scheme for more precise aiming. Many have compared it to the GameCube Prime titles, and while I have no experience with those, I can safely say it works great.
There’s no denying that the graphics were improved substantially from what we saw in 2015, and it looks better on the actual handheld compared to a recorded video. Sure, it’s not the best that the 3DS can offer, but for what Blast Ball is, it works. While I do have some personal nitpicks with the sound design, it is by no means bad. On a related note to the sound, the few music pieces heard in Blast Ball do set the mood for what Federation Force will offer in that department. Militaristic themes for a game focusing on the Galactic Federation. It fits.
The game mode of Blast Ball itself is a mixed bag for me. It’s a novel concept for Metroid multiplayer, sure, deviating from the many deathmatch variations in Hunters, and it can be a good time when you have human opponents as the matches quickly turn hectic. But there are times when I wish that deathmatches were a part of the multiplayer again. Shooting a ball around is only fun for so long in one sitting, and can be surprisingly frustrating due to the fact that everyone else is also shooting it. It can also get irritating when the ball(which can randomly become a rubber band-esque or lava ball, both which change the playing field significantly) smacks you hard enough that you die or someone gets a random powerup ejected from the ball that removes you from your mech, which is a common occurrence. The absence of extra abilities such as hovering and missiles also leaves Blast Ball rather stale, with not much variation. Maybe this will change by the full release, I don’t know, but I’m looking at Blast Ball as it is right now.
Aside from that, Blast Ball offers a number of things to do. Practice mode, online multiplayer, Training(really just Federation Force’s tutorial early), and challenges are what Blast Ball offers. Playing continuously will reward you with skins for your mech to customize, which range from generic designs like spades and diamonds to Metroid characters such as Mother Brain, Kraid and Ridley(additional character designs can also be scored by scanning certain amiibo figures). It’s a neat little incentive to keep playing, even if some of the unlock requirements can be infuriating(on top of skin unlocks themselves being randomized, so no one skin is guaranteed from completing a feat), such as scoring 3 assists in one game.
Overall, as someone who wanted to play Federation Force since the day it was revealed, I can safely say that Blast Ball is a nice introduction to next month’s entry in the Metroid series. I see many more players excited for it than before(even if there remain a fair number of detractors), so let’s see if that sentiment holds up until next month.