Metroid Prime 4: Beyond Looks Like More Metroid Prime, Which May Not Be Enough

It’s been seven years since Nintendo’s 2017 E3 Direct where they revealed to the world that a Metroid Prime 4 was “now in development for the Nintendo Switch,” causing a flurry of clip-able reactions from fans to bombard the interwebs. Since then, said “development” has gone through quite a tumultuous journey. With Retro Studios – makers of the original Prime trilogy – initially not responsible for the game’s development, the task was handed off to a “new development team” headed by producer Kensuke Tanabe. However, in 2019, a surprise video was posted to the official Nintendo YouTube page with senior managing executive officer, Shinya Takahashi, speaking to the camera to bring some concerning news about the game, saying: “The current development progress has not reached the standards we seek in a sequel to the Metroid Prime series.” He would go on to confirm that development would be officially restarted with Retro Studios back at the helm.

Five years since that announcement, we have finally gotten a glimpse into what this much anticipated fourth entry to Retro’s critically acclaimed series is shaping up to look like. The trailer that showcased Prime 4 (subtitled ‘Beyond’) at Nintendo’s latest Direct did everything right to quell any concerns fans like myself may have had for how this game would turn out given its rocky development. I use the word “right” purposefully because that’s exactly what Nintendo did with this trailer. Everything about it was correct, faithful, and unerring; most obvious of all it was, unquestionably, Metroid Prime. From Samus somersaulting out of her iconic spaceship to land majestically on her feet, cueing that iconic Metroid theme to dazzle our eardrums and have goosebumps trickle through our skin; to watching via that well-known first-person perspective as she traverses the terrain of a strange planet and blasts her way through swarms of space pirates with her iconic arm-cannon; it was all beautifully familiar–but familiar it most certainly was.

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Image: Nintendo

At the back of my mind, I knew that a trailer for this game wouldn’t be anything Earth-shattering, yet so much of me wanted it to be. I wanted to see a Prime 4 trailer that looked like the game was going to be a monumental leap akin to that between Super Metroid and the original Metroid Prime. It’s been nearly twenty years since we’ve gotten a new Prime game (no, Federation Force doesn’t count). In this time, we’ve seen other Nintendo mascots go on to redefine what’s possible with their games. Link went from Skyward Sword to Breath of the Wild, turning the old Zelda formula on its head; Mario went from Galaxy and 3D World to Odyssey, introducing brand new mechanics that completely revamped the 3D platforming; even Kirby has gone full 3D with Forgotten Land, which many consider to be the best game in the pink blob’s franchise. Nothing about Prime 4’s trailer showcased a truly fresh or robust take on a classic series.

Some may point at the Switch’s hardware being a bottleneck for Prime 4, which was an argument I initially agreed with, but the more I think about it the less I find it to be the reason for my underwhelming reaction to what I saw in Prime 4’s trailer. Sure, the custom Nvidia Tegra X1 chip that powers the console is now nearly a decade old and is blown out of the water by competitors like the Steam Deck. Irrespective of the Switch’s immense popularity, the console has also continually struggled to keep up with the graphical demands of modern third-party titles. Nevertheless, Nintendo for the past couple of generations hasn’t prioritized power, focusing instead on gameplay innovations. Both Breath of the Wild (and now Tears of the Kingdom) and Odyssey, as mentioned in the last paragraph, innovated in ways outside of pixel count. However, when watching that Prime 4 trailer, what I saw was uncharacteristically the opposite.

Metroid Prime 4: Beyond looks fantastic from what we’ve seen. So much so that fans question whether the gameplay shown wasn’t running on a Switch 2. This has been debunked by a deep analysis done by Nintendo World Report, who go over the trailer and screenshots provided to them by Nintendo, which confirms the resolution of the game and many of the graphical wizardry Retro Studios are implementing within their proprietary RUDE engine to make the game looks as good as it does. But for as good as the game looked visually in that trailer, there was nothing on a gameplay, scope, or even narrative level that had me particularly impressed. For as beautiful as the environments looked, they didn’t interact with Samus in any way that felt new. For as awestruck as I was seeing the little water droplets cascade through Samus’ sharply rendered arm cannon, I didn’t see any new powerups or ammo types that changed the way she fought enemies. I didn’t see a change of pace or verticality in the traversal mechanics, or anything that changed the way Samus approached platforming. Nor did I see an interesting shift in tone to hint at possibly a deeper and more emotionally riveting narrative. It all just felt like more Metroid Prime, simply with a new coat of paint.

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I would love for Prime 4 to be as revolutionary as the original was for its time. Image: Nintendo

Now, mind you, I would be perfectly satisfied if the game turned out to be just that. I adore Metroid, and the original Prime is one of my favourite games of all time. If all Beyond does is retread what worked in the past and simply make everything look prettier, that’s a 9/10 video game for me. I write this to say that I would love for this game to do more than just that. To do for Metroid what Breath of the Wild did for Zelda. To do what the original Prime did for Metroid. Because for as perfectly satisfied as I would be if this game weren’t that revolutionary title, it may not be enough for the masses; not in 2025 and especially not when considering that the series was never one to break sales numbers.

That being said, Retro Studios and Nintendo may just be holding out on showing us all that this game has to offer until they announce the (hopefully) forthcoming remasters of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Though there haven’t been any rumblings on said remasters, notable industry veteran Jeff Grubb believes that they are indeed in the works and should be expected soon; however, the last time he spoke on their supposed imminency was last summer. Nevertheless, with the success of the original Prime‘s remaster that launched last year it’s almost certain that the Prime sequels are incoming, especially when considering Nintendo have chosen to keep the “4” in Beyond‘s title, indicating it’s a continuation of the story from the original trilogy. Then again, fans have been pining for a Twilight Princess and Wind Waker remaster for years now, only to be disappointed time and time again. Hopefully, this isn’t a trend that follows Metroid Prime

Nintendo may also be holding out on revealing too much due to Beyond possibly being a cross-generation title that will stand as a showpiece for whatever the Switch 2 ends up being. As Nintendo World Report and others like Digital Foundry have concluded, the footage from the trailer is most certainly from the OG Switch, which in and of itself is quite impressive. How the game will look and run on a far beefier console will be quite interesting. This may very well end up being the marquee title for the Switch 2. Seeing how the current hardware is already capable of rendering the game at 900p, Nintendo and Retro could very well push it to run at a native 4K if the leaks for the Switch 2’s hardware specs are to be believed. All of that said, we’ll have to see come 2025 whether Prime 4 will make the eighteen-year wait worthwhile, though I have full faith in Retro Studios to give fans like myself all that we’ve been pining for and beyond.

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