Metroid Prime Blast Ball Mini-Preview: Robo Soccer Attack


Last week, I was invited to a preview event in Toronto where Nintendo was showcasing some of their upcoming Wii U and Nintendo 3DS titles. I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts and impressions of these games in preview pieces throughout the week. We started with Yoshi’s Woolly World, continued with Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash and take a look today at Metroid Prime Blast Ball. It comes with Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a title I had the misfortune in not being able to preview.

As soon as Nintendo started showing of Blast Ball during the Nintendo World Championships, I immediately called that it was involved with the Metroid Prime series. My staff writers can back me up on that one! Turns out I was correct, as Metroid Prime Blast Ball appears to be an offshoot bonus to a larger Nintendo 3DS game called Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to try out the latter, however I’ve been on a sports game kick lately, and “soccer + interesting mechanic/gimmick” has worked out for others this month.

3v3 For You And Me

In real soccer, you cannot attack your opponents without drawing either a penalty or a free kick to the opponent. In Metroid Prime Blast Ball, not only is attacking your opponents allowed, it’s balanced into the game’s tactics as a means of levelling the playing field. The overarching point of Blast Ball is simple: use your laser gun to shoot a big ball into your opponents’ net. You can charge up shots to add extra power, but for the most part you are working as a team to guide the ball into the other end while protecting against your own. Knocking an opponent’s health down to zero will cause them to lock-out for several seconds, which can be crucial to turning the tide of play.

That said, not only do you have to play the ball, you have to play your opponent. Luckily, our preview event provided 6 Nintendo 3DS units, allowing 3 human players (including myself) versus 3 others in order to better communicate tactics through wireless online play. That aspect only boosts the excitement, as you can get backup in case your rivals start shooting at you instead of the ball. Being able to adapt on the fly is the key to victory, as you can do things like bait out attacks against yourself (while shooting back) while your teammates sneak a charge shot around a bend and score a quick goal.

Furthermore, the game also includes power-ups that bring a much-needed aspect of variety to mechanized soccer play. Barriers protect a shield that can protect you from getting knocked out of play at the last second. Another will allow you to make you lightning quick, dashing around attacks and is perfect for keeping opponents guessing. Other boosts allow you to punch opponents out of their mech suits, effectively making them a sitting duck. It keeps the style of soccer-like play fresher for longer by adding these extra dimensions.

My biggest problem with Metroid Prime Blast Ball is its scale and speed. The arena I got to play in is rather rudimentary and small, but fits for how strong lasers and charge beams can shoot the ball. It’s even sloped in a way that makes it hard to score without a concerted effort, requiring an almost snooker-like concentration when it comes to angling the ball (as your opponents shoot to misdirect in the opposing direction. Opening up the field of play, while balancing the lazers to be a bit more powerful, will certainly do wonders in avoiding those claustrophic feelings.

One of its grander misfortunes is that the need for a “soccer game that employs motorized vehicles for its play” was shored up just weeks after its reveal during the week of E3 2015. Rocket League, while simpler in its balance between offense and defense (its destruction takedowns are a legitimate strategy, but that’s it), found the perfect balance of speed and scale. It has style in just how wild maneuverability can open up, and balancing opportunity with execution makes scoring goals feel rewarding.

By comparison, Metroid Prime Blast Ball feels like you’re the parent of a bunch of 6-year-olds playing a soccer game. Progress of the ball’s path is snail-like, movement is sluggish and only when you (or your kid, in this analogy) scores a goal can you feel much semblance of pride. The mode is more a victim of circumstance than anything, as it would hold its own a bit better were there not a way better alternative already on the market (and currently free for PS4 owners).


More from Previews

Metroid Prime Blast Ball will not be the main draw when Federation Force is released. It’s very much an added bonus that the developers felt necessary to include, perhaps mostly for the Nintendo World Championships this year. If you’re looking for a very technical, stylish or fast-paced soccer game, you won’t find it here. If you’re looking for a way to kill the time while waiting to organize co-op play for Federation Force, it will do the job. If you don’t have a PC or PS4, it’s likely one of the only places you can get such an arcadey look at team-based soccer.

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