So there's a rumor floating around out there that Nintendo has a Metroid game in the works for the Switch which they'll reveal at E3.  I don't put a lot of stock in video game rumors since most of them are simply made up on the spot by people who appear to have some sort of undiagnosed mental problem, and thus have a hard time telling real life apart from fantasy.

Some of them are probably just pathological liars.  My ex-sister-in-law has that problem, and it's so weird watching her talk and interact with people.  Half of what she says simply isn't true at all.

Anyway, let's say these rumors are correct.  What should it be?  Other M and Federation Force are pretty obvious missteps.  But I recently played through the Prime Trilogy, and let's be completely honest here - by the third one the formula was getting stale.  The original still stands out as a fantastic title.  Everything feels really crisp and the way Retro tuned the graphics it still looks phenomenal even today.  But Echoes and Corruption have not aged as well.  The graphics in many places look muddy, and the enemies just don't inspire.

Unless they speed up the gameplay significantly, I'm not sure there's much that could be done from a first-person perspective that won't come across as simply trying to relive the glory days of Metroid Prime.

So that leaves 2D, right?  There's problems there, as well.  There have been SO many good metroidvania games just in the last five or six years that unless Nintendo has some breathtaking new thing they're doing with the presentation or the gameplay, any 2D game they do will just feel like a retread.  And as far as I'm concerned the standard is still Super Metroid.  There are some nice improvements in Zero Mission and Fusion, but there's some abominations in there as well.  Fusion is entirely too linear, and has WAY too much talking and NPC interaction.  Both suffer from the GBA's awful sound chip.  The only thing I've seen that I think even competes with Super Metroid is AM2R, and we know how Nintendo feels about that.  Actually if they just took the mechanics of what that guy did and wrapped them up in an entirely new game then MAYBE they could break the Super Metroid curse.

But that's not going to happen.

So for me, that just leaves one option - third person 3D action.  But Rival, you say, you JUST said Other M was a misstep.  And that's true.  But it's not the 3rd person 3D that was the problem.  And  anyway it was more like 2.5D.  The gameplay (ignoring the cinematics) could've been amazing if Nintendo hadn't insisted on shoehorning all controls into the two-button layout of the Wiimote, and if they hadn't totally botched the exploration and unlocking mechanics.

Ever since the PS2 era, I've always thought a Metroid game could be awesome if they took the core Metroid concepts of exploration within a gated world filled with secrets and items, and updated the 2D combat into 3D in a way similar to the way Devil May Cry, Crackdown, and Zone of the Enders updated the 2D play of games like Contra, Ikari Warriors, Smash TV, and Turrican.

I always thought it was odd that Nintendo didn't take their z-targeting from Ocarina of Time and apply it to the Metroid franchise.  It seemed like such a natural fit.  The original Legend of Zelda and Metroid share a lot more in common than people think.  Both revolve around the concept of a large, mysterious world that is gated by items.  Both feature upgradable life bars.  Both feature main weapons that are (optionally) upgraded over time.

So I've always wondered why Nintendo went with the first-person perspective.  I mean it ended up working out great for them.  The first Prime game was a fresh take on the franchise in a lot of ways, but it still seems like the odd man out to me.

The big problem is the claustrophobia and the camera.  It can be a nightmare to get a camera system set up for a third-person action game, and then try to cram that into the caves and tunnels that define the Metroid games.  Difficult, but not impossible.

The other huge problem is combat and platforming in that confined space with the camera system.  Again, it's a difficult problem, but not impossible.  For instance, one could take the fixed camera approach of the first PS2 Devil May Cry while in tunnels and tight vertical corridors, and switch back to a traditional over-the-shoulder approach in larger caverns.

Combat would need to be tight and quick.  One thing the 2D games always hinted at was Aran's acrobatic skills.  She's shown doing a lot of crazy flipping, jumping, and wall jumping.  One of the things that excited me about early Other M promo material was that we saw Samus fighting in this neat acrobatic way.  Unfortunately it didn't turn out to be that exciting, I think due to the control setup.  Had the developer been allowed to use more buttons, naturally more options for control would've been opened up.

Such could be the case in a 3D third-person Metroid.  However, allowing Samus to engage enemies by using her highly developed acrobatics would essentially turn her into an armored Bayonetta.  To avoid that (not that it's a bad thing, but I think a new Metroid game should set itself apart), I think Nintendo would need to develop a system that allows the 3D model of Samus to get close to her enemies, grabbing them, sliding around them, even climbing on them, to deliver swift punches, kicks, and shots from her arm cannon.  In essence, it would look like the fight scenes from Other M, except not choreographed, but occurring in real time.

Not only would this be an innovation in the genre, but it would allow a ton of play options and gating possibilities.

For the story, I'd do something really radical.  I've been using the name Samus this whole time, but actually I'd set the game many years later and not even have Samus in it at all.  And I'd do this solely because of the damage done by Other M (the negative way she was portrayed) and Fusion (the horrible transformation that occurred due to the X-parasite).

Breaking down Metroid, there are only a few things required story-wise for the game - someone in Chozo power armor, Metroids, a rogue AI trying to use them for its own benefit at the expense of broader galactic civilization, and an overwhelming sense of isolation in a dangerous environment cut off from all assistance.  Simply removing Samus from the equation opens up a whole breadth of story possibilities.  It could be a coming of age story.  It could be a redemption story.  It could be a woman(or man)-out-of-time story.  It could go anywhere, and provide a fresh start and a fresh face for the series. 

But the main thing the story should be, at least with regards to the protagonist, is minimalist.  The less details the better.  We only need enough to get a general sense of who the person is.  We don't need pages and pages of backstory and filler and other garbage content.  Metroid Prime should be the example.  Story should be uncovered in bits and pieces, and the whole thing should stay relatively shrouded in mystery.  Metroid has always been about letting the player experience themselves AS the person in the armor.  That's the reason Other M was such a huge disaster.  So the less said, the better.  I'm a firm believer of the "show, don't tell" rule of narrative fiction writing.

Since we know the Chozo created Samus's suit specifically for her, it doesn't even have to BE her suit.  It could be another suit left by them, and that blows open a whole bunch of possibilities for the game's art direction and the style and colors of the suit.  And since we know Chozo technology can absorb the tech of other civilizations (a la Megaman), we don't even really need to trap ourselves in Chozo ruins or have them have too much of a presence.  The suit can simply use what it finds.

That said, I've always been fascinated by the Chozo and would love to see other aspects of them uncovered within a new Metroid game.  It's a civilization that is so mysterious and powerful I don't think one could ever really run out of things that they accomplished.  Perhaps the story could even revolve around how Samus solving the Metroid crisis allowed them to return from wherever it is they went, and rejoin the rest of galactic civilization.  That is, until this new Metroid threat rears its head.

When I first saw video of Other M, I honestly thought the combat as portrayed in that game would at last fulfill a wish I'd had since the N64 was announced - a third person 3D Metroid game.  Alas, most of the game was 2.5D, and those exciting combat sequences against huge bosses were mostly scripted.  They might as well have been quicktime events.

Still, that title's utter failure doesn't mean a third person Metroid can't be done well.  Is such a thing a possibility?

I seriously doubt it.  The Metroid fanbase is split between those who like the Prime style more and those who like the 2D style more.  It's aggravating that hardly anyone out there wants that third possibility.  So IF Nintendo does have something going on over at Retro, my money is on another FPS adventure like the original Prime trilogy.  I think that's a mistake, but I hope I'm proven wrong.  The universe they've built is so interesting, and could be so big, it seems like it's just begging to be explored.  Also it's one of Nintendo's few sci-fi IPs.  They really NEED to push it out there to help broaden the appeal of their brand and shake the kiddie-game-only image.

I hope I'm wrong though.  I hope it is some insane new third person action/adventure game like I've described above.  That would totally make my year.