• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.

"Where's my Metroid Prime Trilogy on Switch?" — A look at Prime 3's gameplay and controls

Dacvak

No one shall be brought before our LORD David Bowie without the true and secret knowledge of the Photoshop. For in that time, so shall He appear.
For the past five years, there have been discussions, predictions, and rumors of the Wii-era Metroid Prime Trilogy release to see a Nintendo Switch port. In fact, a lot of people have simply come to expect it—after all, why wouldn't they just port it? It seems like free money for Nintendo.

However, there's a big point of discussion that seems to get overlooked: Metroid Prime 3.

On the surface, it seems like Prime 3 would be a ripe candidate for an updated control scheme. While it originally had Wiimote-only controls, Prime 1 and 2 utilized a standardized control method, and so why couldn't Nintendo simply retro-fit said controls to Prime 3? Or just use motion controls. They work fine on Switch, right?

The big tl;dr is that Prime 3's core gameplay and enemies/bosses are designed explicitly for IR pointer controls, which the Switch does not emulate well for all use cases.

I'll back up a little bit. For those who already understand the IR technology of the Wii in-depth, feel free to skip the paragraph.

The Wii's pointer controls rely on a static IR sensor bar placed above or below a TV screen. It's similar to oldschool light gun technology, where there is always a static position on the screen that your controller (or gun) recognizes, and this doesn't change. This means that you have the ability to build up muscle memory in aiming in a specific position, and you'll always have the same results. Simply put, aim Wiimote at screen, pointer will always end up where you expect.

This is in direct contrast to the Switch, which has no IR sensor (note: the little IR sensor on the back of the right Joy Con can not achieve the same results as a Wiimote). Instead, for pointer-style control, the Switch only has a few options. The first and most prevalently used is gyro pointer emulation.

The first use of this was actually in a launch title for Switch called World of Goo, which was originally a Wii game. Using the Joy Con, you can simulate pointer controls; i.e., aim the controller left, the pointer icon moves left. The problem with this is that there is no fixed position that will consistently put your pointer where you want it to be based on the position of the Joy Con. Because the gyro emulation is relative, it requires frequent recalibration in order to maintain accuracy.

The second main emulation of pointer controls is binding the movement of the pointer to an analog stick. Move the analog stick left, the pointer goes left. You get it.

Eventually, first-party Nintendo titles started adopting both of these methods of gyro/analog stick pointer emulation, most notably in Super Mario Galaxy in the 3D All-Stars Collection (for gyro aiming), and in the Nvidia Shield Chinese release of Galaxy (with analog stick aiming). So if Nintendo can successfully implement it there, what's stopping them from using the same control methods for Prime 3? Let's explore Galaxy's implementation first.

It's important to note, first and foremost, that Super Mario Galaxy's pointer controls are either largely superfluous, or utilized when Mario's standard 3D movement is disabled. What I mean by this is that is, in Galaxy, the pointer generally only serves one of three functions: Shooting star bits, selecting HUD elements, or grabbing the blue "Pull Stars" in bespoke sections.

2 out of 3 of these cases (shooting bits and selecting HUD elements) are essentially superfluous and optional; you can get through the entire game virtually ignoring these game elements. The third case, the Pull Stars, are unique, because Mario's standard 3D controls are entirely disabled, meaning you *only* have to rely on pointer controls. Very rarely (if ever iirc) are you *required* to use both the standard 3D Mario controls in conjunction with the pointer simultaneously.

So when Nintendo was porting Galaxy to the Switch/Shield, they made the (imo acceptable) choice to allow for gyro or analog stick pointer emulation controls, because even though neither of those methods are anywhere near as accurate or intuitive at standard IR-based pointer controls, it's not incredibly important within the context of the game.

This actually shines a light onto a potential reason why Super Mario Galaxy 2 was *not* included in the 3D All-Stars collection. In direct contrast to Galaxy 1, Galaxy 2 frequently featured Yoshi sections, which required pointer controls to be used simultaneously with standard 3D Mario gameplay. It's my estimation that Nintendo deemed it a bit too much to juggle and too "janky" to have the player focus on both recalibrating/repositioning the gyro pointer aiming in addition to 3D traversal with Mario on Yoshi.

It's also worth noting that it's borderline impossible to control standard 3D Mario gameplay when the pointer is bound to the analog stick, as you'd need to be able to access the A button to jump while simultaneously being able to aim the pointer. (Claw grip, anyone? lol) It's my estimation that Galaxy 2 with emulated gyro controls simply did not play or *feel* good enough for Nintendo to release it. (In some ways, meticulously aiming the pointer with the gyro while controlling Mario in 3D space during difficult Yoshi platforming areas is analogous to the complex combination of gameplay and controls featured in Star Fox Zero on the Wii U, which was largely lambasted.)

So how does this relate to Metroid Prime 3? Well, Prime 3's implementation of pointer controls is *far more* integrated into the gameplay in comparison to Galaxy 1 or even 2. In fact, you're using the pointer controllers essentially the *entire* time.

And Prime 3's aiming does not work the same as a standard FPS, where gyro controls are great (like Splatoon or DOOM 2016). Instead, Prime 3's controls are built around the idea of free-aiming all over the screen space, with your first-person camera only turning after your cursor is outside a set "zone" on the screen.

"Okay, so change the reticle so that it's always in the center of the screen, and aiming will work the exact same as Splatoon and DOOM. Plus then you could just use the right analog stick. Problem solved." This aspect is absolutely correct, and if Nintendo were to release Prime 3 on the Switch, we would likely see this sort of implementation. In fact, if you try out "PrimeHack" via Dolphin emulation on PC, this is precisely how it works. (But more on PrimeHack later.)

For a solid portion of Prime 3, this control method would work on a technical level. However, (beyond a few gameplay difficulty issues I'll address in a bit) there's one glaring exception, which is enemy and boss designs. Prime 3's gameplay was based around the Wiimote's IR pointer controls, to the degree that enemys and bosses are explicitly designed for them.

In Prime 3, when you hold the "lock-on" button, your view fixes in place and the pointer enters a "free aim" mode, where you now are using what are essentially lightgun controls. Many enemies and bosses exploit this control method and arrange themselves in ways where you need to hold down the lock-on, then free aim to the various points on screen. Play the first hour of Prime 3 and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Because of how accurate and fast lightgun controls are (again, due to the fixed position of your controller in relation to where you want to aim), these enemies are designed to be taken care of very, very quickly, with snappy lightgun aiming. Attempting to aim with a standard analog stick or even gyro would be exceedingly difficult, unintuitive, and frustrating for enemies like this.

Consider your favorite fast-paced lightgun game, like House of the Dead or Time Crisis. Now think about how difficult that game would be if you had to use an analog stick to quickly aim at each enemy. Many times you'd need to accurately aim from one side of the screen to the other in a split-second's time. This works fine for lightguns, because you've built the muscle memory to know exactly where to aim in real life. Doing this with a relative input, like an analog stick or gyro sensor, is orders of magnitude more difficult.

A side issue with Prime 3 is that it's very reliant on the lock-on mechanism and free pointer aiming, even in standard gameplay. In 95% of console shooters you play, you may not realize this, but there is "aim-assist", which helps your shots reach your intended target if your aim is "close enough". Prime 3 does not have this, and it is very likely, from a development perspective, that it would both be difficult to implement, and even more difficult to dynamically balance. There are also sections in Prime 3 that are specifically conducive to that quick-action lightgun gameplay, like "spray-and-praying" at a bunch of tiny little enemies making their way toward you. Again, this just doesn't work as well without either aim assist or the ability to lock on (which Prime 3 does not always allow for certain enemies).

"You mentioned House of the Dead. Isn't that on the Switch?" Yes. And two things: first and foremost, in HotD, you aren't required to simultaneously control your character's complex movement while aiming and constantly recalibrating (which you have to do a lot). Secondly, I would also argue that that game doesn't feel *nearly* as good as the original lightgun version. Try it out for yourself. There's a reason you've probably never heard anyone on this subreddit sing its praises. Does it work? Kind of. Is it good? Not in my opinion.

And this is the heart of the issue: Do I think Nintendo could technically implement gyro and/or analog controls into Prime 3? Of course they could. In fact, if you want to test this for yourself, I highly encourage giving PrimeHack a try on your PC and playing with a controller. (Be sure to bind your right stick to gyro when lock-on is held, as well.)

But it's precisely PrimeHack's excellent implementation that really showed me that Nintendo would likely never release the game like that. With mouse and keyboard, PrimeHack controls well enough, because you have incredible mouse accuracy. With a controller? It's frustrating and janky, even though the implementation is incredible, in my opinion. It boils down to how the game was designed, and the only way to really control Prime 3 with a gamepad is by utilizing shoe-horned emulated pointer controls.

And before someone says "Nintendo would implement it better than some mod like PrimeHack", I personally have to wonder if they would. First off, PrimeHack is actually incredibly in-depth in terms of its dynamic controls, even going as far as automating all of the motion-controlled elements, contextually, throughout the entirety of Prime 3. Secondly, if there is a better implementation of Prime 3 for controller, I've yet to see anyone even theorize one. And it shouldn't be that difficult, since we're working with a limited number of input mechanisms.

Of course, there's always the idea that Nintendo could redesign a great deal of Prime 3's gameplay elements from the ground up to work with a controller, however that has almost never been Nintendo's MO. Instead, what we've seen from Wii-era ports to the Switch is Nintendo opts to find global control solutions that will work without the need to fundamentally alter the game. And of all the Prime games, Prime 3 is the least likely to get special development treatment. Simply put, it's highly doubtful that Nintendo would spend significant development time and money on remaking Prime 3.

It's worth noting that, internally, it's actually *extremely* likely that the Metroid Prime Trilogy has already been ported to the Switch. We've heard enough trusted industry rumors at this point to assume that where there's smoke, there's fire. However, my speculation is that Prime 3 simply did not reach the threshold of quality of gameplay that NCL or another large-scale Nintendo entity deemed acceptable for public release. And frankly, I think without a rehaul of Prime 3's core gameplay and design, they're right.

Shoehorning in controls that emulate and adapt to the original's would likely result in a negative consumer experience and ultimately bad press, yet I personally believe that's all that Nintendo would be willing to do with Metroid Prime 3.

Do I think Nintendo will release a port of Metroid Prime Trilogy to the Switch? I personally don't think it's likely. However, I do think it's much, much more likely they'll release Prime 1 for the Switch. Prime 1 is largely regarded as the best Prime game, and it would serve as a great showcase for newcomers as to what they can expect from Prime 4. In terms of story, it's likely Retro will pull something similar to Dread and include a summary of the first three games in the beginning of Prime 4.

In any case, I've been giving this a lot of thought for years. Generally when I try to bring up these points, I'm met with quite a lot of resistance, but rarely are the responses anything more than "Nintendo could make the motion controls work, it's probably already ported and they're just waiting to release it." I'm certainly in huge favor of Nintendo releasing a Prime Trilogy for Switch (honestly in any capacity), as they're some of my favorite games of all-time. It's just hard to imagine Prime 3 being anything more than a substandard version of the original, unless significant gameplay changes were to happen.

But also, trying to predict and understand Nintendo is futile, so I'm probably just wrong. 🤷‍♀️
 

Astral Dog

Member
Yeah it would be a nightmare to translate Prime 3 for Switch, they did so with Skyward Sword so maybe they could find an awkward way around it.

The hot rumors these days is that Nintendo are planning a full remake of Metroid Prime 1 to release standalone.even then eventually they need to try something for Prime 2 and 3
 
Last edited:

ManaByte

Gold Member
Yeah it would be a nightmare to translate Prime 3 for Switch, they did so with Skyward Sword so maybe they could find an awkward way around it.

Skyward Sword didn't really use IR as much as Prime 3 did. Much easier to adapt the controls to the right stick/joycon with that.
 

01011001

Member
Skyward Sword didn't really use IR as much as Prime 3 did. Much easier to adapt the controls to the right stick/joycon with that.

the IR pointer is inferior to a gyro pointer + reset button in terms of fine precision movements

so what exactly would you need the IR part for? centering? not needed
you could indeed simply recenter the pointer every time you lock on to enemies as well, aside from having a separate center button


edit: also, forgot to mention, you could play Skyward Sword completely without a sensor bar, because the IR sensor in the remote was only used to automatically recalibrate the pointer direction from time to time, the pointer itself was a gyro pointer (because they are better, so Nintendo made use of the gyro)
 
Last edited:

StormCell

Member
Do you know what would be easy?

Just release a damn Switch-compatible Wiimote and IR sensor bar with the Metroid Prime 3 port. They could then look to spam other Wii games that make heavy use of IR pointer. The Wiimote would be "just one more controller option." Super easy.
 

TexMex

Member
Just give me the first one. An all time great but massively diminishing returns after that. I don’t care if they ever figure Prime 3 out. Cut it for all I care. Just give me Prime on Switch.
 
S

SpongebobSquaredance

Unconfirmed Member
hm. How about doing it like PrimeHack but adjust the difficulty and enemy behavior accordingly. I'm not talking about completely remaking it, but they should be able to look into the code and change a few things and polish things up.
 

Sub_Level

wants to fuck an Asian grill.
Just give me the first one. An all time great but massively diminishing returns after that. I don’t care if they ever figure Prime 3 out. Cut it for all I care. Just give me Prime on Switch.

Well you'll be happy to know the big rumor is a remake of Prime 1 is coming to Switch.
 

Dacvak

No one shall be brought before our LORD David Bowie without the true and secret knowledge of the Photoshop. For in that time, so shall He appear.
hm. How about doing it like PrimeHack but adjust the difficulty and enemy behavior accordingly. I'm not talking about completely remaking it, but they should be able to look into the code and change a few things and polish things up.
Oh interesting. I didn’t actually know PrimeHack adjusted enemy behavior at all. What all did they change on that?

I tried to play through Prime 3 with PrimeHack (using a controller), mainly to see if I could at least get a good idea of what a Switch port would be like, and I didn’t notice anything obviously different. I’m not as familiar with Prime 3 as Prime 1, though. I really think some implementation of an aim-assist would tremendously help out PrimeHack, but that’s almost certainly not reasonably doable without access to the source code.

At this point they should make the trilogy for VR
For real. I played through a solid chunk of Prime 1 on the Index and it was enough to prove the concept for me. Definitely still too much jank, overall, so it would probably need a significant overhaul, akin to RE4 VR (which is phenomenal).
 

Alexios

Cores, shaders and BIOS oh my!
For a solid portion of Prime 3, this control method would work on a technical level. However, (beyond a few gameplay difficulty issues I'll address in a bit) there's one glaring exception, which is enemy and boss designs. Prime 3's gameplay was based around the Wiimote's IR pointer controls, to the degree that enemys and bosses are explicitly designed for them. In Prime 3, when you hold the "lock-on" button, your view fixes in place and the pointer enters a "free aim" mode, where you now are using what are essentially lightgun controls. Many enemies and bosses exploit this control method and arrange themselves in ways where you need to hold down the lock-on, then free aim to the various points on screen. Play the first hour of Prime 3 and you'll see exactly what I mean.
It'd be fine, your "glaring exception" is an optional feature without which you could still beat everything. There are way more taxing to one's skill, aiming and reflexes FPS than anything any MP ever throws at you that work fine on dual analog. MP3 had more action than before but it's still an FPA. Never mind the slow turning speed and other issues it had, games like COD and Red Steel 2 perfected the FPS controls on the Wii yet obviously games like the former also worked just fine on standard dual analog controls and the now popular gyro controls, while being far more twitch skill based.

You could still have this, just a bit less intuitive with gyro or analog cursor controls. The sensors are more than enough to include the switches and the whip grappling stuff too, though buttons would be preferable to match. The pointer wasn't "lightgun controls", lightguns are different and superior.
 
Last edited:
S

SpongebobSquaredance

Unconfirmed Member
Oh interesting. I didn’t actually know PrimeHack adjusted enemy behavior at all. What all did they change on that?
Ah, you misunderstood me.:messenger_grinning_sweat: What I meant to say is that Nintendo should do something like PrimeHack but also go through the code to adjust difficulty and enemy behavior, so it's better suited to the modern play style.
 

Azelover

Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams, and it was. It really was.
I totally agree. I've been saying this for years. Nobody cares.
 
Switch cardboard "VR"? Because Nintendo isn't about to make a game for another platform.
Lol not that imitation VR. It's just wishful thinking from me because my friend showed me Metroid Prime in Dolphin VR and as it was, it was amazing and felt like a VR game visually, only needed the controls to be updated to feel like a native VR game
 

01011001

Member
just leaving this video I found here... that's dolphin having no issue at all using the gyro as a pointer



here are joycons playing Prime 1

 
Last edited:

Dacvak

No one shall be brought before our LORD David Bowie without the true and secret knowledge of the Photoshop. For in that time, so shall He appear.
here are joycons playing Prime 1

Wow! That looks legitimately promising. I'm definitely gonna set this up and give it a try, myself. This was one of the methods I thought would potentially be reasonable for Prime 3, however it doesn't solve how the game could be played in portable/with a Pro Controller. I guess the question is, would Nintendo be willing to release a Prime Trilogy on Switch, where the first two games could easily be played in portable/with controller, but lock Prime 3 to Joy Con controls only? I feel like that'd be a non-starter for Nintendo. Thoughts?
 

01011001

Member
Wow! That looks legitimately promising. I'm definitely gonna set this up and give it a try, myself. This was one of the methods I thought would potentially be reasonable for Prime 3, however it doesn't solve how the game could be played in portable/with a Pro Controller. I guess the question is, would Nintendo be willing to release a Prime Trilogy on Switch, where the first two games could easily be played in portable/with controller, but lock Prime 3 to Joy Con controls only? I feel like that'd be a non-starter for Nintendo. Thoughts?

well, to work on a standard controller layout there would be certainly more work they'd have to do.

I personally would solve it by implementing very standard dual analog movement and aiming when simply walking around, and as soon as you use the lock on, your right stick moves the cursor across the screen (similar to how aiming works in Time Splitters 2.

other motion controlled movements would either need to be bound to a simple button press or maybe also to right stick movement.
but also, even in handheld mode some motion controls could still be comfortably used I bet.
 
Last edited:

Dacvak

No one shall be brought before our LORD David Bowie without the true and secret knowledge of the Photoshop. For in that time, so shall He appear.
I personally would solve it by implementing very standard dual analog movement and aiming when simply walking around, and as soon as you use the lock on, your right stick moves the cursor across the screen (similar to how aiming works in Time Splitters 2.
I thought that, too. But I ended up trying that method in PrimeHack and it felt sloppy. It was also very apparent how difficult aiming like this is when there's no aim-assist. I honestly can't think of a way to shoehorn in standard analog stick controls and have it feel legitimately good.
 

RoadHazard

Gold Member
Yeah, gyro aiming really only works well when you only sometimes have to use it. Like when aiming bows and stuff in BotW. There the cursor is "recalibrated" every time you start aiming (it always appears in the center of the screen when you press the aim button, and you then go from there), and any drift that happens while you're aiming is usually small enough to not be too annoying.

For a game where you're pointer-aiming 100% of the time gyro aiming is terrible. There really has to be a fixed reference point for that, so you don't have to keep constantly recentering.
 

RoadHazard

Gold Member
well, to work on a standard controller layout there would be certainly more work they'd have to do.

I personally would solve it by implementing very standard dual analog movement and aiming when simply walking around, and as soon as you use the lock on, your right stick moves the cursor across the screen (similar to how aiming works in Time Splitters 2.

other motion controlled movements would either need to be bound to a simple button press or maybe also to right stick movement.
but also, even in handheld mode some motion controls could still be comfortably used I bet.

Why not enable gyro aiming when you lock on? That would work pretty well I think. The cursor would always start out centered when you first lock on. When just walking around you'd turn the camera with the right stick as you say.
 

BlackTron

Member
I agree and wished from the beginning that Switch did a better job at filling in as a Wii. But I would have expressed this without the number of words going OVER NINE THOUSAAND
 
There's nothing wrong with Teen games. Not everything needs to be The Last of Us or Mortal Kombat.

If it removes romance and cringy sex scenes, I'm for it.
 
Top Bottom