Earlier today, Nintendo surprised us by releasing Metroid Prime: Blast Ball on for free on the 3DS eShop. Blast Ball is the competitive multiplayer component of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which isn’t out until August 19th. This free sample is actually the entire mode and will be playable through September and can even be played with people who bought the retail release. This is all well and good, but how is the game itself?
At its core, Blast Ball is a three-on-three soccer game. It actually shares a lot of similarities with last year’s Rocket League, although it’s not nearly as fast paced or deep. You and your team of three shoot a large ball to try to get it into the other team’s goal. Getting hit by the ball causes damage, and can end up destroying your mech, taking you out of the match for a few seconds.
If you’ve played one of the previous Metroid Prime games, you have a pretty good idea of how the game controls. The circle pad is used for movement, and unlike most modern shooters, is also used for turning. Holding down the L button will lock you onto the ball. While holding down L, the circle pad will allow you to strafe. Holding R will enable free aim, which by default is controlled with motion controls. If you have a New 3DS, you can change it to be controlled by the C Stick. Tapping the A button will fire your gun, and holding it down will charge your shot.
Shooting the ball several times will cause power-ups to drop. Once you’ve picked one up, you can use it by pressing the Y button. I’m not sure what all of the power-ups are, but I’ve gotten a shield and a speed boost.
So, that’s the basics of how the game works. But is it any good? Well, kind off. I’ve definitely had fun playing it, but I haven’t quite figured out any real strategy. It kind of just feels like everyone is shooting the ball as much and as fast as they can, causing the ball to just kind of bounce around the map seemingly at random. This is the first day of release though. Maybe when people have had more time to learn the game, it’ll be a very different story.
After playing a few games, I was informed that it was time to get my Mech Certification. From what I can gather, this is actually the tutorial from Federation Force. To get my certification, I had to do a few different tests. It started with a shooting gallery. Here, I could only stand in place and shoot targets. The targets had space pirates on them and some could be destroyed by simply shooting, while others required a charge shot. There were also targets of Federation soldiers that had to be avoided.
After finishing that test, I was taught how to circle strafe by fighting turrets. They would shoot at me, forcing me to strafe out of the way and shoot them on their weak point, which is located on it’s side. After a few of those, I come across another Federation mech. It’s badly injured, and the game teaches me how to heal. Basically, I have to pick up the health weapon and shoot it at my ally. Shortly after, the room gets flooded by space pirates. I have to fight them off for three minutes while keeping the other mech alive. It was fairly easy, but I did have to heal my friend once.
And that’s my experience so far. I’m going to keep playing for a while, and if I end up finding some hidden depth in Blast Ball, I may stick with it long term. But as it is, Blast Ball seems like an okay distraction and the certification training has gotten me pretty excited for the actual release. Hopefully, it’ll live up to its potential.