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I managed to snag a copy of Federation Force today from one of two Gamestops in this little town I moved to. Nobody preordered the game, and I guess corporate thought it wouldn't exactly fly off the shelves... Anyway, I sat down with single-player mode for a couple hours, and here are my observations.
TL;DR, Federation Force is NOT a Metroidvania. There's no backtracking, no items to access new areas, and no scan visor. It's basically Metroid Prime with just the shooting and jumping and minimal puzzles and exploration. But that doesn't make it a bad game. Instead, it's kind of interesting: a fairly entertaining squad-based shooter set in the Metroid universe. Since I've only played two levels and haven't tried multiplayer mode, my verdict is still out, but it feels better than average, and that's not bad.
The controls are fairly smooth, but definitely not something you'll pick up and master in thirty minutes. I feel I'll get much better after two or three more hours of play (and I've played less than two so far, spending about 20 minutes a mission). The circle pad moves you around, and holding R lets you tilt the screen to look around. Unfortunately, the tilt function means you'll likely want to turn off 3D, which is too bad, since the graphics look pretty good on a small screen. It also isn't intuitive to tilt to look up or down, so you can't conveniently check out the architecture like in Metroid Prime.
Hold L to lock on to enemies, and you can lead them a little by holding down R and tilting, which is new. Actions are much simpler: shoot using A, charge shots or interact with items by holding down A, jump with B, hold B to hover, Y uses special items (be careful not to get trigger-happy!), and X selects items. The D-pad issues commands. Unfortunately, moving orbs around is just as obnoxious as I thought it would be, particularly since you have to bounce them up stairs and over pits, but thankfully, you can lock on, lead, and charge.
There are hidden power-ups you can get by solving puzzles (like melting ice or freezing lava), but no real in-depth exploration. There's a certain amount of replay value, since you can earn up to three medals depending on how many enemies you destroy, your accuracy, speed of completion, and accomplishing mission-specific tasks.
The menu system is pretty good, too. In addition to customizing your loadout, MODs, and paint job, you can also change your voice from male to female in five different languages, including Japanese and Italian!
Ultimately, if you're looking for a new Metroid, you won't find it here. But if you're looking for a decent squad-based shooter on a handheld, Federation Force seems to fit that quite nicely, and I am looking forward to playing some with our Facebook guru Matthew Sharpe and Darren from Shinesparkers.
Until next time...