Nintendo debuted BlastBall at its 2015 ‘Nintendo World Championships” competition which was held during E3 2015. The game looked pretty fun and many in the audience as well as those who were watching via a livestream were enjoying it. But, little did anyone know that this mysterious new title was actually a new Metroid game in disguise.
The full game turned out to be Metroid Prime: Federation Force, the announcement of which caused a massive amount of backlash. Nevertheless, Nintendo has stood behind its creation, and the game will be releasing soon. The company did manage to drop a surprise a few days ago, the return of BlastBall. Released as a free demo on the eShop, the game is exactly how it was when it was first shown off at last year’s E3, and serves as a standalone experience as well as a demo for Federation Force. So how does it stack up?
To put it in the simplest terms, BlastBall is basically like playing Rocket League with Titanfall mechs. The object of the game is to propel a gigantic, energy-charged ball into the opposing team’s goal three times within the time limit. Teams are made up of four people each, so matches are 4 v 4. The mech controls are pretty solid. The Circle Pad controls movement, and aiming is controlled by the 3DS’ gyroscope. You can lock-on to the ball by holding the L button, while the R button can be held to activate the gyro-aiming. The mech can also jump fairly high, which is done by pressing the B button. Each mech is armed with a non-lethal blaster, which is only used to propel the ball into the goal. In typical Metroid fashion, each shot can be charged in order to build up power, which equates to a more powerful blast.
From my experience, you can’t really damage other people’s mechs with the blaster, but these mechs can be damaged and even destroyed. As mentioned earlier, the ball is filled with energy, so coming in contact with it will cause the mech to lose integrity. If the ball is hurled at your mech, it will then be destroyed. A new mech will spawn a few seconds later, but this puts your team at a momentary disadvantage. Repair packs are generated on your team’s side of the field, so it’s important to keep track of the Integrity Bar to know when you need to make a short retreat. The ball can be blocked by using a powerful shot, or deflected by the use of a Shield item, and you can even side-step out of the way if necessary. There are other times when the opposing team picks up a power-up which can render every mech on your team temporarily useless, thus causing the pilots to be ejected. When this happens, you actually need to run back inside your mechs. Of course, these few seconds can be taken advantage of by the other team in order to score a goal. At least the favor can be returned if someone on your team manages to get the power-up.
BlastBall’s gameplay is fun and frantic. Nintendo has once again turned a violent genre into something competitive and clean.
It didn’t take me very long to get use the controls and find a decent strategy. Even after putting some time in, it does still feel a little unpredictable, but the matches have proven to be fun. There were times when my team would absolutely body the other team, leading to the whole match being won in just a minute or two. Other times, the clock would be ticking away and neither team would make any progress. If the match ends with a tie, the game will go into a short tie-breaker. If neither team still doesn’t win, then it will result in a total draw. I experienced all of these outcomes, and it was always intense. Winning/losing matches affects your overall rating. Winning matches will unlock new customization options for your mech: you can actually select the paint job for the mech’s helmet to give it a personal touch.
All-in-all, my experience with BlastBall was pretty nice. There were times when I ran into some connectivity issues, but the online functionality was stable enough. Seeing that the online functionality of this demo is only avaliable for a limited time, taking advantage of it now would be wise. Having played on an original 3DS XL, I can tell you that the framerate isn’t buttery smooth, but it’s not excessively laggy either. There are times when BlastBall obviously isn’t running at 30FPS, but it’s still playable. It took me a short while to get used to the controls, but they’re pretty solid. My only complaint is the fact that it did get uncomfortable to hold the unit after a few minutes, but that’s just the shape of the XL, not the fault of the game. At the end of the day, BlastBall is a fun game, and I’m glad Nintendo decided to release it as a demo. I’m still on the fence about Federation Force, but BlastBall was an excellent introduction to the mechanics. I wish it would be released as a standalone game, even as a paid one, but oh well.