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Kid Icarus and Metroid's Eternal Similarity

by Neal Ronaghan - May 29, 2012, 9:09 am PDT
Total comments: 14

The two series began on the same engine, and their latest entries show two sides of the cinematic coin.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A cultish Nintendo developer goes off to work on a passion project with a different team. Several years and a few delays later, he emerges, proud of his work—a voice-acted cinematic experience with an awkward control scheme.

I could be referencing the recently released Kid Icarus: Uprising, directed by Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Kirby. Sakurai and his newly created team, Project Sora, worked on the first new entry in the Kid Icarus series in 21 years, trying to bring the series to the modern age. The writing, originally penned in Japanese entirely by Sakurai, was fantastic, emboldened by equally wonderful voice acting. The one black spot on the game was a questionable control scheme requiring a somewhat steep learning curve.

I could also be referencing Metroid: Other M, crafted by Yoshio Sakamoto, the man behind Metroid and the WarioWare series. Sakamoto worked with Team Ninja to create a modern take on 2D Metroid games, fusing 2D and 3D gameplay. The game was reviled for its storytelling and voice acting, which featured a wooden performance for Samus Aran that wasn’t helped by dreadful writing. The controls were also awkward, trying to cram too much into the Wii Remote while making heavy use of the controller’s crappy D-pad.

Kid Icarus: Uprising and Metroid: Other M aren’t that different on a basic level. They both feature heavy influence from some of Nintendo’s biggest auteurs, and are representative of the company’s most ambitious internal cinematic endeavors ever. However, while Kid Icarus: Uprising is generally liked, Metroid: Other M was generally disliked. That’s kind of an about-face from how the two series have evolved since their 1986 debuts.

When development of Metroid on NES was completed, the majority of the team, including Sakamoto, came over to aid Toru Osawa, who began creating Kid Icarus all by his lonesome (read more about Osawa’s trials). The two games, with shared staff, ran on the same engine and featured some peculiar character similarities, most notably the Komaytos in Kid Icarus, which were from another planet, according to the game, and resembled Metroids. The self-referential dialogue in Kid Icarus: Uprising further highlighted this comparison.

Following the series debuts, Kid Icarus and Metroid followed a similar trajectory for a few years. In 1991, Nintendo released Game Boy sequels to each game. Like their NES progenitors, these games ran on the same engine. From there, one of the series went dark for 21 years, while the other wound up issuing a seminal game release a few years later.

Super Metroid’s development was spearheaded by Sakamoto, who wrote and directed the 1994 SNES release, beginning with an arduous six-month battle to even gain approval to make the game that began shortly after the Game Boy game debuted.

Sakamoto’s handcrafted team, composed of the remnants of the split-up Nintendo R&D1 division, worked on the game for two years, triumphing over several threatened cancellations and numerous other setbacks. The game finally came out in 1994 and redefined 2D exploration, paving the way for an entire sub-genre further defined by Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night a few years later.

Metroid was dormant for eight years following Super Metroid. Then, Retro Studios managed to more or less remake Super Metroid as a first-person shooter with Metroid Prime, and the series enjoyed a renaissance, with seven entries from 2002 to 2007.

During that time, when eight Metroid games came out over a 13-year span, absolutely nothing happened with Metroid’s sister series, Kid Icarus. Outside of repeated rumors, there wasn’t much of a peep from Pit, Palutena, and the gang. In 2008, rumor spread of a Factor 5-developed Kid Icarus title on Wii, but the project turned out to be a prototype made by Factor 5 without Nintendo influence. When the company’s American branch went belly up, the potential of that prototype vanished with it.

But Sakurai brought Pit back from the ashes, including him as a playable character in 2008’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He followed up the fighting title by working on Kid Icarus: Uprising, which was unveiled during E3 2010, right around when Metroid: Other M was set to come out.

In August 2010, Other M hit stores, and was largely shunned, becoming one of the worst-selling mainline games in the franchise’s history. The jury’s still out on Kid Icarus: Uprising, but early reports suggest it’s selling fine, and will likely enjoy a bit of a long tail as one of the system’s premier online experiences.

For the first time since the two series debuted, it seems like Pit has the upper hand over Samus. We likely won’t see what will happen next in the world of Kid Icarus for a while, but if we don’t hear from Samus soon, she might be lost in space, monologuing by her lonesome, set only to return to fight her Nintendo brethren in the next Super Smash Bros. game.

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Talkback

NinSageMay 29, 2012

A) Dead horse is dead. 

B)

Quote:

In August 2010, Other M hit stores, and was largely shunned...

Dark Void has a metacritic rating of ~59.  That was largely shunned.
Metroid: OM has a metacritic rating of 79.  That reflects "mixed" reviews at worst.

ignored =(

C)

Quote:

...becoming one of the worst-selling mainline games in the franchise’s history.


That will happen to a game with massive pros and cons.  But topping 1.1 million units as "one of the worst selling" Metroid games isn't that much of a sob story.  MP2:Echoes sold 1.33 million.  Yet, no one lost sleep over it.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorMay 29, 2012

Quote from: NinSage

But topping 1.1 million units as "one of the worst selling" Metroid games isn't that much of a sob story.  MP2:Echoes sold 1.33 million.

While I may not be the best person to make this argument, as I enjoyed playing MOM more than I did MP2E, there are two major faults with this line of thinking.

First, MOM hit the discount bins fairly quickly.  Even now, it's pretty easy to find new copies of it for $10-$20.  A more interesting number to look at would be the dollar amount of sales for each game.

Second - install bases.  When you consider that the Wii has sold four times what the GameCube has sold, it really isn't a good thing that your brand-new, high dollar investment title sold less than the "let's reuse all the stuff from the first game" sequel from years ago.

But, again, I enjoyed MOM.  Yes, Samus spends a lot of time being a whiny baby.  Yes, as a plot device (not as a game play mechanic), the entire "authorization" mechanic fell flat.  Yes, the game had some flaws...  but I enjoyed it and I paid full price for it. :D

NinSageMay 29, 2012

Well said, UncleBob.  Think we'll ever see a M:OM-style sequel or is there too much poison in the well?

Think we'll ever see a 2D Metroid game on a CONSOLE again?

Luigi DudeMay 29, 2012

Yeah, this Other M hate it getting ridiculous at this point.  Just because some people didn't like Other M didn't mean everyone hated it.  Seriously, Other M haters need to get it through their heads that they don't represent the entire Metroid fanbase.

Quote:

For the first time since the two series debuted, it seems like Pit has the upper hand over Samus. We likely won’t see what will happen next in the world of Kid Icarus for a while, but if we don’t hear from Samus soon, she might be lost in space, monologuing by her lonesome, set only to return to fight her Nintendo brethren in the next Super Smash Bros. game.

Oh not this sh!t again.  Metroid Prime 3 sold over 1 million copies at full price which makes that style of Metroid games still quite popular.  With the Prime series still quite popular, Other M's sales don't mean sh!t since it's a completely different type of game then the Prime games were.  Acting like we'll never get another Metroid game because of Other M's sales is like saying we'd never get another Zelda because Four Sword Adventures sales were so low compared to other games in the series.


Plus Other M still sold somewhere over 500,000 copies from Nintendo's own numbers which while it was below Nintendo's expectations, it wasn't terrible to them.  All Other M's performance means is if there's another game like it, it'll have a much smaller budget which means no more FMV cutscenes and voice acting or it'll be 2D again.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorMay 29, 2012

I'd be happy to see a new 2D Metroid period.  I don't even care if they released an e-Shop download. :D
2D Metroid > 3D Metroid, period.

As for a MOM2?  I wouldn't be completely surprised - there was a lot of assets put into that game and I could see them wanting to recycle them to recoup the development costs.


EDIT: Also, can we move away from arguing over Metroid: Other M's reception? Go to the eight other threads in the forums to talk about that. We're taking one/two sentences from this entire feature and harping on them.

It was still one of the worst-selling games in the mainline series. It might not be far off from Prime 2, but it still sold less than it.

It really seemed like Nintendo was not happy with how Other M was received. There are some quotes from Reggie in particular that echo that a lot. It might have garnered a 79 MetaCritic rating, but it didn't seem to be up to Nintendo's hopes.

I'll admit that last line is a little fatalistic, but I'm of the firm belief that if we hear nothing about the Metroid series in the near future, it'll be on the shelf for a little bit e.g. Star Fox, Pikmin, Kid Icarus, F-Zero, and all those other brands/IPs that Nintendo have that they let be dormant for a while. Metroid as a series saw a ton of games in a short span, and I think that regularity might be done for a while.

On the other hand, I expect to see another entry in Kid Icarus in the next few years. As far as I can tell, Nintendo is content with how Kid Icarus has sold and was received.

nickmitchMay 29, 2012

I think Nintendo will be really selective with who they pass off the next KI to. The director and team have to either be able to recreate Sakurai's style, humor and collectivism or justify a departure from it.

Pikmin 3 is coming. We know it's been on the shelf for a while, but it has seen as many ports as entries, so it isn't getting quite that stale. Star Fox just had a port that hopefully means Nintendo is still interesting is bringing that back. F-Zero, on the other hand, may very well be dead unless we hear something at E3.

Ian SaneMay 29, 2012

I'm not concerned that Nintendo will stop making Metroid games because of Other M.  My concern is that the series will continue in the direction Other M started taking it.  Star Fox had this happen to it.  What I want is Nintendo to pretend Other M never existed and just continue with Metroid as if Metroid Prime 3 was the most recent game.  Instead I fear that future Metroid titles will reference Other M's storyline or use some of its lousier game mechanics or continue to use Other M's interpretation of Samus' character.  And the WORST thing they could do is continue to make Metroid more linear.  Other M did a lot of things wrong but THAT is what makes it a Metroid-in-name-only to me.

Nintendo won't cancel it.  They've never been more sequel-happy in their existence.  I fully expect Star Tropics and Mach Rider to return any day now.  "Metroid" is a well known Nintendo name and given the choice between a new Metroid game or some original title the Metroid game is the lesser risk, regardless of how Other M sold.

NinSageMay 29, 2012

Quote from: NWR_Neal

EDIT: Also, can we move away from arguing over Metroid: Other M's reception? Go to the eight other threads in the forums to talk about that. We're taking one/two sentences from this entire feature and harping on them.

Which is exactly why those sentences didn't need to be here, they aren't central to the article's theme and if you're honest about trying to prevent this sort of rehash then lead by example, my man!

But, yes, let's move on ...

Quote from: NWR_Neal

It was still one of the worst-selling games in the mainline series. It might not be far off from Prime 2, but it still sold less than it.

It really seemed like Nintendo was not happy with how Other M was received. There are some quotes from Reggie in particular that echo that a lot. It might have garnered a 79 MetaCritic rating, but it didn't seem to be up to Nintendo's hopes.

:-\

~~~~~~~

Quote from: UncleBob

I'd be happy to see a new 2D Metroid period.  I don't even care if they released an e-Shop download.
2D Metroid > 3D Metroid, period.

As for a MOM2?  I wouldn't be completely surprised - there was a lot of assets put into that game and I could see them wanting to recycle them to recoup the development costs.

All that would make me very happy.

If the 2D game were a retail Wii U title, what do you think is the upper bound on play hours that you would want from a game of that genre?  After all, the SNES game took hours and hours and I bet a Wii U disc will be able to hold a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT more data.

joshnickersonMay 29, 2012

Oh man, the Factor 5 character model for Pit looks absolutely drab and lifeless. Thank God the series never veered in that direction.

I agree that Metroid should take a break for a while; when it does come back, they should try doing something different with it, perhaps something that would give the series a shot light-heartedness it desparately needs... "Paper Metroid" anyone?

nickmitchMay 29, 2012

Metroid doesn't need a break. It needs to get back to its roots and do what it does best. We need a Metroid V. I wouldn't mind if some of Other M's plot seeped in because, at the very least, it opens up the story for there to be more Metroids in the Metroid universe for Samus to hunt down.

ThanerosMay 29, 2012

Another bash on Other M article?! -_- 


C'mon E3 is just around the corner, there has to be sh*tload of other things to write about.

OblivionMay 29, 2012

I'm getting sick of all the Other M articles too.

Don't worry guys. Metroid: Other M month is almost over. All we've got is basically a Connectivity segment coming soon.

Then it's on to Pikmin 2, which hopefully will be way happier and less divisive. :)

Also, for the record, I like Metroid: Other M a whole bunch, but it was divisive and didn't live up to sales expectations for the most part. I'm not meaning to bash it that much. :X

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