3DS

A Brief History of Metroid: Samus Returns Developer MercurySteam

by Neal Ronaghan - June 14, 2017, 9:15 am PDT
Total comments: 13

They've tried the "vania." Let's see if they can make the "Metroid."

MercurySteam's development history doesn't exactly scream "Nintendo developer," but their path to making a 2D Metroid with Yoshio Sakamoto does seem to follow a narrative that makes sense. The Spanish studio was founded in the early 2000s, with their first releases being the action game American McGee's Scrapland for Xbox and PlayStation 2, an N-Gage game called Zombies, and the early Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game Clive Barker's Jericho. Those games all had mixed reception, and for the studio's next game, they started working with Konami to develop an original property. That's when things got interesting for them. In the early stages of this Konami game, called Lords of Shadow, legendary game producer Hideo Kojima started helping them out with development, shaping the look and feel of the game. Shortly after that, Lords of Shadow was turned into a Castlevania title, part of a big reboot of the series. While Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a huge change to the acclaimed Metroidvania style of earlier games, it was an extremely well-received action game that drew positive comparisons to God of War and Bayonetta.

The success of their Castlevania title is likely what put MercurySteam on the path to Metroid, though. While the core team at MercurySteam was hard at work on Lords of Shadow 2, another team, headed by Jose Luis Márquez, made a 2D game that hoped to mixed Lords of Shadow with the classic Symphony of the Night style. This project was Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, which hit the 3DS in early 2013. Reaction was mixed, though our review back in the day was more positive than most. The main takeaway was that Mirror of Fate's perceived failings might have laid more at the feet of trying to make two disparate game styles work together, as it tried to bring in Lords of Shadow's combo-heavy combat to the world of exploratory 2D adventures. Maybe this is just the optimist in me talking, but the vibe I personally get from Mirror of Fate is not that the developer made a bad game; moreso, they fused together two things that maybe don't work that well together. Mirror of Fate wasn't a big critical or sales success, though, and Lords of Shadow 2 was critically slammed when it launched in 2014. Since then, MercurySteam has been quiet as they worked on the self-published Raiders of the Broken Planet, which was revealed in mid-2016 and seems to follow in the lineage of their work on the two main Lords of Shadow games.

But a rumor popped up regarding MercurySteam back in 2015. According to Liam Robertson (via Nintendo Life), MercurySteam made a Metroid prototype for Wii U and 3DS and pitched it to Nintendo. The word back then was that the pitch was turned down, but that Nintendo was open to working with the studio. Turns out, that was right on the money, as it can be easily assumed that MercurySteam started development on Metroid: Samus Returns after the results of that meeting.

And now, Mirror of Fate's Director Jose Luis Márquez gets another stab at making a killer Metroidvania style game. Hell, MercurySteam might be the only studio in history to have a chance at making both the "Metroid" and "vania" part of the term. We'll find out soon enough if MercurySteam is successful, as Metroid: Samus Returns will be out on 3DS on September 15. Until then, I'll be here hoping that the alchemy of a team with potential can make something excellent with a Nintendo producer who has proven to make brilliant Metroid games (Zero Mission, Super Metroid) in the past.

Talkback

Donk it up KongJune 14, 2017

I remember trying to the demo for Mirror of Fate and not liking it, so I'm a little skeptical how Samus Returns will pan out. We shall see, though!

Quote from: Mop

I remember trying to the demo for Mirror of Fate and not liking it, so I'm a little skeptical how Samus Returns will pan out. We shall see, though!

There's a decently long list of developers who have had much better results working with Nintendo than they had with anyone else. Nintendo producers seem to pretty consistently get the absolute best out of studios they work with.

No wonder Nintendo games take so long. They spend so much time handholding other developers.

AdrockJune 14, 2017

Began with Rare, hasn't stopped since.

Donk it up KongJune 14, 2017

Quote from: Adrock

Began with Rare, hasn't stopped since.

So you think Yoshi's NEW Island was a good game? ;)

Quote from: Mop

Quote from: Adrock

Began with Rare, hasn't stopped since.

So you think Yoshi's NEW Island was a good game? ;)

Maybe Artoon is just the worst developer in the world, and even Nintendo can only get them up to that.

ejamerJune 14, 2017

As mentioned in another thread, I've been roundly disappointed by every MercurySteam game I've played - probably because they just tend to make the type of games that generally don't appeal to me more than because those games are "bad".


But looking at their track record, and then thinking about the last couple of Metroid games released, I can't help but feel nervous about this title. Metroid is a series I should like, and some games in the series are fantastic... but others have been notable misses, enough that benefit of the doubt is no longer automatic.


Fingers crossed this Metroid title retains the exploration and adventuring style that made me fall in love with the series, instead of becoming a combo-heavy action title.

Luigi DudeJune 14, 2017

If this game does well I wouldn't be surprised if MercurySteam is turned into a dedicated Metroid studio for the 2D games at least.  One of the main reasons why there was such a gap especially with the 2D games is because they haven't had a dedicated studio to make them in a while since the previous ones were made by 1st party teams and Nintendo wanted to see if they could make bigger returns then the Metroid games were doing.

But now if a third party studio like MercurySteam wants to make Metroid games for Nintendo and the games at least make a profit, it's kind of a win-win.  Konami got three Castlevania games out of them and their original titles haven't exactly been big hits so I don't see why they'd have a problem making Metroid games for the next decade if Nintendo wants them to.

Donkepal148 KongJune 14, 2017

I think the fact that MercurySteam is doing a remake and not an original title says a lot about how much confidence Nintendo has in them.

If it's well received and it does well enough I suspect Nintendo will be willing to give them more creative freedom.

AdrockJune 14, 2017

Quote from: Luigi

Konami got three Castlevania games out of them and their original titles haven't exactly been big hits so I don't see why they'd have a problem making Metroid games for the next decade if Nintendo wants them to.

MercurySteam didn't want to keep making Castlevania games so I can't see it becoming a Metroid factory.

Quote from: pokepal148

I think the fact that MercurySteam is doing a remake and not an original title says a lot about how much confidence Nintendo has in them.

If it's well received and it does well enough I suspect Nintendo will be willing to give them more creative freedom.

Nintendo could be giving MercurySteam the Grezzo treatment. It isn't a 1:1 comparison though. Grezzo ported Ocarina of Time (before working on an original title in Tri-Force Heroes). Metroid: Samus Returns looks like a pretty massive departure from Metroid II.

EDIT: Clarity. Sorry, ejamer.

leahsdadJune 14, 2017


Everyone here is way too harsh on Nintendo handing over Metroid to another developer.  Remember Other M?  Oh, wait.  Ugh.  Other M.  I just shuddered the same way Homer Simpson shudders at Selma's personal hygiene. 

ejamerJune 15, 2017

Quote from: Adrock

... working on original titles like Four Sword Anniversary ...

Did I miss something here?
I thought this was very much a remake of the GBA title, although probably expanded a little bit. Was it actually an original title that just used the old game as template for gameplay?

AdrockJune 15, 2017

It's a remaster (though Realm of Memories was new). I originally listed Zelda games Grezzo worked on which included Majora's Mask 3D. I rephrased the parenthetical, removed Majora's Mask but didn't remove Four Swords Anniversary. Notice that there's a pretty egregious grammatical error with "and" written twice. Actually, don't. I'll edit my previous point for clarity.

Quote from: leahsdad

Everyone here is way too harsh on Nintendo handing over Metroid to another developer.  Remember Other M?  Oh, wait.  Ugh.  Other M.  I just shuddered the same way Homer Simpson shudders at Selma's personal hygiene.

At the same time, it goes both ways. Remember Metroid Prime?

In any case, I think a lot of Other M's issues fall mostly on Sakamoto. He made some weird design choices. Other M was also the first 3D Metroid he was deeply involved with. He laid an egg, and now he's working on a 2D Metroid again.

Got a news tip? Send it in!
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement