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Retro Studios Retrospective

by Zachary Miller - November 28, 2007, 10:36 am PST
Total comments: 7 Source: Gamasutra

A look back on developing Metroid's greatest trilogy.

Ever wonder how those awesome Metroid Prime games were developed? How a first-time Texas developer was able to take the reigns of one of Nintendo’s most important franchises? Why Metroid Prime 2 feels a whole lot like Link to the Past? Gamasutra sat down with Retro Studios’ president and CEO, Michael Kelbaugh, to discuss those and many other issues. Here are some highlights from that interview:

  • When they were approached by Nintendo to develop Metroid Prime, Retro was already in the preproduction phases for an RPG, a racing game, a football game, and an action-adventure. All of those projects were scrapped once Nintendo gave them the go-ahead.
  • You might remember that the first screens of Metroid Prime were from a third-person perspective. That view was switched to the familiar first-person view because Mr. Miyamoto, who was heavily involved in the first game, felt that exploration was more intuitive from a first-person perspective.
  • Not surprisingly, the team used Super Metroid as a base for Metroid Prime, but the Morph Ball was almost ditched during development. Making the transition from first-person to third-person sphere proved very difficult. Miyamoto, however, put the entire project on the line for the Morph Ball. Get it right, or you can’t make the game! Well, they got it right.
  • The Scan Visor was added basically at the last minute, because NCL thought that something was missing from the exploration aspect. They were the ones who suggested the Scan Visor, which has remained a staple of the series.
  • But the Scan Visor has its dissenters! Western gamers apparently can’t stand the Scan Visor, while Japanese gamers love it. Retro tried in subsequent games to give the visor a wider appeal, with tips on defeating enemies or rewards for scanning everything.
  • For Metroid Prime 2, the team wanted to focus on a theme rather than just a new setting. After speaking with one of the producers for Link to the Past, the Retro team decided to go that route.
  • But Retro pushed Echoes in the hardcore fan direction, alienating more casual and new gamers with Echoes’ brutal difficulty and non-linearity.
  • Right after development on Echoes was wrapped up, Retro was discussing how to improve the formula for Corruption, which is when they were shown the Wii Remote. Lights instantly went off, although one sticking point early on was the Remote’s lack of buttons.
  • For a 2004 TGS demo, the Retro team retrofitted Echoes with the Wii control scheme, and surprised themselves with how versatile it proved to be. Maybe this motion-sensing thing wasn’t so crazy after all…
  • Click the link above for the full interview.


    Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusNovember 28, 2007

    Awesome interview, very interesting. It really shows how much of a visionary Miyamoto is and how much incite he had in making Metroid Prime an outstanding game. Only one question to ask now, when are we going to get a re-release of Prime 1 and 2 on a single disk with Wii remote functionality?

    vuduNovember 28, 2007

    I swear I read this interview months (if not years) ago. Or maybe one very similar.

    Regardless, thanks for the summary! I have neither the time nor the inclination to read the entire interview.

    MashiroNovember 28, 2007


    Get it right, or you can’t make the game!

    <3 Miyamoto

    IceColdNovember 28, 2007


    Originally posted by: vudu
    I swear I read this interview months (if not years) ago. Or maybe one very similar.

    Regardless, thanks for the summary! I have neither the time nor the inclination to read the entire interview.
    N-Sider did a RETRO-spective of Metroid Prime years ago... it was very, very well done.

    Bill AurionNovember 28, 2007

    It sounds very much like Retro's next game will NOT involve one of their prior canned projects...

    Personally though I'd love to see something similar to Raven Blade in the sense that I'd love to see what Retro could do with a Medieval-type setting...

    EnnerNovember 29, 2007

    Was it N-Sider or IGN? Well, whoever it was, it was long, informative, and interesting.

    The thing that interests me in this piece are the bits about Corruption and the Wii. While they were brief, it was nice to hear how the developement was for Prime 3.

    It's amazing to think that this really was their freshman effort, it makes what they accomplished (with Nintendo's help) a really impressive achievement. It's really interesting to hear that the scan visor was a late addition that Nintendo wanted, but not Retro... and to hear of all the other fights along the way.

    It's also awesome to hear that Nintendo absolutely creamed each of Retro's original teams and game ideas when they presented their various games. Hahaha!

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