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GoNintendo Thought: The pressure on Retro Studios with Metroid Prime 4 is immense

Metroid Prime 4 is likely the most high-profile game Nintendo fans are waiting to see, outside of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2. There's a LOT of pressure on Retro to deliver, and I thought I'd take a dive into that. As always, thanks for reading.

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Nintendo fans are always eager to see what the Big N is doing next with their franchises. Nintendo has built an unbelievable library of software over the last 40+ years, and they somehow always seem to deliver. There's a reason why Nintendo's characters are beloved and long-running. Nintendo and their partners put an ungodly amount of time and care into these experiences, making sure they're not only fun to play, but that they also feel like a Nintendo game. Whatever that magic behind-the-scenes formula is works, and Nintendo continues to wow fans with sequels to this day.

There's always pressure on any developer when coming up with a title, but things are a little different when it comes to Nintendo. More often than not, devs are working with franchises that have been growing for decades now, and have received some of the highest marks and rewards the industry has to offer. The weight of that success has to weigh quite heavy on all involved when a new installment is being cooked up. Nintendo often does a lot of the heavy lifting themselves, but they also partner up with a select few companies to help them achieve things they might not be capable of on their own. Case in point, Nintendo's second party partner, Retro.

As far as gaming goes, Retro really hasn't been around super long. They came into existence in 1998, and they officially hooked up with Nintendo to work on Metroid Prime in 2000. That said, Retro certainly proved that they were up to snuff when it came to developing. Working alongside Nintendo, they created the Metroid Prime series, which is one of the most highly-praised and lauded runs in Nintendo's history. Nintendo themselves said that Metroid Prime wasn't something they felt they could tackle on their own, and they wanted a Western dev to work with to achieve the next step for the Metroid series. Right out of the gate, Retro proved they could be that partner, and set an incredibly high standard for themselves.

Ever since, Retro has been doing phenomenal work. They continued to work with the Prime series to create two more stellar installments, and then shifted things over to the Donkey Kong Country series. While Metroid Prime took Samus in a new direction, Donkey Kong Country Returns was the return to a classic gameplay formula for Nintendo. Once again Retro took the reigns, and what they cranked out was beyond impressive. While Retro proved they could head in a bold new direction with the Prime series, their work on Donkey Kong Country titles showed they could not only emulate past experiences to great success, but innovate with them as well. Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze not only feel like the classic DKC series, they actually surpass the classics in some ways. Nailing that feeling while providing new experiences, all while not breaking the vibe...it's ridiculously impressive work from Retro.

Metroid and Donkey Kong...that's the body of work from Retro so far. They've done a bit of work here and there for Nintendo on other titles, but haven't taken the lead on a project since Tropical Freeze launched. Many have been eager to see what Retro could do with something brand new, or perhaps how they could innovate with another classic Nintendo franchise. For awhile there, we got to speculate on what Retro could be doing next, as things were extremely quiet. We still aren't quite sure what Retro was doing for a number of years there, but we certainly know what they're doing now. Retro is returning to the Metroid series for another Prime installment, and it's likely going to be their most anticipated and important title ever.

Nintendo was trying out something experimental with the development of Metroid Prime 4, and it just didn't pan out. In a very surprising move for Nintendo, they released a video statement on the game's development. Rather than hiding the behind-the-scenes troubles, Nintendo confirmed that Metroid Prime 4 needed to be completely retooled from the beginning. The project would start fresh once more, and Nintendo was bringing Retro in to pick up the mantle once again. This was met with an absolutely huge groundswell of support from fans, as they'd been dying to see the Prime series continue with its original developers.

This is where things get interesting, though. Yes, Retro has worked on three Metroid Prime titles, but that was Retro as of 2007. Its been 13 long years since Retro created a new installment in the Metroid Prime series, and the company has seen a lot of turnover since those days. Countless devs who were instrumental in creating the Prime installments have since moved on to other companies, and in some cases, even opened their own studios. There are still some developers within Retro who were a part of those Prime games, but by and large, Metroid Prime 4 is going to be the creation of a Retro that's in flux.

Could the new Retro tackle this project with ease? Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is proof positive that a more recent Retro Studios is more than capable of creating a AAA experience. Again, there's sure to be a number of employees who've left the company since Tropical Freeze's days, but it does give us a more recent snapshot of the company. There's talent there, and with Nintendo's guidance and oversight, there's a very good shot they could crank out a 4th installment in the Prime series that really wows. That said, there's another element to this saga that needs to be addressed, and it's the one that really piles on the pressure.

Back in 2010, Nintendo released Metroid: Other M, which was a collaboration with Team Ninja. Metroid: Other M was a bold departure from the Prime series of games in just about every way. The gameplay took things back to a more 2D-style approach, albeit with plenty of 3D areas to explore. Gameplay was focused on quick-paced action and fancy moves, rather than the more methodical and calculated approach of the Prime games. When it came to story, Metroid: Other M was jam-packed with voiced cut-scenes and melodrama, where as most of the Prime series let the story play out through the environments and isolation aspect, with a few story beats sprinkled in.

Metroid: Other M was given lukewarm-to-good reviews by the gaming press, but that was nothing compared to the reaction from fans around the world. Longtime followers of Samus and her journeys were not happy with the game at all. While there were gripes about certain gameplay elements, it was the story aspect that really rubbed fans the wrong way. Samus went from a stoic, self-assured bounty hunter to a character that seemed extremely insecure and wishy-washy. The story itself was filled with characters that seemed at odds with the franchise before it, and it all played out as something akin to a lackluster anime. It was not the story fans wanted, it wasn't the portrayal of Samus they expected, and it left an absolutely massive black mark on the Metroid series altogether.

Regardless of how you personally feel about Metroid: Other M, there's no denying a huge backlash followed the game. That point in time for Nintendo marked a turn for Metroid that is still being felt today. With so many fans let down by Other M, they were now more eager than ever for Nintendo to provide a new installment in the Prime series. As the months went on, calls for a new Prime only grew, and fans were becoming restless. They wanted to know what Retro was up to, and why a new installment in the series hadn't been announced.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, things went from bad to worse with Samus' next game, Metroid Prime: Federation Force. After waiting 5 years for a new Metroid game, Nintendo's reveal of Metroid Prime: Federation Force took fan rage to a whole new level. Metroid Prime: Federation Force was a spin-off for the Metroid franchise that played something like a Monster Hunter game in the Metroid universe. The focus was on 4-player co-op with missions and boss battles. Fans made it extremely clear that this is not what they wanted, nor was it what they were waiting for. This release only made the calls for Prime 4 that much louder, and the rage from fans more intense.

Side note: Personally, I greatly enjoyed Metroid Prime: Federation Force. I never thought it deserved the negative backlash it received...at least not to the degree it got. I feel the reaction to that game was more about fan expectations of what should come next, rather than how the game itself was. I still feel bad the game never got a shot with some fans, but it is what it is.

While the reaction to Metroid Prime: Federation Force only served to enrage fans more, we've since seen one more Metroid game release in Metroid: Samus Returns. Again, while this wasn't the new Prime game people wanted, it was at least more of a return to form for Samus. Metroid: Samus Returns was a remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus on Game Boy, and it was much improved compared to the original. It also had a lot more in the way of the atmosphere fans expect from a Metroid title. While it released a tad late in the 3DS' lifespan, those who did play the game seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. It wasn't the big fix that Metroid fans needed, but it was a nice band-aid to cover up the wound.

That journey brings us up to today. We're 13 years removed from the last Metroid Prime game, and the anger that stemmed from Metroid: Other M can still be felt. There's pressure in creating any sequel, but the amount that's flying around Metroid Prime 4 is extremely dense. I think it's safe to say there's never been more pressure on Nintendo and Retro to deliver. There was certainly concern about Metroid Prime before it came out, as it was something completely new for the series. That said, there was also excitement about the new direction, and early coverage did a ton to assuage fears. We were also living in a different time, and social media wasn't a thing. Developers didn't have a live-stream of all the anger, hate, and worries of every gamer around the world, which only intensifies the situation today.

We often wonder if games can live up to the hype. Nintendo has done an excellent job of somehow managing to meet the hype, if not surpass it time and time again. The same goes for Retro, which has knocked it out of the park with everything they've touched. Can the two sides team up once again to create a masterpiece in Metroid Prime 4? It's certainly possible, and Nintendo will no doubt make sure this next outing for Samus does a lot to repair the damaged relationship with fans. You can bet Retro will be doing their best as well, going out of their way to not just deliver the game fans want, but give us some new things we haven't even thought about. No matter how Prime 4 is received, no one will be able to say the final result comes from two teams that didn't try.

Metroid Prime 4 is easily the most important release in the Metroid series to date. What happens with the franchise from here on out is going to depend on Prime 4's success. The restarted development process is pressure enough, and would make for an interesting story in and of itself. Throw in the fan disappointment with the series in recent years and the immense amount of time that's passed, and it's hard to imagine a more stressful situation. In the eyes of most fans, Metroid Prime 4 needs to right the Metroid ship.

We'll most likely see something about Metroid Prime 4 in the not-too-distant future. That's no doubt a moment Nintendo and Retro are quite worried about. They need to show something that's absolutely pitch perfect. Until then, us fans would do well to step back, take a deep breath, and be ready to take in what we see with a level head. Hopefully whatever we're shown will wow us. It's happened before with the Metroid series, and it can certainly happen again.

Categories: Consoles, Feature
Tags: retro, metroid, switch

Comments

At the same time, fans should expect something a game of today would have. Nintendo’s core games like Fire Emblem and Xenoblade don’t sell like a Mario Odyssey, so the ROI to a project of this would mean more than just a $60 game. I expect DLC or a season pass, and a post release schedule. Probably a Limited Edition or a Pro Controller SKU, so that the average dollar per transaction is higher than $60 to put it in the black.

A Limited Edition, yes. DLC, I highly doubt.

Wow, I can't believe it's been that long since Prime 3 and Other M. I feel so old, lol.

I 100% agree. While most Nintendo AAA games are met with insane hype, the circumstances around Prime 4 amplify it even more. If this game is anything less than a masterpiece, people are going to shred it to pieces. It's... a bit concerning, to be honest, thinking that the future of the entire Metroid series may rest on this game's shoulders.

Let's hope it delivers! And hopefully we get the Trilogy for Switch in the meantime. :P

There’s always the sidescrolling games to fall back on, cheaper to make too

pajob
Wed May 13 20 07:25am
Rating: 1

Yes. Honestly I prefer the main series (Metroid/Zero Mission, Return of Samus, Super, Other M and Fusion) over the Prime games, but these are top-notch as well.

the_kernal
Wed May 13 20 12:29am
Rating: 2

I trust Retro and Nintendo. Its obvious they're taking great care with this. However, the landscape has changed quite a bit since Prime 3 came out and I think expectations for not only doing something new and exciting with the property is high but also how the series will continue to expand the 1st person adventure genre. It's not as if they can just do " it's like the 1st 3 games, but prettier" (though, personally, I'd be fine with that), gamers in 2020 expect more. My one hope is that they either come up with a compelling use of multiplayer or dont use it at all.

Again, I trust Retro. I trust Nintendo.

Side note, I didnt hate Other M. Thought it was certainly a lesser experience but I liked it overall. Thought the story was mostly interesting and that the combat was pretty frenetic and exciting... even liked baby puffball Ridley. The 1st person view, though? Ooofa doofa.....

I reaaaaaally hope they don't waste precious dev time to add multiplayer. It's incredibly out of place for the series, IMO.

That is ultimately where I land on it as well. It's just with Prime 2 having a tacked on multilayer mode and Federation Force, I feel they may have some of those ideas rattlin' around.

I was about to say "if they DO add it, I hope its co-op and not deathmatch" but stopped myself because that takes away the magic of Metroid. It should be an isolated journey of literal discovery and growth. Samus is at her best alone.

It may have been tacked on in 2, but it was really fun.

Yes RMC, Other M was a bold departure by deliberately trashing the franchise thinking fans would accept it.

I knew you would pop in on this, my friend!

I couldn't disappoint you.

ridleysaria
Wed May 13 20 01:35am
Rating: 1 (Updated 1 time)

There's definitely a lot of pressure on Retro. There's one big thing they have going against them. The original Metroid Prime was stunning when it came out. In terms of power, Gamecube was equivalent to PS2 and Xbox. Switch is going to be up against PS5 and Xbox series X by the time Prime 4 comes out. Retro's team of artists really need to be on point with Prime 4 if they want to make up for that hardware shortcoming. It's going to be a lot harder to impress with outdated tech. A great art direction can do that - let's hope they pull it off.

Yeah, I feel bad for Federation Force. It was a good game, it's just the backlash against it was more resentment towards Other M than for FF itself (we saw a similar thing happen with Color Splash that very same E3).

Even Other M had some good ideas within it, it was just botched by Sakamoto acting too prima-donna as the game's director and not accepting criticism from the other devs working on it. Stuff like insisting on the single-Wiimote controls instead of something more MP3/MPT-like, or wanting to direct the English voice actors despite not knowing English himself, leading to really stilted performances.

We're 13 years removed from the last Metroid Prime game

Jeeezz that makes me feel old.

...
I liked Metroid Other M.
I also thought Prime 2 and 3 were good but already showed that Retro was struggling to reinvent themselves with this franchise.

What I mean by that is that MP works well as a trilogy in sort of the same way as Dark Souls does. They were not even trying to reinvent things, rather to put out sequels close to each other that were exploring more the concept behind the first game.

That's fine as I've said in a Dark Souls kind of way, that gives us a compelling trilogy of games. But also, there is a reason why after that, From Software decided to leave Dark Souls alone. They felt they could not really deliver something different for fear of a fan backlash but at the same time could not really just repeat themselves because the series would become stale. That's exactly where Retro is with MP right now and that's a pretty uncomfortable position. Now I kind of understand that we've been waiting long enough since MP3 so that might justify Retro delivering just more of the same with MP4 and getting away with it. But in my mind, MP4 needs to be a lot more than that.

Personally I was hoping MP4 would be a bold departure from the Prime formula. They are great games but they never replaced old-school Metroid for me. They just don't feel like what a 3d Metroid should be if they were trying to emulate the 2d gameplay and game feel. But that's the thing though, I don't think they were trying to do that, I think they were going for their own thing in the world of Metroid and that's fine. I just hope Nintendo keeps caring about old-school Metroid next to the Prime series.

And really, Other M was a pretty good game, even though if Ninty ever wants to go back to that sort of 3d Metroid, they would need to change a couple things obviously. And when I say Ninty, that's not necessarily Ninty that could do it, that could be Retro mixing ingredients from the Prime series with ideas from Other M. The biggest departure they could do would be to ditch the first person view and go for more fast paced gameplay. I very much doubt that's the kind of departure from the Prime formula we're going to get and I'm sure they are going with something much safer and less risky, but part of me hopes they go really bold with that game. We'll see.

Part of the pressure comes from the fact Retro haven’t put out a new game in over 6 years.

While obviously they haven’t been working on MP4 for all that time since they only got the project 18 months ago, the perception will be that they’ve had all this time to make something great.

I had to log in after it's been YEARS to comment on how great your end of day thoughts was. A joy to read.

I wouldn't want to be Retro right now with developing the new Prime. The pressure they must feel has to be pretty big. Who do you please? Even in the Prime trilogy, I only enjoyed the first one the most. Echoes was OK and overall I was meh with Corruption.

Thank you for the kind words, my friend. I'm really trying my best to bring the daily features back and put a lot more thought into them. I'm glad the effort is coming through!

I hope it pays off for you because I really enjoyed reading this article. The same goes for the interview you did with WayForward. Some really awesome stuff. I must apologize because I haven't active on here in years and it wasn't until just recently that I started visiting again. I've got so much history on this website that it holds a special place in my heart and I'm very grateful you are still running it after all these years. I was a teenager when I first started to visit and comment and now I'm going to turn 32 this year. Crazy how time flies. Here's to many more. 🥃🥃

Metroid is the one Nintendo franchise I haven't gotten into. I don't really like being in oppressive feeling areas like dungeons in Zelda for long amounts of time, and that's kind of all Metroid is.

After all is said and done, I just hope this will receive the support and sales to continue the Franchise. Seems like Metroid fans are just a very vocal few cos the sales figures are almost always underwhelming.

xcanadianrambox
Wed May 13 20 07:55am
(Updated 1 time)

Personally, the only reason I didn’t like Federation Force was because some unknown thing bugged out to me and my name only ever appeared as ?????? No matter what I tried XD And I never did try Other M... I bought it used a long time ago and the disc was scratched and I didn’t bother with it after that >.> I don’t have a wii or a wii u anymore so I don’t really have the option to play it now

Otherwise, I liked the original trilogy enough that I almost want that on switch more than I want Prime 4 lolll I just really want it to be announced so I can finally breathe a sigh of relief and can relax knowing that it actually exists lol

I'm a Metroid fan, but I got to admit for me it has had more hits than misses.

IMO Metroid is a hard series to get into. It's more about feel, the story is very vague after the beginning and there's a lot delving into the gameplay without much notion on what you're doing and where you're going.

More than the games I just have the feeling the most hardcore fans mainly liked Super Metroid and expect every new entry to be like Super Metroid. I think for a series to improve it needs to try new things, while at the same time keeping the essence of what made the IP good in the first place. I'll even say now if we follow that mindset that Metroid could learn more from Dark Souls and Hollow Knight's atmosphere than Super Metroid.

IMO if they continue the 2D games in my wildest dreams I think Samus needs to complete it's arc by having a successor or companion. Or if people just want Samus to continue being alone, I mainly see adapting more from Alien 3.

In regards to the Prime series I don't know what to expect with the inclusion of Sylux, and the continuous attempts to make the Federation relevant to the story. Will the GOLEM project continue in Prime 4? Will the war with the space pirates keep building in scope? Will Metroids matter more in the Prime series? It has a lot more to work with, but at the same time, more reasons on why it has been hard to focus on the next thing I believe.

All In all, the reality is Metroid as a series is still very niche, despite how vocal it is along discussions, backlashes or meltdowns. As an IP I think Nintendo keeps it because like Bayonetta, it is another series to diversify their portfolio, but businesswise it just hasn't hit the mark compared to their other IP.

As good as the Prime games are, only the first made a lasting impression on me. Metroid Prime 1 borrowed many elemental from Super Metroid, while 2 and 3 tried to do its own thing, which is ok. Considering that, Other M is more of a Metroid game and more fun overall than Prime Hunters, Prime 2, 3 and Federation Force. Hunters and FF ar great, FF even shows there is life in the universe outside Samus, but why call it Metroid when there are no Metroids to be seen? I don't know if Prime 4 will go back to its roots trying to mimick Super Metroids/ Prime 1 or will try something new?
Meanwhile, my most wanted Metroid game is Metroid 5, the sequel to Fusion. That's been an even longer wait (18 years and counting).

If they just called it Federation Force we would be in another world right now. A great game with excellent first person controls on a handheld, buried by a name alone.

They're clearly not under the kind of pressure that's remotely time-sensitive. It's been over a year and we haven't even gotten a single piece of concept art yet. (~_~)

Anyway since everyone else is ranking the games:

I like how you rank the games, it is pretty unusual. Since all ratings have to be commentde, there it is :
- I think you're being too harsh with Fusion, but I love that you went through the hassle of rating Pinball xD
- Also you're being too nice with MP2.
- And also and more importantly, you forgot the G god-tier category for SM.

casey
Thu May 14 20 11:57pm
(Updated 1 time)

-Fusion has the MP3 problem of trying to be too many different things at once and it doesn't really work for me at any of them. It's too handholdy for what I want out of Metroid and it's not actiony enough for what I want out of a run'n'gun and it's too easy for what I want out of a horror game and it's too wordy and humourless for me to like it as a story game. It was also the start of Sakamoto's Freudian obsession with trying to improve on the ending of Super (he's tried to remade that scene in literally every Metroid he's made since) and failing because you can't improve on perfection.
Meanwhile I think Pinball is a very good pinball game.
-It's impossible to be too nice to MP2. It and Super are my faves. :3

with all talents that Retro Studios is hiring since Metroid Prime 4 restarted it development in january of 2019, i beleive Retro Studios can make the best Metroid Prime and Metroid game ever, Retro Studios take all you time you need to make the best Metroid game ever.

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