1. Playing with Intuitive Controls
2. Combining the Strengths of the East with the Strengths of the West
3. The Wii was Evaluated Poorly
5. We Wanted the Game to Play Intuitively
The Wii was Evaluated Poorly
When a series continues for a long time, there is a risk it may end up getting stuck in a rut. How did you approach making the third installment in the Metroid Prime series?
Now, this isn’t limited to just the Metroid Prime series, but when I was working with Miyamoto-san a long time ago, there was something he would say to me time and time again: “When you are making new games in a series, it’s not enough to innovate on the level of the details alone. With each new game, you should challenge yourself and innovate at the level of the core game system itself.” I think that ever since then, I’ve been indelibly ingrained with this way of thinking.
I, too, remember Miyamoto-san sternly pointing this out to me a long time ago, when we were working on new games in the Kirby series. If you fail to thoroughly assume this attitude while making the games, the franchise will rapidly wear itself out. With that in mind, what kind of innovations did you think up for this third Metroid Prime game?
As mentioned earlier, during the development of the first Metroid Prime game, I gave them directions on aspects which Nintendo is very particular about, but when it came to the structure and the game system itself, we didn’t really interfere that much. This was because I knew that the people at Retro Studios had a very deep understanding of the Metroid games and were making the new game with the utmost effort, trying to find the very best way to transition the series into 3D. However, there was one thing which we did strongly request them to implement. This was the Visor system. Since we didn’t want Metroid Prime to be an FPS game, but a “First Person Adventure” game instead, we thought we should adopt the screen itself as a new gameplay system.
So since Samus was already wearing a helmet, you thought, “Why not make use of that factor as a game element?”
As for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, because making a mere sequel would have been boring and so on, when we were discussing new ideas for the game, the staff at Retro told me they would like to have the game set in “a world of light and dark.” When I heard that I thought: “Now where have I heard that before…?” (Laughs)
That must have been The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which you worked on previously. You had a really hard time developing that game, didn’t you? It must be destiny, history repeating itself. (Laughs)
I really suffered a lot of hardships working on that game. (Laughs) Inserting the ideas we had into the game world was really difficult. One of the people working at Retro really loved A Link to the Past and wanted to try out that two-world system, no matter what. Therefore, I told them, “That theme is really hard work to pull off, but if you really want it that much…” And that’s how it became the theme of Metroid Prime 2. As for Metroid Prime 3, I think Tabata-san can tell you more about it…
Yes. Because (Prime) 1 and 2 were made for the Gamecube, they used traditional controllers, but with Prime 3, because it was now made for the Wii, it was above all the controls that changed the most. I think you could even go so far as to say the Wii Remote and Nunchuk were developed with this game in mind to begin with.
Among the prototypes for the Wii Remote, there were even traditional controllers that were held with two hands [i.e. like PS2 and Gamecube controllers], with pointer functionality built into them. When (Keisuke) Terasaki-san, who is working with us at Production Group No. 3, saw this prototype, he exclaimed, “You could make a Metroid Prime game for this controller, but wouldn’t it be easier to use if you just split it into two parts?” This became the impetus for the creation of the Nunchuk.
At the time, when the Wii was still being referred to as “Revolution,” you could say the people at Retro Studios held an almost desperately low opinion of the system.
I think the people at Retro believed that whenever a new game console is released, graphics should steadily improve, calculation speed should become faster and faster, and many new functionalities should be built in. However, with the “Revolution”, we suggested a completely different direction from what they had imagined. It seems to me they really felt, “This is no good.”
When we first told them approximately how powerful the Revolution would turn out to be, they got seriously worried, saying that, “If Nintendo goes ahead with this, we will be in deep trouble!” They would try to change your mind: “With these specs, there is no way you’ll sell in America!”
Yes. Whenever they had the chance, they would earnestly ask me, “Could you please reconsider?!” (Laughs) Because at the time, we were still far from finalizing the system, so this was understandable. It’s true that even in our headquarters, there were a considerable amount of people who felt anxiety about our new direction. And then, when we had come up with the Nunchuk, we made the unreasonable request to the people at Retro to have Metroid Prime 2 playable with it. However, because the Nunchuk was still unannounced, we had to keep it a secret. We could only tell a select few at Retro about it: the people who were preparing the demo for us. However, the response to this demo was, from the very beginning, extremely positive.
It was finished for the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, wasn’t it?※1 At the time I was staying in Texas, and right before the announcement, I had the rest of the staff at Retro introduced to the Nunchuk. I will never forget the spectacle of that moment. I gathered all the staff together who had not been involved in the creation of the demo, and the moment they first picked up the Nunchuk, it was as if their eyes lit up. The surprise on their faces was truly something to behold. ※1: Iwata-san held the keynote speech for the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, during which the Wii Remote and Nunchuk were first announced.
At the time, we had certain third party developers and a few select members of the press try out the controllers. It was as if they expressed amazement in unison: “This is the next big thing!” People from abroad seemed to react especially positively to it, perhaps because they are so into the FPS genre.
In Texas, people at Retro would rush up to me and exclaim how wonderful the new controller was. Even the people who felt so strongly about graphics, when they actually got to try out the new controls, as creators they couldn’t help but be inspired by the new possibilities the Remote and Nunchuk brought with them. In the end, they kept going on about how excited they were. (Laughs)
Even after the Wii was released in America, it continues to enjoy the blessings of the Retro staff.
Among the staff, apparently one guy had a wife who was the type to have no interest in gaming. Nevertheless, after the Wii was launched, he would happily go on about how his wife had finally given videogames a try. And after the staff had returned home to their families for the holidays, they would tell us how they had all enjoyed videogames together.
With Metroid Prime 3, even the people who show absolutely no interest upon first hearing about it, when they actually try to play it a little bit, their attitude seems to change dramatically. Looking into the future, I think that in this way too, this project turned out very noteworthy.