4. Even if You Want to Play for Just a Bit
Even if You Want to Play for Just a Bit
Even though Retro’s appreciation for the Wii turned 180 degrees, and they regained their motivation and inspiration to go on, I’m sure that the game’s development did not go through without its ups and downs.
Yes. Although it was obvious that the controls themselves would change with the introduction of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, we really wanted to create something that would make the game feel fresh to the people who had enjoyed previous entries in the series. It was then the staff at Retro suggested we should make further use of Samus’s gunship. However, if we had done just that, it would only have amounted to just one more item for you to use. It wasn’t a gameplay element that could be used throughout the game. So while we were racking our brains together trying to find an idea, we came up with Hyper Mode. Erm, I don’t think I can explain this very well. Tanabe-san, could you, please!
Ah, I understand. (Laughs) In the main narrative of the game, Samus is corrupted by this substance called Phazon, and at the same time, the same thing is happening to various planets throughout the universe. This is why we chose Corruption as the subtitle for this game. However, the fact that Samus is being corrupted is not just expressed throughout the game in cutscenes. We were wondering if we could use this element in the game system itself. This led us to eventually add in Hyper Mode. With Hyper Mode, Samus can turn the Phazon corruption to her advantage and rapidly increase her attack and defense capabilities. In a sense, she can become powerful enough to make the difficulty level of the game crumble away, so if the player can master this system, it can be very useful.
I heard that there was considerable disagreement within Retro concerning Hyper Mode.
That’s true. We didn’t want to make Hyper Mode a simple “booster” feature. There are a lot of games with power up-systems, but with Hyper Mode, we wanted you to be able to use it wherever, whenever you wished. However, if you fail to use it correctly, there is a risk it might send you to the Game Over screen. I wanted the system to be a two-edged sword like this. On the other hand, some people at Retro wanted to take the system into a simpler direction. It seems some thought that Metroid Prime 2 had been too difficult and wanted 3 to be a bit simpler. This is why there was a lot of disagreement between us. A lot of people thought the game would become needlessly complicated with the introduction of Hyper Mode.
That’s why you started experimenting with Hyper Mode at a very early stage in the game’s development. It only actually developed into a usable form at a very late stage.
It was only when we could see the game’s testers mastering the system that its detractors finally began changing their minds. And after we inserted one more gameplay feature in the final stages of the game’s development, they could finally approve of the system wholeheartedly. This was the ability to exit Hyper Mode whenever the player so wished.
It took quite a while before they could accept the system, didn’t it?
That may have been the most arduous part of this project. Well, actually, there was one more major hardship we had to overcome. Those were your words… (Strained laughter)
So, we’ve finally come to this topic. (Laughs)
During the second half of 2006, I showed you Metroid Prime 3, as it was then in mid-development. You told me, “In this current state, it’s no good. It’s ok if we postpone the release, so please improve it until it’s of the same quality as Twilight Princess.” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. My face went ghastly pale. (Laughs) Originally, we were planning to make it a launch game, so I asked, “What should we do now…?!”
Even if we couldn’t release it with the hardware, our original plan was to at least release it soon after. So to fulfill this objective, development had begun really early, and the people at Retro had given their all to achieve this goal as well. That’s why, even though they had been given more time to work on the game, rather than feeling happy about getting time to improve it, they may have felt that they just wanted to finish the project as soon as possible.
I think so. Also, to put it specifically, I don’t think the people at Retro really sensed what you meant by “improve it until it’s of the same quality as Twilight Princess.” We didn’t, either. After all, the games are in different genres. But then you told us we should make the game by lavishing attention to detail, up to the point where the player is bound the feel it in at least one area of the game. These came to stimulate our work greatly. So after racking our brains trying to think up various ideas, we came up with the system of “Unique AI.”
“Unique AI” is a new term, isn’t it?
Smart AI is, for example, when the enemies can predict your attacks and avoid them, or being able to find and climb the stairs correctly wherever they are on the map. Now, this kind of “merely smart” AI can be found in a lot of FPS games. But we wanted to create unique, interesting AI that could clearly adapt to situations, and decided to insert at least one such AI in each stage.
Specifically what kind of AI did you build into the game?
For example, there is something similar to playing tag. When we were children, I’m sure everyone at one time took a treasured item from a friend and ran away from them, passing it to other friends. We had that kind of element inserted into the game’s opening.
Even though the people at Retro Studios are making this game very seriously, they had to include such a thing because a Japanese man came from the Orient to tell them so! (Laughs)
Yeah, there was some resistance at first, but in the end, we succeeded in getting Samus to play tag with three Space Pirates. But as far as nonsense ideas that could be instantly recognized as stupid, I made efforts not bring them up. Of course, ideas like having a tub fall on Samus’s head, like in Chibi Robo, were not adopted into the game.
Three Space Pirates “playing tag” through “Unique AI”
When Tanabe-san talks about these kinds of ideas, he really looks happy. Even when the people at Retro are seriously opposing them! (Laughs) They said, “Please stop saying such things!” because they don’t fit into the cool science fiction universe of Metroid.
But I’m just like Tanabe-san. I love playful ideas. It’s just irresistible, inserting something a little playful into a really serious world.
For example, during a battle, in certain conditions, an enemy Space Pirate is sucked up towards the ceiling. However, because the Space Pirate has no intention of just dying, in order to avoid flying off, he desperately tries to cling on to something. Then, if Samus shoots the hand with which the Pirate is hanging on for his life, he gets sucked up and hits the sealing with a thud. After this, the target which you need to shoot drops down for you to see… When I tried suggesting this sequence to the people at Retro, at first they just gave me a bitter smile. (Laughs) But it seems that when we actually put it in the game and had people try it out, the reception was very good. I think they understood the appeal of the idea.
A Space Pirate hanging on for dear life.
I guess after that, they must have realized that the serious feeling of the game could withstand a playful scenario like that.
And finally, there is a scene where you are leading a group of Galactic Federation soldiers where you have to make sure at least a certain number of them survive to reach your goal. At first, your soldiers getting killed was just a pre-programmed “demo scene” intended to enliven the feel of battle. When this scenario was suggested to be executed as a game system instead, even though it must have been tough, in the end they went ahead with it. Furthermore, the end product was of such high quality that it hardly needed any modification. When you told me to postpone the release, I didn’t know if I felt happy or sad or… (Strained laugh)
And you had no choice but to keep on travelling between Kyoto and Texas until the game’s development was over. (Laughs) However, because this was also the end of a trilogy, it was particularly important that it would leave the players with a good impression. Even if it meant delaying the release of the game, I really wanted the game to be something everyone could appreciate. But as a result, I really made you go through a lot, didn’t I?
No, not at all. In the end, I do appreciate your decision.