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The History of Metroid

In 1999, with the Nintendo 64 approaching the end of its troubled road and "Project Dolphin" on the horizon, Nintendo finally accepted that Metroid wasn't going to sell in Japan and started planning a fully Western-orientated instalment. The next game in the series would be for Dolphin, eventually renamed to GameCube, but there wasn't any room internally to get to work on the first 3D instalment.

Intelligent Systems was already busy working on Game Boy Advance launch games Mario Kart Super Circuit, Wario Land 4 and Advance Wars - plus its lack of 3D expertise made it an unlikely candidate to take Samus into the third dimension. Instead Nintendo put the team to work on a new 2D instalment for Game Boy Advance, once again under the direction of series director Yoshio Sakamoto.

Nintendo was forced to look to outside sources for its new Western Metroid. Then second-party Silicon Knights was booked solid, and relationships with Rare (who also later bailed ship) were questionable at best after it was forced to re-skin one of its adventure games with Starfox characters.

Enter Retro Studios, the upstart developer founded by Jeff Spangenberg, former boss of Iguana Entertainment, the creators of the first (and only decent) Turok games. Retro was an attractive candidate for the Metroid project; it had a list of talented names among its staff, an up-to-date development building with motion capture studio and thralls of impressive technology. Spangenberg's reputation sealed the deal.



Nintendo signed an agreement with the untested studio to develop five exclusive GameCube games, one of which would be the first fully 3D Metroid, called Metroid Prime - a prequel set between the NES original and Metroid II. The other four titles in development were a combat racer, an action-adventure game, an American football sim and the much-hyped Raven Blade, all of which were shown at the Space World 2000 show via trailer.

The Western developer was a controversial choice for the series - which by now had gained a massive and loyal fanbase all desperate for the sequel they'd been waiting for since 1994. Retro's public perception was muddied further when it was revealed that two of its titles - the American football sim and unnamed racer - had both been canned. Soon after, the mysterious "action-adventure" title also got the chop, causing concern for how well the long-awaited 3D Metroid would turn out.

Then, at Space World 2001 in Japan, concerns for Metroid Prime got much, much worse...

The Tokyo unveiling of the GameCube line-up was controversial enough as it was; Mario with a new water-pumping backpack, cell-shaded, winking Link and Starfox without any flying. Nintendo fans got their knickers even more in a bunch when it was revealed that, thanks to intervention from Shigeru Miyamoto himself, the already controversial Metroid Prime would now be in first-person.

To make maters worse, early, ropey-looking screenshots of the game left a very sour taste in the mouths of the press and public. Going first-person was the final straw for the incredibly controversial Metroid sequel, and expectation was at an all-time low.

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10 comments

  • JosefMotley - January 8, 2010 3:53 a.m.

    they totally ruined metroid when it went 3D. everything that makes it metroid remained (unlike say mario 64) but these traits are the most ill-suited to adapt into a first person game ever. exploration? hard enough in 2D, in 3D the hidden passages and non-linear routes are just intensely frustrating, especially with a HUD that covers so much of the screen you feel completely removed from the action. i spent most of metroid prime rolling around in a ball just so i could actually see what the hell was going on. platforming is something that no first person game has ever done well and this is no exception. lastly the metroid prime games just don't feel anything like the old ones, they feel americanised and generally less cartoony and stylish. they should have just been a seperate series of games rather than running such a beloved and understocked franchise into the ground for the sake of fashion. PAH
  • AyJay - September 21, 2008 2:28 a.m.

    W00t first comment! metroid is always underrated
  • DARK HUNTER - November 17, 2008 8:49 p.m.

    Halo got boring real quick. Metroid prime did'nt. I have the first two in the trilogy and i'm going to get the third and i can say that between halo and metroid, i'd pick metroid. Metroid prime 1, 2 and 3 are awsome games and last longer and do better than halo. i like first person shotters and all, but halo is justlike every other shooter, while metroid should be in its own genre. It is that different feel that metriod gives that makes it way better than playing halo over and over.
  • Nodoudt - August 28, 2009 1:33 a.m.

    And I agree with Dark Hunter, Metroid beats Halo 1-3 ANY DAY. Hands down.
  • Cyberninja - August 25, 2009 7:32 p.m.

    the 2d metroids are the best
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - September 20, 2009 4:59 p.m.

    "Metroid Prime Hunters online beats Halo online" come on, i'm a metroid fan and i don't like halo that much but i know that's a big lie
  • madasivad - September 3, 2009 1:14 a.m.

    Return of Samus didn't introduce the Wave Beam or Bombs. It did introduce the Spider Ball though.
  • Dread - September 2, 2009 10:20 p.m.

    Why the hell does it say it doesnt rival the legend of zelda?Ive played nearly all of the legend of zeldas except oracle of seasons/ages & 4 swords, Metroid sick owns Zelda. Maybe not Mario but still.The only Metroid game i havent playd r Metroid 2. Metroid Prime Hunters online beats Halo online,but i think its a tie on which franchise its bettr since Metroid doesnt really hav multiplayer games except Hunters & Echoes.
  • Edge2k10 - August 30, 2009 7:29 p.m.

    I didn't realize that Metroid had such a struggle to get off the ground. It's very fortunate that Nintendo finally realized how to market the series.
  • Nodoudt - August 28, 2009 1:32 a.m.

    A little bit of me died inside when the gave this to Ninja...Next thing you know it's gonna be Metroid Extreme Beach Volleyball o_O

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