As you may know, the Metroid Prime series was not made primarily by Nintendo. The original Metroid Prime was the first game from second-party developer Retro Studios, the company that went on to work on Mario Kart 7 and the Donkey Kong Country Returns series.
Game Informer recently got the chance to interview Mark Pacini, the Retro developer who directed Metroid Prime over fourteen years ago. Pacini revealed some interesting facts about the game’s history, and got the chance to recount a few strange stories about his experiences working with Nintendo.
One of Pacini’s stories had to do with one of his first meetings at Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto. According to Pacini, this was an important meeting with various powerful Nintendo executives, including the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto. Although Pacini thought the meeting had gone well, he was later informed by his boss that he had made a terrible impression and that the Japanese executives were upset with him. Apparently, Pacini had forgotten to bring a pencil and take notes during the meeting, so many of the executives—including Shigeru Miyamoto—complained because they thought that he wasn’t listening and didn’t care. Pacini said that this was a “noobie mistake,” and made sure to take detailed notes during every subsequent meeting.
Nintendo had a strong influence on many parts of Metroid Prime, but for a long period of the game’s development, the company actually kept their distance from Retro and allowed the American company to make most of the decisions themselves. Pacini described this by saying that Metroid Prime was a game that “came from both the east and west:” Nintendo’s ideas impacted the outcome of the game, and it was, at its core, inspired by the work of the Japanese staff, but Retro was mostly in charge of its development and the small decisions that were involved in its creation. Pacini said that this was the ideal set-up, as it gave Retro considerable freedom with the game, but since the development was overseen by Nintendo, the game still felt like it was made by both companies. Pacini speculated that if Nintendo had simply let Retro do anything they wanted with the game, the final product would not have been “nearly as good.”
The visor system in Metroid Prime is an example of an idea that came from entirely from the Japanese staff. According to Pacini, Retro had never thought to focus on Samus’s visor. The concept of the Scan Visor was first proposed by Nintendo, and although Retro was skeptical about it at first, it ended up becoming an integral part of the game.
“Originally when we were talking about what Samus would be able to do in the game world, we had visors in the game, but we didn’t really expand too much on them. You have your thermal visor, and you have your X-ray visor, and stuff like that. … It seemed like such a silly idea, Nintendo’s thing was like, ‘this is going to be about the scan visor. This game is about scanning the environment’, and we’re like, ‘Okay, but this is like an action game, this is like a shooting game’. But as the brilliance of them, and it was Tanabe-san who had an idea of like, ‘well what if we did this, and you get information, this is how we do the tutorials, and this is how you give the players instruction, and we could do all these things with the scan visor’. And because their motivation was, ‘this is a game about the scan visor’, and our’s was not at all, but we did the due diligence to integrate it in a way that felt natural to the game and how would we want to do this? So that’s how it went back and forth, and that was like a really great suggestion on their part because it seems so simple now, but at the time, there weren’t a lot of games like this.” — Mark Pacini
What do you guys think? Are you big fans of the Metroid Prime series? Did you know about Metroid Prime‘s unique development? Let us know in the comments below!