We know that Nintendo-owned Retro Studios has been hard at work on a new game since just before the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but they’ve kept their project entirely under wraps. Like many Nintendo fans, industry insider Liam Robertson (known for getting the scoop on cancelled games for Unseen64) wanted to know what Retro was working on, so he began talking to his sources and investigating. While his inquiries have not revealed the identity of Retro’s next game, they have potentially uncovered a major shakeup at the studio. According to multiple sources, longtime Retro producer Kensuke Tanabe is no longer working with the company.
Tanabe, who has had a hand in every single Retro Studios game up to this point, reportedly parted ways with Retro sometime in 2014. Robertson spoke with a number of developers who have worked with Tanabe in the past, and they described him as quite the authoritarian figure. Tanabe allegedly was known to “explode with great passion” if a developer made a mistake or challenged one of his creative decisions. That said, his subordinates spoke of him as a competent leader rather than begrudging his behavior.
However, his hands-on style apparently did not mesh well with Retro in recent years, as the Austin-based development team believed that they had earned the right to create more freely without as much oversight from Nintendo’s executives in Japan. As producer on all of Retro’s projects, Tanabe “upheld the Japanese creative sensibilities of Nintendo at the otherwise Western studio.” Retro found this unnecessary, and (after allegedly butting heads with Tanabe during the development of Tropical Freeze) began requesting that Nintendo give them more freedom. Nintendo is said to have responded by replacing Tanabe with another Nintendo representative.
The identity of Retro’s new producer isn’t completely known, but Robertson has heard rumblings that it could be Yoshio Sakamoto, a longtime Nintendo developer and the co-creator of
Metroid. While you might quickly jump to the conclusion that Retro is working on a new Metroid, Robertson’s sources have not heard anything to that effect, and Sakamoto stated in 2014 (the window in which he allegedly would have taken over Retro) that he was hoping to work on “new experiences” instead of traditional games.
Adding some credence to this report is the fact that Tanabe was asked about Retro Studios
in an interview last year and responded by saying “I’m not quite sure about the stuff that they’re working on at this time.” That’s not the kind of answer you expect to hear from someone who’s been working with Retro for over a decade…unless that partnership is no longer in place.
Source: Liam Robertson