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Why Metroid Could Be A Prime Candidate For The Wii U
Fans just can’t seem to get enough of Retro Studios. Likewise, Retro can’t seem to get enough of Nintendo. There’s been little doubt in many fans’ minds as of late of where the Big N’s wingman is headed to next, and it doesn’t include tie-wearing apes. Donning the helmet of Samus Aran again is a dream that’s grown more vocal with every passing month and it comes at a time when so many claim the Wii U needs its friendly neighborhood bounty hunter the most. As Retro likely leaves the jungle behind with the release of Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, it may very well be time for it to shoot for the stars.
It’s safe to say that there are few studios that can claim the same cult following as Retro. The names Metroid and Donkey Kong stick to Nintendo’s beloved second party developer like glue with a portfolio like the Metroid Prime Trilogy and the more recent Donkey Kong Countries. In as many ways, it’s become as nostalgic of an icon as the series it’s helped make and a Nintendo system simply isn’t complete without them at the helm of one of its titles. Despite their latest success story at primate platforming (and a fantastic one at that), it’s long been Metroid that’s represented the company’s legacy in revolutionizing a franchise from one dimension to the next. If Donkey was a part of Retro’s present, Metroid represents its past as a piece of nostalgia that can’t be under-appreciated when it comes to working with such a nostalgic parent company.
It comes as no surprise players want Metroid and want it with a vengeance. With each passing Nintendo Direct, the word Metroid comes and goes amidst the usual sighs and complaints from its niche of dedicated fans. Why doesn’t Nintendo cough one up? Metroid doesn’t sell, or at least well enough. At its highest peak, the series only moved two million copies for the Nintendo Gamecube and around a million a piece for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and the ill-received Metroid: Other M. Donkey Kong Country Returns, meanwhile, outsold several times that of the Metroid Prime Trilogy combined at 6 million sold to date easy. The sales charts hurt with the message they bring: Metroid fans will have to wait. And wait. And wait.
If there’s any silver lining by recent signs, it’s that Retro’s horizons may be somewhere beyond barrel-bashing. It’s only been in recent weeks that the company’s openly advertised new job openings for a lead AI and UI engineer, among others. Fans may additionally recall something of an easter egg teased on a single computer screen from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption in the form of the “Project: Dread,” long thought to be the next Prime entry. With every indication that Retro’s already rolling up their sleeves and diving into their next project headfirst, the word on the gaming scene seems to say that their “unfinished business” with the DK games is more than satisfied with Tropical Freeze. Their work seemingly done, Retro’s hands are free. . . to do what?
Here’s where things get really interesting. According to previous reports through various Nintendo news outlets, Retro president and CEO Michael Kelbaugh quite openly admitted that Donkey Kong Returns, “used the Metroid Prime engine and tools to develop Returns, so technically, the lessons learned on Metroid Prime were directly applied.” That kind of chin-scratching comment speaks volumes in itself. With the Wii U’s HD capabilities, it’d be relatively easy, no, ridiculously easy to slap together another Metroid outing in just a few year’s time, maybe less. If Pikmin 3’s joyous yet painfully delayed arrival was any indication, engines are everything to laying the groundwork. As easily as a Pikmin 4 could be rolled off the assembly lines far faster with its technological foundation set, a Metroid could easily be made in no time flat. If anything, Retro’s job listing points to more complicated enemy AI requiring some extra tinkering, but with the its basic tools already there, things could go fast. Maybe the stars really are aligning for Retro to get the Metroid ball could be rolling sooner than we think.
While Metroid may never be a big game, it could still be an important one in its own ways. As is, the Wii U still stands as a system that’s still finding its footing with players and a game library that’s still seeking to diversify itself. Metroids have steadily accrued some of the highest critical acclaim within Nintendo’s gaming stable, and what righteous or unfounded disgruntlement Team Ninja’s work with Other M brought makes it all the more attractive for it to make a return to form with the studio that parented it for so long. Historically, Nintendo titles are ones that breed respect, and that’s a currency very precious to a company long able to remain relevant in a growing blockbuster market. While Nintendo’s latest reveals have unapologetically pushed for system sellers like Mario Kart and Smash Bros., it may be time indeed to push just as many fan pleasers as much as cash cows.
Industry praise is nothing to turn down as much as creativity. The gamepad is further a device still looking for that one killer app and Metroid’s 3D rather than 2D gameplay style could very well suit it perfectly. Image scanning could be what the gamepad’s gyroscope was made for and its dual-screen functionality could be something more about asymmetric puzzle solving than just weapon menus. Furthermore, Nintendo Land may have already given us a preview into what co-op possibilities are there for the series. Why not control Samus’s ship while fighting your friends’ on the planet surface. Like that famous soup, it’s all about those possibilities.
It can go without saying that there’s a lot we can expect from Retro as ever. Could a Metroid U happen sooner rather than later? I’d be a monkey’s uncle if not.