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Monday Mysteries: Project S.T.E.A.M. or Metroid Dread?
There’s nigh a day that goes by without a mention of Metroid. It seems like a very long time indeed since we last left Samus Aran, even longer still if not for her “Other” adventure. ‘Tis the season for E3 and the likewise hopes and dreams that come with it. All too many of us yearn for another go at the series, and while we all know Samus will be smashing her way into the ring this year, Zero suit and all, we can’t help but wonder how long it’ll be until her next hunt. Maybe it’s times like these that the past has just as much to say about what the future holds for one Samus Aran. Enter Metroid Dread.
Announced as a 2D side-scroller for the Nintendo DS in the summer of 2005, Metroid Dread was to follow the events of Metroid Fusion and was originally slated for November of 2006. On February 2006, the British Official Nintendo Magazine included Metroid Dread in their “Official Release Dates,” listed under November 2006 as “to be confirmed.” However, by March, the game was marked with a vague 2006 release date in the magazine’s second issue, though ONM highlighted the ambiguity surrounding the game, and suggested to wait until E3 ‘06 for details. Nintendo was silent on the project for weeks in stark contrast to Nintendo Next’s report that the game was still to come, and with a no show at E3 2006 and Metroid Prime: Hunters released in 2006 on the DS, the Metroid handheld void seemed entirely filled.
Flash forward to E3 ’07. Metroid Dread once again was MIA, albeit with a curious reference. That same year, a message in the Wii’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was so famously found using Samus’s scan visor on a terminal in the Metroid Processing facility, reading: “Experiment status report update: Metroid ‘Project Dread’ is nearing the final stages of completion.” Even wilder was the text next to it, marking (in the English version) the experiment as a failure and the Dread project itself a ploy by the Space Pirates to use Metroids as living batteries for their guns, lending to the argument that the “Dread project reference” is a rather quirky coincidence, though it could also be an effort to make the hint less blatent by tying it into the lore.
Whether it was a well-intended confirmation of the game’s completion or a clever in-game joke for Retro Studios, nothing materialized from the easter egg and by September of 2007, Nintendo flat out denied the existence of Dread, saying “Nintendo is not making the 2D Metroid at this point in time”; though this does not rule out another 3D game, or “2.5D.” More suspiciously, the Metroid Dread reference was removed in the Japanese version of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption that following year, reading: “Space Pirates data decrypted: Ordnance research and development progress report. The development of Dread Class Turret is going well.” For whatever reason, Nintendo seemed to concede any intention it had of toying with fans and the game was effectively deader than it began.
Since then, series creator Yoshio Sakamoto’s confirmed from a 2009 interview that Metroid: Other M was not Dread, nor was it a figment of fans’ imagination. Rather, the game was apparently real at some point and might eventually be released, but Other M was “something that’s completely different.” In nearly every interview with Sakamoto since, his answer’s seemingly been the same: that he wouldn’t deny its existence, but that he didn’t have any plans to release it soon. As of late it seems he’s later stated that Nintendo prefers to keep secrecy on the project, and also that he would like to “reset the situation at once and start from scratch.” Maybe the means to doing just that are right in front of us.
Like so many series, you can say a Nintendo system simply isn’t one without a Metroid on it, and it’s been that way from Super Metroid onward. NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gamecube, DS, Wii, and everything in between, Samus Aran’s been there for all of them and that’s not liable to change anytime soon, Other M fiasco or not. The real question now is simply handheld or console, and Nintendo may have answered it.
It was just a few months ago that Nintendo trademarked a peculiarly titled property dubbed “S.T.E.A.M.” To save us from assuming they’d willfully confuse every PC gamer in the wild blue yonder that they’re porting every one of their games to Steam, let’s say that that it’s just a codename, much in the vein of the Wii U’s own “Project Cafe.” There’d hardly be a reason to ambiguously name your game in the fashion of a PC service, after all. Now, let’s make not of its unabbreviated meaning in full: “Strike Team to Eliminate the Alien Menace.” Sounds sci-fi to me. More likely, it sounds like Metroid.
Why, you ask? Maybe because the name sounds all too military for Nintendo, and out of their few staples of sci-fi adventuring, there’s not one of them that has their titular character a former soldier, especially one that’s been hellbent on destroying a certain winged menace for most of her life. Better yet, the move seems timed according to Metroid’s own schedule. Each entry’s arrived on the system out first and not any before or after, and the 3DS is just about up for one by now, perhaps more so than the more recent Wii U. I’ve argued as much that Metroid’s more primed for the Wii U visually and control-wise, but that’s not to leave out the potential from a handheld perspective. Metroid’s never been one to sell in droves, and for as much as the Wii U needs it dearly, there’s 45 million 3DS fans out there as opposed to the Wii U’s 6 million to buy it. Yes, the Wii U surely won’t get better until it starts getting games, so maybe Nintendo could be working double time for both systems. It’s something to hope for, if not more dubiously so.
Then there’s the mystery 3DS game to be shown off in a super special 90 min. Q&A with the press this E3. You’ve probably begged for a Majora’s Mask remake by now, or seen those scanty pics of a Mario Maker 3DS game demo online from the supposed showfloor. Either or neither could be in the cards, but there’s little reason to believe they’d be the titles of choice alone. Whatever the game is, it’d definitely be a multiplayer one to garner such a time slot. That’d belay any sort of 2D/2.5D Metroid. Another 3D game in the manner of Hunters pray tell?
Sakamoto’s certainly seemed to leave the series behind for quite a while, but as always, there’s Retro to fit into the picture. Since November, they’ve long stated they’ve been working on. . . something for the past seven months in tandem with Tropical Freeze. There’s none more trusted in the land of the Big N than Retro these days, and if not the rare breed of a new IP, then Metroid’s certainly their game, and they’re record’s proved a little more than capable.
In any case, E3 2014 may certainly prove to be the year that makes or breaks Nintendo’s hopes of winning their chunk of the gaming crowd this summer and it’s doubly hoped they drop a motherload of things called games onto us. Could a Mother Brain be among them? This writer sorely hopes so. After all, why not when there’s a galaxy of mysteries in Metroid still?