July 3, 2022

A Delayed Game… And All That Jazz.


Whilst I sort out my PS4 woes (the power unit blew out… don’t ask!) and wait to get stuck into Resident Evil 2 Remake again (AARGH! AAAAAAAAARGH!), I’ll quickly do a blog post about the Metroid Prime 4 Delay.

… shame. But this is Nintendo. They wouldn’t do this on a whim.

To be fair, I think we should have had an inkling – or an octoling, I’m not biased – that something was up. Announced during Nintendo’s E3 2017 Showcase, with little more than a title screen, we were told development had just started and they’d share more ‘soon’.

So we waited. And we waited. Then we waited some more.

From what I’ve seen reported, the development of Metroid Prime 4 thus far was being handled by Bandai-Namco. Who aren’t exactly known for their sprawling FPS Adventure Shooter games but you know, fair’s fair and we should give them some benefit of the doubt, we thought.

But finally Nintendo reveals that development has not been smooth or really going anywhere, so in what I think is an unprecedented move – Shinji Takahashi took to the Nintendo YouTube channel, and spoke directly to camera to explain that development was being sent back to the drawing board. Few companies would have the balls to do anything like that, and I agree with most people when they say that the transparency here is second-to-none.

That said, it wasn’t all bad news.

Who’s handling the development of Metroid Prime 4 now? None other than Retro Studios, the same unit who handled the series before. Admittedly, some of the team split away – that bunch made the surprisingly mediocre ReCore on the XBox One – but it’s back in the hands of a studio that still does good work, under the watchful eye of the same director that has been involved in the series.

With a couple years experience under their belt having worked on something else for Switch – which I wouldn’t be surprised we’ll be seeing revealed very soon – Metroid Prime 4 shouldn’t be unduly protracted from hereon out. Yes, it’ll probably be another two years at least, but as Shigeru Miyamoto once said; “A Delayed Game is eventually good. A Bad Game is bad forever.”

And not only that, it has to be good. Most Metroid fans haven’t forgiven Federation Force (though I thought it was alright!), so whatever issues Nintendo had with the now-binned Metroid Prime 4 build… they must have had good reason.

Furthermore – Nintendo has done this before.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was once a very different beast. We all remember the OG Wii U tech demo, with a Gohma fight, and it looked spanking. But it also looked… like same old Zelda. And I think that is what Eiji Aonuma didn’t want. The ambition was to be more than the usual.

And so, just when everyone thought Zelda was coming to the Wii U… we were forced to wait. And then wait some more. Then do some more waiting.

Of course, the end result – Breath of the Wild – is an absolute masterclass in game design, art direction and just what you can squeeze out of handheld hardware. I don’t think there are many who’d disagree that in the case of Breath of the Wild, the wait was absolutely worth every day.

Hopefully in time we’ll say the same about Metroid Prime 4.

Nintendo can be a fussy company – and they don’t always get it right – but if there’s one thing I do respect about them is their commitment to quality, particularly and especially in their own IP. That’s why when games like 1, 2, Switch! or Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival come along, they’re fatally flawed on a conceptual level – not a technical one. Nintendo is as guilty of huffing their own farts at times as anyone in the industry, but they still make damn sure that you can’t turn around and say the game is broken and buggy.

If Nintendo thinks therefore Metroid Prime 4 needs to be restarted from the beginning… that’s what they’ll get. It’s their IP. And they know this is a big comeback for a somewhat dormant series. No room for error. The fans won’t tolerate anything below a 9 out of 10.

What I’d do to bridge that gap is release the Metroid Prime Trilogy that was on the Wii U, on the Switch. And Nintendo also needs to capitalise on the surprising amount of goodwill with a proper Direct, to showcase what is coming in the next few months up to E3 2019. (Hell, this whole video could be an explanation as to WHY Metroid Prime 4 isn’t in the Direct. Don’t want to dwell on that in a showcase!)

It’s disappointing. But that’s what happens to outsourced games at times. Ultimately, the IP holder has to make a decision. Only Nintendo knows how bad that first build was looking. And they’re unlikely to ever show us why they made that call.

So let’s just nurse that blow with… a proper direct and games we WILL be seeing in 2019, eh Nintendo?

You’ve been quiet and it can’t all be because of Metroid Prime 4…


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