Ever since Nintendo’s E3 presentation in 2017, Metroid fans have been clamoring for more information on the previously-announced Metroid Prime 4 for Nintendo Switch. After being silent for almost two years, Nintendo finally gave us an update on the development status of the upcoming game, but it wasn’t necessarily what fans were expecting to hear.
In a shockingly-transparent video, Shinya Takahashi—responsible for overseeing game development at Nintendo—revealed that they have, “decided to reexamine the development structure itself and change it” as “…the current development progress has not reached the standards we seek in a sequel to the Metroid Prime series.” He went on to reveal that United States-based developers Retro Studios would be responsible for the game going forward, requiring that they restart development effectively from scratch.
While this was difficult to hear as a longtime fan of the Metroid series, it’s a decision that ultimately bodes well for the franchise. First and foremost, Retro Studios is the original developer of the Metroid Prime Trilogy, so nobody knows what the next installment should contain better than they would. Looking back, no other developer has successfully translated Samus’ journeys into a 3D environment, other than Retro Studios. The last main entry that followed the Prime Trilogy was Metroid: Other M, which received a lot of backlash from Metroid fans for a lackluster story to poorly-implemented survival horror sections. The biggest issue, however, was that the game was extremely linear, which is the exact opposite of what a good Metroid game should be.
Retro Studios also has a fantastic track record with game development for Nintendo. After wrapping up the Metroid Prime Trilogy in 2007 on the Nintendo Wii, they began work resurrecting another iconic Nintendo franchise, Donkey Kong Country. In 2010, they released Donkey Kong Country Returns on Nintendo Wii, which was well-received critically. They followed that up with Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS, another strong entry in the fan-favorite kart racing series. But, arguably their biggest post-Metroid accomplishment has to be Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for Nintendo’s Wii U console in 2014. The game was recently ported to Nintendo Switch, and is regarded by many as one of the best, most-difficult 2D platformers of all-time.
The last we heard from Retro Studios was a rumor that they were working on an unannounced Star Fox racing game, supposedly called Star Fox Grand Prix. It was to feature an adventure mode, akin to Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64, but also feature a hub world that could be navigated. It is unknown at this time if that project has been put on hold, or even that it existed in the first place, but at least we know with certainty what Retro Studios is working on now.
Shortly after the news of the Metroid Prime 4 delay, Imran Khan, Senior Editor at Game Informer, put out a series of tweets regarding some information he received on the current development status of the game. There were a couple of interesting pieces of information to be had. First, he stated that, “…Retro made the pitch for their involvement and put together a demo that Nintendo liked.” This demo must have been pretty compelling for Nintendo to scrap the years of work they’ve likely done on this game already. Rumor is that they were trying a new development approach with several studios focusing on different aspects of the overall game. This fragmented approach likely led to many issues, and Nintendo felt bringing it all under one roof would be the best approach.
In the thread, he took some time answering fan questions about what information he had. Somebody brought up the likelihood of a Metroid Prime Trilogy port for Nintendo Switch to which Khan replied, “It’s been long done. Initial announcement was supposed to be last month.” The timing of this all is interesting, as there doesn’t seem to be any reason to hold that port back. Maybe Nintendo wanted to publicize the decision to scrap the current development before announcing the Metroid Prime Trilogy, so as not to upset fans who were eagerly anticipating a long-overdue Metroid Prime 4 update.
So, as it stands now, it seems unlikely that we will get any news out of Nintendo and Retro Studios for quite some time regarding Metroid Prime 4. Until then, why not dust off that old 3DS and play through Metroid: Samus Returns, a game which we said is, “a true return to form” and is absolutely worth your time. Other than that, here’s to hoping Nintendo bestows that Prime Trilogy upon us sooner, rather than later. We’re itching to hunt some Metroids.