Why was there no Metroid game on the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color?
Sakamoto: Although there are many reasons, the first is that the story was tentatively completed with Super Metroid. After that, I was Development Assistant for the Handheld Game Department, so it was difficult for me to develop software for the N64. There were also discussions with licensees, but they weren't settled in any definite form. However, the power of expression on the N64 was also a little too limited for making a realistic game. As for the Game Boy Color, it would have been similar to the design of the Famicom, and so would have been unfavorably compared to the Super Famicom version. Those are some of the reasons, and as a result, there was a silent period of nine years.
When the Gamecube was released, did you think about putting out a new version again?
Sakamoto: Until now, I had been floating various ideas around, but I didn't think we could make something good if it was on the Cube because it was difficult and expensive to do so. Furthermore, though the Information Development Department could produce it, Nintendo couldn't develop it.
How about the Advance version?
Sakamoto: With regards to that, it's a completely separate story from the Cube. Their launch periods overlapped, and I was planning to proceed more strictly with planning on the Advance.
With regards to the story, what was the concept behind making the Famicom Disk version of Metroid?
Sakamoto: To tell the truth, Metroid wasn't a game I came up with. At that time, R&D1 was also making new titles for the Disk System. Therefore, production was entrusted to two new guys, and I was making a different game [Wrecking Crew]. However, I came back to the studio, and there was just an image of a character with incredible physical abilities firing a gun in space-themed level, but it wasn't a finished game. So, all the surrounding staff, including me, began working on it. Although I say this now, since the release date had been decided, I couldn't afford to add any new technical specifications. However, regarding the nature of the game, we had no options other than "jump, run, and shoot". I thought, "With these abilities, what would be best?" and I had everyone design a game about exploring a dungeon looking for power-ups.
So you achieved success by getting ideas from of restrictions.
Sakamoto: That's right. It might be correct to say there was just the concept of the world and we made the play mechanics one after the other.
Had you settled on a female protagonist from the start?
Sakamoto: Also with that, someone just dropped the idea. I said, "That's interesting; let's try it," and we adopted it just like that.
Sakamoto-san, you supervised Metroid Prime and were in charge of directing Metroid Fusion. Prime, was the series' first first-person perspective game, but...
Sakamoto: When I heard of the project, I was also bewildered. Because Samus is a relatively popular character, I didn't think it would be a good idea for her to come out in this form. But they showed it to me partway through development, and they had the Morph Ball, and the shape of Samus appeared to feel good. It had a cool world, and I thought it would do well. I think they finished it nicely.
About where in the timeline is Prime set?
Sakamoto: The story takes place between the first one on the Famicom Disk System and is followed by Metroid 2. I had the idea to make it separately as a gaiden [side story], but wouldn't it be a cop-out to call it a gaiden? Because of that, I consulted with Tanabe, and things fell into place very naturally. The local staff worked on it really hard, it serves as part of the series, and I think they completed it very well.
What instructions did you give for Metroid Fusion?
Sakamoto: Although from the beginning I had intended to serve only as a producer, when we got into development, I realized it would be better if there were people on the team who were experienced with Metroid. Since there were many young people, of course they wanted to make something new. Though they were doing something new, because they had to deliver to people who wanted to play Metroid, it was necessary for me to be defiant about leaving in the good parts. Because of that, I participated in the role of putting on the brakes.
Did you write the scenario, Sakamoto-san?
Sakamoto: That's right. My situation was to write the original scenario for the team to feel united. However, the scenario changed while we were making it. This time around, the biggest thing was I created an enemy that mimics Samus, called the SA-X. However, I personally really dislike enemies that mimic! (Laughs) Having done that, I think a new Metroid feel has come out. In addition, we made the controls very simple, so you can also select missiles with a single button. This was suggested by one of the staff members, and I thought we should adopt it.
Previous versions were difficult for someone to clear, but this time you want children to play it.
Sakamoto: Sakamoto: After nine years, that's the situation. However, thanks to Samus being included in Smash Brothers, she has become much more recognizable. In addition, this time around, we had a chance to restart the series. Thank you very much, Sakurai-san! (Laughs)
Where will the series continue from here?
Sakamoto: If I can, I want the series to keep going. From here on, I think I want to develop Samus as a character. I might also create a story going back to the past of Adam and Samus. However, Kodansha's Magazine Z is also serializing a manga, and I think that's a different way to enjoy Metroid.
Finally, please give a word or to for all the fans who have been eagerly awaiting this game.
Sakamoto: First of all, sorry to have kept you waiting for nine years. With this Metroid, you can select your difficulty setting, there is a navigation system, and the game has become easier to play. Although I didn't have misgivings of being criticized by those who didn't like the high degree of difficulty in the previous games, I will be glad if every fan looks favorably upon Fusion. In the future, we would like to make something that will bring joy to those who have given us support.