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Famicom Disk System:
The More You Play It, the More You'll Want to Play! [Disk 1]
BORN FROM A BIKE ENGINE? METROID'S PLANET ZEBES
Mr. Sakamoto, what did you do before the Disk System?
Sakamoto: From the beginning, I started with Game & Watch design, then I unexpectedly had the opportunity to work as Miyamoto's assistant, came to draw pixel art, and that was my entry into the world of videogames.*
*Known as TV Games in Japan.
Your first work was the pictures of the barrels for the Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong Jr., right?
Sakamoto: Right, that and the logo for Donkey Kong Jr. Though that was my start, Kiyotake, the very first thing you did was also on the Game & Watch...?
Kiyotake: That's right. My very first was Pinball.
Sakamoto: I drew barrels and Kiyotake drew balls! (Laughs)
Furthermore, at the beginning of Metroid, Kiyotake was a rookie, and it was made by two people, right?
Kiyotake: That's right. Because we were neglected from the very beginning, the two of us said, "What kind of game do we want to make?"
You said "neglected"...?
Sakamoto: I can assure you we were neglected! (Laughs)
While you were joining the company, the two of you were tirelessly thinking about making a game?
Sakamoto: We were doing it with IS* (Intelligent Systems), making the technical specs for things like the graphics and the movement engine that was done by IS, they would give us the assembled program, and I would bring it back to Nintendo; I had to do this repeatedly so we could evaluate the whole thing.
*Mr. Sakamoto uses the Japanese abbreviation, Izu-san.
In a previous Metroid interview (Vol. 85), when Mr. Sakamoto finally saw the Famicom version of Metroid, he said it was a game only about running and shooting! (Laughs)
Sakamoto: Yeah, that's right! (Laughs) We made the running and shooting move very smoothly, but the game's development didn't expand, as it was dangerous to do that close to release date. However, I wasn't thinking about that! Without warning, I said something like, "Let's try this!" As an example of how it was done at IS, basically, if they were told to take the stance of following instructions reliably, they would do no more than that. For me, though I was stacking my introductory experiences from small games with "stage clear" [designs] like Balloon Fight, even though I suddenly said, "Let's make something huge!" I thought it would be hard to do. Moreover, I had wondered if I, one of those guys who had been neglected, would make something completely worthless.
Did you also influence Metroid, Osawa-san?
Osawa: Formerly, it was usual for me to do the debugging myself, but that was about the time I was recruiting new [team] members.
In those days, that was the usual method of making games?
Kiyotake: In summary, somebody would think of the foundation for part of the game and everyone would give it a try, and I think this was the general flow of development. Therefore, you could show anyone the prototype you'd made, but when the release date was fixed, at that time, you weren't allowed to take it out.
Sakamoto: Although a release date had been fixed, in that space [before release date], there was a reasonable gray zone.
Is that so! (Laughs) Well, was the title for the "only running and shooting" game fixed from the very beginning?
Kiyotake: There was one more staff member,* and the two of us decided on it. We attached "android" to the "metro subway" and that's how we got "Metroid".
*Possibly Hirokazu Tanaka. In a previous interview, Mr. Tanaka stated he helped create the names to the levels, so it is possible he collaborated with Mr. Kiyotake on other names as well.
Sakamoto: However, before that, the game was called Space Hunter.
Osawa: Samus is a "bounty hunter", or perhaps I should say a little before she was created, she was a "space hunter". Wasn't "space hunter" written [to describe her] in the instruction manual?* I mean space warrior.
Sakamoto: There wasn't enough time to correct it as "bounty hunter" [in the manual]?
Osawa: Yes, if I remember correctly.
Well, although it didn't come out at the conclusion of the last interview, with regards to the naming of Samus Aran, it might have been a reference to the real name of Pelé, the god of soccer...
Kiyotake: Ah ha ha ha! That's right. Even the name of the protagonist could be put together in this manner, and if I wanted to give someone a strange name, I could refer to Pelé's name. However, I could be mistaken...
I want to know if we're mistaken! (Laughs)
Sakamoto: Kiyotake, If you check if Pelé's real name was "Samus Arantes", that's a little incorrect. He's called "Something" Arantes Nascimento*, and only "Aran" matches. (Laughs)
*Edison Arantes Nascimento. Remember, too, that Hiroji Kiyotake is a big soccer fan. It is also important to note that in June 1986, just one month before Metroid was completed, Diego Maradona scored the "Goal of the Century", and the "Hand of God Goal". It is possible that if Metroid had been made a little later that Samus Aran might have been named after Maradona instead! Hmm... Samus Arman? Samus Maradon? Not quite the same ring! -Ed.
Kiyotake: In reference to that, I made her name sound like his. Nevertheless, personally, I thought "Samus Aran" would get changed, but how appropriate it was put together in that way. If someone thought to change it partway [through development], then it remained that way and was released [like that]! (Laughs)
Sakamoto: Even as regards to true names, among other things, development would move forward! (Laughs)
Kiyotake: In addition, "SR388", the planet on which the Metroids were discovered, comes from a bike engine! (Laughs) In Yamaha's bikes, there is a series called SR400, and in those days, while it was called 400cc, you didn't have any choice but 388cc, but it was written like that for the time being, and that's how it came out! (Laughs)
Sakamoto: It seems as if we're rapidly diminishing our players' expectations! (Laughs)