Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Metroid Prime says about Samus, and how it defines East-West relations in game design

Proposal for a 25-page research paper I plan on writing:

Metroid was already Nintendo’s black sheep. While the series has seen just as much critical acclaim as the Japanese gaming giant’s other flagship franchises, Metroid has never been the commercial colossus Mario and Zelda are year after year.

So when faced with the jump from 2D to 3D technology, why did Nintendo for the first time hand over one of its own series to a U.S. developer? 2002’s Metroid Prime is the culmination of Nintendo’s marriage of East and West.

The series was Western from the beginning; its biggest influence was Ridley Scott’s Alien. It’s Nintendo’s only franchise directed at an older demographic with a more serious tone, and their only franchise that sold better in North America than it did in Japan.

And unlike Mario and Zelda, Metroid wasn’t created by Video Game Jesus Shigeru Miyamoto. Samus was conceived by Gunpei Yokoi, most famous for creating the Game Boy and for ruining his career with the infamous Virtual Boy.

It wasn’t just handed over to a Western developer. Metroid was handed to Retro Studios, an inexperienced U.S. developer in shambles with an absent CEO. And they made a first-person game—perhaps the perspective most emblematic of Western design. Through all this, how did they create one of the most critically acclaimed video games of all time?

I’m splitting this paper into three sections: the context of Metroid Prime from Nintendo’s perspective, the development of the game from Retro Studios’ perspective, and an analysis of the game itself, looking at how it represents the marriage of East and West in game design.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds incredibly fascinating. Will you be posting your analysis here, or assembling it for publication?