For years, Yoshio Sakamoto has been the darker, edgier twin to Shigeru Miyamoto - a designer who revels in anarchy, with the WarioWare series, and frightening isolation, with Metroid. As Samus Aran is due for a fresh makeover later this year in the shape of Metroid: Other M, we sat down with both Sakamoto and Yosuke Hayashi, the producer for the game's co-developer Team Ninja, to discuss everything from the challenges of working with too many buttons, to what the Nintendo 3DS looks like from the perspective of somebody who designed games for the company's previous 3D effort, the Virtual Boy.
Eurogamer: Marrying Metroid with Team Ninja is a fascinating prospect - how did this unusual collaboration come about?
Yoshio Sakamoto: I should probably start by saying that I've come this far by mostly making 2D Metroids - I hadn't had any real experience making a 3D action game like we're trying to do this time. I quickly realised that to accomplish that, we'd need the expertise of a partner.
When I started thinking about who could handle the kind of control scheme we wanted with Metroid: Other M, I immediately thought about Team Ninja and their work on Ninja Gaiden. When I played Ninja Gaiden, it actually changed my thinking in terms of 3D action games and how complex they would have to be. It seemed they were an obvious partner from that perspective.
And when you say that Team Ninja and Metroid isn't an obvious pairing, I think that's kind of fun. You might assume Nintendo and Team Ninja are very different based on image alone, but once we started to discuss the project, I realised that we had very similar shared goals and very similar ideas about how to achieve them.
Eurogamer: What are those shared goals?
Yoshio Sakamoto: We really wanted to bring new gameplay experiences to this project. We have a lot of communication from Metroid fans, and we know what they want to see. It's a challenge to pack everything in that they want.
In terms of our ambitions, the best way to put it is to say that we really want to overcome the expectations of game design. While we're trying to do these things that people have been clamouring for, we also don't want to do things the way people expect, because then there's no surprise.
On top of that, we have to make it accessible for anybody to play. As to how this would be manifested in an action game, I should leave that to Mr Hayashi to respond. Certainly, in terms of working on this project, we don't think of ourselves as Nintendo and Team Ninja anymore. We're just one team working on this game.
Yosuke Hayashi: I've mostly made 3D action games so far in my career, and so far I've realised that you can really introduce a lot of actions people can initiate when you have a lot of buttons in a control scheme. Equally, when you have that many buttons, you lose a lot of players, simply because of how complex the control scheme has become.
What we wanted to challenge ourselves to do this time was to use only the Wii remote as the controller, but to still have the game at the forefront of action games. We wanted to bring in all of the people who had been left out of 3D action games so far, and I'm talking all the way back to the NES Metroid.
Everyone who was once comfortable with that control scheme can now play the game again, but in a new 3D world. It was a new challenge to us, but one that felt very exciting to work on.