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Retro Studios talks Donkey Kong pressure

Departure of key Metroid Prime devs "hard".

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Image credit: Eurogamer

Retro Studios has revealed how it dealt with the twin pressures of being new custodians of Nintendo's treasured Donkey Kong Country series and seeing key members of the Metroid Prime team leave before development started.

In the latest 'Iwata Asks' interview on Nintendo's official site, CEO Satoru Iwata asks Retro about the departure of design director Mark Pacini, art director Todd Keller and principal technology engineer Jack Mathews in 2008 to set up Armature Studio.

"When talk came up of several key members from Retro Studios leaving the company, not a few people were skeptical about whether the company would be able to keep making high-quality games," revealed Iwata.

"In the end, Retro Studios totally dispelled all such concerns, but it must have been a challenge or hardship of sorts. You must have had to decide in a very short period of time what kind of role the new central developers would play and how you would pull the team together.

Senior designer Kynan Pearson replied, "Well... it was, of course, hard when a few key members who had worked on the Metroid Prime series left, but I knew it was also a chance to introduce new ways of thinking and operating."

Mike Wikan, another senior designer then chimed in, "Rather than viewing the project as hard, I was excited about this beautiful opportunity.

"At the same time, I felt a great sense of responsibility in that I didn't want to disappoint the expectations of fans of Donkey Kong Country."

A third senior designer, Tom Ivey, added, "I felt a great sense of responsibility the way Mike did. But I'd worked together with these guys the whole time and I understood how they operated, so I wasn't really worried.

"We bounced our thoughts off each other to come up with the best ideas-just as we always had-and the way the team bonded together worked out positively."

It sure did – Eurogamer's Ellie Gibson awarded Donkey Kong Country Returns 9/10. It's out tomorrow on Wii.

The full interview is well worth a read, offering a nice insight into the exacting standards Nintendo expects of its developers. Take this exchange, for example:

"Toward the end of development," explains Tom Ivey at one point, "we were working all night more often, and about five o'clock in the morning here in Texas we'd have a telephone conference. We were absolutely exhausted, but [assistant producer] Tabata-san was full of pep. It was, like, noon in Japan."

"She'd be brimming with life and enjoying herself immensely as she made immensely tough requests for us to change something."

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