MercurySteam is working with Nintendo on Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS, arguably one of E3 2017's biggest (and most pleasant) surprises.
What makes the game such a shock is that back in 2015, we reported on a rumour that the Spanish studio had pitched a 3DS Metroid to Nintendo, a claim which was later branded as "b******t" by MercuryStream co-founder Enric Alvarez.
Fast forward to the present day, and it seems that the official line has changed somewhat. Speaking to GameSpot, MercurySteam's Jose Luis Márquez revealed that the studio did in fact approach Nintendo about working on the series:
We approached Nintendo to make a remake of a classic game. We are also a fan of the series, so we were happy to know that they wanted to collaborate with us.
Metroid producer Yoshio Sakamoto adds some more detail:
I just wanted to start out by saying I've been wanting to make a 2D Metroid game with today's technology for quite a long time. It wasn't only my personal desire, but also because I know there are a lot of people out there in the world who have been clamoring for a 2D Metroid game.
For myself, I've been wanting to revisit that fundamental, basic, core essence of Metroid, that 2D gameplay, and I was considering ways to go about taking on that challenge. That was more than two years ago.
Then I heard of MercurySteam and they were looking to take on the challenge of remaking a Metroid game. It wasn't Metroid II, but again I'd heard about this desire from the MercurySteam team.
I knew MercurySteam from their development work on Castlevania. I thought, "We've got to meet with these guys," and so we flew out to Spain [where MercurySteam is located]. Over the course of that meeting, obviously we had a great time. It seemed like, wow, there's a lot of potential here, and basically that's really how it got started.
Sakamoto reveals that his desire to remake the second Metroid title comes from the fact that he wasn't directly involved with its development back in the day:
...personally, for myself, I didn't work on Metroid II. Of course it's a great game on its own, but it's a bit different than the Metroid titles that I've been involved with and I just saw that there's a potential within that title for me to take a look at it as well.
As you know, within Metroid II there's the really vital portion of the story that's very important to the entire Metroid storyline and that's Samus's first encounter with the baby Metroid.
So we had this sort of amalgamation or this sum total of all these different parts, the idea that I wanted to go back and work on 2D Metroid, I wanted to revisit a title that wasn't really a remake for me because I wasn't involved in the first one so there's this great source of inspiration in a Metroid game that I wasn't involved with but I could go back and take a look at and really explore that 2D, that fundamental gameplay, and then on top of that I had this amazing new partner to work with, so it all just sort of piled up together and became this project.
The Metroid producer also added that Metroid: Samus Returns will contain new features which go "above and beyond" what people might expect from a straight remake:
...there's a lot of new elements that we felt that we needed to add, things that were core to Metroid gameplay, so that would be some of these new abilities that we're looking at.
In addition to that, not only are there things that you would normally expect, again like new abilities, but we wanted to add something that was above and beyond that.
Again, above all the things that I knew we would have to do to remake this title, the other sort of big challenge was, who are we going to make this with? Who are we going to collaborate with that's going to bring in the right ideas, the right sensibility, and that was sort of like the beginning of the challenge, and also the beginning of the project.
Thanks to that collaboration with MercurySteam we were able to incorporate new stuff that is in line with what the series would expect, but on top of that, brand new stuff that is above and beyond that, and we were able to create what I think is a really wonderful installment in this series, and a large part of that is in thanks to this collaboration that we have.
One of the big new features seen in Metroid: Samus Returns is the ability to use melee attacks against enemies - something which calls to mind Metroid: Other M, which had similar close-quarters attacks. However, Luis Márquez explains that MercurySteam didn't lift this idea from Team Ninja's offering:
In our previous title Mirror of Fate we introduced these mechanics to parry enemy attacks at the same time you are going to be attacked. We thought that this could work quite well in this game, so we tried and it worked really well and it led to the feeling of exhilaration when you fight enemies.
Finally, Sakamoto was asked if there was any chance of a new 2D Metroid coming to Switch:
We are always, always thinking about ways that we can excite the fans of the series and come up with stuff that they will want to see and play, and we love that challenge, but there's nothing we can discuss in terms of Switch at this point. Yeah, we'll discuss it.
Metroid: Samus Returns arrives this September.