Metroid Prime 4 ranks as one of the most anticipated Switch games so far, and given that it was revealed almost two years ago, the more optimistic fans out there may have been hoping for a Christmas 2019 – or at least Christmas 2020 – release. Today's dramatic news that development of the game has effectively been restarted from scratch and original Metroid Prime trilogy studio Retro has been brought on board means we're unlikely to see this epic release for at least another two years, if not significantly longer.
This unexpected announcement – delivered by a contrite Shinya Takahashi – leaves a Samus-shaped hole in the Switch's release schedule that may be tricky to fill, but it shows a side of Nintendo that is arguably unique in the world of gaming. What other company would issue such an earnest and honest development update in video form, especially after making assurances in the past that all was well? The company's Japanese culture obviously plays into this – in Japan, failure has to be owned and accepted if you want to move on and learn from it, and transparency is highly valued – but even so, we imagine you watched that update with a slackened jaw, such was the power of its disarming honesty.
The internet predictably lit up at the news, but on the whole, it would seem that Nintendo's approach has worked:
So, Metroid Prime 4 has now been rebooted, and the years of work that have been invested so far are effectively null and void. While we can't fault Nintendo for being so open about this – it would have been so easy to brush this under the carpet – you have to ponder exactly what went wrong with the game for such a remarkable turn of events to occur?
From day one, it was made clear that Retro Studios was not involved with the fourth Metroid Prime, and rumours circulated that Bandai Namco was helping with production – something it has done on other key Nintendo games. What was definitely known was that an internal team was heading development, with Kensuke Tanabe leading production. We can only guess at what has happened – it may well come out in the wash as the months roll by – but it would seem that Metroid Prime 4 was not hitting the kind of quality level that Nintendo expected; an almost unthinkable admission for the Japanese giant to make, especially when you consider how much pride it has in the talent of its own internal teams.
Retro Studios – a Nintendo-owned second-party company – is now officially in the frame, and we assume whatever other projects it was working on will either be delayed, scrapped or perhaps even proceed as normal; again, we imagine this is something that will become clear as reports and insider information inevitably trickles out of the company throughout 2019. But it begs the question: why on earth wasn't Retro involved from day one? Was the studio simply too busy to take up the challenge, or did it initially decline the offer? Perhaps Nintendo began development of Metroid Prime 4 without consulting Retro – as is its prerogative, as it is the sole owner of the IP. Retro hasn't been all that active of late, so you have to wonder precisely what projects the esteemed firm has on its plate right now.
Looking at this from a totally unemotional perspective, Metroid Prime 4 with Retro involved is sure to be a mouth-watering prospect, even if the bulk of the staff involved with the first three games have since moved onto other companies. As Shigeru Miyamoto himself said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." We're sure most of you reading this will be of the opinion that a poor-quality Metroid Prime 4 in 2020 wouldn't have been anywhere near as satisfactory as an amazing one released a few years later, but it's only human to be disappointed at the news that something you've been looking forward to is now so much further away.
Still, we'd like to know what you think. Vote in the poll below and be sure to leave a comment to share your feelings; how does it feel to know that Metroid Prime 4 is delayed, but will hopefully arrive in better shape as a result? And does this mean we'll now see that elusive Metroid Prime Trilogy Switch port we've all been asking for?