Spanish-based studio, MercurySteam, is best known for developing Metroid: Samus Returns and also working on Konami's Castlevania series - including the 3DS entry, Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate. Although the studio’s history has been well documented in the past, during an interview earlier this week, MercurySteam boss Enric Álvarez shared his side of the story, explaining how the company was essentially saved by a chain of fortunate events:
Back in 2005 when we were about to disappear, and we created a small demo, based on a moment from The Exorcist – the movie. Back in the days, the Epic people were showing off their new Gears of War game, and we saw a few pics from a monster and we thought, “hey we can do that as well, let’s do it” and we produced a quite impressive visual test.
This led to the studio working with Codemasters, helping to develop Clive Barker's Jericho, and eventually working with Konami and Nintendo:
The result was so impressive, that I still remember, Codemasters told us, don’t show it to anyone else, and come here, and come with a PC because we don’t believe this is real. That very day we saved the studio. We also went [and] visited Konami, and that day we met with Dave Cox, and we felt an immediate connection between us. A few years later, Dave Cox himself called us and told us “hey guys do you want to reboot Castlevania?” and that is how it all started.
And then, this has been explained many times by Nintendo people ... how they got interested - we collaborated with them doing Metroid: Samus Returns. In short, it was because of Castlevania: Mirror of Fate. [Nintendo] liked it and they thought we were up to the task of doing what we did, and the rest is history.
When asked about the differences between Japanese and Western publishers, Enric Álvarez made the following observation:
Especially with Nintendo, the biggest difference is all they care about is quality. All they care about is polish. All they care about is giving satisfaction to their players. The rest is secondary. You can’t find this working for a western publisher because there’s always time constraints, there’s always a lot of pressure. There’s also pressure working in any environment, especially when we’re talking about massive amounts of money - they’re always somewhat very worried about that money, which is normal and fair.
But I think that the biggest difference we’ve found is in our direction. It’s not saying there’s no pressure involved in both sides, but the pressure from a publisher, from a Japanese publisher comes from that aspect - quality. And the pressure in our experience, I can’t talk any other experiences, just in our experience - the pressure coming from a western publisher comes from many other directions.
As for what the future holds for MecurySteam, half the studio is currently focused on Spacelords (formerly known as Raiders of the Broken Planet), and the other half is assigned to providing more stable revenue through partnerships with major publishers and the handling of big-name IP. Enric also said Spacelords would be a great fit for the Switch library, but due to the small-sized and self-financed team, the studio didn't have the capacity to include it in development. Though, it was still open to the idea of a possible port in the future.
Did you play Samus Returns or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate on the 3DS? Do you agree Japanese publishers care more about the quality of their games? Would you like to see MercurySteam bring its latest project to the Switch? Tell us below.