Earlier today we shared a rather nice detail about the development of Donkey Kong Country Returns, courtesy of an excellent interview on Reece Reilly's Kiwi Talkz podcast with former Retro Studios developer and senior designer, Mike Wikan. Naturally a lot of the interview focused on the Metroid Prime games, in which Wikan played a big role, and there are some interesting nuggets of information that show how the series came together in the GameCube / Wii era.
A segment that intrigued us, primarily because of our love for Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii, related to how that compilation came together. Wikan explains that it was a team of just four that did the core recompiling and control changes for the Wii release, which is impressive. It followed on from a segment in which he talked about the infamous boss encounters for Spider Ball and Boost Ball in the original version of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and how they were 'fixed' for the trilogy bundle.
Tanabe-san (co-producer) was more about the nuts and bolts. We need more of these pick-ups here, we need to balance it there. There was one internal case that I got frustrated with that we made right later. In Echoes, there are two spider boss guardians, Spider Ball and Boost Ball guardians, and they're notoriously difficult to beat in the original versions. Murderously bad, throw your controller on the ground, and give Mike Wikan the finger wherever you are.
That was a tuning change that was made in the last three days before we went gold. Tanabe-san really fought for it, 'we need to make it tighter', and we were like 'no it's already too tight'. We made it tighter and it turned out to be too tight, right?
So, back when we did Trilogy, which was another interesting project. We had four of us doing the entire trilogy recompile. So, four of us taken aside, and tore apart all three games and put them together again for Trilogy with its control scheme. Just four of us, no pressure!
But what we got to do was go back in, I was the only designer on the team that had done all three games. So I knew where all of the skeletons were buried; I'd scripted most of the game, designed the AIs and that stuff, so I knew all the broken crap under the hood that I never could fix. Stuff most people would never know was there. The people doing speedruns knew they were there because they'd beat against every corner of every room until they found a way through. So we had an opportunity with Trilogy to fix those things, because they'd been bugging me ever since.
So I went back in and changed the guardians back and let Tanabe-san know I was putting it back to the way it was! He was like 'ok Wikan-san you were right, that's perfectly ok'.
If you continue the video from that segment there's also a hugely interesting section (13:14 onwards) talking about how closely Nintendo monitored and managed the lore in the games, making numerous fixes so that games would fit in the Metroid universe. There's also a fascinating insight into the Luminoth language and how that actually works - it's elaborate hand signing.
Of course we're still hoping that the neverending rumours are actually true and we get a 'HD' release of Metroid Prime Trilogy; it's an outstanding package of games, and well worth introducing to a whole new audience.
Let us know your memories of these bosses in Echoes, or perhaps if you discovered that game in the Trilogy release on Wii.