Earlier today, we shared a brand new Did You Know Gaming? video (see below) that discussed the development history behind the original Metroid Prime. From its start as a three protagonist-lead fight against eugenics to its eventual shift to a first-person Samus Aran-starring game, it's safe to say the creation process behind one of Nintendo's best games was complicated, for lack of a better word.
One amusing little nugget to come out of this video is a rather unusual revelation. Samus Aran is commonly referred to as a 'space bounty hunter', implying she's a kind of Boba Fett-type character. This is exactly how Retro Studios, the developer behind the Prime series, saw Samus, but at the time, Nintendo had a totally different understanding of who Samus was, and what a bounty hunter was.
This was revealed when Bryan Walker, senior producer on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, discussed the team's original concept for the final game in the trilogy with the Did You Know Gaming? team. Retro Studios wanted to bring its bounty hunter vision for Samus into the gameplay directly by creating a more open world for her to explore. Bryan had this to say about the concept:
"We were not proposing, in any way, shape, or form — even in our wildest dreams — that we would have like Metroid Prime Skyrim... We were not talking about 200-hour sidequests or anything like that. [More precisely, it was] the ability for the player to operate out of a hub area, and to go onto different missions that didn't necessarily lend themselves directly to the normal path-progression that a Metroid Prime game was known for, as far as traversal, retraversal, and so forth. [Samus had] the ability to step outside of that and do more things on the side."
Rather than money, Retro Studios was going to reward Samus and the player for taking on these bounties and missions with upgrades. All in all, this sounds like a fantastic idea, but as we know, it sadly never came to fruition. And all because of a difference of opinion on what Nintendo saw Samus as.
Bryan spoke of this discovery during the video, too, saying:
"Kiyo, who was one of the translators, boiled it down very well in the assumption that our Japanese partners had of Samus — that she was not doing it for the money, she was being very altruistic. And I think he rolled out the term 'motherly'. She was caring for people, what she was doing was literally out of the goodness of her heart, because she deeply cared about humanity. Which was as far away from Boba Fett as you can get. I never would have equated Samus with the definition of an altruistic motherly influence, given that she had the title of 'bounty hunter'... We were just looking at Kiyo as he was describing this, like, are we even on the same planet??"
It was only after days of thrashing this out with Nintendo that Retro Studios discovered that Nintendo didn't know what a 'bounty hunter' even was, yet had been using the term as far back as 1986! Instead, the Big N thought of Samus as a 'space adventurer', which makes a lot of sense given that one of her main musical motifs calls her a 'space warrior'. Sounds a little nobler, doesn't it?
So we didn't get our dream Metroid concept because of a misunderstanding? Sigh. Well, there were other factors, such as a small development team, but it might not be time to lose hope, as Nintendo has maybe come around to the idea of Samus hunting bounties. In Metroid Dread, Samus is seen picking up a mission during the intro, with ADAM warning that the danger of the mission is too great for the bounty that's being offered. One for Metroid Prime 4, maybe?
Let us know what you think of this amusing little misunderstanding in the comments.
A bounty hunter chases after
coconut/chocolate bars. Everyone knows that.
That side of Samus is interesting. She's always referred to as a bounty hunter, even in Metroid Dread. But it never goes anywhere else with it. At least to my knowledge, we don't see her ever carry out a mission because of a bounty. It's always because she just wants to.
Honestly, if they dropped the "bounty hunter space warrior" title and just made her a "space warrior", I wouldn't have a problem with it.
... that's curious considering Captain Falcon is a Bounty Hunter too.
I remember even as a kid when I first heard of Metroid, I didn't understand why they called her a bounty hunter. She literally never hunts bounties. I think it just sounded cool to them. Actually, Metroid was the first time I'd ever heard the term bounty hunter, and I looked it up only to find that it was not what Samus does.
Retro Studios: Hey Nintendo, we want to make Samus a bounty hunter in the new Metroid game!
Nintendo: I didn't understand a thing you said.
Doesn't a bounty hunter hunt paper towels?
@StarPoint You could argue that she's a bounty hunter in Metroid 2, as she gets hired by the federation to wipe out the Metroids, meaning she's killing for a monetary reward.
It's even mentioned in the monologue at the beginning of Super Metroid:
"Satisfied that all was well, I left the station to seek a new bounty to hunt..."
@YoshiPilot Yeah, I think that's the only game where she is seemingly strictly carrying out a mission because of a bounty. Other than that, though, pretty much everything she does is out of the goodness of her heart, or because she has some connection to it or something.
Yeah I was always wondering what kind of bounties she was going after so this clears up a lot actually. Huh. And they still call her that to this day too?
Captain Falcon is a bounty hunter too, does he hunt any bounties in any official/licensed work? You know, aside from gold trophies from winning F-Zero Grand Prix. Which doesn't count. Otherwise Mario would be a bounty hunter too. Or anyone who enters any race for any kind of reward for that matter.
I've always seen Samus as more of a "hero for hire" - someone you could hire for missions, but not "evil" missions like assassinations and all. I prety much saw her main client as the Galactic Federation, basically a professional troubleshooter. there are probably standing bounties on a lot of Space Pirates too.
It's actually Star Wars who uses the term Bounty Hunter incorrectly, as most of them will take on any job, including assassinations, enforcing for gangsters, etc. They are really more like mercenaries than bounty hunters.
Disney turned Boba Fett into “a space adventurer with a heart of gold" so this is absolutely hilarious.
I always thought she was eating the metroids to become stronger... I'm kidding...but that wouldn't be too shabby ..Samus Aran Space Chef
@StarPoint Now that I think about it, in Metroid 1 the Federation hires Samus to kill the space pirates, so you could also call that bounty hunting. So you could say that she decides to stop bounty hunting after Metroid 2 because of character development.
@YoshiPilot ahh gotcha. Makes sense
The most depressing part of that video was finding out Nintendo nixed MP3 as an open world game purely because they didn't realize what a bounty hunter was. An open world Metroid game could be AMAZING.
Well this is a bruh moment.
Perhaps the lore can be tied together with her being a retired bounty hunter who was so good at her job that she's now a special forces mercenary? But then that makes her sound like too many other sci-fi game protagonists.
The contradictions tend to disappear if you acknowledge that some context can exist in our lives and our world (... galaxy).
She can justly be called a bounty hunter because she is a private contractor, not a duty-bound solider of the Galactic Federation. Earning pay from contracts would be very necessary - I am sure that her gunship, and all the equipment associated with her suit, aren't cheap... if she can even find anyone to help her maintain all that Chozo gear to begin with.
A space bounty hunter would be a unique breed - a very independent sort who can reconcile herself to long, lonely voyages in the interstellar deeps, not to mention the possibility of being marooned on uncivilized planets. She would have some engineering and scientific talents as well, by necessity.
As for her "motherly" side... I mean, yes, I played Return of Samus and Super Metroid too. Plenty of women only discover their motherly side when demands arise, no contradiction there. But if you understand who Samus must be, to do what she does, then I don't think you can imagine her being a kind of altruistic crusader. Her actions are noble and generous, but she isn't the kind to be tied down.
Besides, Momma has to pay the bills anyway.
Bounty Hunters are as old as the days of the Wild West....how did Nintendo not know this term/concept 🤔
Cowboy Bebop (an anime about, you know, bounty hunters in space) first aired in 1998 to critical acclaim, well before development started for MP3. Granted, there's not a total overlap between video game fans and anime fans, but it seems astounding that no one who mattered at Nintendo would've been aware of the concept of bounty hunters.
So you could say that she decides to stop bounty hunting after Metroid 2 because of character development.
@YoshiPilot As of Metroid Dread and the Prime series, Samus was still seeking bounties.
Why would you call your fictional character something you don't know the meaning of?
I applaud Retro for advancing the concept and Samus's character better than any other product in the franchise. Each Prime game had something new and exciting to offer, and I especially enjoyed the expansive open-world feel of the third entry.
I assume it was one of two higher ups that had a mistranslation rather than Nintendo as a whole not understanding it. Didn't Star Fox and F-Zero both deal with bounty hunters?
This must have been remembered when making dread, during the intro Addam points out that he thinks the reward is far too low for the possible danger. I guess this explains why they threw that in!
@jcboyer515 Oh yeah, like how there was this one Japanese novelization of Zelda that named Link just "Paul" for some reason.
1. The Prime series takes place before Metroid 2
2. The mission at the beginning of Dread was to kill a parasite, not a sentient creature
Very interesting. Yet another reason why Japanese and Western fans have such difference perspectives and expectations for the character of Samus. Western fans always want her to be more tough and badass, which is more in line with how we've seen "Bounty Hunter" characters. No wonder people didn't like her more "motherly" depiction in things like Other M.
@Marioman2022 Aww, you beat me to it!
@LexKitteh As a western fan I had no issues with it. I never saw Samus as a Boba Fett type, who would take on any job - more like a legally contracted bounty hunter who brought fugitives to justice. I mean, she can be "badass" too, but also moral and even motherly.
@BrianJL Nice NES Max picture lol. (I have one… for some reason. Probably because it’s awesome and it’s rad.) 😆
@YoshiPilot no the mission of Metroid Dread was to find the 7 missing E.M.MI and find the if the X Parasites are really alive.
didnt Adam point in the intro of Metroid Dread, the bounty for her mission in ZDR, cleary outweigh it reward?this show Nintendo understand what a bounty hunter is, Samus must be paid for every mission she complete.
@BlubberWhale Thanks! It's my all-time favorite controller - for certain games anyway. My original one is well-used and loved!
@Giancarlothomaz Still not a typical "Bounty Hunter" mission, she isn't being hired to kill a specific person
@Shiryu When I watched their video I immediately thought of Captain Falcon. 90's Nintendo used to call any loner hero a Bounty Hunter like it's a good thing
So the western perception of Samus of being a cold badass was wrong, and she's actually a soft motherly type or Anime waifu trope, basically.
Half of Nintendo say is completely misinterpreted by translation problems
@yuwarite Can't she be a badass AND motherly?
@BrianJL Right on. I think I busted that out (my secret weapon) for the last boss in Bucky O’Hare… I still failed lol
@BrianJL Helps to actually READ the article:
"she was not doing it for the money, she was being very altruistic. And I think he rolled out the term 'motherly'. She was caring for people, what she was doing was literally out of the goodness of her heart, because she deeply cared about humanity. Which was as far away from Boba Fett as you can get."
@yuwarite So, is Boba Fett eh only kind of "badass." I don't really see it as a contradiction. It's an uncommon portrayal, which to me just makes Samus a more interesting character.
@BrianJL Again, read the article:
"I never would have equated Samus with the definition of an altruistic motherly influence, given that she had the title of 'bounty hunter'... We were just looking at Kiyo as he was describing this, like, are we even on the same planet??"
I'm just reiterating, in my own words, basically the same thing the lead designer at Retro was thinking. When I think of a Bounty Hunter, I don't necessarily think of an aultristic, motherly type with a heart of gold, who is doing it for the good of humanity.
You can call it an "interesting" interpretation of what a Bounty Hunter is, but that doesn't really change the fact that it was still a completely accidental interpretation, based on a mistranslation and differing of opinion.
Also, how do you know they weren't merely just waifu-baiting Samus to some degree, by making her personality kind-hearted and motherly?
You say it's an "uncommon portrayal", but I think that's a naive way of looking at it; I think it ultimately rests on the agenda of Sakamoto and what his intentions for the character were.
Just remember he's responsible for scenes of Samus stripping down to her underclothes and for her wearing a skin tight body suit; it's pretty obvious that he has an agenda to sexualise the character, so it doesn't surprise me he would also make her personality warm and completely unintimidating as well.
But that's just my opinion on the matter, feel free to disagree.
@yuwarite You keep offering me "proof" from the article, when I am merely stating that in my opinion the character isn't incongruous. Sure, the guys at Retro may have misunderstood, but that's not relevant to my interpretation. To me, Samus has always been heroic, but also a paid bounty hunter/troubleshooter generally working for the "good guys." She is in fact tough and "badass" but also a caring person. Someone can be both, and I think Sakamoto's take on her bears that out. My point is that she doesn't have to be less tough just because she is also motherly - I know plenty of tough mothers! I think Samus is plenty intimidating, in her Zero Suit or not.
@BrianJL I'm not saying she can't be any of those things. My point is that the perception that people in the west had of her, including the guys at Retro, didn't allign with Sakamoto's, because Sakamoto's vision for her was mostly driven by fan service, and making the character more warm and sexually inviting to the typical Japanese male gamer at the time. It would have equally been interesting to see Samus depicted as ruthless and selfish, who has motherly tendencies but still mostly works for money, maybe she even has a debaucherous side or has a biological kid of her own, but that wouldn't have aligned with her being idyllic waifu-bait.
@yuwarite Oaky, fair enough, however I will just say that for me, as a western fan, never saw it that way and was not shocked by Sakamoto's depiction at all. I don't think all western fans were, just a segment of them. It is not a universal truth.
Motives aside, yeah, she's more of a government contractor/mercenary than a true bounty hunter, although she also has some traits of the latter.
Still, doesn't she get paid by the Galactic Federation for most of her missions? Otherwise, how does she pay the bills, maintain her gunship, and so on?
@BrianJL Star Wars still uses the term "bounty hunter" correctly, as guys like Boba Fett still perform the general duties of a bounty hunter. It's just that most of the ones depicted are of the more black-hearted variety that aren't ethically picky about their jobs, plus the whole bounty hunting system in the Star Wars galaxy doesn't follow any kind of legal organization or channels.
While they do act more like unscrupulous mercenaries in Star Wars than in many other works (although ethical mercenaries do exist sometimes in fictional stories, too), the difference is that mercs are hired to fight in wars, act as extra security forces, and fight in other more general conflicts; while bounty hunters are hired for hunting individual targets or performing very specific missions.
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