In the latest video published by YouTube creator KIWI TALKZ, ex-Retro Studios dev Paul Tozour gave an extensive interview around his time with the studio, including cultivating a positive working culture, how Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was influenced by Halo, and the studio's relationship with Metroid producer Kensuke Tanabe.
During the interview, Tozour goes into what happened post Metroid Prime 3 when the studio started work on the now-cancelled 'Project X'. Although Tozour understandably doesn't divulge which Nintendo IP the game was tied to (though there has been ongoing speculation that the studio worked on a game starring The Legend of Zelda's Sheik), he did share his thoughts on why the project proved particularly frustrating for him and and the circumstances surrounding this.
For context, Tozour states that Nintendo SPD (Software Planning & Development) would frequently rework much of Metroid Prime 2 & 3's design, with Tanabe himself contributing significant changes to certain boss battles. Tozour goes on to explain that Nintendo corporate didn't necessarily trust Retro Studios to create a Metroid game on its own, so Project X was therefore the studio's attempt to prove to Nintendo that it had the "design chops".
Ultimately, however, due to a number of factors at the studio - including the loss of resources thanks to the upcoming Metroid Prime Trilogy - Project X failed to get off the ground. Tozour explains that the project proved frustrating for him due to the "incoherent design docs" that were handed to him at the time:
"Project X was a very, very frustrating experience for me, because you know, I have a lot of design skills, right, I'm a multi-class character engineer and game designer, right, I've done a lot of both. And so when a design needs work, that's a problem for me. If a designer comes to me with a good design, hands me a design doc and said "here's what I want you to code, put a couple of months of your life into this" and it's a good thing that we can iterate to make it better, that's cool. But when they come to me with a design that is not even coherent, like it doesn't even make sense and it's not even fun like it's not even clinging to anything that could conceivably be fun."
Tozour goes on to highlight the stark change within the studio after completion of the Metroid Prime games:
"I had just gotten done with two Metroid games, Prime 2 and 3, and it was a very professional experience, right, very solid team, everybody worked well together, the design was solid, you never had people asking each other "gosh, what's a Metroid game, is it first-person or third-person, is it an RPG, is it a strategy game?" No, everybody knows what a Metroid Prime game is, so it was all just a question of figuring out the details of each location and encounter and so on, whereas this was something that just didn't point to anything that made sense at all. I tried on several occasions to very diplomatically raise the red flag and say "guys, this is a problem and we need to fix this design".
Tozour concludes this section by expressing his happiness at the cancellation of Project X, clarifying that it provided the studio an opportunity to "do something better, something that really had a chance to succeed".
You can check out the full video below for more context on Project X, along with other interesting tidbits. As for Retro Studios, the team is currently working on the latest entry to the Prime franchise, Metroid Prime 4. Very little (actually, nothing) has been shared on the project since Retro took over development in 2019, but the studio's Twitter page was recently updated with a mysterious new Metroid-themed Twitter banner. We're currently awaiting a new Nintendo Direct, which may just take place this week, so hopefully we won't have to wait much longer for new information on the project.
What do you make of Paul Tozour's comments on Project X? Share your thoughts with a comment below.