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Nintendo’s new Metroid game has been in development for 15 years, here’s why it took so long

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Jun 17, 2021, 11:22 AM EDT

Nintendo dropped plenty of surprises as part of its E3 festivities this year, but arguably one of the biggest was news that we’re getting a new mainline Metroid game for the switch. Well, turns out that was an announcement in-the-making that dates all the way back to the original Wii and Nintendo DS era.

Game producer Yoshio Sakamoto told The Verge he conceived the idea behind new side-scrolling sequel Metroid Dread a full 15 years ago, and originally thought it could be a good fit for the new (at that time) Nintendo DS. The pitch shakes up the usual Metroid formula and finds hero Samus on the run from a more powerful robotic enemy, constantly running and hiding to stay alive (hence the “dread” part of that title).

So why did it take until 2021 to finally come together? Because the DS just couldn’t handle it from a hardware and graphical level, which led them to “put [the project] on hold” indefinitely, according to Sakamoto.

The game finds Samus being pursued by robots called E.M.M.I., which are stronger than Samus and required some new gameplay mechanics to keep our favorite mech-suited hero alive. She can now cloak herself to hide from the E.M.M.I., creating a kind of Alien-esque horror vibe, with Samus tasked with sneaking and hiding instead of just blasting away at her foes like usual.

“I wanted to create something that was unsettling for players, and also would communicate this unfeeling-ness that’s inherent in something that’s robotic,” Sakamoto told The Verge.

So what finally got Metroid Dread off the shelf and back on the schedule? A team-up with developer Mercury Steam, the company behind the 2017 3DS game Metroid: Samus Returns. The work impressed Sakamoto enough to dust off his ideas for Metroid Dread, so he partnered with Mercury Steam to finally bring it to life.  

“In meeting with them, I got the sense that they were a team that we could work together with towards a singular concept, and realize this goal that I had in mind for Metroid Dread,” Sakamoto said.

Metroid Dread is scheduled to hit the Nintendo Switch on October 8.

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