With the advent and incredible success of the Nintendo Wii, the director of the classic Metroid series - Yoshio Sakamoto - wanted to see what innovative new ideas could be developed for the Wii in the Metroid universe while standing apart from the established Metroid Prime saga.
Sakamoto-san's comfort zone is essentially the handheld portable gaming market - the last two Metroid titles under his belt were Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission, both for the Game Boy Advance. To realize a successful transition back to a console platform, Nintendo brought a well-known developer on board - Tecmo's Team Ninja.
Sakamoto approached Yosuke Hayashi, the leader of Team Ninja, as early as 2006. Renowned for their work on the action-oriented Ninja Gaiden series, the choice of Team Ninja gave Nintendo a highly experienced team with plenty of console development on their resume. To put the icing on the cake, Nintendo brought D-Rockets aboard - a team dedicated to working on the new Metroid game's computer-generated cutscenes - something we hadn't seen since the first CGI cutscenes in Metroid Prime Hunters.
The culmination of Sakamoto's dream and the pairing of these three developers is known as Project M, and their brainchild is Metroid: Other M. Of course, with such a significant new undertaking for the Metroid saga, plenty of new changes would make their way into the game. As the producer of Other M, Sakamoto has endeavoured to delve deeper into the persona and history of Samus herself, giving players a better understanding of what makes the bounty hunter tick behind the visor. Mood, timing, foreshadowing, and a sense of fear are all central to Other M's design.
Taking place between the events of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, Samus is still deeply affected by the loss of the infant Metroid at the hands of Mother Brain. This state together with flashbacks to her time under the command of Adam Malkovich (the origin of her ship's AI computer in Metroid Fusion) has given the developers a chance to provide a rich tapestry of Samus' life - and this time she's given a voice at long last.
The classic 2D platforming roots of the Metroid series, coupled with the 3D first-person perspective of Metroid Prime, have created an interesting scenario for Metroid: Other M. The game is rendered in 3D, but retains close ties with traditional 2D gaming. To that end, Sakamoto insisted that Team Ninja develop a control scheme utilising the Wii Remote alone - turned on its side without the Nunchuk attachment. This brought the game more in line with its 2D predecessors and brings back Samus' dexterity and speed not seen for over half a decade.
But Metroid: Other M can't just ignore the successes of the Metroid Prime trilogy. During gameplay, if players simply point the Wii Remote at the screen, the game instantly switches to a first-person view behind Samus' visor. From here players can aim anywhere on the screen, much like in Metroid Prime 3. Team Ninja's signature action-oriented gameplay was to be merged with Nintendo's design, vision and the overall history of Metroid to produce a new intricate world of mazes to explore, items and power-ups to find and a new acrobatic fighting style for Samus.
For the first time, the music in a Metroid title is performed by an orchestra, combining the traditional eerie and atmospheric tunes we all know and love with feature film-like quality. Composed by Kuniaki Haishima, his goal will be to mix spine-chilling classic remixes with fresh new pieces to help set the stage and accompany the story as we learn more about Samus' background.
The storyline of the overall Metroid series essentially falls into two main categories: the classic series and the Prime series. Sakamoto hopes to firmly establish Other M as another vital piece to the overall puzzle of the classic series, tying together events from Samus' 2D adventures. Interestingly, he believes that Other M may change our perception of some of the other events in Samus' life. An excerpt from a June 2010 Nintendo Power interview:
NP: After we've played through Other M, will our perceptions of Metroid Fusion change?
YS: I think it's definitely possible they'll change. Once you've played Other M, there are a lot of lines in Fusion that will suddenly have a very different sort of meaning and resonance to you.
Ultimately, Nintendo have set out to deliver a fresh new adventure for bounty hunter Samus Aran and develop a new Metroid experience not seen on the Wii before. They hope to cater to fans of the classic 2D series and set the stage for further exploration of Samus' battles against Space Pirates, Metroids, and anything else the universe throws her way - a certainly challenging and ambitious enterprise for Yoshio Sakamoto and the Project M team.