In August, we covered an Iwata Asks feature on Metroid: Other M, where the Nintendo president gathered producer Yoshio Sakamoto, and directors Yosuke Hayashi (Team Ninja) and Ryuzi Kitaura (D-Rockets) for a conversation on the project’s development process.
However, development teams comprise of far more than merely leads and managers, and Other M’s development staff, dubbed “Project M” by Sakamoto, consisted of well over a hundred people across Nintendo, Team Ninja, D-Rockets, and a cinematics company named “Taiyo Kikaku.”
For a second interview session, this one conducted at Tecmo Koei’s offices, Iwata made his way to Tokyo (from Nintendo’s headquarters situated in Kyoto) to meet with other members of Project M. This time around, Iwata discussed the project from ground level, speaking with Team Ninja’s chief planner, programmer and sound engineer.
Sakamoto, as it turns out, didn’t go easy on his development partners. “His axe really comes down hard!” chief planner, Kazutaka Otsuka, joked. He went on to explain that Sakamoto would refuse to compromise on certain aspects of the game that he felt were crucial to the experience. One of these aspects was the “sense move,” Samus’s dodge, which Sakamoto requested be implemented in Other M’s first-person mode as well.
When, after considerable trial and error, Team Ninja were unable to get this to work correctly, the situation eventually culminated in Sakamoto pointing to their other non-Nintendo games as examples of how to do it right. “I was so mortified that I couldn’t even sleep that night,” Otsuka recalled.
Cinematics, too, were a point of contention. One of the goals of Other M was to seamlessly blend interactive and non-interactive sequences (something the game actually does really well). On this front, Sakamoto would often send directions via e-mail, detailing frame-by-frame, how he wanted certain scenes to look.
“Actually, there were many times when what we made after spending considerable time was rejected and sent back to us,” Taiyo Kikaku’s Hidekatsu Nagasawa revealed. “We’d then make it again, only for it to be rejected and sent back to us, again.”
Over the course of the game’s development, over 10,000 e-mails were exchanged between the four companies. When e-mail communication didn’t suffice, face-to-face meetings that often went on for 7 or 8 hours would be held. “I’d have lunch during a meeting. I’d also have dinner. Sometimes I’d even have the next day’s breakfast!” Nagasawa joked.
Ultimately, development reached a stage where Sakamoto and the rest of the Metroid team at Nintendo moved from their headquarters in Kyoto to Tokyo, to work directly with Team Ninja for a few months.
“You were away for so long, when I met Sakamoto-san in E3, we were practically greeting each other like long lost friends!” Iwata joked with art director, Takeihiko Hosokawa.