Is Metroid about to enter its prime?

Is Metroid about to enter its prime?

Everyone knows that Metroid is a much more important, influential and prestigious series than the sales which, to tell the truth, have always been rather poor: all the games in the saga added up, including spin-offs, do not reach eighteen million. of copies.

This year, also to adequately narrate the arrival of Metroid Dread, we remembered the 35th anniversary - and the innovations - of the first episode on NES: a chapter that, at the moment, is still the second best-selling , with 2.73 million copies. A number that must be contextualized, because compared to the release date and compared to the other luckiest games on the console, it is much more relevant than the numbers say. We also remembered the birth and evolution of the metroivanias that took their DNA from this series, as well as the name.

Metroid Dread: the latest episode of the series, recently released on Nintendo Switch. Before delving into the present and attempting (roughly) to predict the future, let's briefly retrace the history of this series: when it experienced the best times and when, on the contrary, it was not valued enough. We have already written that the debut (dating back to 1986) was extremely happy and thanks to the quality of the work that Nintendo trinity was born, which still someone mentions, consisting of Mario, Metroid and Zelda. The 90s, to understand the progression of the saga well, must be divided into two decades. In the first two Metroids were released, namely Metroid II: Return of Samus for Game Boy (in 1991), and above all Super Metroid (in 1994) for Super Nintendo, an authentic masterpiece.

From then on Metroid stepped aside, parallel to the reduction (or rather, the lack of expansion) of the team that had always looked after it, namely R & D1. A team that took years to reinvent itself in the polygonal world and that only recently found the keystone, with more or less fruitful collaborations with external software houses (as in the case of MercurySteam). In any case, the Nintendo 64 didn't have its own Metroid; not only did he not have it, but he did not even come close to having it. Realizing that R & D1 would not be able to make it fully, Nintendo tried to find - belatedly - some external developer who could take care of it. He could not make it. But the search had just begun.

The rise of the '00s, the fall of the' 10s

Metroid Prime: Trilogy: the collection of three classics released on Nintendo Wii The solution came from Texas and not by chance: Nintendo created, financed and supervised the efforts of Retro Studios, which repaid every single dollar invested with a masterpiece like Metroid Prime, a majestic work that achieved exceptional critical recognition and excellent sales (2.84 million. copies, the most popular Metroid to date). The Retro Studios game, defined by the developers themselves as FPA (First-Person Adventure), was accompanied in the same period (late 2002) by an excellent portable episode, Metroid Fusion, created by R & D1. The latter managed to place more than one and a half million copies, sculpting a Christmas season under the banner of Samus Aran.

2002 marked the pinnacle of the entire history of Metroid and gave the start of a decade in which many games of the saga have been released, including several spin-offs. It was evident the will, on the part of Nintendo, to make that trinity (Mario, Zelda, Metroid) something concrete, even on a commercial level. An operation that only partially succeeded: Metroid Prime Pinball did not reach 300,000 copies, Metroid Prime: Hunters, despite the good quality of the title and despite being released for the most popular portable console in history (Nintendo DS), struggled to overcome a million copies sold.

Aside from the remarkable remake of the first chapter, released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004 (Metroid: Zero Mission) at the hands of R & D1, it is thanks to Retro Studios that this decade is considered the best for the saga. In 2004 Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was released and in 2007 (on Nintendo Wii) Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. All chapters of great quality. From then on Retro Studios would have left Samus Aran to throw himself on Donkey Kong and would have been abandoned by the main creative minds behind Metroid Prime (like Mark Pacini, director of all three chapters): in 2009, to seal these extraordinary years, came Metroid Prime: Trilogy, an anthology of the saga, has been published.

If in 2002 Metroid Prime had heralded a great period, in 2010 Metroid: Other M marked its end in the worst way. For the first time R & D1 and Sakamoto, historian responsible for the series, had received a budget high enough to develop a polygonal episode: they would have collaborated with Team Ninja in the creation of a Metroid that alternated two-dimensional phases with others in the first person, and that deepened the personality by Samus Aran. The project resulted in a mediocre work and a commercial failure (considering the investments). With Retro Studios in transition and focused on Donkey Kong, the prospects for Metroid were far from rosy.

Metroid: Other M: one of the low points of the saga. It is no coincidence that the saga was revised only six years later, with a spin-off that many even considered offensive: because one thing is to make Metroid Prime Pinball immediately after a masterpiece, another is to publish Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a mediocre and graphically sloppy action title (for Nintendo 3DS), when there was no trace of Samus Aran for years. The bounty hunter would return only the following year, in 2017, with the remake of the episode Game Boy: Metroid: Samus Returns turned out to be an excellent game and, in retrospect, it was fundamental to revitalize the series. Because from that collaboration between the current EPD 7 and Mercury Steam Metroid Dread would have been born.

Present and future

Samus Aran Metroid Prime 4 was announced four years ago, at E3 2017, without specifying who the developer was. In the following months, rumors came out: it was rumored that the chosen company could be Bandai Namco Singapore. Whoever it was, Nintendo did not appreciate the work done, to the point of canceling the project to start it again, at the beginning of 2019, with Retro Studios. Retro Studios which, exactly like Metroid, has been lost in recent years: adaptations and remakes aside, have not released anything since 2014.

Few were hoping for a two-dimensional Metroid game on Nintendo Switch: and instead, all 'E3 this year, Nintendo unveiled Metroid Dread (we, perhaps with excessive optimism, had foreseen it). The game turned out to be a success, in our review we awarded it with a 9, and has a Metacritic average of 88: we do not yet have certain numbers globally, but the commercial results that have emerged so far (in the United Kingdom and Japan) leave hope that Metroid Dread can become (or close to being) the most popular chapter of the saga. For its quality, but also for the installed base and for the users of Nintendo Switch.

Metroid Dread: one of the scenarios of the game. And the hope, of course, is that this was only the beginning. For years there have been rumors of a high definition adaptation of Metroid Prime: Trilogy: if it really existed, there would be no better time to launch it than between Metroid Dread and Metroid Prime 4, so as to keep the focus on the saga and prepare the ground for the Retro Studios project launch.

They have been working on Metroid Prime 4 in Texas for more than two and a half years. We haven't seen a trailer yet, but we do know that Nintendo is investing heavily in the project - it's optimistic to hope it will come out in 2022, more likely to arrive the following year. A roadmap made up of Metroid Dread (2021), Metroid Prime: Trilogy HD (2022) and Metroid Prime 4 (2023) wouldn't be bad at all. And it could project the saga into a commercial dimension that has never belonged to it: a lot will depend on the quality of Retro Studios work.

Metroid Dread: Samus has never been as "powerful" as in this game. Prior to Nintendo Switch, no The Legend of Zelda game had ever sold (excluding remakes) more than ten million copies. Breath of the Wild is approaching twenty-five. If Metroid Prime 4 will live up to expectations, Metroid, with due proportions, could embark on a commercial path similar to that of The Legend of Zelda. We bet it will be open world?

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