Today we shared a rather nice detail about the development of Donkey Kong Country Returns, courtesy of an excellent interview on Reece Reilly Kiwi Talkz Podcast with former Retro Studios developer and senior designer Mike Wikan. Naturally, much of the interview focused on Metroid Prime games, in which Wikan played a significant role, and there are some interesting nuggets of information showing how the series came together in the GameCube / Wii era.
A segment that intrigued us, mainly because of our love for Metroid Prime trilogy on Wii, related to how that compilation was put together. Wikan explains that it was a team of just four that did the main compilation and control changes for the Wii launch, which is impressive. He followed a segment where he talked about the infamous boss encounters of Spider Ball and Boost Ball in the original version of Metroid Prime 2: Echoesand how they ‘fixed’ for the trilogy package.
Tanabe-san (co-producer) had more to do with the practicalities. We need more of these trucks here, we have to balance it out there. There was an internal case that I got frustrated with that we resolved later. In Echoes, there are two spider boss guardians, the Guardians of Spider Ball and Boost Ball, and they are notoriously difficult to beat in the original versions. Murderously bad, drop your controller to the ground and give Mike Wikan the finger wherever you are.
That was a pitch change that was made in the last three days before we went gold. Tanabe-san really fought for it, ‘we have to make it tighter’, and we said ‘no, it’s too tight already’. We made it tighter and it turned out to be too tight, right?
So when we did Trilogy, that was another interesting project. Four of us did the complete compilation of the trilogy. So four of us stepped aside and separated the three games and put them back together for Trilogy with their control scheme. Just four of us, no pressure!
But what we had to do was go back, I was the only designer on the team who had played all three games. Then I knew where all the skeletons were buried; I wrote the script for most of the game, designed the AIs and stuff, so I knew all the broken shit under the hood that I could never fix. Things that most people would never know were there. People doing fast races knew they were there because they would hit every corner of every room until they found a path. So we had a chance with Trilogy to fix those things, because they had been bugging me ever since.
So I went back inside and changed the guardians and told Tanabe-san that I was putting it back the way it was! He said ‘ok Wikan-san, you were right, it’s perfectly fine’.
If you continue with the video of that segment, there is also a very interesting section (13:14 onwards) that talks about how closely Nintendo monitored and managed the lore in the games, making numerous corrections so that the games fit in the Metroid universe. . There’s also a fascinating insight into the Luminoth language and how it really works – it’s an elaborate manual signature.
Of course, we still hope that the endless rumors are really true and we get an ‘HD’ release of the Metroid Prime Trilogy; is an exceptional game bundle and worth introducing to a whole new audience.
Let us know about your memories of these bosses in Echoes, or maybe if you discovered that game at the launch of Trilogy on Wii.