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Metroid Prime: Hunters

Metroid Prime head honcho Kensuke Tanabe and game designer Richard Vorodi talk Samus' DS debut

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Did the touchscreen shape the way you designed Hunters?

Richard Vorodi: Yeah, I really think the touchscreen was at the forefront of the new design direction we took. Metroid Prime on Cube was a first-person adventure, but on DS it's a first-person shooter. Shooters need to be fast and furious, and they need to have precision accuracy. The touchscreen let us fulfill those requirements.

How difficult was it to capture Metroid Prime's FPS control system with the stylus?

Richard Vorodi: Because we had the freedom to create our own control method, I don't actually think it was all that diffcult. In fact, I think the control method was the easiest thing we worked on. Everything else has been much harder!

It must be a real benefit for a handheld FPS to have the touchscreen, right?

Richard Vorodi: Yes. There's really nothing like it. I don't think this game could exist on any other platform other than the DS, because of the touchscreen.

Zoom

Well, Konami is trying to put an FPS on PSP in the shape of Coded Arms, which uses the analogue stick and the face buttons for movement. How do you think that compares to Hunters?

Richard Vorodi: I really don't think there's any comparison. Using that little analogue nub is slow. If they speed it up accuracy suffers, and if they slow it down then there's too much lag. I think that really changes the game style that you end up with. In Hunters, we don't have to worry about whether or not a player will be able to run, jump, turn around, and blast somebody. We don't have to worry about lock-on systems or auto-aim. The touchscreen eliminated every problem like that.

You've talked about the good things the touchscreen brought. What restrictions did it bring?

Richard Vorodi: Whenever you get a new piece of hardware you've got to look at all the things you can't do, and then find a way to do them. But the biggest restriction we came across straightaway was mental rather than technical. We worried about whether it was okay to change a game that people have loved for years and take it in a new direction. That took some courage. In technical terms, we had to think about how we could recreate the established rebirth of Metroid on GameCube. How could we take those visuals and put them onto a portable system? We put a lot of energy into making it look as good as it possibly could, and now I'm pretty happy about how close it looks to its GameCube brother.

Speaking of the GameCube versions of Prime, moving the Metroid series from 2D to 3D must have been a very difficult move. How successful do you think you've been?

Kensuke Tanabe: We knew every Metroid fan was worried about the move from 2D to 3D, so that meant we felt lots of pressure. However, one of the big appeals of the Metroid series has always been the exploration of looking for something. The main gameplay elements of combining objects together to progress has never changed. Moving to 3D let us make that process far more involving because of the new viewpoint and the scan visor. Now you have to use you own mind to find objects. You aren't just given them when you reach the end of the level. That was the biggest advantage of moving to 3D. Of course, the 3D environment also let us create far more beautiful worlds to explore.

There's much more to the Prime games than just shooting. Does it annoy you when people refer to it as just an FPS?

Kensuke Tanabe: Yes. That's why I always refer to it as an FPA!

So essentially you've created your own genre?

Kensuke Tanabe: I think so! It's true that the Metroid Prime games do look like FPS games, but the control system is very different. While most FPSs use a twin stick control system to move around and aim, we use a lock-on system so that, for instance, you can lock-on to an enemy and strafe around him. That makes the game far more accessible for people who aren't familiar with FPS gameplay. However, with Hunters we had to concentrate more on the shooting. Having said that, I would emphasise that Hunters is still not just a standard FPS.

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