Metroid creator Sakamoto on Other M, WarioWare

GDC 2010: Nintendo software group manager talks mood, creating games for different audiences, and how Dario Argento influenced Metroid.

Who Was There: Yoshio Sakamoto, group manager of the Software Planning and Development department at Nintendo. Sakamoto is probably best known for his work on Metroid, having directed or supervised nearly every game in the series since its inception (including the upcoming Metroid: Other M). But his resume extends well beyond action games. Sakamoto was the producer behind microgame compilations like WarioWare: Touched! and WarioWare: Smooth Moves and has even worked on music games, such as Rhythm Heaven.

Samus' adventures were influenced by Italian horror films.

What They Talked About: From shooting space pirates in Metroid to sticking fingers up noses in Wario, Yoshio Sakamoto has one of the most varied resumes in gaming. It's so varied, in fact, that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata often comments that he’s unsure how Sakomoto can work on both serious and comical games, according to Sakomoto.

These discussions led to the topic of his talk at GDC 2010, "From Metroid to Tomodachi Collection to WarioWare: Different Approaches for Different Audiences." Sakomoto began by outlining the games he’s worked on in the past, saying that Western audiences probably knew him best for his work on Metroid. Many of his other games, however, were “niche” titles that often don’t make it out of Japan (and even in Japan, he says Metroid is seen as “niche”).

Sakomoto’s current project is Metroid: Other M, and he says his intention was to make it the “ultimate” Metroid game. But his involvement with the series stretches back all the way to the first Metroid on the NES in 1986, when he worked as part of the design team. “When people credit me as the creator of Metroid, I feel a bit of resistance. If anything, I see myself as the one who raised Samus. After all, the one who birthed Metroid was the Queen Metroid, am I right?” he said.

While Sakamoto didn’t work on Metroid 2, he did produce Super Metroid for the SNES in 1994. To demonstrate just how far the series had come, he showed a clip comparing the ending of Metroid II to a CGI sequence in Other M. The sequence (spoiler warning--skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know how Metroid II ends and Other M begins) showed the SNES version of the end boss fight against Mother Brain and the death of the baby Metroid and intercut it with an impressive-looking flashback cinematic from Other M.

Sakamoto then switched to the other games in his oeuvre, starting with the WarioWare series, which began with Twisted on the GameBoy Advance in 2005. The latest in the franchise--WarioWare D.I.Y. for the DS--will allow gamers to create their own microgames, and Sakomoto showed off a Metroid-themed one he created that will require players to shoot Metroids within a brief time period. He then briefly touched on two titles not released outside of Japan--the highly successful Tomodachi Collection for the DS (which is about to hit 3 million in sales in its home country) and Famikon Tantei Kurabu, a series of horror/suspense titles. Finally, Sakamoto showed off one of the earliest games he worked on--Balloon Fight for the NES all the way back in 1985.

Sakamoto said that if you looked at his past projects, they could be broken down into two divisions--serious (such as Metroid) and comic (such as WarioWare). He said that in preparing for his talk at GDC, Sakamoto began with examining his influences, chief of which were the films of Italian horror film master Dario Argento. Sakamoto said Argento’s films--particularly 1975’s Deep Red--were the biggest influences on his career, as they taught him that mood, timing, foreshadowing of future events, and contrasting music were key to controlling an audience’s reaction. Other directors and films he called out included Luc Besson (Leon aka The Professional), John Woo (A Better Tomorrow), and Brian dePalma (Carrie).

Sakamoto said the principle of controlling mood, timing, foreshadowing, and contrast was something he applied to all of his games, be they serious or comic. “The experience of scary or funny or cool is all part of the same process, regardless of the feeling. A developer must think about this and figure out how to control the audiences feeling,” he said. “So what is the difference? The answer is there really is no difference; it’s more about technique. As long as one is open to the possibility of new experiences, you can use a single toolset to move people’s hearts in different ways.”

Sakamoto then switched back to his most recent success, last year’s Tomodachi Collection. While Western audiences may be unfamiliar with this DS title, Sakamoto said it was a big hit in Japan. The game uses Mii-like characters and puts them in a series of strange situations. Sakamoto showed a video of his own game, which featured Miis of Nintendo luminaries, such as Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto, Reggie Fils-Aime, and even Samus Aran. A series of often funny vignettes then flashed on the screen, including Iwata-Mii rocking out to Metallica, Sakamoto’s Mii promising to put diamonds on Samus’ helmet in the next game if she goes out with him, and more.

And finally, Sakamoto again addressed his big next project--Metroid: Other M. He said the game was the synthesis of everything he’s learned about game creation so far. As well as being the producer, Sakamoto wrote the story, which he said would take place between the events of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion and would reintroduce characters, such as Commander Adam Malkovich back to the mix. He also briefly spoke about his design process and how it worked with their partners Team Ninja. He recounted a story where thanks to Team Ninja’s input, he was still able to get his wish of having a Metroid that controlled solely via the Wii Remote and yet one that still had 2D-like and first-person elements.

Quote/Takeaway: “It’s our mission to give our images shape, which can be conveyed to other people. I want to make the game that makes the best possible reaction from my intended audience.” -- Yoshio Sakamoto, group manager of the Software Planning and Development department at Nintendo.

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Discussion

23 comments
Shacrob
Shacrob

I get wet every time i play Super metroid, think its my fav game of all time, its and it was too much , music, enviroment, controls, everything, just right.

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

Wait wasn't it the ending of super matroid? And I thought Gumpei Yokoi made the first metroid, this article is weird.

Krusher26
Krusher26

My favorite game to this day is Metroid: Zero Mission. Super Metroid is also among my favorites. What a series.

AnelZukic
AnelZukic

it is hard to make a serious and comic game, and looks like Sakamoto is the man for that :) I love Metroid and they always have done great job on those games and I can't wait to play Metroid: Other M :D

Sethbeastalan
Sethbeastalan

@hatieshorror I know what you mean. I'm (significantly mature) years old, and the title screen of Super Metroid still creeps me out.

Sethbeastalan
Sethbeastalan

So, he made two of my favorite NES games, and one of my favorite party games... This guy is amazing!

soulfulDAGGER
soulfulDAGGER

Super Metroid and Metroid Prime are still incredible. Can't wait for the new one. Long live Metroid...er ..wait...Samus!

moose3469
moose3469

And to me the Metroid series always had that sense of survival horror. You were almost always alone, creepy lab experiments would crash out glass to ambush you, you had to run around in the dark, and sometimes you would get stalked by something that could two-shot you, and you had to hide... Thats just Metroid Fusion lol, but that feeling of being alone on an alien world really translates well and suspensfully through all the games

moose3469
moose3469

The first Metroid Prime is still one of the greatest and most atmospheric games of all time. I play a lot of first person shooters/adventures and never has a game made me feel like I was in it like Prime did.

Anime_Fan1986
Anime_Fan1986

I can't wait til the other M comes out. Lately I haven't been able to get enough of metroid. I still have some catching up to do before this game comes out, but i have plenty of time. Lately I've been playing metroid prime on the wii which is amazing.

spawnassasin
spawnassasin

pretty interesting guy that sakamoto dude is

wiidsduelpack
wiidsduelpack

Should play Super Metroid but Nintendo stopped manufacturing Classic controllers for the Pro. This is everywhere including gamestop. / Too bad Nintendo forces you to buy a classic controller to have a good gameplay experience. Can't play Super Mario World and don't like Super Metroid with the GC controller. Played the demo on Brawl.

Guzthon
Guzthon

God bless Sensei Yoshio Sakamoto! I can't wait for this game.

GCwasthebestsys
GCwasthebestsys

Metroid Prime (the first one for GameCube) is still the second best game I've ever played (first going to Mario Galaxy). It is not surprising to me at all that this guy is a wise student of dark films. If you have never played the first Metroid Prime you really should consider it. The story and "mood" as he says, is just perfect. It is simply a perfect work of art. Mario Galaxy gets the edge for best game ever though due to the physics/imagination/controls/all-around.

hatieshorrer
hatieshorrer

Video game horror fans should take a look at the opening and beginning of Super Metroid. Say what you will about RE being the first horror game on console but, I say Super Metroid bet them by two years.

Sepewrath
Sepewrath

Sakamoto is one of the best, its great to have people in the industry who are flexible in their creative style. Granted, he says he uses the same basic template, but all creation uses the same basic template. But to be able to effectively apply it to more than just one type of experience is good. Too many people are set in their ways and only seem able or willing to do the one thing they do. Also I cant wait to play Other M.

LivingDeadNinja
LivingDeadNinja

Dario Argento is my favorite director ever and Metoid is my favorite series ever...coincidence?!? Sakamoto is a genius.

gimgak
gimgak

dusting my wii off for this one...

l3erserker
l3erserker

Super Metroid for the SNES is one of my favorite games of all time. If Metroid: Other M is done right, this will be my system seller for the Wii.

mariostar0001
mariostar0001

A worthwhile read if you like learning someone's thoughts, but not worthwhile for those who want to know more on the game. I'm in the former category. :)

wiifan001
wiifan001

Thus whole article told me nothing that I already didn't know...the rest I don't even care about.