Metroid Dread's creator on life among the Metroidvanias

Yoshio Sakamoto discusses Samus, Dread and the big Switch question: TV or handheld?

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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Scott Stein
4 min read

Samus' suit design and its evolution. The newest Metroid lands in a world where Metroid-like games are everywhere.


The first new Metroid game in years (and the first new 2D Metroid in 19 years), Metroid Dread is the concluding chapter in a series of games extending back to the original Metroid in 1986. It's now available alongside a new OLED-screened Switch, aiming to be Nintendo's big holiday title in a year without any new Mario or Zelda games.

Producer Yoshio Sakamoto has been the guiding creative force for Metroid games since the beginning: Over a Zoom from Japan, I interviewed Sakamoto about Metroid, how the new game was conceived and its future.

The following are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Metroid games have moved between TV-connected play and handheld for a while. Now on Switch it's a little bit of both. Do you find a preference for yourself in terms of how you play on the Switch?
Sakamoto: I don't have a very strong preference on the TV or the handheld. 

Metroid has a pretty large scale world with a large scale sci-fi atmosphere, so I feel personally maybe it could be more exciting to play on a big screen on the TV. The visual quality is of course hugely improved and evolved. In that sense, the Nintendo Switch hardware could be a very, very good match.

Watch this: Nintendo Switch OLED, reviewed: It's great, but is it for you?

You made many Metroid games for handheld systems. Did you find handheld a particularly good match for Metroid?
The original development department that I was in [with Metroid] was very familiar with handheld games. However, I was not particularly focused on handheld -- I tried my best to create the best possible Metroid on each [type of] hardware. This Metroid Dread idea originated 15 years ago, in the Nintendo DS era. I was considering what kind of Metroid ideas could work well with the uniqueness of the Nintendo DS. Now, ultimately, Metroid Dread is on Nintendo Switch. Of course, there were ideas that we needed to evolve and modify from the Nintendo DS era. But I feel that ultimately, every single idea has been fine-tuned and fully customized.


Metroid Dread's look is mostly classic 2D, with a few exceptions.


As far as Metroid's influence on games: your ideas birthed the term Metroidvania, and Switch games admit to being inspired by what Metroid started. How do you feel about those games? Do you think about how these designers are playing with your ideas? And does it inspire you?
There are tons of games released in this Metroidvania genre. Of course, I'm not super familiar with all of them. But the fact that I have been one of the original members creating this genre, and there are so many game designers digesting this and customizing their own style, creating their own game... I'm very thankful. And also it is very, very interesting. I honestly feel very happy and thankful that what we did back then has been carried on through so many game developers and game game designers, creating so many different games.


Some of the design sketches from the Metroid Dread art book.


Has your perception of what Metroid means changed? Has your relationship with it changed?
Did we have a very solid character or franchise image for Metroid and Samus, and did we really present it in the way that we wanted in the original game? I'm not really sure how to answer that. However, I feel that the character Samus has been developing over the years, and with all her adventures it really deepened my understanding on what kind of character Samus is, and her inner self -- what was she thinking in each of the adventures? Metroid Dread concludes the interconnected fate between the Metroid and Samus, that is a big theme of the narrative. My understanding and my vision towards the Metroid franchise and the Samus has deepened over the years.

At E3, you commented that you know you want the series to continue, that you know you definitely wouldn't want it to end. Do you see Dread at all being a closure?
As long as the character Samus exists, I think her adventure will continue. I feel that Samus should continue her adventure, and that's something that we would really need to put our best effort into. Metroid Dread does conclude the five-story arc that has been going on for 35 years. However, I feel that it's not the ultimate end. There should be something that is able to continue the franchise and the universe. So yes, as long as your character Samus is loved, I would like to do what I have to do.

If you were to make another game for another Nintendo franchise, which one would it be?
Well, what to say? It's a very, very difficult question. I think it really depends on when the time comes, what I would want to make, what my team wants to make, and is it something that the Nintendo fans would enjoy. Unless I see that vision, it will be very difficult to realize that idea. And of course, even if I had that idea, it would be very difficult to answer. Sorry for a very vague answer -- it is a very difficult question to answer. Movies would also be very interesting, but there really isn't anything concrete I could answer here.

Speaking of the recent Super Mario movie announcement, a Metroid movie would be interesting. I have no idea who'd be cast as Samus.
So that is something very interesting. Personally, I hope that it does become a reality someday.