An interview with Paul Tozour of Retro Studios reveals that they once developed an X-COM-like Metroid game for Nintendo Wii.
Retro Studios, now celebrated for reviving the Donkey Kong Country series, rose to fame with the highly acclaimed Metroid Prime trilogy. With Metroid Tactics, they took the franchise in an almost entirely new direction. It was to be a turn-based tactical game, very much in the style of X-COM. It might have been a whole new sub-series had the studio not decided to move on from the franchise.
Metroid Tactics, designed internally in 2007, significantly departed from the side-scrolling platformer and first-person shooter that defined Metroid in the early 2000s.
The game for the Wii would likely have resembled a reimagining of X-COM, published by 2K Games and released in 2012. The franchise seems ideal for this style of game. The Retro Studios team thought the concept through pretty carefully before finally scrapping it.
An interview with Paul Tozour, a Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime development team member, conducted by DidYouKnowGaming, reveals that Tactics would likely have been relatively large-scale. Old protagonist Samus Aran would have appeared as part of a squad. Players would have taken on the role of Galactic Federation commander Justin Bailey. Justin Bailey would have overseen the fight on all fronts about the infamous cheat code from the original Metroid game. Meanwhile, he would have provided an overall view of the game’s universe that is not typical of the maze-like, claustrophobic path designs of the mainline games. In the end, the idea was scrapped. Retro Studios later pitched a Legend of Zelda title for Nintendo called Heroes of Hyrule, which was rejected.
Oddly enough, the X-COM series greatly impacted another, much less likely Nintendo franchise.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, released in 2017, was often compared to X-COM. In it, Mario joins forces with Ubisoft’s Rabbid mascots to take on the bad guys of the Mushroom Kingdom in a series of battles. While Retro Studios’ project probably did not influence Ubisoft’s efforts, it’s an interesting connection.
The title eventually earned a sequel, 2022’s Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, which significantly revamped the original. While Metroid Tactics was a far cry from the grim sci-fi saga the series was, fans could at least see a central Nintendo IP embracing turn-based gameplay in the modern era.
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