The Let's Play Archive

Metroid: Other M

by Maple Leaf

Part 9: Sakamoto Says Part 1

Gather around, kids, it's time for...

It cannot be emphasized enough how every single bad decision in this game is Yoshio Sakamoto's fault. He really is Japanese George Lucas. The biggest proof of this comes directly from Nintendo themselves, in the Iwata Asks article for Other M.

To those who don't know, "Iwata Asks" is a series of interviews that the President of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, occasionally conducts with the development staff for big-name Nintendo titles shortly before they are released. Usually the interviews contain a hefty dose of sugar-coating to hype the game being released, but reading between the lines can reveal a great deal about the development process inside Nintendo. Other M is no exception: its article illustrates precisely how insane and hardcore Sakamoto was about HIS GLORIOUS VISION for this game, to the point that Team Ninja was actively hindered by him and Iwata was weirded out.

The article is in two volumes, and unfortunately the second volume contains spoilers for a late-game power-up, so I can't link to it here in the thread. What I can do, however, is quote it.

Let’s start off with what Iwata himself thinks of Sakamoto:

Iwata Asks posted:

IWATA: As soon as development had got under way, to an extent, you would dive into the details of the cinematics in a way that made me wonder 'He's thought this much about it?'

SAKAMOTO: Yes, I did dive in... (laughs)

”Iwata Asks” posted:

IWATA: Sakamoto-san seems to have a specific image of what he wants to do, but he certainly doesn't express himself clearly. That's why he is unable to communicate his image from the start so that other people understand. He does have a distinct image in his head, however, so when he's shown something that's even a little different to this image, he's very clear about saying 'Ah, no. That's not right'.

”Iwata Asks” posted:

IWATA: Sakamoto-san was so obsessed with this project that he was even counting [the cutscenes’] seconds, it seems.

And here's Yosuke Hayashi from Team Ninja, who was unfortunate enough to be chosen by Sakamoto for the position of Other M's director:

Iwata Asks posted:

HAYASHI: We could discuss anything we wanted with Sakamoto-san while making the game, so we didn't feel 'constrained' at all. Of course, there were times when we received instructions such as 'it would be better this way' about things that we'd made, but rather than feeling constrained, the impression we got from this was that we'd gained a really powerful partner that could help us improve on the things we'd been making by ourselves.

God forbid that Team Ninja, with their woeful track record regarding action video games, should dare work on a Metroid title without Sakamoto keeping them in line and telling them how it would be better his way.

Now that we’ve established that Sakamoto is an obsessive control freak with major communication issues (sound familiar? ), I recommend that whenever you see him say “we” in these quotes, you should mentally substitute “I” in instead. It should provide a clearer picture of what actually happened.

Hey, you know how you can't shoot missiles during battle unless you're standing perfectly still and letting enemies take potshots at you? It was Sakamoto's idea.

Iwata Asks posted:

IWATA: Why were you so focused on this idea of 'just one Wii Remote', Sakamoto-san?

SAKAMOTO: Metroid was originally a game for the Family Computer Disk System, and so could be played using just the +Control Pad and two buttons. Back then the game had simple controls: Move with the +Control Pad and use the two buttons to jump and shoot.

That's why I decided this time to make a game that just used one Wii Remote and didn't use the Nunchuk controller. Even in a Metroid world that ended up being constructed in 3D, the player feels more affinity with Samus when controlling her with the +Control Pad, even more so than with the Control Stick.

You know what else the NES game did? Let you switch to Missiles with the Select button. Guess Sakamoto forgot about that. Also, the NES Metroid was 2D and didn't involve a z-axis, and D-Pads are notoriously horrible for movement in a 3D space because they don't register degrees of movement. But who am I to argue with the paragon of game design?

Luckily, Team Ninja isn’t as reserved as I am.

”Iwata Asks” posted:

IWATA: What did you find difficult, as chief programmer, Aramaki-san?

ARAMAKI: All sorts of things, but as you can imagine, there was a lot of trial and error involved with making the game controllable with just one Wii Remote. Every time a new member of staff would join the project, they'd inevitably ask 'why aren't we using the Nunchuk controller?' Of course, there are only a few buttons that can be used on just one Wii Remote, so we had many, many button meetings about how Samus's diverse movements should be controlled.

Huh, so Team Ninja wasn’t very enthused about this bizarre self-imposed limitation, what a surprise.

Back to Sakamoto for a sec. He understood Team Ninja's plight, truly he did! He just didn't care.

Iwata Asks posted:

SAKAMOTO: One Wii Remote doesn't really have enough buttons, though. There were times when some problems, such as trying to implement special actions, could potentially have been solved by connecting the Nunchuk. Even then though, we had an understanding that we would never 'resort to the Nunchuk'.

HAYASHI: That's right.

Right now I'm imagining Sakamoto's last line in the above quote being spoken by Marlon Brando while he nudges Hayashi's leg with a gun under the table. It's pretty great.

Iwata Asks posted:

SAKAMOTO: Another big theme in the Metroid series is 'exploration'.

IWATA: By exploring every nook and cranny, players can discover various items and so on, can't they?

SAKAMOTO: They can indeed. Since the Wii Remote can be used as a 'pointer', we decided to use this feature for exploration. Point the Wii Remote controller at the screen, and the viewpoint changes automatically. We call this the 'Search view'. We make use of 3D space for this, enabling players to fully enjoy the game's characteristic exploration aspect.

Sakamoto, I don't think you understand what "exploration" means, especially in the Metroidvania genre. Here's a hint: it doesn't involve locking the player into linear corridors and then letting them use a different camera angle to look at the corridors.

So, to summarize: it was perfectly viable for the developers to incorporate the Nunchuck and its analog stick + additional buttons, but they didn't because Sakamoto's GLORIOUS VISION forbid it. Instead they incorporated missiles into a gameplay element that wasn't designed for them. See where this is going?

Good, cause it gets worse.

Iwata Asks posted:

SAKAMOTO: What I was conscious of, therefore, was 'automation'. Instead of forcing the player to use complex button controls, we'd enable them to accomplish many things using just the Wii Remote by 'automating' various actions in the game.

You know what all these video games today have too much of? Interaction. Yoshio Sakamoto, he is a true visionary who wants to make a game without so much of that. I bet he and Hideo Kojima talk about it all the time over some okonomiyaki, in between arguments over who would be on top when Snake and Samus fuck.

Now we get to the really fun part, the storyline of this game. As a subject very near and dear to Sakamoto's ego, he never fucking shut up about it in every pre-release interview he ever had about this game, so I could spend all day quoting him on it if I felt like it. For now, I'm just gonna quote him once:

Iwata Asks posted:

SAKAMOTO: This time I wanted to create an intriguing depiction of Samus's humanity, showing that she's not just cool, but also kind and sympathetic, and perhaps a little immature in her passion and earnestness.

Guys, you don't get it, she's not disturbingly dependent at all, just immaturely passionate. Guys, stop laughing. Guys?

While you read these next two quotes, I need you to remember the cutscenes you've watched in this game so far. Keep them in your mind, okay? The man speaking is Ryuzi Kitaura, the Executive Director and also the man behind bringing Sakamoto's GLORIOUS VISION to life in cutscenes:

Iwata Asks posted:

IWATA: Kitaura-san, the first step for you was reading the scenario that Sakamoto-san had written, wasn't it?

KITAURA: Yes, that's right. Before meeting Sakamoto-san, I read the scenario and prepared some storyboards. Since this was going to be a long-term project, I felt that it was important for us to have an affinity for each other. In fact, I was prepared to resign from the project if Sakamoto-san didn't seem to like my storyboards when he saw them.

IWATA: You had that much faith in your storyboards?

KITAURA: I did. That really was my intention. When Sakamoto-san saw the storyboards, however, the room fell completely silent.

IWATA: There was no reaction at all?

KITAURA: No. Sakamoto-san was completely silent, so I thought there was no hope for me. I thought I should just go home there and then.

SAKAMOTO: That wasn't it at all! (laughs) The truth is that I was so inspired I couldn't put it into words. I think anyone would become speechless if they were presented with storyboards that were so far beyond their wildest dreams!

ALL: (laughter)

Iwata Asks posted:

IWATA: What was Sakamoto-san like in the studio?

KITAURA: He stood close to me, checking the monitors. When we'd shoot a particularly moving scene, I'd ask him 'How was that, Sakamoto-san?', but he'd be completely silent - again.

IWATA: Just like when he saw the storyboards for the first time?

KITAURA: Yes! (laughs) I was really worried, thinking 'Oh no, he doesn't like it...', but then when I peeked at his face, his eyes were full of tears.

IWATA: Oh my...

KITAURA: Well, the cinematic did show Samus in tights. (laughs)

ALL: (laughter)

And before you start suspecting that someone besides Sakamoto had an actual impact on the development of the game, let me just remind you who we're dealing with:

Iwata Asks posted:

IWATA: Nagasawa-san, as the one who was responsible for creating the cinematics, did you go through many tough times in order to connect them 'disconcertingly well'?

NAGASAWA: Actually, there were many times when what we made after spending considerable time was rejected and sent back to us. We'd then make it again, only for it to be rejected and sent back to us, again.

IWATA: Sakamoto-san's obsession with 'timing', especially, is really something, isn't it?

NAGASAWA: Oh yes, I really felt that.

IWATA: Even in some of the cinematic production parts of the project, which are normally entrusted to someone else, there are times when he'll jump in and intervene if he thinks something is important. I heard that during the last stages of this project, he got deeply involved with adjusting the 'space' – that is, the timing - of the frames in the cinematics.

NAGASAWA: There were actually many times when he'd look at a cinematic we'd created and have no particular comments to make, so we'd relax and think 'this one's OK'. After a little while, though, we'd inevitably get an email... Furthermore, it was technically Kitaura-san that he should have been communicating with, but I was the one getting the emails.

IWATA: So he was coming to you with all the things he couldn't say to Kitaura-san, Nagasawa-san? (laughs)

NAGASAWA: Yes, it would appear so. (laughs) And those emails always had one innocent subject: 'A Consultation.'

IWATA: Those emails would require quite a bit of special attention when they arrived, then.

NAGASAWA: Yes, so I'd read them really, really carefully. They'd be about a cinematic he'd watched a while earlier, and he'd write extremely detailed things in order to make minute changes in very specific segments with regards to how many split-seconds or even less there should be before moving to the next sequence, like 'I want it to be like this after all' or 'reduce the sense of tension here a little bit.'.

That's right, Sakamoto went behind the back of his own Executive Director because another man couldn't possibly express HIS GLORIOUS VISION the way it was meant to be told.

At least the sound design for the game went smoothly, though, right?

”Iwata Asks” posted:

IWATA: How was it for you, in charge of sound, Koike-san?

KOIKE: The development took place over a long period, so there were several tough times. For example, the very first thing we made available to the public on the website for this project was a piece of piano music. That piece started life one afternoon when we got a message from Sakamoto-san, saying 'I want to make a piece of piano music'. After I responded 'well, there's somebody on my staff who can play the piano', we decided to create the piece. Then when I asked him 'when's the deadline, by the way?' he responded 'today'.

IWATA: ...That's rather unreasonable! (laughs)

ALL: (laughter)

KOIKE: It became one of those 'this is tough going!' times, that's for sure. So we got the piano-playing member of staff to play for us. We made the first part, and then let Sakamoto-san listen to it before doing anything else.

IWATA: Was Sakamoto-san in Kyoto at the time?

KOIKE: Yes, he was, so we sent the music as email attachments. Of course, Sakamoto-san is a bit of an obsessive, so his response upon listening to it was 'this part is wrong'. So we did it again and resent it to him, and his response was 'this part is wrong as well'. This kind of exchange continued over and over until about 8pm, and even the piano player started saying: 'I just don't understand!'

Oh, and remember Samus's voice actress, who brought her extensive theater background to bear in this game with a monologue that had the cadence and tone of damp wood? Yeah, Sakamoto's idea again.

I've bolded part of this next quote because it is the most aneurysm-inducing part of the whole article. See if you can guess why!

Iwata Asks posted:

KITAURA: Sure. We wanted to implement the highest possible quality of CG in this game, and we've really tried our best to do so, but actually I'd like players to pay attention to Samus's voice actress as well. Samus is a woman who is poor at coping with life's problems. As a result, we chose a voice actress not because she's technically proficient, but because she could talk naturally in her own words.

SAKAMOTO: So her essence is close to Samus's.

KITAURA: Yes, that's right.

Samus Aran, the woman who has killed thousands of monsters and single-handedly blew up not one but two planets, is actually very bad at coping. That's why she goes into Morph Ball form so often, she's assuming the fetal position.

Nice subtle insult to Jessica Martin there, by the way, saying she's essentially Other M's version of Samus. As we've already seen in the LP, she isn't someone you want to be equated to.

And finally, here's a couple quotes that you shouldn't read while eating anything due to potential choking hazard:

Iwata Asks posted:

SAKAMOTO: I think we've been able to make a Metroid game with an enjoyable story this time. I was really thinking that I'd like a large audience of players to enjoy this 'action game with a proper story' - that's the reason for the simple controls, too. I wanted as many people as possible to try this game.

Iwata Asks posted:

SAKAMOTO: When I was first thinking of the plans for this Metroid game, there were things that I found difficult to get people within Nintendo to understand. I think my ideas sounded outrageous, or seemed to be pipedreams.

Golly gee, Sakamoto, I sure do wonder why.

If anyone wants me to post more quotes from the article, I'll be more than happy to, just bear in mind that some things do go into spoiler territory. I've also got a small collection of amazing Sakamoto quotes from other interviews that I can pull out if need be, because the man is a goldmine of ridiculous hype for his own canonized fanfiction.

Just remember guys: you shouldn’t blame Team Ninja. After all, without them the game might have been much worse.