Retro is kind of a beautiful mess of a black box of a company. Nintendo's take on a homegrown 'mature' Western studio started as a semi-reincarnation of Iguana Entertainment, a studio which saw some success with publisher Acclaim Entertainment on many Nintendo (and other) platforms. They had some decent games, but it's kind of a weird fit, right? So they pitched some generic-ish concepts, including that car combat game, some football sim, and the sprawling vapoRPG, Raven Blade! A bit of mismanagement, strippers and cocaine on Nintendo's dime, yada yada, and Big Daddy N had to step in for some tough love. They cleaned the place up, cancelled pretty much EVERYTHING, and repurposed one of their concepts into Metroid Prime, a project doomed for failure if there ever was one. And THEN Nintendo upended the tea table again (maybe several times) during development!
I'm a fairly optimistic guy, particularly when it comes to Nintendo games, but I was absolutely positive that Metroid Prime would be horseshit. Most of us were, probably. I mean, it had everything working against it. Western-made, troubled development, first-person...
And then the reviews hit and staggered us all. And THEN we all played it and found it to be completely overrated, due to the goddamned Scan Visor!
Nah, it was alright. Pretty good, even (aside from the scanning). And Retro went on to make Prime 2 and Prime 3, changing up the formula a bit each time. And then another huge shakeup rocked the company: the departure of several of its key team leads. The most visible ones, really.
Could they recover? Would Armature create a Metroid-killer on the HD twins, free from Nintendo's tech constraints? Was Retro just a husk of its former self?
Well, Armature, needless to say, suffered from the Nintendo ex-second-party curse. Cut free from Nintendo's guidance, funding, and total disregard for release dates, Armature has struggled in the wake of Prime. They've released a few original titles, but nothing has really caught fire, critically or commercially speaking. And they were reduced to a porting house, before Microsoft gave them a chance at a second-party title with Recore. Wasn't quite the smash hit that they wanted. But they're still around. They've done what they had to and kept the lights on, culminating in the apex of their legacy to date: the Switch port of Duck Game, perhaps the greatest game of our time, complete with touchscreen level editor!!
Anyway, enough about Armature. What was Retro up to? Whaaat? A 2D Donkey Kong game?? Are you kidding? Wait, this is waaaay better than Metroid Prime! There's no scanning whatsoever!
Seriously, though, Retro kept the hits coming with Donkey Kong Country Returns, seemingly not having lost a step from the high-profile departures that have forever plagued the company. DKCR was timed exactly right to capitalize on the Wii boom and sell a bajillion copies. And then Tropical Freeze... !
Didn't. But it was on the Wii U. And it was still really good! Meanwhile, Retro was contributing to some big Nintendo franchises, like Mario Kart (7 & 8, I believe)? They still had the golden touch.
Finally, after years away from the franchise that put them on the map, Nintendo announced that things weren't working out with its externally-developed (Namco?) approach to Metroid Prime 4 and handed the reins back to Retro. And the world rejoiced!
But wait a minute... What the hell have they been working on since Tropical Freeze? And has making two 2D games really consumed the majority of their resources from 2007 to 2014?? What IS the unspoken history of Retro, which has continually shed key staff members like a snake sloughing its skin? How many games have been dragged behind the shed, shot, and buried? How much confidence does Nintendo really have in them right now? Will whatever they've been working on since 2014 ever see the light of day? And why scanning, why, god, WHY???
At the end of the day, though, regardless of their crazy journey, look at that scoreboard, baby! All killer, no filler! Long story short, how do you feel about current Retro? Still got it? Never had it? Inquiring minds want to know!
Source for all research and information: My ass. Wikipedia was consulted only at the very end to verify release dates.
I am confident that they are able to release great stuff, and I am confident that Nintendo won't let them release bad stuff. I too wonder what they've actually cooked up that hasn't seen the light of day, but with how secretive Nintendo is I imagine we'll never know.
I hope we'll get more from them this generation than Metroid Prime 4, but unless there's a big reveal this E3 of whatever project they've been cooking since Tropical Freeze, I'm guessing that'll be the sum of Retro's contributions to Switch.
I haven't played a Retro game I didn't flat out love. But we saw what happened with RARE and this long delay hearing nothing has me skeptical. I expect Prime 4 to be really good but what they've been working on since... No clue, and no clue how I'll feel about it.
I don't really know what's going on with the company, so it's hard to say. They have yet to release a bad game, but it has been a very long time since Tropical Freeze. Do they have anything to show for that time other than a Switch port and helping other Nintendo teams on their projects? Were they working on something that had to be canceled? That's what has me worried, but we just don't have the details.
As for Prime 4, I trust it with Retro more than Bandai Namco... and I trust Nintendo with trusting Retro with it more too.
I had plenty of confidence in Retro up until the whole Metroid Prime 4 stuff happened. Now I don't believe I'll ever see another Retro game I desire to play because I have no interest in another Prime game, and I expect they will be stuck on that IP until either I die or they do.
Makes me sad, but nothing I can do about it. RIP whatever they were working on for so many years that we'll never get to see.
My confidence in them right now is purely based on the hope that MP4 will be good. That will depend on their new hires, I think.
I had confidence in Retro after Tropical Freeze, I'm not a DKC fan but you gotta respect the quality. It seemed like the studio was ramping up their ability to put out big, popular games. Then they said something like, we think we're at the point where we can work on multiple games at once! Five years later, zero announcements, zero releases.
At a time where they should have been helping Nintendo nail the Switch launch - the most important hardware release Nintendo has ever had, after the failure of the Wii U - they have brought nothing to the table. Something has gone very badly wrong behind the scenes. So ... I'm hopeful but I have no confidence in what they can do and I won't until I see something with my own eyes.
I always have faith in Nintendo to not put out shit games and for me it's pretty damn rare they let me down.
Even two of their biggest offenders ever like Star Fox Zero and Other M; like, yeah, they were disappointing but I don't come close to hating them like some people do. I love Other M for what it is and SF0 was fine if not a bit tainted by the overly involved controls.
Oh and I had no problem at all with Federation Force. And Samus Returns was fuckin' gold.
I don't have many doubts. It's Nintendo I trust, not necessarily "Retro in 2019".
Nintendo obviously has confidence in them if they're trusting them with Metroid Prime 4. Unless they figure that giving Retro such a big important project will encourage them to pull together and rise to the task. That's how you run a multi-billion dollar company, right!?
Not seeing anything from Retro this year at E3 does raise questions though. Have they not done anything productive this past half-decade? Or are they still working on a masterpiece?
There's no reason to doubt Retro since they haven't put out any duds. That said, there's definitely something odd going on at the company, but obviously the inner workings aren't something we can know about. It sounds like they've had a lot of turnover though; are any of the original Metroid Prime staff still at the company?
Then again, since I wanted to see something different from Metroid Prime 4, having new staff work on it may be a good thing.
I'm not sure what to expect. They haven't made anything I haven't liked so far, despite their low output. Mostly curious to know what they've been doing for so long. Feels a bit weird of Nintendo to keep them around, to be honest. I think Nintendo is happy to just use them as a group that helps their more productive studios complete games.