What’s next for Retro Studios?

Retro Studios is one of the most secretive divisions of Nintendo (which itself is more secretive than the rest of the industry), and in it’s short life time has developed four critically-acclaimed games. The Metroid Prime Trilogy and Donkey Kong Country Returns are some of the best titles released by Nintendo in recent years and all of them were developed outside of Japan (in Texas).

Retro Studio’s spotless record makes them a popular choice for gamers discussing who should develop the next installment in their favorite series. At E3 2011, we learned that Retro Studios began “helping out” with Mario Kart 3D after completing Donkey Kong Country Returns, but what new project is Retro Studios really focusing on? I’d like to explore some possibilities.

The Obvious Choice: Donkey Kong Country Returns 2

DKCR had some great stages, and I'm willing to bet Retro Studios could do it again.

The last time Retro Studio’s did well with a game series, they completed an entire trilogy. It’s very likely that Retro Studios has begun work on a sequel to their latest critically-acclaimed game. Donkey Kong Country Returns doesn’t leave much room for a direct sequel like Metroid Prime, so I expect a new story with new villains and characters.

What I don’t expect is the return of Rare’s Donkey Kong Country. When Rare worked with the series, they added a collection of characters that had little purpose. Rather than adding an ability, they added a character specifically for that ability. It’s possible that some of Rare’s characters could return, but I think we’ve seen the last of the majority of the Kongs and the Kremlings.

A Popular Choice:  Metroid Prime 4

Despite Retro’s successful revival of Donkey Kong Country, they are still known primarily for bringing Metroid into 3D (and doing an amazing job at it). The latest Metroid game was not developed by Retro Studios and didn’t turn out so great. Following the release of Metroid: Other M, the future of the series has been questioned with some rumors claiming that Nintendo plans to shelve the series for a while.

However, at E3 2011 Nintendo developer Katsuya Eguchi made it very clear that he expected a new Metroid title to be released for WiiU:

“I can’t give you any details now, but I’m sure there will be a new Metroid release making use of the new controller, not just to control Samus and her ship but also to give the player a new source of information. Maybe the player is looking at the screen but has the information that they need to defeat the enemy in their hands.” Source

This isn’t a confirmation of anything, but it does make the future of the series sound a bit more promising. Even so, I do not believe Retro Studios will be taking the reigns again so soon. Someday they could develop another Metroid game, but I would rather give Metroid to another developer and have Retro Studios show us what they could do with a different Nintendo series. Better yet, could they develop a new one?

An Intriguing Possibility: A New Series

Retro Studios has proven four times that they have what it takes to produce a fantastic video game. They are definitely capable of developing a new IP, but are they working on one right now? Honestly, I don’t think so.

Nintendo has introduced some new series in the last couple game generations, but they either haven’t received the acclaim of their other series (e.g. Chibi Robo and Another Code/Trace Memory) or haven’t been released outside of Japan (e.g. Pandora’s Tower and Xenoblade). A new series developed by a Western division of Nintendo is a very intriguing idea and one I hope Retro Studios makes a reality someday, but I think they’ll stick with reviving old established Nintendo series for the time being.

A Likely Possibility: Reviving A Dormant Series

Retro Studios has done nothing but revive dormant series, and lately Nintendo has been doing this more and more (see Kid Icarus: Uprising). When Retro Studios released Metroid Prime, the series hadn’t seen a new release in eight years. We waited ten years between the release of Donkey Kong 64 and Donkey Kong Country Returns (though Donkey Kong did receive several spin-offs in between).

Nintendo has a nice collection of dormant series just waiting to be brought into the 21st century. I think StarTropics and Ice Climber are the two most notable series without a recent installment, and I think StarTropics fits Retro Studios better than Ice Climber.

A recent rumor suggests something different: a sequel to the Gamecube’s sleeper-hit Eternal Darkness. The game was universally loved (though I have not actually played it), but never received a sequel. With the rumors and Nintendo renewing the Eternal Darkness trademark last year, there is a good chance we’ll be seeing a new Eternal Darkness game in the near future.

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