One of the very first projects Retro undertook was an action adventure game, which was, oddly enough, simply titled Action Adventure. According to sources closely connected to the project, the game featured three female leads fighting evil on a post-apocalyptic planet in the near future. From what we've gathered, the story was still in the concept phase. When asked about the plot of the game, we were given little more than a vague, yet humorous, description: "There was only one main story really, three hot chicks kicking butt!"
Right now you may be asking yourself how in the world this could be the project that would one day evolve into Metroid Prime. Well, in actuality, this game didn't become Metroid Prime at all. Contrary to popular belief, Action Adventure was not retooled into Metroid Prime in 2000 at all.
In April of 2000, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto traveled all the way to Texas to visit Retro Studios, and he didn't drop by to chat either. Upon arrival, Mr. Miyamoto reviewed and checked up on the progress of each of Retro's many projects. Discussing the visit, one source told EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly) that, "It was like the Emperor visiting the Death Star. He didn't seem to like any of the games very much, especially the racing title, which was probably our best-looking." However, the one title Miyamoto allegedly spent the most time with was Action Adventure. "The impression was that he wasn't too thrilled," stated EGM's source in April 2001. "Nintendo would come down about three times a year and rip on most of the games, except [Retro NFL] Football, which was under the radar."
To make a somber situation worse, the Action Adventure engine originally created from the shared code base "had to be rewritten from scratch as the game progressed and development was further hampered by inadequate development kits," stated EGM's source in April 2001.
"We did concepts for it and built two of the hot chicks I think, [but] that's about all," explains an anonymous source. "Everything changed around a lot at Retro; [it] never got too far when the game would change." In fact, the game was so early in development that it was still unclear as to whether or not it was going to be a first-person or third person title. The original concept called for it to be in the third-person perspective; however, due to mounting pressure from Nintendo and Retro executives, the decision was made to redesign the game as a first-person title, against the wishes of the designers.
Yet, despite all of the problems and setbacks Retro was going through, Nintendo saw potential in the studio. Just a few weeks prior to Space World 2000 (where Nintendo officially unveiled the GameCube for the first time), the company took a very bold step and granted Retro Studios the Metroid license. The decision to entrust one of its most cherished franchises to such a troubled studio was a move that still puzzles many. Nintendo was dissatisfied with Retro's progress on nearly all of its projects -- Retro NFL Football being the only exception.
In an August 2004 interview with N-Sider, Gene Kohler (former Retro employee) speculated on the decision, "My theory is that if a publisher has a proven license that has a great deal of fan support and fiscal success then it would be in their best interests to find ways of revisiting the franchise. Metroid fans wanted more... I am happy that the end result is that the fans seem to feel that Retro / Nintendo delivered the goods in a big way." Mr. Kohler continued, "I believe Retro was chosen due to the fantastic artwork that was being created for its other titles (of course I would say that though...I am sure a programmer would say that Retro got the opportunity due to the awesome code Retro was busting out). I think that the high quality art in addition to Retro's other strong development areas gave Nintendo confidence to entrust Metroid with the company."
With the Metroid license in Retro's possession, the call to terminate Action Adventure was made. "It [Action Adventure] was completely bagged when Retro acquired Metroid Prime," says one source. "The 'game' didn't change from Action Adventure to Metroid Prime, the 'team' did. So the team stopped working on AA, and started on MP. I doubt very much of the AA game survived."
Before the world had even known so much as its name, Retro's first project was completely terminated. Its team was then given the daunting task of developing the first 3D installment of the Metroid series, Metroid Prime. Either by fate or consequence, Action Adventure was assigned a life of obscurity, its existence surviving in the memories of few and its essence fading by the hands of time. Until now that is. For today, we're proud to give you the world exclusive first-look at Action Adventure. We have obtained concepts from an anonymous source closely connected to Retro.
According to our source, these images, which were never used, were done by then concept artist Arnie Jorgensen, who also worked as concept artist on Raven Blade. Though N-Sider desperately tried, Mr. Jorgensen was regrettably unavailable for comment on this article. From what we have gathered, Arnie Jorgensen and Chris Lane were the two senior concept artists at Retro Studios for just over a year. After Arnie left for Sony Online Entertainment to begin work on Star Wars Galaxies, Chris Lane quickly followed suit. After their departure, Greg Luzniak replaced Mr. Lane. The current Metroid Prime 2: Echoes conceptual artist, Andrew Jones, joined the company just prior to Jorgensen's departure.
"They [the concept images below] were all characters of two games [Action Adventure and Raven Blade] that were ditched," says an anonymous source. "I don't think any of this was used for anything. Sorry...At the time it was highly secret, but you know how that goes."
When we inquired about the physical appearances of these characters and what their plot significance might have been, such as the barcode on the image of the guard, our source was less than forthcoming. Instead he jokingly remarked, "This was all 'high concept' stuff. The barcode just looked cool at the time, same with the shoulder-mounted thing. I'm sure it did something, but the guard never told me what it was. This is futuristic stuff and it's hard for me to understand what it all does coming from my limited understanding in the year 2000."
The three above concepts are of the main heroines. The resemblance to Samus is quite striking, no? Looking at these images, it isn't hard to figure out why Nintendo believed Retro was capable of handling the Metroid franchise. The game was evidently already set in a science fiction world that closely resembled the Metroid universe.
The next three images are of characters players would have encountered during the course of the game. The man in the green bio-suit with the barcode was going to be a guard. It is unknown as to what he would have been guarding, or even what species he is, but he looks pretty sweet. The image in the center is of a "Ninja Monk" and the image to the far right is of a "Neo-Nazi." Again, it is unknown as to what their exact roles and purposes were to be in the title, because all of these concepts were rejected for one reason or another. These images represent "high concept" ideas that had not been fully developed.
The last two images are of another guard and a funny looking alien performing some sort of task with the remains of dead creatures. Two very bizarre concepts, if I say so myself.
It is nice to look back and see what Retro had cooking up before they got preoccupied with creating Metroid sequels. I for one would like to see Retro revisit this concept in the future. The idea of controlling three overly sexual females against "Neo-Nazis," "Ninja Monks," and aliens is far too appealing a premise to pass up.