It may come as a shock to some people, but Metroid Prime was originally never a Metroid game at all. Much in the same fashion as Rareware's Dinosaur Planet evolved into Star Fox Adventures, Retro Studios was working on a completely original title that ultimately got reinvented into the Metroid franchise sometime in 2000.

"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)," described Mr. Kohler. "I think that the high quality art in addition to Retro's other strong development areas gave Nintendo confidence to entrust Metroid to the company."

The original game is described by anonymous sources as a third-person action adventure title featuring a female protagonist. At some point during development, it was determined that this game would be easier to develop as a first-person adventure, considering many of Retro's designers had far more experience working on first-person shooter (FPS) genre. With designers onboard with the collective credits of Half-Life, Slave Zero, Turok, and Quake III, it is not difficult to realize that Retro would be able to produce a superior FPA much easier than a third-person adventure.

Now that Prime was carrying the Nintendo brand name and one of their treasured icon characters, Nintendo's involvement became much more evident. "Yes, Nintendo did have to approve the characters," said Mike.

Andrew Jones would submit concepts to lead art director Todd Keller for internal approval who would then send it to NCL for final approval. Constant communications by email, conference calls, and business trips took place between NCL and Retro for the next three years. "We've had countless numbers of meetings and conferences," described Shigeru Miyamoto in an interview in November 2002 to Nintendo.com. "Right from the beginning, Steve [Barcia] at Retro had suggested numbering the e-mails so that we could know which e-mails we responded to and when. The number that is on the last batch of e-mails is a very very large number. [laughs]

Though development progressed between the two studios closely, much of the work was still done internally at Retro. "I never worked with Shigeru Miyamoto, thus I have no specific knowledge on exactly what his involvement was on Metroid Prime," Mike Sneath told N-Sider. "That would be a question best left to the designers on Metroid Prime."

It would be safe to assume that communication with NCL was limited to the management and department leaders only, who would then direct those beneath them. When questioned on Samus Model Supervisors Tomoyoshi Yamane and Chiharu Sakiyama's (NCL) involvement and role with Gene Kohler's work, Gene informed us that he was never aware of those individuals until he saw them listed in the credits.

In news that may come as a disappointment to some gamers, about a year before development was completed, Prime's art direction had been taking a much darker tone than what ultimately became the final product. This darker style is most evident in many of Prime's first publicly displayed images and FMV videos. "When I was first brought onto the Prime team, the art direction did seem to lean heavily towards the "crude" style. It was very dark, grimy, chipped, scratchy," Gene recounted. "I do not know who made the call to create Samus in a more clean and polished style. One day I came into work and had the order to create the Samus model from scratch and skin her in a clean polished style the look you see when playing through Prime."

Though original designs called for a darker tone with more realism, Metroid was always intended to be a realistic game from day one. "What happened was we were already working on a realistic looking game," explained Mike Sneath. "Nintendo really liked our work so they asked us if we would like to work on Metroid. So from the beginning I am assuming Nintendo was always interested in Metroid being realistic looking." This news should come as a great relief to anyone worrying about a future Metroid title sporting Wind Waker cel-shading graphics.

To better understand many of Metroid's artistic styles and processes let's break down four of Tallon IV's most recognizable areas: The Space Pirate Frigate, the Chozo Artifact Temple, Phendrana Drifts, and the Phazon Mines Main Quarry.