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Friday, March 20, 2009

Interview With The Creator Of "Another Metroid 2 Remake" (AM2R)

Most fan remakes are pretty bad. They're usually very unprofessional, forgetting most of what made the original game great. They usually have bad level design and don't play like the original game did.

The one exception very might well be Another Metroid 2 Remake, also known as AM2R. Even though we only have a tech demo and screenshots to go on it appears that the creator/designer, a sound designer from Argentina named Milton "DoctorM_64" Guasti, has captured not only the look of Metroid but also the feel as well. The tech demo actually feels like a modern Metroid game, with intelligent level design and sharp controls.

So how is it that a fan project is so faithful to the original work while adding all the features that we know and love about Metroid? How did he do it? I talked with Milton about what he did to make AM2R a success.

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Downwards Compatible: What convinced you to remake Metroid 2?

Milton: After I finished Metroid: Zero Mission, I wanted to play the next chapter in the saga with the same fast paced gameplay. At the time I thought Nintendo would do it, but they didn´t seem to be interested in that game. So, I decided to remake Metroid 2.

↓C: How did the project come together?

M: It was going to be a very basic remake, using sprites from other Metroid games to save time (like most fangames). Then I started adding extra features, and it slowly started to feel like a full fledged Metroid game. The development is done in my free time, and since it depends on my real life and work, there are times when progress is very slow. I think taking time to do things helped polish every aspect of the gameplay.

After the project became public, a lot of people offered to help. Right now I´m working with a spriter, designing the next Metroid evolution (Zeta Metroids), and I might add a musician to the project later this year. As soon as my life doesn´t become a mess, progress will be steady these months. I hope the game can be finished this year.

↓C: What's been the hardest thing about remaking it?

M: Making early design decisions. I had to research the little information available about Metroid 2: the story told in the manual, the official manga story, etc. And since the Metroid Prime games are prequels of Metroid 2, I had to research whatever story (related or not) was told in those games. Then I had make the choices: Will I be telling more of the story? Will there be additional bosses, areas, etc.? Will space pirates appear in the game? (A Ridley fight is a classic in 2D Metroids.) Is a ship computer going to tell me what to do all the time? What items will Samus have? And so on. I chose to be respectful about the amount of story revealed.

↓C: I'm a huge fan of Metroid games, but what is it about Metroid games that you like personally?

M: The combination of atmosphere and great level design. I love to explore a huge planet by acquiring new abilities, and bulking up your armory without the time consuming rituals of RPGs. It´s the fast paced action, and the freedom to play the game at my own pace what I like most.

↓C: Which of the Metroid games is your favorite?

M: Super Metroid. It´s massive, and exploration is very enjoyable in that game.

↓C: I loved Super Metroid myself. That was such a great game. I love seeing that statue that blocks the way to Tourian. Which part was your favorite?

M: I loved the whole intro sequence. The Ceres space station could easily be a cutscene, but it was executed perfectly as a great intro level. An escape sequence in the first 5 minutes of the game? I didn´t see that coming. And then arriving at Zebes, and revisiting the deserted Tourian. That was awesome.

↓C: What's the gaming scene like in Argentina? What are the popular genres and games?

M: The most popular system here is the Playstation 2, and the most popular game is the Winning Eleven series. Everybody is the owner of the undisputable truth about soccer in this country, and now they can include a videogame in their endless discussions. But that´s just the majority of the people. I enjoy fighting games and platformers.

↓C: What are your thoughts on the direction Nintendo is going in now?

M: They are a great company, and I think they´re the only ones capable of doing something unimaginable before: bringing videogames to the whole family. I don´t own a wii, so I´m not up to date with the available games, but judging from what I see on various sites, there could be more "mature" games. Hardcore gamers are part of the family too, right?

↓C: What are your thoughts on original games versus sequels?

M: Original games have much more design freedom than sequels. If a game was succesful enough to deserve a sequel, you can use that same principle for the upcoming game, you know people already like it. But in those cases, there has to be enough new content to avoid the "more of the same" syndrome.

If the sequel is going to add new elements, or tries to reinvent the franchise, it should be done right. This means taking the time to make a solid game.
Awesome sequels: Street Fighter 2, Sonic 2, Mortal Kombat 2
Not so good ones: Doom 2, Final Fight Streetwise, Bubsy 3D

↓C: Any ideas on a followup project?

M: I have many gameplay ideas on my mind but, I have long term plans to make a platform exploration game. And sometimes I feel tempted to expand the story and levels of Metroid: Confrontation (The second AM2R demo). Maybe give it a more "Portal" style, when a training exercise goes wrong and you have to go behind-the-scene to solve it.

↓C: Any advice for anyone who wants to try and make their own game?

M:Start simple, make simple games to perfect you coding skills. Then start adding features, or making more complex games. Most importantly, make sure you take your time and have fun while doing it.