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Analysis Did a bizarre decision by Konami/MercurySteam with Castlevania Lords of Shadow help pave the way for the return of 2D Metroid?

CGiRanger

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Jun 23, 2017
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"Metroidvania". The term may be more inextricably linked to the two franchises than one might think.

As most know, MercurySteam made their name as the developers of the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow spinoff series from the Castlevania IP. While the games are the highest-selling Castlevania games of all time, critically, they ranged from modestly received to very tepid, or outright hated from some core CV fans. Nevertheless, the developers have literally built the bridge between both the Castlevania, and now the Metroid franchises, and have received kudos on their work from famous game creators.

For example, it was Metal Gear visionary Hideo Kojima that sold Konami on MercurySteam's capabilities for the original Lords of Shadow, and also helped enable the Spanish team to be as independent as possible while developing the game without strict oversight from Konami Japan. Later on of course, they impressed Nintendo and Metroid series creator Yoshio Sakamoto to entrust them with the Metroid franchise, now of course continuing to move on with the upcoming Metroid Dread, an actual continuation of the 2D Metroid Storyline, that has not happened in 19 years.

For more information on the history of MercurySteam during their work with Konami on Lords of Shadow; I find that this video, released today in fact, goes into good depth showing just what was going on behind the scenes at both MS and Konami during those years, and shows how the situation was a lot more complicated during the latter parts of their collaborations (with Konami pivoting hard on exiting the AAA game space):


Now for the question presented in the Topic Title. There was always one very bizarre decision in the creation of the Lords of Shadow trilogy. The subsequent two titles in the trilogy were handled very weirdly in terms of how they were released. The second game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, which is a direct sequel to the first game, was initially exclusively released on the Nintendo 3DS, this despite the original game, not having seen release on any Nintendo platform. For this, MercurySteam of course had to create or rework their "Mercury Engine" to be used on the 3DS hardware, for the 2.5D Mirror of Fate, since it had only been first used for the full 3D HD original Lords of Shadow first. It was also a bizarre decision since what would eventually be Lords of Shadow 2, is also a direct sequel to Mirror of Fate, and contains story points that would only make sense if one played that game which many would likely not have since it was on the Nintendo 3DS and most of the audience played it on the Xbox 360 and PS3 (PC releases of both the original and Mirror of Fate were eventually released, not too long before LoS2 would be).

The point is however, that because of the odd decision to create Mirror of Fate on the Nintendo 3DS, MercurySteam now had an engine that could run on that hardware platform. MercurySteam would make pitches to Nintendo for work on the Metroid franchise, and that got the attention of Yoshio Sakamoto:
MercurySteam is a Spanish developer that had previously pitched a Metroid game for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, which Nintendo rejected. According to Sakamoto, he decided to collaborate with them after hearing about their interest in developing a remake of a Metroid game, although not Return of Samus specifically; he later stated that it was Metroid Fusion they wanted to remake. [5] Sakamoto rejected their Fusion pitch but decided to work with them on a remake of Metroid II, knowing they had good experience with Metroidvania titles from their work on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate.[6] He did not consider working with another developer.
Now of course, after Samus Returns, Sakamoto trusted them enough to bring back the DREAD project and place it in their hands. From the recent video interview, Sakamoto stated that he was close to abandoning the concept entirely had it not been for being suitably impressed with Mercury's work on Samus Returns. Of course the Mercury Engine which powered both Mirror of Fate and Samus Returns on the 3DS has likely been updated/iterated to now be what is driving Metroid Dread on the Nintendo Switch.

TLDR: A bizarre/odd/dumb decision to put the second Lords of Shadow game on the Nintendo 3DS, enabled the creation of an engine and game that got the attention of Nintendo and Metroid's Sakamoto, to collaborate with them on Samus Returns, and now to continue with the next 2D Story Metroid game in 19 years, DREAD.
 
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anthony2690

Member
Apr 16, 2021
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Lords of shadows 1 was honestly incredible at the time.

2 was okay, had some very questionable parts like the awful Stealth sections.

The 3ds game, I played a bit of the xbox 360 port and was enjoying my time with it, but dropped it and never got back round too it.
 

Zannegan

Member
Feb 20, 2018
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I don't think it was that bizarre of a decision. They had just found mainstream success with LoS on the PS3/360, so they were committed to that direction.

At the same time, they had a steady fanbase with the 2D Metroid-style 'Vanias, and they wanted to see if they could bring those along with them.

Mirror of Fate was honestly pretty weak compared to what had come before, and the visuals were pretty ugly. I'm sure you're right that their 2D experience helped them land Samus Returns, but it all seems like a pretty natural progression to me. *shrug*
 

Sub Boss

Member
Mar 6, 2013
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Im hoping, one day to see Bayonetta getting the success it deserves.

Metroid is a great series, but it actually had some commercial success on GBA,GB and even SNES(selling 1.4million may not sound much today, but still moved units) Metroid always had limited appeal compared to other series, but consistent sales and a strong fanbase