Metroid 64 is one of the great mysteries of the N64 era. Beyond a few screenshots, nothing came of what would've been the first 3D Metroid game, though in hindsight perhaps it was for the best: the series had a triumphant return on GameCube with the excellent Metroid Prime, and all was well. Last week, however, Kotaku discovered that indie developer Luto Akino isn't ready to put the Metroid 64 dream to bed, and is building his own Metroid game in the tech, style and design that an N64 version might have had.
Now, these kinds of projects often end up on PC, but just to confirm that this wasn't one of those undertakings where the game was being made for actual N64 console cartridges, we reached out to Akino, who confirmed that "it's for PC," adding that "perhaps it would be good to change the '64' for something else, but the truth is that it adds strength, sentimentality and helps the player immerse directly in that time."
At last working in #Metroid64 I adjusted small details, and placed a test texture. There is a bug with the beams direction when Samus is flat against the wall that I need to fix #metroid #F2P #n64 #lowpoly #Nintendo64 #Zelda #unity #unity3d #madewithunity #gamedev #3dmodeling #3D pic.twitter.com/sWBYoTboveApril 26, 2022
Even though the project is in its early stages, it's looking pretty good (as in, true to the inherently rudimentary look and feel of 3D N64 games). This morph ball animation with the jump after seems to capture the floatiness seen in a lot of games from the time, and the targeting and auto-targeting are spot-on too. The only inaccuracy I see is that the framerate is actually smooth rather than the 20-25fps the N64 liked to trudge at.
Looking back, you can understand why Metroid 64 didn't happen back in the day. These were the early days of 3D graphics, and for every Super Mario 64 there were several Castlevania 64s or Earthworm Jim 64s that struggled to make that technical jump gracefully.
One of Metroid's originals creators, Yoshio Sakamoto, gave some interesting insights in a 2010 interview with games.tm about why no developer wanted to touch Metroid 64:
"When I held the N64 controller in my hands I just couldn’t imagine how it could be used to move Samus around. So for me it was just too early to personally make a 3D Metroid at that time... Nintendo at that time approached another company and asked them if they would make an N64 version of Metroid and their response was that no, they could not. They turned it down, saying that unfortunately they didn’t have the confidence to create an N64 Metroid game that could compare favourably with Super Metroid."
Well, a couple of decades on, Metroid 64's time has seemingly come. You can follow progress on Akino's project by following him on Twitter and Instagram, which are already filled with little clips and images of the game coming together.