Because apparently that's what Nintendo did
Ask the question "what Nintendo IP would you most like to see on the Wii U/3DS?" and the answer often involves Samus. It's been too long since we've had a kickass Metroid game (sorry Other M), and being one of the most popular Nintendo IPs, you'd think that the Big N would have been eager to mobilise on it.
God only knows it would have been a better use of Retro's time than Donkey Kong Tropical Laurel-Resting.
As it turns out, a Metroid game for 3DS might well have been in the works at Next Level Games, only for Nintendo to nix the very early prototype in favour of Luigi's Mansion 2.
Now, I love a bit of Luigi's Mansion: New Moon, it's a cracking little game, but part of me is still a little disappointed that Samus was sacrificed to make way for it. Of course, the project might have been readdressed after New Moon's release, so there's still a chance.
One thing we do know is that the project reached the prototype stage, and some concept art has been flying around for the game, boasting a highly stylised, slightly cartoonish depiction of Samus.
According to NintendoOnline.de, the art above comes from the portfolio of a former Next Level Games staffer, apparently part of the pitch for a new Metroid game submitted to Nintendo by Next Level. The artist reportedly left the company in 2009 after the prototype was canned.
In an effort to confirm the legitimacy of all of this, Destructoid spoke to a “trusted source related to the project” who confirmed that the art is real:
“A prototype was made before being shelved in favor of Luigi’s Mansion 2. It was about as bare-bones as it gets, but it was still pretty fun,” said the source.
The art direction certainly looks as though it might have been rather striking, and probably somewhat controversial. Of course, anyone who was gaming when Wind Waker first came out will bear testament to the fact that the furore over Link's looks back then swiftly died down when the game actually released and was proven to be rather excellent.
Art can certainly change the flavour of a game, and that doesn't necessarily make things better or worse... just different. I was hugely sceptical of Wind Waker's aesthetics, I wanted a continuation of Ocarina and Majora's adventuring epic, and I feared that Wind Waker's cartoony visuals would undermine that feeling. I was right, it was a Zelda game that felt slightly different, but it was more vibrant and expressive and joyous because of it. So many of that game's systems hold up today far better than those of its direct predecessors.
So, looking at quirky Samus above, one could be forgiven for seeing something a little more arcadey perhaps, taking Samus back to her roots of speed runs and itchy trigger fingers. It reminds me of the art for Guacamelee in some ways, and some of the artwork that has come out of Klei over the years -- both names synonymous with excellent action platforming.
But this all speculation of course, wishful thinking because hot damn I'd really like a new Metroid game on any platform right about now. With Next Level working on a new project already, could it be that they've returned to that prototype lost half a decade ago? We'll have to wait and see. But I don't think it'll be too much longer until Nintendo announce something Metroid-related.