Podcaster Rhys Reilly – also known as: Kiwi Talks – has been discussing the development of past Metroid games for some time with the people who made them, previously chatting with the likes of Mike Wikan and Brian Walker. Most recently, he sat down with Clark Wen, the sound engineer on Metroid prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes…
As you can imagine, there is a lot to learn because the Metroid Prime trilogy has become very influential when it comes to shaping the soundscape of the entire Metroid series. Wen says that almost the entire soundtrack was recorded using synthesizers, and elements such as Morph Ball and Echo Visor were inspired by magnets and sonar, respectively. Space pirates, on the other hand, originally spoke Russian, but Wen eventually settled on Yorgba (one of the main languages of Nigeria) and changed the dialogue as well as emphasized syllables.
One element that proved particularly difficult to capture was Samus’s voice – well, her grunts to be precise.
I think the voice was quite touching for Nintendo because we originally did some recordings for Samus’s voice, which was more like a temporary filler sound, because we really wanted to make sure the impacts when Samus takes damage were recognizable in the gameplay. … … So we asked one of the designers to do some wheezing and yelling of the placeholder. This was never intended to be the final audio pass, but a few weeks after we added them to the game, we heard feedback from [Nintendo] EAD about Samus’s voice, and they said it sounded too sexy and too sensual. [laughs] They are very, very picky about vocals in general, so I was happy to let them take the reins, and they ended up recording some actresses for Samus to sing, and we brought them back a few months later, and we ended up choosing a voice that was like we thought worked best.
Ven also discusses whether this is Jennifer Hale (from Mass Effect fame), voiced by Samus in the Prime games. Hale has never been recognized for the role, but many fans think that it is her vocals that we hear in all three Prime games as well as other games. Metroid prime hunters… Wen admits it isn’t. fully I’m sure it is (he is 90-95% sure), since the only initials in the audio files were “JH”. He reveals that the deadly vocals were recorded by another actress (with the initials “VM”) due to the fact that he wanted it to sound as much as possible. Super Metroid…
It is interesting to note that while Nintendo clearly had the most influence over in-game audio, Retro Studios was able to fight back when needed. Metroid composer Kenji Yamamoto created a soundtrack very much based on guitar – Wen describes it this way:Steve Vai meets Song Ra“Retro Studios rejected this initial idea.
Wen now runs his own award-winning audio studio. The sound of exile and worked on similar Guitar Hero and Call of Duty in recent years. When asked about his reaction to the latest version of Metroid, Metroid dreadWen admits that at first he thought the sound and sound design were “terrible”, but after playing for a while, he realized what the team was aiming for and now feels the end result is more enjoyable.