Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe has worked with famous Nintendo studio Retro Studios since their very first game, acting as producer on everything from Metroid Prime to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. According to a new rumor from Liam Robinson, however, they may no longer be on good terms. Here’s a noteworthy excerpt from Liam’s post, as he describes Tanabe’s directorial style and the way in which Retro perceived it.
“You may be interested to hear that Kensuke Tanabe and Retro Studios are allegedly no longer on good terms. I have heard this from someone at a certain Nintendo studio who has worked with him before, as well as two other close sources.
Last year, I was investigating Tanabe with regards to this. This involved speaking to a number of developers who had worked alongside him. The way in which they all described Tanabe’s directorial style was fascinating. Their words built up a portrait in my mind of a Gordon Ramsey esque figure who strived for perfection and berated anything short of it. It’s difficult for me to fully convey my impressions of him without explicitly detailing the anecdotes shared with me in confidence, which could compromise those involved; but I will try my best to elaborate.
The majority of those I spoke to about their experiences with Tanabe told tales of how he would quite often explode with great passion on certain designers when one of them either made what he perceived to be a mistake, or boldly challenged a creative decision of his.
None of these employees spoke of the producer begrudgingly, however. On the contrary, they described him as a competent creative and leader; albeit a fiery personality. If that makes him sound a bit like J. K. Simmons’ character from Whiplash, that’s not completely off the mark; minus the hurling of furniture and general psychological torment.”
Liam is quick to point out that this is only one side of the story, and that we should refrain from blaming anyone; this is likely a simple clash of personalities. Nevertheless, evidently the sudden change of Retro and Tanabe not working together – unprecedented in the studio’s history – is due to employees at Retro being unhappy after working with him on Tropical Freeze, and leading to the subsidiary’s management appealing to Nintendo. Retro has supposedly been campaigning for more autonomy from Nintendo for a while:
“…Not just because some individuals had issues with his behaviour, but because they were under the impression that they had earned it. They thought that they had more proven themselves and that they didn’t need an NCL producer holding their hand anymore.”
According to Liam, Nintendo responded by recalling Tanabe and installing a new representative in his place. This is where the rumor gets more uncertain, but Liam says that the new man may Yoshio Sakamoto, head of the Metroid franchise. Don’t jump the gun and assume this means more Retro Studios Metroid, though; Sakamoto was also involved with Tomodachi Life, and spoke in 2014 about interest in making “new experiences” as opposed to traditional games.
Note that this is an unsourced rumor (and we’ve had a lot of those floating around recently), but many of Liam’s rumors have come to fruition – most recently he was a part of the Paper Mario Wii U rumor, which was confirmed just yesterday – so this is worth paying attention to. You can check out the full post here.