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Tom Happ

At gamescom last month, Nintendo of Europe conducted an interview with Dan Adelman, a former employee of Nintendo of America and currently the business partner of Thomas Happ, who created the Metroid-like game Axiom Verge, which is out now on Wii U. The full interview can be found here – below are a couple of interesting excerpts from the interview:

Nintendo of Europe: It sounds like Tom had a very strong vision of what he wanted the game to be from the start. For example, the heads-up display in the game is very minimalist in a similar way to Metroid and other retro games. Is that kind of aesthetic part of the design philosophy for this game?

Dan Adelman: Yeah, I think a lot of Tom’s philosophy in terms of game development is about not overloading the player with information. So, for example, when you start out in Axiom Verge, you start off in the middle of a room, and you can try to go either right or left, and this actually takes inspiration from Metroid. You try to go to the right, and you’re blocked, so you have no choice but to go to the left and then, instead of having a tutorial that says, “Go here. Press this button to jump,” you’re basically in a place where you need to jump and you try all the buttons and you figure it out.

I know he put a lot of effort into teaching the player how to play without making it a tutorial, or writing up a lot of text, and so there were only like one or two places where I remember he struggled. When we brought the game to PAX East, we observed people playing the game. There’s one button – the L Button – that you can hold down in order to lock your position and aim in any direction, and at different events there were a lot of people who just didn’t get it. They didn’t pick it up on their own, so that was one instance where Tom actually had to add in a line explaining how to do it.

NoE: Was it tricky to get the difficulty just right? Did you ever find people saying the game was too tough?

DA: Not too many. I think, at shows when people just pick the game up cold and they don’t know anything about it, they’ll fail a lot and give up too easily. I think when people play at home, and they sit down and try to digest it, they’ll learn pretty quickly.

NoE: It’s got a learning curve like all those classic games.

DA: Yeah, like anything else. One thing I actually really like about the game is that, if you take your time as you’re playing it, there’s usually a way to destroy the enemy in a way that means you’re still safe, or just avoid the enemy entirely.

So if you tried to run right through everything and just keep blasting like in Contra, you’ll probably get taken out pretty quickly, but if you think, “Alright, there’s an enemy up ahead. I’m going to climb up on this platform and shoot down on him. He can’t reach me up here!” If you notice those environmental cues, you can actually make things a bit easier on yourself. It’s only later in the game where you have to fight creatures at close-quarters.

NoE: Does Axiom Verge take advantage of Wii U’s unique hardware features in any way?

DA: Yeah, there are a couple of really important ways. My favourite is the fact that the map is on the Wii U GamePad touch screen at all times. I know that the first time I played Axiom Verge, I had to keep pausing the game to see where I needed to go next. A lot of modern games in this genre will just draw an arrow and say, “Go here next, and then go here next,” and it holds your hand. This game doesn’t do that. You figure out where you need to go next by looking at the map and saying, “Oh, where have I not explored yet? Let’s try to get there”. I was constantly going back and forth, and back and forth. Having the map always available makes it very user-friendly. The other feature, of course, is off-TV play, which is very convenient for people who have to share a TV – they’ll still be able to play!



Axiom Verge takes some inspiration from Nintendo’s classic franchise Metroid. The two are very different in the end, but they do have some similarities in the gameplay department.

Interestingly, a Samus costume was proposed for Axiom Verge that would have been included in the Wii U version. Dan Adelman, who is handling the business-side of things for creator Tom Happ, said in a Reddit AMA that Nintendo “ultimately had to decide not to give us permission to do that” following “a lot of internal discussion”.

Adelman’s full words:

“We would have loved to have a secret code to have Trace where a Samus costume. Some people inside Nintendo really liked the idea, but after a lot of internal discussion, they ultimately had to decide not to give us permission to do that. I think the idea that someone could play the entire game of Axiom Verge looking like Samus Aran was too big of a concern for them.

There is a similar kind of callback, though. If you type JUSTIN BAILEY into the passcode tool, it has Trace in a leotard, just like in Super Metroid.”

By the way, Happ commented on whether an Axiom Verge amiibo was ever considered. He noted that they didn’t pursue it “since it’s an out of pocket cost that probably wouldn’t cover itself.”


At E3, Axiom Verge creator Tom Happ said he was looking into a potential 3DS port. That’s something which still hasn’t been ruled out, but technical challenges could prevent it from happening.

Dan Adelman, who has worked with Happ, was asked by Nintendo World Report for another update on Axiom Verge possibly coming to 3DS at Gamescom last week. Here’s the latest on that front:

“We would love to, but we’re looking into the technical feasibility. Even though the graphics/artstyle is very retro-looking, there’s actually a lot that’s technically going on under the hood. It’s always funny when people look at it and say ‘Oh, you could run that on the NES’, and I laugh because there’s no way you could run that on a NES. It really pushes the Wii U hardware. We’re investigating what it would take to bring it to the 3DS. We probably wouldn’t be able to, if we were able to do it at all, there would have to be some compromises made. We don’t know what those compromises would be, and if it’s not going to be a great experience we don’t want to do it. We’re looking into it now, if I had a magic wand and could make it play perfectly on the 3DS, absolutely we’d love to do it.”

Axiom Verge is coming to Wii U on September 1. According to Happ, it’ll be the game’s best version.


Axiom Verge will be heading to Wii U very soon. But could there be a chance of a 3DS version as well? Possibly.

Creator Tom Happ says he’s investigating a potential 3DS port at the moment. However, there are some technical challenges that would need to be taken into consideration. For one thing, Axiom Verge was originally made to run at a 1280×720 (720p) resolution. Shader effects are also used which require more than what the 3DS offers. Happ did note that these aspects would not necessarily be insurmountable.


Axiom Verge will finally be launching on Wii U this summer. There will be some GamePad integration, which creator Tom Happ touched on while speaking with Nintendo Life.

Happ told the site:

It was kind of a no-brainer with this sort of game – exploration and item acquisition are the main things you want the player to be focused on. I think anyone who’s ever played a “metroidvania” has felt some frustration at trying to reconcile the tiny minimap with what they’re seeing on the big map in the menu, having to always switch back and forth – this ameliorates that a lot, plus in Axiom Verge’s case, the huge amount of weapons you normally have to scroll through in an item wheel. There’d probably be an uprising if I used that secondary screen for anything else.


At PAX East 2016, the Wii U version of Axiom Verge was on display. Destructoid took a look at the game and also spoke with creator Tom Happ. View some off-screen footage in the video below, which also has some commentary from Happ as well.


Axiom Verge creator Tom Happ has revealed that the title is “probably” making its way to Wii U next year. 3DS, meanwhile, would be “quite a bit more difficult since the hardware is so completely different.”

As stated by Happ:

I can’t commit to anything, but Axiom Verge will *probably* be available for Wii U in 2016. 3DS is quite a bit more difficult since the hardware is so completely different. Should Nintendo be reading this and decide to lend me a hand, that’d be VERY appreciated!!

The major roadblock preventing Axiom Verge on Wii U is all on the technical side. The game was built with the MonoGame engine, which is something that Nintendo’s console doesn’t seem to support currently. Porting Axiom Verge to C++ was one option in bringing Axiom Verge to Wii U.


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