Nintendo We Series 2 Volume 4: Custom Robo: Core Mechanical
Like Sin & Punishment, this month’s edition of Nintendo We concerns yet another low-profile and derelict Nintendo series that the company have been leaving to stagnate since 2007; yet this time, it has almost exclusively stayed in Japan save for it’s latest release. Custom Robo is a series of sci-fi RPG titles that puts a heavy focus on combat, action, experience points, ability variety, and as the name suggests, customisation. Players take control of their own robots, which can be customized down to their armour sets, appearance and weapons; similar to how Fallout 4: Automatron works, but in the same vein as games like the Front Mission series or Robotrek for the Super Nintendo.
So far, the series has five distinct entries dating back to the fifth generation of gaming, with the series making it’s debut on the Nintendo 64 exclusively in Japan, where it was met with critical acclaim from some of the countries biggest gaming publications (most notably Famitsu), and reportedly sold over 35,000 copies on it’s opening week. The developers took influence from their own childhood fantasies of being able to control the toy robots they played with as children, along with what kinds of animals they would find whilst playing outside; reminiscent of how Satoshi Tajiri was inspired to create Pokémon.
My own personal experience with the series has been as stunted as Nintendo’s reluctance to localize more entries over the years would suggest; only having watched footage of gameplay across various different video streaming websites across the Internet. But having looked at it, and being able to understand exactly how the game’s core mechanics are handled, I see an unprecedented amount of potential for how a worldwide revamp of the franchise could possibly play out. But to do this, I think Insomniac Games would make the ideal developer for Nintendo to collaborate with.
Insomniac Games have over the years become renowned for developing games that put heavy emphasis on the concept of customisation. Their flagship series Ratchet & Clank has never ceased to impress played with the extraordinary amount of variety in weapons design, and as if that wasn’t enough, they have made these weapons fully customisable, giving players the facility to upgrade them with add-ons to enhance their power, and to provide new options during combat. Albeit to a much lesser degree of commercial success, they attempted to bring this concept to new heights with the release of their Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive, which further demonstrated what immense and vivid imaginations the staff at the company have.
With Insomniac Games assistant in the development of a new Custom Robo title, I believe it would improve the franchise in every conceivable way; it was provide an even greater variety in not only gameplay, in that the RPG element could be further expanded upon with not only the upgrading of robots, but of weapons too; but customisation could also be greatly built on in the process for the better. The fact that both the Custom Robo and Ratchet & Clank series’ also provide players with similar mechanics to one another, in that both have had arena modes for example, is yet another reason why I believe both Nintendo and Insomniac can come together to create what would be a particularly special game.
There is also a lot of potential for what direction the story of the series could be taken into as well, as both Nintendo and Insomniac have built up reputations for establishing engrossing and humorous narratives; and I think comedy would suit Custom Robo quite a lot, given it’s already light-hearted conceptual design, and potential to appeal to both children and adult audiences, just like Ratchet & Clank.
The control scheme from Ratchet & Clank would also work better integrated into a game like Custom Robo in my opinion, because not only is it straightforward and easy to get to grips with, but it also provides scope for presenting players with challenge at the same time. Ratchet & Clank, though cheery and humorous at the same time, can also offer challenge for those looking to play the game on a greater difficulty level; despite how overpowered they may feel at times. Not only that, but over the years that Ratchet & Clank has been around to entertain players everywhere, the control scheme has been improved upon with almost every instalment. The transition from the first game to the second may have been most significant with the inclusion of the strafe ability, but overtime, more mechanics have been added to keep the series fresh, such as the sequences where players control Clank, and the rail-shooting mechanics when flying the spaceship, and the various side quests that have come with those sequences alone.
Taking everything into account, a new Custom Robo game developed in this fashion would have unprecedented potential, and then some more on top of that in my opinion. Personally, I have been dissatisfied with most games I’ve played that have been based on the idea of controlling humanoid robots, such as Armoured Core and Titanfall for one reason or another. But I believe a game like this would do much better to not only entertain players to a greater extent, but to stand out more than most others that may have come before it if something like this were to happen.