With the much talked about recent struggles of Nintendo, they recently outlined some new strategies for their future. Among these new strategies, CEO Satoru Iwata stated that the company will be exploring partnerships with third party studios and licensing some of their franchises to be developed outside of Nintendo. We’ve already examined how this direction could be beneficial to Nintendo and their third party support for the Wii U, but what developers should Nintendo partner with? The following is a wish list of sorts, with four Nintendo franchises and the third party developers I feel would be best suited to making a game in those franchises.
Star Fox has been dormant longer than most other main Nintendo franchises. The last console entry in the series was Star Fox Assault, which was released on the Gamecube back in 2005. The reception to Star Fox Assault was tepid at best, and I personally found the game to be supremely disappointing, which was amplified because the premise was everything I’d ever wanted in a Star Fox game. Star Fox Assault continued the idea started in Star Fox Adventures of having much of the game take place on foot, but the split between ship and ground gameplay was about 50/50 as opposed to the 90/10 ratio of on-foot to ship based gameplay in Star Fox Adventures. What really made Star Fox Assault interesting was that the ground based gameplay was basically a third person shooter, which fit much better with the tone and universe of Star Fox than the Zelda style gameplay of Star Fox Adventures. The real problem with Star Fox Assault was the execution, not the premise, and a Star Fox game in this style has the potential to be great if it was actually done successfully, and there’s one developer in particular I’d love to see take a crack at it.
Insomniac has had some struggles recently, particularly with the underwhelming Fuse, but their track record with the Ratchet and Clank series makes them ideal candidates to tackle Star Fox. When looking closely at Ratchet and Clank, many of the series’ defining features are shared with Star Fox, and many of the ones that aren’t would fit well within a Star Fox game. Both series star furry space traveling heroes that are accomplished pilots, gameplay taking place both on planets and in space, third person shooting as well as ship combat, and a lighthearted tone with colorful casts of characters. With a strong portfolio of polished games consisting of gameplay, design, and narrative concepts that would be right at home in a Star Fox game, Insomniac would be a fantastic choice to develop the next entry in the series.
Metroid is a series that Nintendo has struggled with internally for quite a while, so handing the reigns off to another developer seems like it would be a good idea. The last game in the series, Metroid: Other M, was a collaboration between an internal Nintendo development team and Team Ninja, and was also one of the most divisive games Nintendo has ever released. Prior to that, the fantastic Metroid Prime trilogy was developed by Texas based Retro studios. The last Metroid game developed entirely in house at Nintendo was Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance, which released simultaneously with the first Metroid Prime in 2002 after an 8 year gap between games which saw the series entirely skip the Nintendo 64.
When looking at potential developers for a new Metroid game, Rocksteady comes to mind as a studio that could simultaneously bring something new to the series while also still being able to maintain the core tenants of the franchise. Rocksteady is obviously known for the Batman: Arkham games, and from a design perspective those games share a lot in common with Metroid. For as popular as the Metroidvania style of design has become for 2D games, the Arkham games are in very select company as games that implement this style of design in a full 3D environment. With Rocksteady having shown that they can successful design a game with the kind of non-linearity and item based exploration of a Metroid game combined with their ability to craft gameplay systems at the absolute top of the class for the third person action genre, I’d love to see what could do with the Metroid license.
For as popular and successful as the Pokemon RPGs have been on handhelds, the grand console Pokemon RPG fans have wanted for years has still never happened. Unlike the previous two series, Pokemon is not in need in revitalizing, but there is still room for another developer to take a shot at it. Given that developer Gamefreak seems content to stick to handhelds, getting another developer in to craft a console RPG to compliment the handheld games rather than replace them could be a good direction. The ideal developer for a Pokemon RPG on consoles seems fairly obvious to me, and there is actually some precedent for Nintendo collaborating with them.
The developer I’m referring to is none other than Atlus, the company known for crafting some of the best modern JRPGs, particularly in the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona franchises. They have already partnered with Nintendo to some extent for the upcoming Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, so it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that they partnership is taken further. Looking at their body of work, both the core SMT series and the hugely popular Persona games share a lot in common with Pokemon. The concept of having a wide array of monsters doing the fighting for you is the most obvious similarity between these franchises. Though it works a bit differently, most of Atlus’s games involve collecting, battling, and evolving (referred to as fusion in SMT) demons and monsters in much the same way you do in the Pokemon games. If there is any developer that could create a Pokemon RPG on consoles that remained true to the series while also establishing itself as something separate from the handheld games, it’s definitely Atlus.
The Legend of Zelda
With all the franchises mentioned thus far, there is clear room for an external developer to step in and create something new. Whether because Nintendo has struggled internally as with Metroid, let the series lie dormant as with Star Fox, or neglected an aspect of the market as with Pokemon, there are sound reasons to give other developers an opportunity with each of these franchises. The Legend of Zelda series, however, doesn’t have any of the issues shared by these other franchises. The series has seen installments at regular intervals over the past 27+ years, almost every game in the series has been developed internally at Nintendo and been of astonishing quality, and the series has seen outrageous success on both home consoles and handheld systems. So with all that stated, what could a new developer add to the series and what would be the point?
This is the most pie-in-the-sky of all the entries on this wish list, and the least likely to actually happen, but I’d be really interested in seeing a Zelda game developed by CD Projekt RED. I’ve expressed my issues with the direction the series has gone despite its consistently high quality, and I think a Zelda game developed by another studio may be the best way to overcome the stagnation. With their experience on The Witcher games, CDP RED has established themselves among the best in the industry at crafting a compelling fantasy setting with enjoyable gameplay, fantastic storytelling, and phenomenal presentation. CDP RED could bring a level of maturity and gameplay depth to the series that it has lacked thus far. Zelda has been and will likely continue to be great in the hands of Nintendo, and whatever they do with the rest of their stable of franchises I don’t expect to see a core Mario or Zelda game developed by anyone else, but it would certainly be very interesting to see.