Time for a fresh Custom Robo from Nintendo.

It’s been 17 years since the last game in the robot battler series. When I was a kid, I had a few birthdays where my mom pulled me out of school, took me to the mall 45 minutes from our small town, and handed me a crisp $100 bill. One year, I remember picking up a boxed set that included all three seasons of the ‘70s adventure series The Land of the Lost and the Robin Williams political comedy (which bizarrely morphs into a political thriller in the final act) Man of the Year. But the best hauls tended to be video games.

At the time, you could get a GameCube game for $50 or less and a handheld game for under $35, so if I mixed and matched correctly, I could get two, three, even four games for one Benjamin. I don’t have strong memories of most of the games I got this way, but Custom Robo is an exception. For some reason, my mom claims that these birthday trips never happened. Her memories may have faded, but Custom Robo is forever.

The game I played on GameCube was called Custom Robo: Battle Revolution in Japan, but came to North America as Custom Robo. That’s because, though it was the fourth game in the series, it was the first to get a release outside of Japan. Part RPG, part frantic arena battler, Custom Robo was unlike anything I’d ever played. Though the presentation outside of fights reminded me of the GameCube’s Pokemon games, Custom Robo’s kinetic battles were a shock to my 10-year-old system.

I mention Pokemon because that was my primary experience with RPGs at that time in my life. Around the same time I was dabbling with tactical RPGs like Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and putting a decent amount of time into action RPGs like Tales of Symphonia and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The depth came from the sheer amount of customization possible for your robot’s build. Each was broken down into five parts: body, gun (on one arm), bomb (on the other), pod (a back-mounted weapon), and legs.

As you played you acquired new parts to equip. I remember having a gun that looked like a dragon that sent missiles flying around the battlefield. But I also had a Gatling gun that let me merk all the other robos. As cool as Custom Robo was, there hasn’t been a new game released since 2006 (in Japan) and 2007 (in the rest of the world), when developer Noise launched Custom Robo Arena for the Nintendo DS.

Noise still exists, but has only worked on mobile games since 2013. That’s a shame because a new Custom Robo could fit in pretty seamlessly to the current gaming landscape. Though the original confined its fights to small arenas, the game could work on a larger scale, too. You could do a pretty great battle royale with Custom Robo, littering the broader landscape with a bunch of small bespoke arenas.

You could also resurrect it as an asymmetrical multiplayer game, with a team of smaller robos taking on one giant mech. If you wanted to go the single-player route, a roguelike in the vein of Hades could work. And, you know what? People still love RPGs, and there’s no reason Nintendo couldn’t bring it back in a more traditional format.

Of course, all that customizability would make the series ripe for gacha nonsense or microtransactions exploitation. But I prefer to think that a new Custom Robo would be pure, like the delight I got from bringing it home on my birthday 20 years ago.

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