Keiji Inafune has shouldered a rough few years. After leaving Capcom in 2010 to form his studio (Comcept), the once-legendary Mega Man creator hasn’t landed a big hit. That may change with Microsoft’s exclusive ReCore. To Inafune’s credit, Comcept is not afraid to try weird and unique ideas, the best example probably being the Vita RPG Soul Sacrifice, which revolved around the idea of using your own flesh as a sacrificial weapon.
But the studio hasn’t kept up a good track record, either. Soul Sacrifice ended up with tepid execution, though it still received an enhanced re-release. An excellent-sounding piratical adventure game starring a bunch of anthropomorphized animals was cancelled. The Ninja Gaiden spinoff Yaiba was a pretty bad idea and resulted in a horrible finished game, though Comcept was working with the now-defunct Spark Unlimited on that one.
But the most egregious losses Inafune has endured have come from its spiritual successors to Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 and Red Ash. It didn’t start out that way – Mighty No. 9 arguably started the trend of well known developers going indie with crowdfunding, and by the time its campaign had finished it netted almost $4 million.
That was the summer of 2013. When it finally came close to the games first release date, September 2015, it was delayed. At the same time Red Ash, another Inafune successor, this time for Mega Man Legends, was underway by Comcept, well before it was sure that Mighty No. 9 would be any good. (Kotaku covers it all pretty well here.)
Unsurprisingly, Red Ash didn’t go over so well, and Mighty No. 9 is still unreleased after a further three delays – although that will supposedly change soon, and Inafune is, perhaps in an effort to regain some face, already talking about ideas for a Mighty No. 9 sequel. He needs a win; ReCore might be it. After the usual CG announcement last year, there hasn’t been any word of Inafune’s new desert-swept sci-fi story, apparently about the relationship between humans and robots.
This year’s gameplay reveal looks great, and not just because the design is polished (and likely benefitting from Microsoft’s investment). It seems like a real adventure game, with a solid protagonist (female even – hopefully the start of a new and more progressive trend), interesting design wrinkles through the help of various robotic buddies and…3D platforming? Plus, Joule has a really cool dash move.
Third-person adventures need to continue beyond Tomb Raider and Uncharted, which is presumably over anyway. There’s a dearth of them in the game space and there has been since at least the last console generation, if not the era before; for as many games that are solely about shooting, there are fewer that try for the thrill of exploring huge unknown worlds.
Although obviously you can only glean so much from the snippet of gameplay you get in a trailer, implementing your robot companions into the ways players navigate environments feels like the kind of throwback gameplay device you just don’t see anymore. (In combat, too, but that’s less surprising).
If there’s one thing that can be gleaned from the trailer it’s that the game looks, perhaps surprisingly, fun. A big part of this may in fact be due to the fact that the game is being co-developed by Armature Studio, which was started by ex-Retro Studios developers responsible for Metroid Prime, another series that defines adventure design.
It would explain Joules dash and the generally-solid looking design of the game – and particularly since the game releases in September, it bodes well. For Comcept and Inafune, that could, finally, mean all the difference.