Review by discoinferno84
"And thank you very much, Mr. Roboto..."
If I have some spare time, I usually check out Gamestop or EB Games to see the new releases and playable demos. But over the past few months, my attention has been focused on only one game: Custom Robo. As soon as I played the demo and experienced the awesome action that this game offered, I knew Custom Robo would be at the top of my purchase list for May. I loved the mere demo of the game; actually playing it in its entirety blew me away.
I was expecting a massive multiplayer menu with plenty of options. Of course, this game delivered just that, but much more. Not only does the game feature multiplayer, but it also has a Story Mode for you to play. The background story has a decent concept, but few plot twists can be seen from a mile away. However, the great cast easily makes up for story's shortcomings. Your character exists in a world where people use miniature robots for science, law enforcement, crime, and a few other aspects of daily life. These tiny robots are dubbed Custom Robos for the sheer amount of customization options available to the commander of the Robo. When a person controls or dives into their personal Robo, they can control its movements as an extension of their own consciousness.
Your character is a young citizen who is now old enough to start looking for a job. Following in his father's footsteps, your character decides to become a commander of a Custom Robo. With absolutely no training whatsoever, you become part of a local bounty hunting team. On your first day on the job, you learn of a mysterious group that is trying to steal some sort of new Robo. While you start simply to catch crooks, the mysteries surrounding the new Robo will lead you on an adventure of action and discovery.
At first, it sounds like the average coming-of-age plot. The kid goes on adventure, smacks around a few powerful enemies and everyone lives happily ever after. While the general idea isn't too far off from that, this game makes up for it with its portrayal of real life. What I love about the Story Mode is how memorable of a cast is presented. The characters of this game were designed perfectly to move the game along at a decent pace. Some people whine about a game having too much dialogue. The thing is, the characters do such a great job at making good conversations; you'll actually want to see these people talk. Your character is just some lazy kid that has a tendency to sleep in. Your partner is a goofy guy that likes to hit on all the ladies he sees. Your boss is demanding and has a short temper, but hides his real emotions. It's little character flaws like these that can appeal to everyone in some way.
While this game has an excellent cast, the actual gameplay is even better. You are thrust into a middle of a battle right after you have your first job interview. As soon as your partner offers a few words of tactical advice, the battle is on. Your battles are in digital fighting arenas called Holosseums. But you don't have time to take a look at the interesting surroundings. As soon as that screen comes up, the gameplay is all about strategy. You have to use your surroundings to your advantage. If someone's firing missiles at you, you'd better dive behind a barricade. If there's some sort of object in your way, chances are it can be destroyed. But the strategy doesn't pertain to just the Holosseum. You're piloting a Custom Robo, a highly capable fighting machine with countless in-battle strategies at your disposal. You've also got quick and responsive controls at your command. If your opponent attacks at long range, try to get in close using your ground or air speed. You can to dodge attacks and attack from an angle. If you're opponent is slow, you can annihilate them with long-range attacks. There are dozens of little tactics that can be used to your advantage. As long as you pay attention to what you and your enemy are doing, you should be just fine.
But the fun doesn't end there. You can use battle tactics no matter what kind of Robo you're using. The real meat of the Custom Robo gameplay comes with the virtually endless amount of customization options. You can choose what type of robot you want. Do you want something that has excellent air maneuvering capabilities, or would you prefer something that has better defense? Also, you can choose from a wide array of weapons. Do you prefer short-range combat? How about homing missiles? What about guns with faster rates of fire? Or do you prefer something more powerful? The sheer amount of customization options allows you to create a fighting machine that applies to your own personal taste. It's up to you how you want to build your Robo. Once you've found your favorite combo, it's time for you to wreak havoc on your enemies.
But if the Story Mode wasn't good enough, we also have the multiplayer. I thought that the default multiplayer demo at the store was cool. It was nothing compared to the actual thing. Simply put, this multiplayer is excellent. Just like Story Mode, you get all the customization options for your Robo. But what makes it better are the different battle scenarios available. You can go for the traditional one on one battle with a friend or CPU. But you can also have two on two battles and other team battles. You can team up with your friend and blast the CPUs together. Or you could team up with a CPU and make use of the computer's cold, calculating battle skills. Once you've chosen your preferences, it's an all-out melee for the victory. Seeing a one-on-one battle is one thing; playing with four Custom Robos at once is something entirely different.
We've got battling robots armed to the teeth with explosives. The story and the gameplay make a solid presentation. But the graphics seem to be just a bit unbalanced. The graphics of Story Mode are a bit above average, but nothing like the spectacular cut scene when you let the title screen run for a few seconds. The buildings and characters seem like they're painted with pastels. Your characters look like updated PSO characters, not unlike the figures found in Pokemon Collossuem. Their lips never move, because they don't have any voices. Every dialogue is done in a message box at the bottom of the screen. Luckily, the box also shows the face of the character that's talking. You can see so much emotions and hilarious facial expressions that it makes up for the lack of voice acting. While the Story Mode environment is lacking, the Robos themselves have plenty of detail. You can make out the details of the individual parts. You can see the glow of fired missiles and explosions. There's still plenty great detail, even when there's so much going on at once.
So, where does that leave Nintendo's latest Gamecube exclusive? This game is intense, reasonably difficult and is highly addictive. Custom Robo offers excellent gameplay, a solid cast and decent graphics. As the Story Mode lasts less than ten hours, this game is ideal for a long weekend. Even if you're not into strategy, you can still enjoy battling. You can still have fun if you button mash your way to victory. If you enjoy fierce combat, real time strategy, and the freedom of countless customization options, give this game a chance. Your personal Custom Robo is waiting to be made.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/15/04, Updated 04/23/07
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