Review by ZaleIsBackAgain

"Transformmers, robots in disguise! Oops, wrong game."

The chances of you watching an anime, and it being based on fighting robots is 50%; the other 50% will probably be a sword based or supernatural warriors type of show. Being original is hard, but in the case of Nintendo, Custom Robo is a pretty unique real time RPG that captures the essence of a true anime, incorporating kiddish elements with mature ones, and sealing it up with one of the most unexpected storylines for the Gamecube. Many may debate whether Custom Robo is an RPG or an arcade game, but with the amount of customization for the game, it wouldn't be quite proper to refer it as an arcade.

When you start up the game's story mode, you'll quickly encounter a conversation between a father and his son. The father will ask him to become a commander when he grows up, while lending his son his valuable watch. The father then leaves the boy for an important mission concerning the government. The son soon wakes up to find the apartment's maid interrupting the boy's slumber, reminding him of his job interview with Steele Hearts; a local and broke bounty hunting club that can't even get a decent poster up on its torn walls. Unfortunately for you, you don't have a robo! A robo is a small robot that resembles a child's toy, except with real guns. You'll eventually acquire a robo through some bizarre way, and you'll later be recruited to the Steele Hearts bounty club. The game plays like a day to day process; fight criminals, solve problem, sleep, wake up, and repeat. The game starts of really slow because of the lack of parts and robos you have, but as you fight battles, you'll be rewarded with more robos and parts from the spoils of your enemies.

The plot thickens as you find a dead body within an underground restaurant; the result of a lost from a non human controlled robo. Every robo is given an owner who are referred to as commanders. You'll fight your battles within arenas called holosseums; trench and wall infested places for strategical reasons. What's even odder than a non human controlled robo is the world the characters live in. Instead of living in a world filled with trees, bushes, natural graffiti, the people in Custom Robo live in an artificial dome, where everything is man made; from the trees, to the rain, to the source of light. This concept will make a big impact later on. The story mode is pretty good for a game that looks like its targeted towards Pokemon fans, though the ending leaves a lot to be desired. The gameplay isn't nearly as good as its story, but it's still a great experience, especially for fans of customization and decision making.

Before every battle, you'll be able to design your robo with a variety of different parts for each body part. You can change the type of weapon your robo wields; the type of boosters your robo wears; the type of bombs it holds; the type of rockets it launches; and most importantly, what type it is. You'll start off weak, using weapons such as laser blasters, 3 turret guns, etc. Later on, you'll acquire guns that are able to home into your opponents, guns that shoot out fire, etc. This also applies to the other body parts. Though the most important of all these attributes is the type of robo. One robo may excel in strength, though its agility can be poor. Another can temporarily vanish while dashing and dodging. You'll also be given a general map of the arena you'll be fighting in to add to your decision making. Each arena has been structured quite well, and some parts might not work well with the environment.

Within the battles, you'll be mashing the buttons throughout, while dodging your enemies attacks. The game requires some fast reflexes and skills in order to comprehend with it, especially in the latter stages, where weapons such as homing missiles and large area damage bombs will be available to your opponents. Though you won't solely depend on your fast reflexes and skills in order to win; but also with the assistance of your parts you've equipped for your robo. Some missiles are able to unleash duds in order to attract the missiles from reaching you. Pick the wrong equipment for your robo, and you're through.

Though sometimes the only skills you'll need to use is the ability to press buttons the fastest. There will never be a time where you'll simply stop shooting. You'll have to constantly press every available button in order to win, and it can get really repetitive sometimes. However, it's quite rewarding when you've received several new parts, and you just can't wait to try them out in the next battle. The compelling storyline also makes the game's repetitive nature quite obsolete. Unfortunately, the game is quite short, and can be beaten in a 3 day rental period. It's still a great game even outside the story mode. You'll unlock a tournament mode, where you'll be battling against every person you've fought with in the story mode, unlocking even more prizes. The final boss will not only reward you with new parts and robos, but some new gameplay modes, such as the ability to view the battle in 1st person, among others. The tournament mode can get really repetitive, but it's still fun while it lasts.

Aside from the gameplay, one of the best aspects of Custom Robo is its overall feel. Unlike in other RPGs where you'll be travelling to different towns, cities, countries, you'll be staying in the same city the entire game. You'll eventually know everyone in the city, and I mean everyone! It's a great feeling, a rare feeling that many RPG's miss. The feeling of being in a community. The community in Custom Robo will surely be memorable; your partner Harry is attracted to every cute chick he sees; your other partner Marcia is a quiet, timid, and mysterious girl; your boss, like all bosses, acts like a tyrant, but deep within is an emotional guy. There are a lot other other characters you'll encounter that you'll remember from previous days, which emphasizes that feeling of being in a community.

The anime interface also does a great job of giving Custom Robo its community atmosphere. During a conversation, a picture of the character talking will be displayed beside their dialogue, as well as their emotions at the time. Anime and manga fans will especially recognize these actions from other Japanese shows and comic books. I'm probably a little biased here, because I love animes, and especially love those exaggerated emotions and actions, but it does give the game more personality.

Anime fans will definitely adore the game's interface and surprisingly good story mode. Customization fans will also be absorbed by the game's extremely large collection of parts and robos. There are literally over 50 parts for each body part, which makes it rewarding after a battle, knowing you've made the right decision on which part to use. While the game can get repetitive, it's still a great experience that at least deserves your rental money.

Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/04/05

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