Custom Robo takes place in the not-too-distant future when society settle their conflicts on virtual battlefields (called holosseums) using mechanical robots. As the name implies, players can customize multiple parts of their robotic avatar ranging from multiple guns and pods, improving your bot's performance and leading to the ultimate warrior.
I guess it's impossible to avoid pointing out the obvious Pokémon-esque reference, so I'll just get that out of the way. Custom Robo uses the same RPG model as seen in Pokémon Colosseum. You'll lead your character throughout the 3D overworld, conversing with numerous townsfolk -- but it's all for naught. The real hitch lies in the melee combat and man, is it enjoyable. Everyone likes throwing down with robots, right?
The gameplay feels a lot like Virtual On, without the complex controls. Most of the battlefields seem like they were lifted right from the Tron light cycle grid arena, although a few also take place in outdoor settings. Before going into battle, players can switch between the available combatants in their arsenal, in addition to customizing the color and respective parts they've picked up throughout the Story Mode. The customization screen offers players the opportunity to swap out different parts of their robo, analyze strategic data of their opponent or holosseum, and test out their newly equipped parts in a practice arena.
Measured up against action classics like Powerstone and Super Smash Brothers, Custom Robo truly is in a league of its own. How so? For starters, mashing skills won't get you very far, especially when you face off against human opponents. The customization system alone offers unlimited possibilities. Progession throughout the story will unlock new robotic forms and reveal additional parts that can be collected from various stations (called parts generators), located throughout the overworld. Further, certain parts will enhance your mobility, firepower, armor strength, and more. Before long, you'll receive more parts than you know what to do with, and it will take some time to experiment for the best results -- and experiment you will.
The only catch is you'll have to endure through the RPG aspect of the game to appreciate these compelling elements. The story mode is essentially a huge filler, chatting with numerous townsfolk and completing a bevy of missions to unlock all the hidden goodies to advance the story. I've grew up on anime, so thankfully, the contrived, over-the-top humor that felt shamefully forced upon every character you encounter didn't bother me. . .much. Fans of Capcom's Gotcha Force will know exactly where I am coming from when I say that the storyline is something of a snooze-a-thon.
I get the impression the game is primarily targeting the younger audience since the battles tend to be short and the challenge factor falls slightly on the easy side. Minor quibbles aside, the multiplayer is truly where it's at. You can square off against another friend, run a 2-on-2 tag-team match, or even go 3 against 1 if you're really got the cajones to take everyone on. Personally, I recommend getting three of your friends together so you can test your mettle in the ultimate four-player battle royal ala Powerstone. (Oh, how I miss that game!) So far, I've only had the opportunity to play by myself and school my girlfriend.
Hello out there? I am looking for some new challenges.
And speaking of friends, it's important you get others involved that will actually be into this sort of thing. I mean, trying to get your grandmother to play during the annual family renuion doesn't sound quite as much fun like showing your third cousin that owned you in Pro Westling years ago. Simply put, Custom Robo isn't exactly "party game" material for gamers of all ages, unlike Super Smash Brothers Melee -- a game which literally just about anyone could pick up and play. Custom Robo is more of a niche title that appeals is suited mostly for anime and mecha fanatics.. But, hey, prove me wrong. Maybe Grandma wants to rock n' sock with the best of them.
Without a doubt, Custom Robo qualifies as one of this year's most refreshing titles to emerge on the GameCube this year. If you've grown a bit tired of flipping green dinosaurs and mustachioed plumbers, we can't recommend a better game.