This is the fifth game in the Custom Robo series, and the second to get released to the US. Custom Robo is developed by NOISE and published by Nintendo. Anyway, the first title to get a US release was released to the gamecube, and it’s one of the best titles on that platform. A lot of people were worried about the DS game, and I hope with this review, we put those feelings to rest.
Warning, this review will contain spoilers, mostly concerning if this game has any ties to the gamecube Custom Robo game.
The story is pretty simple at first. You’re the new kid in town with goals of becoming a police officer, and your dad and older sister work at NeoBrain, a robo research company. Before you officially start your first day of school, your dad gives you a Robo, which is the Ray Mk II. You go to school, and learn that there is a tournament going on, and the team representing the school is either the team lead by a school bully named Bull, or Team Numero Uno, led by a girl named Liv who cannot use a robo, but is a great coach. She ropes you into fighting for her and you eventually show great potential as a robo commander. You even beat Bull and get the chance to represent your school, but your competition is shown in the great Serene and her Soulboost skill, [which is basically a Super Boost where your robo turns golden for awhile].
The adventures continue from there, you learn the Soulboost, meeting Liv’s brother who is one of the best commanders, and fighting the evil known as Hadron.
Let’s discuss the positives, because I kind of spoiled a huge chunk of the game with one sentence.
-POSITIVE NUMBER 1, GAMEPLAY
If you are familiar with the Gamecube Custom Robo game, please scroll down until you see "Once your robo is out of the cube" if you want to see some new additions to the gameplay. If you aren't interested in those, please scroll down to "The game play is very fun."
Fights start with a view of the enemy’s robo, their gear, and then a view of the arena you will be fighting that robo on. With that view of the arena, the options to start the fight, quit, check the enemy’s robo again, and go to the garage are shown. You can go to the garage, switch out your robo for another, put new gear on it, and do other things I’ll go over later. Whenever you’re ready, start the battle.
A custom robo, when not being used to fight, is kept in a cube. When the battle starts, you will see a Robocannon with one cannon for your cube, and other cannons, the amount depending on how many people are in the match. You can move the Robocannon with the d-pad, to position yourself wherever you want, maybe even on top of the enemy, who knows. Your cube is fired, and then you have to jiggle the d-pad to help your Robo get out of the cube faster, or to help it if it has been fired on it’s head and is upside down. Anyway, once your robo is out of the cube you will see it’s health, starting at 1000, and three little boxed in lights, which I will go over the lights later. Now the real battle begins!
Once your robo is out of the cube, and your enemies’ is not, you can fire at them with either a gun, a bomb, or a pod. You can even rush them with a tackle. The DS’ top screen is used for battle, with the bottom screen showing a body view of your robo, with it’s body colored light blue if everything is alright with it. To the right it shows a little speedometer to show how fast your robo is going, and to the left of the body view of your robo, you see two bars and one hexagon, with a gun-looking icon next to the top bar, a bomb-icon in the middle, and two bombs with wings-icon on the bottom. The bar on the top is the gun ammo, and the bar in the middle is your bomb ammo, with your pod ammo being the hexagon. You obviously have to wait to use those again when the ammo is used up. I recommend just tackling the guy if you’re close enough. Those orange bars above the robo is the Soul Boost, which is basically a Super Buff for your robo. Use it if you're in a struggle, don't use it just because you think it looks cool. Soul Boost leaves your robo incredibrly weakened and dirty, which I will go over dirtiness a little later.
Remember the three lights I mentioned? Those are the robo’s endurance before it gets downed. You do not want to be downed, that means if the enemy hits you, it does more damage and you have no real way to make your “down time” go away faster. The gun, ironically, is your best bet at close range fighting out of the three weapons, with pods and bombs being used mostly for enemies running towards you, away from you, or on the opposite side of the field. Of course, there is also tackling. You also have "shoes" you equip to your robo but they can not be used offensively, they are for changing a robo's run speed, jump height, and more! You can avoid enemy fire by running around, using the arena walls, jumping, and depending on the robo, air dashing. Enemies can be challenging in this game and if the enemy is just too much for you, you can start the battle with a handicap that can take off up to 3\4s the health of enemies. It doesn’t hurt your cash gain when beating that enemy.
The game play is very fun, just like all the other custom robo games. It's just very fast-paced, addictive gameplay that makes you think on your feet. Each robo plays differently, and you really don’t have to prefer one robo over another to move on story-wise, or multi-player-wise. All the weapon variety makes the gameplay even more interesting, giving you thousands of options that are legal and some that are not so legal... I really appreciate the diversity in the gameplay, such as the different range of guns or even changing views between two third person views. This game also has a ranking system, which usually increases based on the number of battles you've won, [when you win battles, you get stars and exp, both help with the ranking]. While the ranking isn't very important story-wise save for a few times when you have to be a higher rank to get people to do stuff for you, it can be noticed that random battles will get tougher the higher you rank. So do not rank too much if you haven't decided on a specific playstyle.
-POSITIVE NUMBER 2, MULTIPLAYER
This is the first game to feature two-player mode with Nintendo Wi-Fi, with voice chat, Multi-card play, and DS Download Play. You can even talk to your friends while batting by using your DS' mic! It is a good start for the series' first Wi-Fi. The wi-fi battles don't do anything story-wise, they're just there for fun like Pokemon battles with your friends over wi-fi. Just like Pokemon battles with friends using wi-fi, these battles can be a fun change from fighting NPCs.
-POSITIVE NUMBER 3, GARAGE
Okay, the garage is for more than just replacing robo gear or robos. You also have a Diorama and Polishing. The Diorama is basically what your robo will be shown to look like when the enemy would get an overview of it before a fight. You can pose the robo with the stylus on the bottom screen, which can be a pain to get at first, especially if the robo’s got it’s joints close together to begin with. You can get multiple backgrounds to use, the first being a grid. You can also make the robo hover in the air by moving it up and down. So you can really tweak this, making your robo look cool or really stupid. It is up to you!
Polishing is a new feature. In this game, Robos can get damaged, leading to them getting dirty. If you hurt a robo bad enough while they are down, they will get even dirtier than normal. Obviously, being dirty will lead to a lower performance level than un-damaged. After battle, unless you got a perfect or only got hit like, three times, you will usually end battles with your robo being dirty. You can make the robo really dirty if you don’t clean it over time. So how do you remedy this? You polish it with a cloth. You go to the yellow icon to polish your robo, with the robo on the bottom screen, and you can poke at certain spots with your stylus to zoom in. Once you zoom in, you see yellow arrows on all corners of the screen, which you can touch to go to a different part to clean, or the other side of a part. Warning: The cloth you start with can only clean so much. It can not clean super dirty robos, you have to buy the cloths that can do that.
You can even, for some reason, get cloths to make your robo extra dirty. Don’t really know why you’d do that…
I really like how they tinkered with the garage like that. Shows some effort!
Most of the positives lie in the game play, this whole game is driven by the robo battles.
-NEGATIVE NUMBER 1, STORY
The story is a lot like other action rpgs with the focus being on the things you use to fight for you [Like the early Pokemon Versions, and the Medabots videogames]. Generally, you meet new people by fighting, you fight in preparation for the tournament, you fight when walking around town, you fight to level, you fight to get money, and you fight to fight. Usually with games like these, it’s the characters that you meet that are memorable, because they are unique, and usually fleshed out. In this game, I didn’t really have that. I remember Dennis and Liv because I’m with them all the time when I progress the story. I remember Eddy, Liv’s brother, because he’s a major plot point in Liv’s story arc, and that he was a tough fight. I hardly remember anyone else unless they talk to me, then I go “Oh, yeah, Duncan. How come you aren’t fired…?” Just to let you know, Duncan is an incompetent cop.
The story isn’t as impressive as the Gamecube game. The gamecube game might’ve had a similar story progression [Fighty fight fight fight!] but I found pretty much every character memorable. I connected with the characters, the plot was actually good. Both plots are somewhat generic when you break them down, but it depends on how you make the story work. The DS game just didn’t do it as well as the gamecube game, I feel. Now if you’re reading this and are confused, no, these games do not have the same plot. I’m just saying that while both have somewhat generic plots, they both handled it differently. You can take a generic plot and make it unique, it’s not uncommon.
I just wanted this story to hit me with an emotional hook in some way. In the gamecube Custom Robo, I experienced a variety of emotions, ranging from joy to depression. I won’t deny it, I get too emotionally attatched to games I like. The only real emotional experience I got from the DS game outside of anger at an annoying fight was happiness when I found characters I thought were dead, or sadness when I learned Liv and Eddy’s relationship. But that’s few and far between.
-NEGATIVE NUMBER 2, LOOK
Okay, this may come across as shallow. So skip this if you find this first paragraph shallow. In terms of battle look, it’s incredible, it’s like I’m playing a mini-version of the gamecube Custom Robo. The character art for this game is… okay, it’s very much like the first Beyblade series’ art. But, the character sprites are a joke. They remind me a lot of Pokemon Generation III sprites or Medabots Metabee/Rokusho for the GBA [picture below].
The overall look of the game outside of the battles is just very… GBA-ish. I’m not saying this is a big issue, it’s more of a minor one, but the character sprites could’ve been done better, I feel. I am not asking it to look like the gamecube game, I’m just saying that for a DS game, it’s character sprites could have been improved. I appreciate the cartoon-y look, but I think more effort could've been put in, you know?
Although it's funny how people look when they're ready to battle. They just stand there, tossing their robo-cubes up and down...
This game has no real ties to the past games unless you consider the first robo you get/have being a part of the Ray series. The gameplay is a lot of fun, and it leads to you developing your own play style depending on your preferences of robo, guns, boots, bombs, and pods. In fact, I would want the gameplay to be the blueprint of how you could make a Gundam game, or some other similar mecha-anime. It’s just a lot of fun. If you’re a fan of the Gamecube custom robo game, pick it up, because it’s a lot of fun, and gameplay-wise, it’s the gamecube game on the go. For people new to the Custom Robo series, I would say get it only if you can’t find the gamecube one. It’s a good game to pick up if you want to have a fun time and not have an overly complicated plot.