it feels like a while since i’ve finished a gamecube game. i think i first became interested in custom robo (a.k.a. custom robo battle revolution) when i saw the custom robo trophies included in melee. my interest was further piqued by the inclusion of a custom robo as an assist trophy in smash bros. brawl, so despite the mediocre reviews it got i decided to check it out.
custom robo is more of a 3D fighter than anything else. the main gimmick of the game is that you get to customize your robotic fighter with various body, gun, bomb, pod (which are like bombs), and leg parts. most of the reviews are fairly accurate, but only up to a point. this is a classic case of low scores due to the fact most reviewers don’t have time to play through an entire game, and the bad ones don’t even bother to play more than half and thus miss out on getting to parts of the game that would completely change their opinion. (see my comments on drill dozer for another example). so for the first 8-9 hours or so of the game (i.e. the time it’ll take you to complete the game’s story mode) i pretty much agreed with most reviews, such as gamespot’s. all the reviews pan the game’s story mode (required for unlocking all the parts), which just serves as a framework for the game’s many battles, in the same way that the pokemon games are set up. the story is indeed weak, and the story mode’s visuals have a definite pokemon colosseum-like feel, but neither bothered me too much b/c who plays pokemon games for the story anyway?
the biggest complaint, though, is about the shallowness of the gameplay, due in large part to the lack of difficulty in the battles which are real-time and 3D. and here’s where the scores diverge radically: many reviews dismiss the game as a button-masher that requires little strategy or thought and thus give the game a low score. but anyone who’s played to the middle and end of the story mode and beyond will discover a much deeper experience than one would suspect, due in large part to the increased difficulty. and just by glancing through the reviews of the game on metacritic it’s striking how easy it is to tell who played the game past the story mode and who didn’t: the game easily gets scores in the 8’s from the reviewers who played far enough into it, and in the 6’s for those who didn’t. IGN’s review is a particularly egregious example of a reviewer who just didn’t play enough of the game to have an informed opinion.
so what is it about the later parts of the game that makes the game so much more fun? at the beginning of the game since the battles are so easy there’s not really much motivation to experiment with all the different robo parts you acquire. but with the increased difficulty you’re forced to strategize more and more, esp. in the second half of the game which consists of “tournaments”, each with its own rules (e.g. 2 against 1, tag team, no parts used in more than one round). in this mode each round you fight is scored based on time and health remaining, and you earn bronze, silver, or gold trophies based on your scores. winning a round isn’t too hard, but it takes a lot more timing, strategy, experimenting with parts, and familiarity with the wide variety of stages (most quite nicely designed) to win the 5 or 6-round tournaments with a high enough score to get all the trophies.
near the later parts of the game, when you have access to all the better parts, even winning the tournaments isn’t too hard. but at that point it’s more fun to set up challenges for yourself by using the random select function, which randomly puts together a robo for you, instead of just sticking with your early favorites. the majority of the robo parts are different enough that it’s fun just trying each of them out, and the graphics for all the weapons and body parts are nicely designed and look great in battle. there are clearly some parts that take some experience to use effectively, and there are some weapon parts that are much more effective with a certain body part than others. my main advice to anyone who picks up the game would be to start experimenting right away w/ the diff. parts during the easy battles of the story mode to keep things interesting and to get used to all their diff. attributes. the game still has some drawbacks, such as its unmemorable music and its fairly useless optional first person battle view, but even though this isn’t the deepest fighter out there it’s def. a great, underrated game with a surprising amount of variety and depth and one well worth playing.
customize your links!
– gamefaqs has a nice collection of info, inc. a great walkthrough at gamefaqs that inc. stats of all the robo parts, a weapon damage guide that includes exactly how much damage each part inflicts, and a list of unlockables
– despite the lackluster story, someone typed up the text of the game script
– instruction manual at nintendo.com
– entry at wikipedia