Hey guys, in between Netto, Leafs and I working on the upcoming Top 10, I got a big urge to pick up one of my favorite games again. I enjoyed it so much, as always, that I decided to write a review for it here. This game is way too underrated and I'd love to do all I can to get it some more attention. Before you read though, I would like to let you know that there are some spoilers in this review, although they're a bit minor.
It was 2005. The GameCube had already seen its fair share of unique IPs and interesting rethinkings of some of Nintendo's older series. The DS had come to succeed the Game Boy Advance and it was just a matter of time until the Nintendo Revolution (later renamed the Nintendo Wii) was released to replace the GameCube. It seemed like the good old purple 'Cube had seen the last of its unique and creative games.
a brand new game for the Nintendo GameCube. A game about a tiny robot, moving around large human environments, you had to help him by raising him up to be able to run home without getting stolen by burglars. It appeared to be a point and click sort of game, where the robot could pick up spare batteries in the environment and use them to increase its own battery life. From screenshots released, it seems like the robot lived in the house of a scientist or professor, possibly his creator, and he would recharge by plugging himself into an orange GameCube-like device.
(What's odd about the videos we've seen is that the character models looked better back then.)
But alas, this project fell through. Skip couldn't figure out how to make the game interesting, or maybe they didn't get enough support for it. But for whatever reason, Skip cancelled the production of this new IP. All hope was not lost, however, as the project caught the eye of Shigeru Miyamoto, the creative mind he is. Miyamoto thought that the project held great potential and offered to work with Skip to find a way to bring it to light, and after working for a year or two, they managed to vastly improve the game and see it to a full worldwide release.
The game starts during a birthday party in the Sanderson family's living room, it's young Jenny Sanderson's eighth birthday. Her mother gives her a hat as a gift, but Jenny refuses the gift. Convinced that she is a frog, she constantly wears a hat that resembles a frog's head, and talks with only ribbits. Meanwhile, her cheery father brings out a much more expensive present... against his wife's wishes and without minding the family budget, Jenny's father purchased a Chibi-Robo, claiming that his daughter had asked for it, but really he just wanted it himself. He flips the switch on the metal container...
Another way to earn Moolah is by plugging yourself into one of the many Chibi-Doors placed around the house, which lead to strange, warped alternate dimensions with lots of Chibi-Robo eyes staring at you. They contain mass amounts of Moolah, which can be very helpful in gaining lots of it if necessary.
Chibi-Robo runs on battery power, and during the first night he doesn't have a very large battery to work off of, so you'll have to find some of the outlets scattered around the rooms and plug yourself in to recharge regularly. If you run out of battery power, Chibi-Robo will collapse and Telly Vision will carry you back to the Chibi-House. There's not much of a penalty for this (and you actually have to do it once to get a certain item), but you will lose some Moolah for it. You can get larger batteries by reaching Chibi ranking milestones, but there isn't much to do during the first night other than meet a couple of toys and clean up the room. When time runs out during the night, you go back to the Chibi-House and then it becomes day, or vice versa if it was day. Your Happy Points are then calculated into your Chibi ranking and you receive bonus batteries if you reach a milestone.
Chibi-Robo wakes up after this dream, much to the joy of the worried Telly Vision, and they are then approached by a wooden pirate toy by the name of Captain Plankbeard. Plankbeard then requests that Chibi-Robo attempt to reactivate Giga-Robo. This is where the real game starts.
The cleaning element of the gameplay ends up being very insignificant, although not unenjoyable. More trash and floor stains generally appear at the beginning of every day and night, so you'll probably start out each day/night cycle by cleaning up a bit. It's your main source of receiving Happy Points and Moolah, but the actual focus of the game is on character interaction and, true to Chibi's purpose, making people happy directly. This generally involves completing sidequests, which let you experience more of a character's story, and also gives you Happy Points and Moolah, if you do something that does make them happy. Most of the characters being original designed toys, this can get really interesting, as their designs and personalities get extremely varied, and their sidequests play out as enjoyable (and sometimes dark, although played out in a sort of child-friendly manner) stories that tell you a lot about the characters in question.
Not only that but the combat is rather awkward and uninteresting as well. You control exactly the same with the Chibi-Blaster out, so you generally just end up sort of wandering around, mashing A to shoot them. You can go into first person and shoot, but all you can do is aim. It's no Metroid Prime, which would've actually been nicer than what they ended up doing with the combat.
One of the nice touches in this game actually, is that almost everything you do produces music. Taking a step plays an instrument sound depending on what surface you're standing on, and most of the time when you're doing a task it'll play some kind of musical instrument or small song. The game is very music-oriented, and it's a pleasant quirk that keeps the game interesting and active. It also shows through the soundtrack, which is just as brilliant. The graphics, however, do not shine so brightly. Some of the models would look subpar even on the Sega Dreamcast, and a lot of the animations are outright lazy, but this is mostly just with the Sandersons. Most of the toys, and especially anything directly related to Chibi-Robo, all look very good and have a unique design that gives the game a wonderful personality.
One minor thing I enjoyed is that after a certain point, Chibi-Robo can read his own instruction manual, and while it does tell you about how to play a bit, it actually does more to provide character exposition and somewhat explain just what Chibi is thinking. It's a creative way to express this to the player that I thought was really charming.
The game does have a few of negatives, though. As good as it is, it's VERY short, like a lot of good GCN games. The game is so sidequest oriented that nearly all of the characters who AREN'T the Sandersons don't progress the plot at all, meaning that it's very easy to rush through the game and eventually finish the story in less than 12 hours. Although the sidequests are fun and provide good character exposition for already interesting characters, they're also completely unnecessary for the most part. Also, while the battery starts out as a creative gimmick, it becomes a bit of a hassle after not too long. Navigating the environments, which can get tiring itself, requires quite a few actions, some which take a significant amount of battery power to execute. It's slightly tedious recharging over and over, but it's nothing too bad. Cleaning up could become repetetive as well, but I never had a problem with it personally. The early game is also very dialogue and tutorial heavy, but it doesn't last too long.
Really with how much I like this game, those are the only real gameplay flaws I can find in it, and they don't really affect my opinion of it. This is such a unique and fresh experience that I enjoy playing though every time. Chibi-Robo was one of those games that didn't get enough attention at its release for being different. It got a sequel for the DS a few years later that wasn't as good as the original, and on top of that was only sold at Wal-Mart. Because of that, the third game wasn't even released in America, and the Wii port of the first game was denied a release here by Nintendo of America. Please, if you ever have the chance pick up this wonderful game before it becomes too obscure to obtain. I'm sure it'll be worth your time.
I give thie game a 9 out of 10, none of the problems really bother me except for the length, and none of the sidecharacters' stories progress the main story at all, making them completely optional. Aside from that, this still remains one of my favorite games, that I still hope will grow to be appreciated more.