Custom Robo - GCN Classic Review

Back when it was first announced, Custom Robo was one of them GameCube games that really stood out above the others. The game was heavily advertised, it was included on most GameCube game demo discs, it had a comic release, and it was covered many times in Nintendo Power. Even so, does that make it a good game? Does Custom Robo really stand out as one of the best GameCube games? Well...

The Past of Custom Robo:

Although it may not be a well known fact here in the west, Custom Robo for the Nintendo GameCube actually isn't the first Custom Robo game; in fact, it is actually the fourth game in the series! Even so, like many games, each Custom Robo game is a sort of stand alone story that really doesn't have any connections with the others. Most of the games take place in different worlds, they have different characters (although some characters may share the same name), and they all have different stories, but the robos themselves mostly stay the same.

Step into the shoes of our Hero:

When the game first opens, we quickly are introduced to the main character, who I will be calling "Hero" for the sake of this review. Hero is a young boy who has had a bit of a lonely life, but he never really lets it get to him. Since his mom is gone, and his dad is always at work, he has been living in a small apartment building alone, only with the land lord Lucy and other tenants to be there for him. Even so, today is Hero's birthday, and his dad is finally coming back home!

After arriving at his home, Hero's dad happily greets his son, wishes him a happy birthday, and then hands him a present; the watch that he had always kept on him no matter where he went. At first Hero was a little bit shocked that his dad would give him something that was so important to him, but he then happily accepted it after he heard what his dad had to say. Although Hero didn't quite understand it at the time, his dad had only one request, and that was for Hero to keep the watch on him at all times, and to NEVER let anyone else use it. The watch was a very important and special watch, and it was something that Hero had to take care of.

With that being said, Hero's dad, once again, said goodbye to him, and took off back to work. That was the last time Hero would ever see his dad.

Jump forward quite a few years and Hero is now a grown man ready to set out into the world. After receiving a letter from his dad telling him to be a "robo commander," Hero decides to apply for a job as a bounty hunter, and follow out his dad's final request. After saying goodbye to his landlord Lucy, Hero makes his way to his job interview at the local bounty hunting office of a group called "Steel Hearts." Steel Hearts, like all bounty hunters, is a group dedicated to both helping people with smaller jobs the police doesn't have time with, and bringing in criminals who have had bounties placed on their heads due to their crimes. It isn't an easy job, and it sure isn't a job people respect, but Hero decides to go for it anyway.

Soon after arriving at the office and being greeted by, what one might call the comic relief character, Harry, Hero walks up to the front desk and begins his interview. Well, Hero has no idea how to use a custom robo, he has never worked in the field of bounty hunting, he has never used a custom robo, and he has never even seen a custom robo for himself; all he really knows is that his dad was a commander, and that really isn't enough to get the job, but then something unexpected happens. Steel Hearts gets a call, and apparently the custom robo research lab is under attacked by a strange group (that the police force apparently can't deal with on their own).

Since Steel Hearts is currently short on staff, their boss, Ernest, decides to send out both Harry and Hero to the scene. Although he knows that Harry is really the only one who can do anything, he figures that if Hero sees what the job is actually like, he'll be turned away from it, and go on with his life without ever becoming a bounty hunter. Well, that plan doesn't quite go as expected. After being knocked out in a custom robo fight, Harry is unable to battle, and Hero finds himself being left with no other choice but to try it for himself.
While in the real world custom robos are actually in cube form, and they don't turn into a robo until their commander "dives" (or fuses) with them in a virtual battle arena. While in these arenas, the robo commanders basically become their robos, and they then find themselves in a, sometimes, life or death battle. If someone gets hurt in the arena, their body and minds feel the effects in the real world, and because of this people often choose to fight with robots instead of their fists. Although Hero still doesn't quite grasp this concept, he finds a cube laying on the ground, he registers it so he can use it/it will only work for him, and he then jumps head first into his very first robo battle against the crook who had defeated Harry.

Much to Harry's surprise, Hero manages to win battle after battle, and, in the end, drive off the crooks who had attacked the research lab; however there was still one little problem. The robo Hero did an eye scan registration with was the very same robo the research lab had been testing, and the very same robo they had been sent to protect. Now this very special robo, named Ray 01, could only be used by Hero, and Ernest also has no choice but to hire him since Steel Hearts is very short on staff. And so so, with that, Hero begins his new life as a bounty hunter and robo commander, along with his coworkers Harry and Marcia.

Although for the first half of the game you simply follow Hero's daily life of waking up, going to work, training as a robo commander, and going on odd jobs, soon the mysterious group that attacked the research lab makes their move, and Hero, along with his coworkers Harry and Marcia, find themselves being mixed up in a mystery bigger than anything they could have ever imagined. After responding to a report of a rogue robo controlling itself, Hero and co arrive at a cafe only to find a dead body in the robo's wake. This single event is what sets the the plot into motion, and it will take Hero and company down a one way road to the truth. The truth behind Hero's dad, the truth behind Marcia's strange power to read the minds of other custom robos, and even the truth behind their very world.

The Custom in Custom Robo:

Like in most RPGs, Custom Robo features an extreme amount of customization, which actually takes center stage. In Custom Robo there are many different types of robos for you to command, each with their own skills and abilities, but each robo also has a great deal of customization as well. Although the robo's body is set in stone, with only a few alternate colors to pick from, the rest of its parts can be freely changed before each battle. These parts include the gun, bombs, pod, and legs.

Custom Robo actually has a wide verity of different parts that you can equip to your robo, and each part will actually change how the robo plays. While there are many different types of weapons for you to equip (such as machine guns, guns that shoot spread shots, and even guns that are actually melee based fists) that will change the way you attack, the other parts are actually just as important, and not just simple stronger pieces of equipment like in most RPGs. Bombs for example, although most of them work the same, actually have different effects on the area! For example, some bombs may simply blow up in your enemy's face, others may actually freeze your enemies in place which will then allow you to shoot them with your main gun, or use a special "dash" attack move (each dash move being exclusive to different robo bodies) to combo into the attack.

Pods are basically bombs as well, but they serve more as traps than anything else. Pods are simply special floating bombs which you can drop anywhere in the arena, but once again, they all have different area effects which can be used to your advantage. Once again some pods may freeze enemies in their place, but others may be more along the lines of hidden traps which you can either use to stun an enemy, or even guide them into your other attacks. By using different types of pods with different types of bombs and guns, you can come up with different strategies to take down your enemies. There really is no right or wrong way to use them, and it is completely up to you to decide what type of pod you want to use, and when you are going to use it.

Unlike the guns, bombs, and pods, legs are a little bit different, but they are also very important as well. Every set of legs will provide your robo with different kinds of movements, which can be used to the advantage of different custom robos. While some legs will allow you to jump out of the way faster, others will allow you to run faster, or even allow you to boost in the air much faster than normal. By combining different types of legs with different types of robos, you can actually come up with a combination that will help give you an edge, and help you dodge your enemies attacks. Once again it really is up to you just how you will use the different legs, and when you will use them. If your robo does better in the air, stick to legs that help you fly, and if your robo is better on the ground, go for movement speed. Either way the choice is yours!
In the end, there are thousands of different possible combos for each of the robos, and the game really pushes you to play around with the different parts that you will have access to. Sure a lot of the time you will simply just find one set up and stick with it, but other times the game will require you to try out different set ups if you want to be able to beat your enemy. Every robo has its pros and cons, and because of that, you really should try to use your pros to your advantage, as you also make use of your enemy's cons.

The Gameplay:

The gameplay in Custom Robo is pretty simple. While in the overworld you play the game in a standard RPG fashion, you run around a world map, get into battles, talk to npcs, and so on, but the battle system is actually NOTHING like a standard RPG. When you first get into a battle your custom robo will actually be in a "launcher" in the middle of the screen which you can control. Once you have aimed the launcher in the general area you want to land in, your robo cube will be shot out, and a number will then quickly appear on it as it lays still on the ground; this is your one and only chance to get into the battle before your enemies. By tapping buttons fast you can actually go through the countdown quicker, and get your robo out into the battlefield long before any of the others do (which basically allows you to attack them before they can even move). It really is a useful ability, but if you don't time the launch just right, and if you press the buttons too soon, you may actually reset the counter and have to wait even longer.

Once your robo, and the others (with a max being four robos out at a time), are in the battlefield, the real game begins. The game's camera mostly stays at an air view, which allows you to see where all enemies are at all times, but by unlocking a special mode, the game can be played at a first person point of view as well; really this is just something extra, and there really isn't much of a use for it, especially when you get into the harder battles. Either way, the camera angle works well, and since your robo is always locked onto his enemy, you never have to worry about aiming your gun! By simply pressing a button, your robo will be shooting at your enemy, and that is all there is to it.

Custom Robo really is based more on knowing what type of robo to use, and when to use it, and because of that the game really doesn't expect you to be the best at shooting style games. Sure you can aim your bombs, but most of the gameplay is focused on using the right type of parts at the right time, and dodging enemy fire by using walls and objects in your way. Thanks to the ability to jump, dash, and dash in mid air, there are many different ways for you to go about both attacking and dodging, and because of this, the game really does take quite a lot of skill, but at the same time it really doesn't have that steep of a learning curve.
This game is one of them games anyone can easily jump in to just by making a cool looking robo, without any real understanding of the parts they decided to equip. It is one of them games that can easily be considered a great game for the casual gamer, but at the same time it is extremely deep for the hard core fans (in fact it is so deep it would take hours for me to even explain it in this review)!

In short, Custom Robo's gameplay is nice and simple, but at the same time it is very deep, and sure to be enjoyed by both the casual and hard core gamer... It really is a good game to play if you're having a party!

The Good and the Bad:

The thing about Custom Robo is, it is all good! Now sure, don't get me wrong, this game still isn't for everyone, but most people out there should find this one to be quite enjoyable. The game's story is pretty long, and because the game actually allows you to pick what you can say from time to time, it is one of them stories you may want to replay over and over again just to see what you can do differently. Another aspect of the story that really stands out is the fact that it can both be VERY funny, and very serious at the same time. There are SO many different comedy based options for Hero to say, that you will find it hard to not laugh at least once while playing this game, but at the same time the deeper darker aspect of the game's story may really get to you as well. Either way the game blends comedy with the game's more "mature" nature nicely, and it is a story you will want to play from start to finish at least twice.

Another really great thing about Custom Robo is the fact that you can play how you want! With all of the different parts for you to use, just about every robo you will fight (or even fight with) will be different, and that really helps add to the gameplay experience. Since you and your friends, that you may be playing this game with, will all have your own tastes and gameplay styles, you will all have custom robos that you will be able to call your very own, and you will never have to worry about someone else copying you (unless your friends just want to be a jerk)!

The game's anime art style is great, the music is great, the script is great, the story is great, all of the characters are likeable, and the gameplay is solid. Custom Robo really is one of them "must have" titles if you have a Nintendo GameCube, and you are sure to regret it if you have never played it. With the only real downside being the completely pointless censorship in the English release (the main character's headband scarf was removed for some reason), Custom Robo is one of them rare games with no problems what so ever. It is a well polished game, and it deserves no less than a 10/10 rating!

If you haven't played it yet, drop what you are doing, track a copy down, and get to playing!

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