|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Noise||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 19, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
If you're like me, and there's many reasons to be thankful you're not, then you probably love nothing more that a good robot battle. Until I played Chibi Robo, I was under the impression that the only good robot-fighting games involved giant, 40-story mechs. But as proved by Chibi Robo and Custom Robo Arena, good things do come in small packages. Custom Robo Arena is an entirely different beast than Chibi.
This is an action-packed fighting game that features incredibly powerful robots, albeit of very slight proportions. But all things being relative, these suckers really pack a wallop. They are armed to the teeth and may as well be 40-feet tall, since the fighting is strictly one-on-one. It's only the backgrounds that remind us of the small stature of these bots.
Custom Robo Arena features fully customized robots, fighting to the finish in Holosseums, which are holographic arenas. These arenas are small, almost claustrophobic, but they serve to maximize the intensity of the battle while making you focus on your shooting, dodging and strategic abilities. There are more than 100 different parts that you can customize your robot with. You can add legs, armor, guns, bombs, pods, rockets, and a ton of other extras. There is virtually no limit to the various configurations that you can create. Up to four variations can be stored and accessed to give you a lot of fighting flexibility. The gameplay doesn't vary from the battling scenario, but it's so easy and fun to play that you won't want to have to deal with anything else, like a Franchise mode. That's the mark of a good game.
The only real criticism I have with the gameplay is that it can be a little too easy, at least in the single-player mode. Once you get the strategy down in terms of what weapons to use, and in what order, things just fall into place. Ammo is unlimited, although you have to reload after each volley of projectiles. Each robot can have up to three weapons at a time. They typically consist of various guns, such as machine guns, and explosives, such as bombs and missiles. When the single-player mode gets to be a little too easy, that's when the multiplayer component kicks this game into high gear.
A shallow, but humorous, storyline attempts to motivate you through the entire single-player mode. It centers on a young boy that is given his first robo as a gift, and entertains the notion of becoming the best robo commander that ever lived. In this world, normal, everyday people own robos. It's a way of life for everyone. These devices are used as avatars, and put into battle for sport or to settle serious disagreements. Starting at the bottom, you will work your way up through various tournaments as you earn money for more parts and rise up through the ranks. The story has some RPG-like elements to it, but it won't bog you down with superlative details and incongruent tangents. All you have to do is show up at the breakfast and dinner table with your folks and talk about your day. It's more than a bit sucky, but it's easier to do this virtually than it is in real life.
Robo parts can be acquired as gifts, unlocked, or purchased with money that you earn for taking down your opponent. Each player begins with a certain amount of hit points, and the first one to be depleted loses. Fortunately, you can replay matches until you win them. Barring that, you can even have your opponent's hit points reduced at the outset of the game to give you a superior advantage. Interestingly, the weapons that you get near the start of the game are just as powerful as the ones that you can acquire later in the game. Although it does tend to take some of the challenge out of the game, it's not something that the average gamer will complain about.
Online is an entirely different story, both figuratively and literally. The challenge has changed. You're not fighting programmed A.I., you're fighting against other human avatar controllers. The challenge is as deep as your opponent is skilled. There are three different ways to access the multiplayer modes: game share, ad hoc, and online via the Wi Fi service. The game share only requires one copy of the game, but the options are severely reduced, including the number of customizable parts that are available. The online mode is the way to go. You can play against random opponents or friends by using a friend code. New opponents can be added to your rival list for grudge matches. All online matches last three minutes each and are a best-of-three series. Voice chat is available for you and your buddies. All online games proved to be extremely solid. Commands are tight and responsive. No delays or slowdown.
This is a colorful, cartoon world. The environments are 3D, and while not very well detailed, it's easy enough to make out objects and paths. Even though the sprites lose some of their detail during the matches, the environment is always easy to see and navigate. Thanks to the wide camera angle you won't get hung up on the scenery, but it does tend to degenerate the overall appearance of the game. Thankfully there is plenty of action and explosions that keep the eye candy popping. The techno tunes are delightfully frenzied and instill a sense of playful, arcade-style urgency. The controls are very easy to use and make no real special effort to exploit the DS' capabilities. It really doesn't need to, and you won't miss it.
There are lots of good reasons to own Custom Robo Arena, such as the various single and multiplayer modes, the customization features, fast-paced action, and the technically solid gameplay. But the main reason is that this is a game about fighting robots. Nuff said?
CCC Senior Writer