Those who had the privilege of importing the Japanese only title Custom Robo
for the Nintendo 64 have a good grasp of what Custom Robo: Battle Evolution
has in store for you -- plenty of robotic battling mayhem and customization. For those that have no insight into the franchise -- it was full of robotic battling mayhem and customization. Borrowing from the Pokemon
led you through a simple story that rewarded you with new custom parts for your mech. The other side of the equation was the two-player battle mode that allowed you and a friend to duke it out Smash Bros.
-style in your customized mechs. Not a revolution in game design, but the style was unique enough that it captured the hearts of many.
In fact, most US gamers that followed the import coverage felt that they were missing out. So, in an attempt to make amends, Nintendo is releasing the newest iteration, Battle Revolution in the States. While it incorporates the same play mechanics as the original, Custom Robo GCN has grown up a bit since the Nintendo 64 days. But, does it actually succeed in revolutionizing -- anything? Read on robo commander.
- Over 30 different body types and hundreds of parts for you to collect
- Multiplayer options range from one-on-one and two-on-two to four player free for all.
- Single player story mode lets you unlock new parts and learn strategies.
- Requires 15 blocks of memory
Now that it's on GameCube, Custom Robo has altered its "kids competing in tournaments" theme to an older audience friendly "teenagers defeating evil syndicates bent on world domination." Along with older main characters in the "RPG" story mode, there are more weapons and robo bodies to choose from, and a wide array of multiplayer modes (in terms of configuration, not game types).
The story mode, while billed as an RPG, is actually more of a tutorial for first time players. In it, you play as a teenage lad who is trying to fulfill his lost father's wish of becoming a custom-robo commander. In an attempt to get his foot in the door, he falls in with a group of bounty hunters, the Steal Hearts, and soon uncovers a plot by the evil Z Syndicate to control the ultimate robo, and in turn control the world. Meanwhile, there's an unpiloted robot running loose in the city that needs to be stopped -- which is somehow connected to an ancient catastrophe. Only you and the Steel Hearts will be able to uncover this tangled plot.
Before you get carried away picturing yourself piloting hulking Gundam mechs, there are a few important things to clear up about custom-robos. First -- they are very small. They fit inside a metal cube similar to a Pokeball where they reside until you're ready to "dive" into a holosseum. These holographic realms are where all your battling takes place. The odd thing about all this is that these robots that can only work inside these holographic realms have somehow become a criminal's greatest weapon. Police forces and bounty hunters alike have to challenge criminals to custom-robo battles in order to apprehend them (via a KO). This begs the question...why not arrest the perpetrators while they're in battle or shoot them with tranquilizers while they wait for you to fight them? Apparently in the future criminal and law enforcer alike believe in fair fights. The actual playing of the story mode is strikingly unremarkable. Neither the characters nor the story are very interesting, so you'll sit through minutes worth of text to fight a battle only to sit through more text before your next adventure. You are given the freedom to roam about the map once your day's work is done, but you won't find anything to do other than talk to a few NPCs. The formula is rather tiresome, especially due to several instances where the game won't let you progress unless you talk to some ten NPCs to learn strategy tips or other bits of info about robos or the Z Syndicate. To make matters worse, all the battles (even with customization and different enemies and maps) feel remarkably similar. The play mechanics will seem familar to those who played the N64 version -- quick and arcade-like, in other words. But for whatever reasons the mechs never feel as responsive as they did in the original game and as a result the fights feel occasionally sluggish.
The challenge level is low. In the off chance that you do lose a bout, your game will restart right at the same battle -- giving you the chance to try again without penalty. Those looking for a true robo RPG will have to look elsewhere -- the only reason to even complete the story mode is to unlock other modes. and earn more parts for your custom-robos.
Robo parts are a rather diverse lot. You can alter anything from the body (determines speed to health ratio), gun, and bombs, to the pod (trap weapons) and legs (affects jump and speed). There are literally a couple hundred different parts to swap out (several are similar to those found in the original) and 30 different bodies to choose from. Guns range from gattling, three way (fires three streams of bullets), vertical (can track over walls), to a flame thrower. Bomb varieties can be anything from a simple mortar to homing missiles that purposely land on either side of your enemy (in case he attempts to dodge). Traps usually consist of explosive devices that might track you, flank you around objects, or lie in wait (similar to proximity mines). Finally, legs off various skill tradeoffs, like higher jumps in exchange for slower ground movement or quicker turning.
There's a lot to play around with and there's always a feeling of accomplishment when you finally unlock a weapon that makes your robo a little bit better. But, for all the customization of robos, battles feel surprisingly generic. You'd think that with over two hundred parts to swap in and out of your latest design, you'd have to incorporate different strategies -- at least against varying enemy types. While the story mode coaches you through the best tactics for each opponent, there never seems to be a drastic difference. Some weapons are certainly more effective than others and will require slightly different deployment or dodging methods, but on the whole you'll spend your time running and gunning. This method is the most effective due to the design of the battle system. Every time a robo jumps (with or without an air dash), he has to wait a few seconds before he can move again. The same happens when you shoot (forcing you to run because it allows you to slide behind cover) or perform a ground dash in an attempt to knock over your opponent.
Although battles take place inside holosseums, they don't always have to look like wire frame outlines so frequently seen in screenshots. Themes include arctic, volcano, park, garden, industrial, toy, and even ramen bowl. Arenas are usually square and provide walls to use as cover as well as environmental hazards like fire pits, or conveyers. However, the different stages feel more like skins. There might be different obstacles but they don't require you to change your tactics -- the only time you're really hindered is in the ice stages because your robo's movements aren't as precise. If you're ready for a slightly harder single player challenge than the story mode, there's arcade and Grand Battle story mode. Grand Battle is a series of tournaments set up for you to compete in with tougher opponents and more parts to unlock. The big difference is that you won't have to suffer through mountains of text and instead can get straight to the point -- fighting with the city's residents. Arcade mode is similar to any arcade fighting mode. Your goal is to beat eight levels without meeting the big trash heap in the sky. This mode allows you to select from various setups like tag team or battle royale. These modes do make things a bit more interested, especially because it cuts out the foreplay and gets right to business.
As with most games of this ilk (Gotcha Force), Custom Robo is meant to be enjoyed in multiplayer. Here's where you put all of your collected parts to the test as you battle an unpredictable opponent. With several battle options, like tag team, one vs. one, two vs. two, one vs. two, and three or four player free for alls -- and the ability to fill spots with any combination of CPU or human players, Custom Robo is set up for multiplayer success. However, the human element doesn't dramatically improve battles. It hasn't captured the same charm as Super Smash Bros. Melee -- or, for that matter, the quicker-moving N64 version.
The easiest way to describe Battle Revolution is that it's a more detailed version of Pokemon Colosseum. Character models look like mature versions of Pokemon designs (although all of Custom Robo's leads do have a bizarre fashion sense). Unfortunately, the oddly dressed lead characters seem to be as creative as the design team could get because unimportant characters are cloned. In one of the many requisite conversations, a scientist (that looks like 10 other scientists around her) commented, "I bet you think that all scientists look alike, huh."
The individual designs for parts and robos also exhibit some surprising detail, which counteracts the occasionally jarring color schemes. However, most of the robos' detailing is lost once you enter the battle arena simply because of the camera's height (which does allow you to see the entire playing field at once). Holosseum arenas use minimal amounts of detail. The use of neon color palettes doesn't outweigh the bland textures. On a brighter note, the particle effects system is robust and impressive, as are the lighting effects, and the framerate is always tip-top. Meanwhile all of the mayhem can be viewed in progressive scan glory.
Sound If you jive to the musical stylings of the eighties, you're in luck. Custom Robo offers a wide array of cheesy riffs and instrumentals for you to battle to. The score isn't unpleasant (and it matches costume choices), but it doesn't pump you up for battle. Besides for a few key tracks, like the over world anthem or the opening theme, the music is completely forgettable.
In Nintendo fashion, Custom Robo contains no voice acting. Instead, there are the requisite beeps to signify when a character is talking. For Battle Revolution, these sounds have been robotized so that each character has its own beep pitch. Usually this would make for a distinctly poor aural experience, but when combined with "How much lies do you have to tell?" the beeps actually improve the dialogue.
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