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Custom Robo Developed by: Nintendo Published by: Nintendo ESRB Rating: T for fantasy violence and comic mischief For: Nintendo GameCube

Custom Robo is a popular Nintendo-developed series that had its genesis on the Nintendo 64. Now Nintendo has brought this series to the GameCube. The game is more or less an arena-style action game with some role-playing elements thrown in. The end result is a game that is short, repetitive, and at times mind-numbing. But it also has its moments of fun, and is worth the price of a rental if you happen to spot it.

Game play:

The game play centers around arena-style action involving miniature robots fighting it out with a variety of weapons and body styles. As the title suggests, the heart of the game is your ability to customize the robo you take into battle. Weapons and equipment are quite varied, each with their assortment of pros and cons. Unfortunately, some of the equipment is less practical than others, and a lot of it will go unused simply because it isn?t as good as what you already have. The battles can actually be quite challenging at times, and there is some fun to be had in the various multiplayer modes. The game offers up single- and multi-player modes. The latter offers up a few nice options, including tag-team matches and 2-on-2 matches, but nothing particularly novel. The single player mode, meanwhile, doesn?t play out as well as it probably could have. The single-player experience is divided up into two parts, with the second part unlocked after beating the first. There is a certain charm to Part One, as it puts you in a world of a young man trying to earn a living as a bounty hunter in an increasingly troubled society. The game takes you through several ?days? in the man?s life, serving up new scenarios and plotlines each day. Few RPG?s seem to capture the passage of time well, but this one does. As a nice touch, characters you interact with will often make reference to what happened the day before, and in some cases will even discuss upcoming events. But the story in Part One also has its share of faults. For one, it weighs in at a light six to eight hours of linear gameplay. The game sometimes tries to give the illusion of nonlinearity in that it allows you to explore the city after each mission, but there appears to be no noticeable advantage to doing so other than revealing minor plot points that don?t matter that much. In fact, the game offers no incentive at all against simply fighting your battles and going straight on to the next day. It?s too bad, because including hidden items or battles would have been a great bonus. There are also issues in Part One with plot execution. There are certain key plot points that should have been revealed at the beginning of the game, but the game opts not to reveal them until right before some of the game?s major twists. Needless to say, it severely diminished the impact of the game?s twists. In truth, the premise of the game is actually pretty interesting, but it just isn?t executed well. And don?t expect the dialogue to pick up the slack, either. The localization is pretty silly and will remind some gamers of poorly-translated afternoon anime. Nintendo would have done better to have employed Namco, who showed how localization should be done with their own outstanding anime production, Tales of Symphonia. Part Two of the story is actually less a story than it is a succession of tournaments that you compete in with your custom robo. Although the opportunity for parts acquisition is considerably greater in this part, the plot conflicts that drove the first part of the story are gone, and in a sense Part Two feels anticlimactic and tacked on. And since you will have already gone through plenty of tournament action in Part One, there is little novelty to be had in the second half of the game.

Graphics:

From a production standpoint, Custom Robo is decent. The battle graphics are pretty good, with nicely detailed, and often stylish, robos, although its often hard to enjoy them because the perspective is from so far away. (Beating the first part of the single-player game unlocks a first-person mode that allows you to see details a little better.) The game runs at a brisk framerate with no slowdowns even with four robos running around firing like mad. The battle arenas themselves are mostly nondescript holographic rooms with a few walls, but there are some exceptions with built-in traps or unusual obstacles. Out-of-combat graphics are acceptably good, with some decent character models and settings, but nothing revolutionary. The game, unfortunately, is short enough that there just isn?t much variety in where you can go.

Sound:

First off, there is no voicework in the game. None. Granted, the aforementioned dialogue isn?t all that great anyway, but it is a glaring omission nevertheless. The musical soundtrack of the game is entirely of the techno-pop vein, and it is a hit-or-miss affair. Some of the tunes are actually really catchy, while others are sort of annoying. The battle music is usually buried under the cacophony of combat sounds, although a couple of the tracks were urgent enough to stand out. The sound effects, in turn, are decent in a sort of standard, heard-it-before kind of way.

Control:

The controls handle okay in battle, although there are a couple of gameplay conventions in Custom Robo that make moving around a little challenging at times. For one, your robo cannot move while firing its main weapons, although if a robo was running before firing, momentum will still carry the robo a little ways. Secondly, the robos often are a little sluggish to respond to turns and jumps. While this may be by design, it takes a little getting used to and can be a bit frustrating at the start. Overall, though, the controls are reliable enough and get more comfortable as the game goes along. Plus, there is a nifty in-game practice mode ? which can even be accessed before going into real battles ? that allows you to get more accustomed to the controls and the different behaviors of different weapons.

Appropriateness:

Custom Robo is rated T for fantasy and comic mischief. Most of the latter revolves around your partner Harry, who seems bent on getting every woman?s phone number in town. Being that the game is aimed for a younger audience, however, the dialogue keeps a wide berth from anything that is too suggestive, and for that the game should be lauded. Also, a couple of the women of the game are a little underdressed, but none of it is very serious (or particularly attractive, for that matter). When it?s all said and done, Custom Robo plays out more or less like a PG movie, and is safe even for younger kids.

Closing Comments:

Custom Robo certainly has a lot of faults, but it isn?t a half-bad game when you take it simply for what it is? namely, a light action/role-playing game designed around the simple premise of robot customization. It can be a decent amount of fun, especially with all the parts available in the game. Now Custom Robo probably won?t be confused with a serious role-playing effort, but it has a few moments of interesting gameplay, and there is a decent fun factor to the combat system. I can?t really recommend buying this game, but if you see it on the rental shelf, consider throwing out a few bucks to take it home for a weekend. It is good enough to warrant that.

Final Ratings:
Gameplay: 10/20 Graphics: 6/10 Sound: 7/10 Control: 3/5 Stability: 5/5 TOTAL: 31/50
Violence: 7.5/10 Language: 10/10 Sexuality: 8.5/10 Occult Themes: 10/10 Moral/Ethical Issues: 10/10 TOTAL: 46/50

Overall Score: 77%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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