Review: Custom Robo (Nintendo Gamecube)

Custom Robo (GCN)
Genre: Action
Platform: Gamecube
Rating: Teen
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo

Recently Custom Robo was released on the Gamecube and was the recipient of a decent campaign from Nintendo to promote it. Still, it just hasn’t really caught on with the masses. After renting this twice, and putting in some hardcore hours, I can see why there is a lukewarm response to Custom Robo. The concept is interesting, and the potential this game had is really incredible. But along the way it suffered from little things that just chip away at its overall feel. Don’t get me wrong, at times I really did enjoy Custom Robo. But other times it really was hard to just stop myself from just turning the power off, for some reason or another. Anyways let’s get right down to this, as I review Custom Robo.

1. Story:

Things get off to a bad start right away with Custom Robo. The story mode to this game is so unbelievably grating, it has to be played to truly understand what I mean. You play our Hero, who doesn’t have an official name, so you can name him whatever you want. So anyways, the game starts and immediately we’re treated to a black screen and some dialogue about a watch a father is giving a son, and then good ole pops takes off for good. The son, if you haven’t guessed, is our hero. Once that is over we flash forward to the future where pops is dead, and you want to fulfill his dream he had for you: Become a Custom Robo commander. From there you join the Steel Hearts, a bounty hunting crew that let’s you join up. Then you go from place to place, battling with your custom robo, and along the way it turns into a story where you must save humanity, and all that jazz. Simply put Custom Robo’s story mode is as cookie cutter as it gets. You see every plot twist and turn coming a mile a way. It’s insulting really, because it’s painfully obvious how little thought went into the plot for Custom Robo. However, it doesn’t end there. Custom Robo’s cast of characters are a pathetic bunch, and the dialogue they get is really as bad as humanly possible.

You have Harry, your Custom Robo bounty hunter buddy who serves as your tutorial throughout the game. Harry likes women. That is his whole gimmick. He hits on women, get it?!?! HA! Don’t sit around expecting Harry to ever show another side to him, because all he will do is make the same comments about whatever woman who happens to be there at the time. Then we have your advisor, your confidante, your…land lady?!? Yes, in Custom Robo the rock in your life, the source of your advice and care, is your land lady. And to top it off she has a hearing impairment. She thinks Steel Hearts is really Stale Horse! Get it?!?! That’s comedic gold people, COMEDIC F’N GOLD!

After thirty minutes I wanted to strangle the lot of them. And it doesn’t get any better from there. Your boss plays the role of the grumpy, and foul mouthed leader, who does nothing except state the obvious. And it goes on and on and on. There is not one character in this game that is worth anything. So suffice to say the story is; by far, the biggest detractor to this game. And the kicker is that if you want to unlock some of the cooler crap in this game for battle mode, and for story mode, you have to play through it at least once. It’s like forced torture. The worst part? After you beat it once you unlock another tournament style story mode. The plot stays the same: predictable. And the characters get worse if that is even possible.

Story Rating: 1/10

2. Graphics

Luckily, things brighten up here. Custom Robo looks very much like Pokemon Colosseum in terms of character design and backgrounds. Everything is vibrant, lush, and detailed, which is what I would expect from a game that got some decent hype from Nintendo. When a character speaks the dialogue box also has an anime-esque picture to go with it, which is a nice little touch as well. Your custom robo also has some very nice graphical work to go with it. As you customize your robo it will change with the new parts you take from or give it, and it really adds to the detailing of the game, and gives it a huge plus in the little things department. If graphics were the only factor in this game it wouldn’t do that badly. I do have to voice a complaint here though, which needs a bit of an explanation.

Custom Robo battling takes play in a Holosseum. What is a Holosseum you ask? It’s what you would think: a holographic, or virtual battlefield. The robo’s exist only in these battlegrounds, and you control them mentally as the robo cube and you are linked. These battlefields are very unimpressive. It’s not that their bad, or poorly done. They are simply underwhelming, and it’s obvious that there could have been improvements here. Battling is the best thing about Custom Robo, and it is the cause of whatever fun there is to be had. I didn’t think it would be too much to ask for the battlefields to mirror the excellent world graphics. Apparently, though, that is asking a wee bit too much. Still, overall, the graphics hold up, and it showcases what the Cube can do.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

3. Sound:

The sound is truly as average as it gets. I wasn’t expecting all that much out of Custom Robo musically from the get go, and as I expected the games themes and sounds are thoroughly mediocre from beginning to end. You will find yourself not even noticing the sound a lot, as its blandness leads to you subconsciously tuning it out as you battle and listen to your oh-so-witty band of friends and foes. However, given what I have written so far, this really fits the trend of Custom Robo. The music, like nearly everything else, is simply average. However, you, once again, can’t help but feel that more could have been done and put into this to improve Custom Robo. I suppose though, average sound is better than god awful sound, so I’ll take what I can get.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Controls:

I have to admit, Custom Robo hits a home run here. The controls are the best I have ever seen for the Cube. Their easy to learn, and very, very tight in terms of response and maneuverability. When you’re on the battlefield the control scheme is so flawlessly designed that you will really not even be thinking about what you’re doing. Your mind and your hands are so in sync with one another that battling is seamless and second nature after only a few hours of play. I really enjoyed the controls because despite the poor story, what kept me coming back was the battling, because everything there in terms of the actual fighting was just so perfect. And when you add in the nearly unlimited customization you can do with your robo, you’ll be spending a lot of time using these flawless controls to experiment with different setups and schemes. I’ll give credit where credit is due: there is not a better control scheme out there for any other game on the Cube, or for any other system in my humble opinion. So if you are giving this game a rent, take the time to sit back and enjoy this aspect of it. Rarely, if ever, are controls done this damn well.

Controls Rating: 9/10

5. Balance

This game will rarely present you with a noteworthy challenge of any kind. Even the toughest of the storyline battles can be figured out fairly quickly, and with the right equipment scheme. The saving grace here though is that only applies to the abysmal story mode. It’s kind of like you have to dig and dig until you get to the good stuff. What good stuff? Two words: battle mode. If you can get a crew of your friends together, be prepared for some very awesome multi-player mech-robo fun. It’s addictive, and it’ll turn into one of those gaming sessions where you look at the clock and wonder when the hell it got that damn late. However, while that is fun, and a definite plus for the game I’m sure we can all see the obvious snag. If none of your friends are into a game like this, or if you just don’t have any gaming friends then you’re out of luck, as one player story and battle modes will get very tiresome, very fast. So if you’re having some friends over for a gaming party or something, this title could eat up some time. But if that’s not you, then do yourself a favor and look somewhere else for your gaming fun.

Balance Rating: 6/10

6. Replayability

This must be a joke, right? Replay the story mode? Maybe under torture. And that’s a pretty big maybe. The only way you’ll keep coming back to Custom Robo is if you are a huge fan of the battle mode. The level of customization, and the multi-player options, lend itself to a high replay value for the battle mode. But it’s simply not enough to balance out all the horrible gaming that comes with the story mode. Once you beat the first story mode, and play through the tournament like second, you won’t be drawn back into it. There are no driving factors to get you to come back, no secret characters, no new enemies, in other words: no new nothing that would make you play it again.

Replayability Rating: 2/10

7. Originality

I’ll give them this much: On paper, Custom Robo really is an original idea. Sure mech games are out there, but the whole holographic virtual battling system is something you don’t see everyday. The customization is a nice touch as well, as few mech games out there can provide you with the high level of individuality that Custom Robo gives you in terms of designing your mech from the parts you have. So, yeah, there is some originality to be had, but once again the story mode rears its ugly head and takes it down. It’s like the developers took a bunch of plot lines from other games, put them in a blender, and used the end product. The results, as I’ve already detailed, are downright awful. I’m sure you’ve tired of my analogies by now, but this story is like a color by numbers, done by a 7 year old who just can’t stay inside the damn lines. Still, as I mentioned, there is original content here. It’s just being choked by the rest of the game.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Appeal

I’m definitely beating a dead horse at this point, but the appeal of this game is virtually non-existent unless you have your fellow gamers to partake in the multi-player fun. Once you play it for a few hours, it just wears thin, and eats your patience away until all that’s left is one angry gamer who was expecting a hell of a lot more. It’s a shame, because like I said, this game could have been SO much better. Maybe it was a rush job, or maybe they were underfunded. I really have no idea, but in the end I still don’t see an excuse for it. Not in this day and age. This is the kind of game that could have been huge, and instead it’ll fade into obscurity.

Appeal Rating: 3/10

9. Addictiveness

I used the word addictive exactly once before this, and it was in relation to the multi-player mode. Let me be clear when I say that is the only way this game is in any way addictive. Other then that this game is like the anti-drug for gamers. It’s like the patch, or the gum, or whatever else smokers use. Yes, it can be that damn bad. Once again, stay away if you value your hard earned money. Renting it may even be a stretch, because when it was all said and done, I felt used after Blockbuster got my twelve bucks for two rentals. When a game makes me feel like it was a waste to rent it I really don’t know what else too say.

Addictiveness Rating: 3/10

10. Miscellaneous

What else is there to say? This game doesn’t hold up well at all, and anyone who enjoys this game to a high degree may have little bit of a sadist inside of them. That’s ok, though, it doesn’t make you a bad person per se. It just makes you gaming challenged, and when it comes right down to it we all have our little quirks in gaming tastes (Jet Force Gemini! Woohoo!). But, still, do yourself a favor. Run away, and never look back. Custom Robo may look alluring, but looks are as deceiving as they ever were.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

Story Rating: 1/10
Graphics Rating: 6/10
Sound Rating: 5/10
Controls Rating: 9/10
Balance Rating: 6/10
Replayability Rating: 2/10
Originality Rating: 5/10
Appeal Rating: 3/10
Addictiveness Rating: 3/10
Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

Overall Score: 4.0