Oh come on, protagonist. Don’t look so ticked off. You are in a great game.
Custom Robo Arena is the continuation of the series Nintendo localized with the GameCube game Custom Robo. The concept is simple enough. These tiny robots called “Robos" fight each other with, at least the game says, real weapons. And that’s the rub, really. I have both the GC and DS versions, and the games are quite similar, although the DS game lacks analog control, which is not a big issue to me really. So uhh… that’s it folks. Custom Robo Arena = Custom Robo on the GC, in gameplay and execution. If you enjoyed Custom Robo, which I did, and are ready for more options, parts, robos, and online play, then dive in. You won’t regret it.
The rest of this review will be the things of interest I found while playing the game. Firstly, the main character is chronically pissed-off. His sprite on the world map shows a constant downturn in his eyebrows. He shouldn’t be like this. In fact, his art in the instruction manual seems to indicate a gentle, mild-mannered boy, maybe even a Mama’s boy (more on that later.) So why is he peeved to be here? He gets to walk around like a King because of his abilities in Custom Robo-ing, he meets new and saucy characters that become his friends, and to top it all off, he isn’t stuck in some terrible game. It must be contractual issues. Maybe he isn’t paid enough… but that can’t be it. The earnings from his Robo battles are quite lucrative. But wait!
I believe I may have found a solution. He might be a little angry that his art actually did not make it into the game itself. The game’s graphics show their diploid nature here. The fights in Custom Robo look great, even on par with the GC version if zoomed out enough, but the world map and the people in it look quite plain. I have seen Flash games with better graphics. This trade-off is fine however, for the main characters have goodly detailed art that pops up when they are spoken to or fought. Indeed, that's true except for the player character. Since talking to himself would be impossible to do in the third person, he is stuck with only his overworld sprite for the entire game. I think that would make me a little miffed, to say the least, but not to his extreme. Chill out, Player Character.
Another thing of interest is the unusual family dynamic in the Geary household (that’s you, by the way.) I have been interested in how families are portrayed in videogames ever since the “Robot Wife/Genetic Clone" Duel Masters: Sempai Legends incident. Is there something as sinister present here? No, but something intriguing is. The father is a typical salaryman, a head researcher at NeoBrain, which researches these deadly Custom Robo things, and the mother is a typical housewife, dinner-on-the-table-when-you-get-home type. But Mr. AngryFace has an older sister, Tamara, who luckily escapes being named a “title" that “Mom" and “Dad" have to endure. Furthermore, she works with the father at the big corporation, and both have the title of “Doctor." Since Mr. Irritated is a freshman in high school, that would make older sister at the very least 7 years older than him, and that’s if she spent all of those years locked away in study and didn’t stop until she achieved her doctorate. Usually the male main character has a younger sister full of pep. Here he has an older sister who not only is way more educated, but also has made her way in the world, while Mr. Livid seems content to play with toy robots all day. Maybe Tamara takes after her father, whereas Mr. Incensed takes after his mother, as evidenced by the big poofy blazing red hair that he sports, which is thankfully genetically possible (Duel Masters bullet dodged, whew.) The mother obviously cornered the market on big poofy hair, even to the point where she has a big “hair tumor" on her right temple. It sometimes disturbs me.
I think this game is trying to make the player some kind of model-robot geek. Polishing your Robo is required in order to keep it clean and pristine for combat. If dirt gets on your Robo, which will happen from regular combat, it will not be as responsive. This is where the stylus use comes in. The stylus is also used to pose your Robo in unique ways, especially when positioned against a diorama. The dioramas in the game are great. Some are interesting, like the Steampunk one, and some are hilarious, like my personal favorite, Hungry Dino, which places your Robo on a jeep speeding through a jungle with a vicious T-Rex right behind him, chasing him down, hoping to feast on… metal. It doesn’t have to make sense, does it?
I did try the online play out and it seems fast and reliable. There is only one opponent to process, so it’s all simple. The strategies for victory are nearly endless, as you have a wealth of new parts to access and new robos to pilot. I was victorious over my opponent by zooming right up to him and blasting him with my Magnum, while he tried to hit me with his long-range Dragon Gun. It was fast and fun, and I really enjoyed myself. If I wasn’t so online-inclined, there are other multiplayer options, even a single-card download mode. Custom Robo is a worthwhile purchase if you want to get your robot-fighting groove on.
And the single-player game isn’t half bad either!