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North America

Custom Robo

by Steven Rodriguez - May 28, 2004, 1:26 pm EDT


Is that a robot in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

The original Custom Robo was on the import list of many N64 gamers. The idea of being able to control little machines capable of big destruction was pretty cool. Now, Noise and Nintendo have brought the GameCube version of the game over to America. Although it doesn't look or sound all that great, the awesome gameplay and the long single player mode make for a really good experience overall.

The idea of Custom Robo is that you control a miniature robot, outfitted with guns, bombs, and other weapons. If you can defeat the other guy, you win. If he defeats you, you lose. Pretty simple, right? Well, there are a variety of gameplay modes for you to see why it's not so simple. The vast majority of the game is spent in story mode, but you also have arcade modes that pit you against others in every combination possible: 1 on 1, 1 on 2, 2 on 1, 2 on 2, and every robo for itself. There's also a tag battle mode so two people can use two robos each. You'll come across all of these gameplay modes in the single-player story mode, but other than the single battle, most of these are constrained to the multiplayer modes.

The game's story mode is actually split up into two parts. The first half has you walking around a world map, going from place to place as member of the Steel Hearts, a bounty hunter group. The story itself is sort of pointless, as its only purpose is to get you into a series of robo battles and offer you battle tips. As you beat the battles, you start accumulating parts to further customize your robo. After you beat the first half of the story, you'll be able to start the second story, which uses the end of the first to set up a series of tournaments. The first story's battles are a good challenge as you get toward the end, but in the tournaments in the second battle, you will find that the game's difficulty ramps up considerably. In order to get good scores in the tournaments, you need to be very good at using the abilities that your customized robo has.

The general strategy of the game is to use your bombs and pods to trap opponents, then come in with your gun and take them down. If you just stand in the middle of the arena and wildly shoot at people, the gun's delay will make you a sitting duck. Likewise, if you just charge in without covering yourself with pods or bombs, you'll be cut down in no time. It's as much a strategy game as it is an action title, so you'll have to think about the best plan of attack given your choice of robo and weapons.

The emphasis on strategy is more important in that different battle arenas also require different tactics. Some are wide open, some provide lots of cover, some of them change between the two. How battles start also require some thinking: You start in little cannons that you can point in any direction, and when the game starts, your robo cube gets shot to where you pointed. When the number on your cube counts to zero, your robo pops out for battle. Depending on what number you start with, what arena you are in, and how quickly you think you can get your cube to open first, the start of a match is just as important any other part of it.

Before every battle, you'll have the opportunity to outfit your robo with weapons you've obtained up to that point. Body types include fast runners, high jumpers, giants, and hovering types, just to name a few. Each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses on the ground and in the air, like how easily it can be knocked down, etc. The movements of a given body type can be augmented by legs, which help the robo move around the battlefield. Leg types include models that make you run faster on the ground, jump higher into the air, and dash faster. Using the right body and leg combination is only half of the total package, though.

The other important decision to make is the choice of weaponry when going into a battle. Your main weapon type is the gun. You'll start off with a basic gun at the beginning of the game, but as you collect more and more of them, you'll start to see just how crazy and exotic they can get. Some of the guns include the familiar gatling gun, shotgun, and sniper gun. Some of the weird ones include a hornet gun, which shoots out five hornets that home into the target; pulse guns, which shoot with a bend in their firing pattern; and the dragon gun, which lets out a giant dragon that chases after its target. Since almost all guns leave your vulnerable after you shoot them, you'll have to set up a shot with bombs and pods.

Bombs and pods are explosive weapons. Bombs are what they sound like. Pods are modules that fire out from your robo. Some hover in the air, some go toward a target, some stay in place. Both of these weapon types offer some insane customization options. Many of the bomb and pod types are the same, except for how they explode. One might blow your opponent straight up into the air, while the same bomb of a different type will blow them sideways or backwards. Others can freeze them in place or knock them down immediately. Surrounding the other robo with bombs and pods is key to using your primary weapon to put the hurt on.

The most mind-boggling thing about the customizing though, is that if you take into consideration the 30+ body styles, 50+ guns, 30+ bomb types, 30+ pod types, and 15+ leg types that you'll eventually come across, you'll be able to construct 20 million different and unique robos. This alone will have you tinkering around for a very long time, until you find the set (or sets) that are right for you. Of course, most of the time spent playing the game will have you collecting all those parts in the story mode, then trying to beat the tournaments later on in the game. It will take a very long time to beat Custom Robo, simply because there is so much stuff to find.

This may seem like a rather lengthy explanation of how Custom Robo works, but it's really the only thing strength the game has. The graphics aren't too terribly special at all. The robos themselves are somewhat detailed, but overall the game has the feel of a nice-looking N64 game. Game sounds aren't all that great either. During the story mode, characters talk with an annoying chatter that becomes painful to the ears quickly. Music is forgettable and sound effects are barely passable. It just doesn't sound like two robots are dueling it out to the death.

Even though two of the game's major factors, the graphics and sound, aren't the greatest, the insane amount of customization for the robos and the highly strategical battle play make this a very good game overall. There are some points in the game that can get extremely difficult and frustrating, but all it takes is for you to find out the right robo customization against the tough opponent, and you'll be able to move on. Playing with up to four players makes for a crazy robo-battle party, too. The total package that Custom Robo brings to the GameCube is a unique experience, and if you're up for a challenge, don't hesitate to give this one a shot.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6 5 8.5 8.5 8 8

It looks like an N64 game fixed up for the GameCube. While the robos look very detailed when viewed from up close, everything else in the game has a very simple look to it. The explosion effects are highly visible, but otherwise unspectacular. The game's looks outside of the battles are forgettable. Really, the only great looking part of the game is the intro, something you'll probably never see unless you stare at the title screen for a few moments. If only the rest of the game looked as good...


The only useful purpose the sound serves is to help you hear when a gun is being fired, when a bomb goes off, or when a pod is ejected. Other than the information you can get from hearing what goes on in a battle, everything else is forgettable. Characters speaking to each other in the unskippable story mode conversations is basically like hearing "blah blah blah" every single time they open their yappers. You can easily stop the talking portion of the sequences, though. Music is appropriate, yet nothing special.


Tight. It's impressive that with all the different body types and legs, things control exactly like they're supposed to. If you have a speedster on the ground and have ground legs, the robo turns exactly the way you want it to. The robos that jump and dash in the air do so in exactly the way you want them to as well. It's really simple to boot, using just the stick and four buttons to control all the major action.


If it weren't for the campy story and minor annoyances outside of battles (like needing to go to a parts generator every time you get a new part), playing the game would be even better. Inside the battlefield, you really need to use your head. How you attack your opponents will totally depend on your choice of robo and weapon combinations, each requiring a different strategy. In all cases, you can't just run up to the other guy and shoot him to death, instead needing to use bombs and pods to setup attacks. It's even more nerve-racking when you throw in a few friends. It's a unique kind of game experience, and it's a really good one. Just be prepared for a serious difficulty hike as you get deeper in the game.


If you add up all the different body styles, gun types, bomb types, bomb types and legs to collect in the game, the number approaches 200. This makes for well over 20 million robo combinations, and that alone will take you a while to find the one that's right for you. However, first you're going to need to collect all of the parts, and it doesn't happen in any pattern, you just get them one at a time as you go. It's going to take you a very long time to beat both parts of the game's story mode (if you can tolerate the lameness), and it'll take you a longer time to get every single part.


A game that plays as well as Custom Robo really doesn't need to look or sound great for the whole package to work well. Yes, it would have been nice if it had things like particle effects or big booms that would shake the room, but you'll be so engaged with the game that you really won't notice. The game is just as much strategy as it is brute force, and the two are balanced very well. Even though the story mode is laughable and somewhat annoying, there are more than enough battles for you to forget about any presentation problems. Just when you think you've made the perfect robo, you'll come across a new part that will make it even better. The customization aspect of the game makes it really cool, especially when 4 people think they've got the best robo and battle it out. Bottom line, if you can overlook the graphics and sounds and see what the game is all about, you'll fall in love with it.


  • Action/strategy hybrid gameplay
  • Game takes a long time to fully complete
  • Over 20,000,000 robo combinations
  • Average graphics and poor sound
  • Some battles can be extremely difficult (and can't be avoided)
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Action
Developer NOISE
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Custom Robo
Release May 10, 2004
jpn: Custom Robo Battle Revolution
Release Mar 04, 2004

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