Custom Robo Arena
Thereís something wrong with the town that youíve just moved into. Your neighbors own android housekeepers. Your teachers donít lecture about literature, mathematics, history, or anything relevant to a high school curriculum. Instead, they randomly quiz you about the range of the latest semiautomatic or the name of the most effective explosives on the market. Your classmates have the same kind of enthusiasm; their study sessions involve watching robots blast each other into scrap metal. There are no grocery or clothing stores here, just a handful of shops that sell a bunch of firearms to children of all ages. But donít worry. This town isnít full of homicidal maniacs, but of Custom Robo fanatics.
Thatís right. Every person in town, from the bratty kindergartner next door to the local martial arts master/Kung Fu movie reject is obsessed with Nintendoís long-forsaken series. Your family isnít immune, either; both your father and older sister work relentlessly on developing technology, leaving your June Cleaver-esque mother to endure countless days of mindless domestic drudgery. Your new friends are even more cliche; your headstrong girlfriend is the embodiment of modern feminism, and your ineffectual male buddy is too wimpy to be anything more than a four-eyed sidekick. Youíll never get to see explore issues, though; the majority of the plot progression of Custom Robo Arena is comprised of repetitive scenes with nearly identical dialogue. Somewhere between the predictable plot twists and daily battles for glory, youíll change from mere student transferee to a Custom Robo champion.
“But donít worry. This town isnít full of homicidal maniacs, but of Custom Robo fanatics.”If you donít know what Custom Robo is, donít bother trying to digest all of the scientific jargon that the game tries to push on you. This game is about one thing: two heavily armed miniature robots shooting the Hell out of each other. After being flung into a holographic arena, you and your foe will unleash a flurry of bullets, homing missiles, and explosives to whittle down each otherís health points. Since you canít progress through the story if you lose, youíll have to become familiar with the terrain and altering your tactics based on your opponentís fighting style. After a few battles, youíll be ducking behind imaginary walls, air-dashing with ease, and sniping your enemies from afar. Once the battle is won, youíll garner some well-deserved experience points and prize money. Rinse and repeat several dozen times, and youíll be a Custom Robo ace soon enough.
That doesnít mean that you can just stick with a single fighting style, however. Unlike its predecessor on the Gamecube, Custom Robo Arena features plenty of well-designed opponents. Youíll face everything from trigger-happy midget machines to lumbering monkey mechas, so changing things up will be the key to your victory. The game grants you access to dozens of different robots and parts to adapt to a given situation. Does your foe like to get up close and personal? Equip the Flamethrower and roast his metal carcass. Need to keep that goon on his toes? Launch a few heat-seeking ballistics to turn him into charred scrap. With gigantic drills, blade launchers, spider bombs, laser shotguns, and a wide variety of mechas with different powers and abilities, youíll have plenty of customizations at your disposal.
“This game is about one thing: two heavily armed miniature robots shooting the Hell out of each other.”But if the numerous foes in the story mode arenít enough to satisfy your need for combat, then the gameís multiplayer will serve you well. Custom Robo Arena utilizes the DSís Wifi capabilities to provide some excellent dueling. Youíll be able to duke it out with registered friends, foes, and rivals, or simply take on anyone that happens to be online at the same time. Fighting other gamers is not only more interesting, but rewarding as well; youíll get to experience the same kind of combat as in the story, but with opponents that spend more time balancing out their robots and crafting unique tactics and strategies. The multiplayer isnít haunted by the lag that plagues so many other online DS games, either; youíll be able to blast, roast, and crush your foes with the same level of speed and accuracy as in the fast-paced combat of your single-player crusade. Needless to say, gamers looking for a competitive DS fighting game will be satisfied by what Custom Robo Arena brings to the table.
You donít have to spend all your time battling, though. If you feel like simply messing around with your weapon of minimal destruction, you can put it into different poses and even place it inside an animated diorama. Ever see a robot go surfing with a bunch of dolphins? How about sunbathing with a scantily clad bikini model? Didnít think so. Since no DS game would be complete without some kind of Touch Screen feature, Custom Robo Arena makes you polish your death-dealing machine after every few battles. Apparently, riddling foes with bullets makes your mecha dirty, thus detracting from its overall performance and eventually wearing it down. Wiping down every inch of a robot with a stylus may be gimmicky, but itís the only way to keep it in fighting shape.
“After a few battles, youíll be ducking behind imaginary walls, air-dashing with ease, and sniping your enemies from afar.”That doesnít mean that your machine is particularly interesting to look at, however. The game makes some use of the DSís graphical capabilities, but that doesnít save it from blocky angles and grainy images. The robots are covered in armored plating, but the bright colors, big cartoon-styled eyes, and cutesy designs make your weapons seem more like toys than deadly objects. At least the customized parts come with their own unique animations; thereís nothing stranger than unleashing a horde of digitized hornets or a gigantic ball of slime onto your unwitting foes. The levels themselves are just as unusual; for a game that deals with futuristic technology, battling through fake forests, leaping over pits of lava, and blasting through a school of giant fish may not seem fitting. While much of the 3D graphics arenít anything special, the 2D sprites, buildings, and anime illustrations are shown off in a fair amount of detail. Considering the fast-paced combat and rock music blaring in the background, youíll be too distracted to notice the gameís graphical shortcomings.
Custom Robo Arena is a wonderful game, yet it lacks the kind of attention that other DS titles enjoy. The story is awful mishmash of a coming-of-age plot blended with science fiction and utterly generic characters. The graphics are far from the best that the console can offer. However, the game quality where it counts the most: the gameplay. Youíll face several hours of intense robot battles and brutal competition. The dozens of customizable parts will allow for countless options for developing your own combat style. Even if the story mode proves too easy for you, the superb online multiplayer will keep you coming back for more. Indeed, Custom Robo Arena is the answer to all the DS owners who wish for a great fighting game, yet the lack the desire or resources to import. Besides, when was the last time that a handheld game outclassed its console version?
Eight out of ten
- High-quality combat
- More challenging than its console predecessor
- Online multiplayer is superb
- The story, dialgoue, and writing are abysmal
- Subpar graphics