Fun fact: This was originally posted over on YCNN before here. So good I’m posting it twice!
I’ve been planning on doing this review for quite a while now, but ironically enough it’s been the game itself that has been delaying me from throwing this review up here. Mainly because I can’t seem to stop playing it, no matter how much I need to get other things done. Like writing a review, for instance.
No matter, as I’ve beaten the to within an inch of its life, and now I don’t need to play the game… as much. Damn you, game! Considering my DS’s battery has ran out, while its charging I can finally get on with starting this thing.
I never know where to start with these, so I’ll go with something obvious like the story.
The game starts with that old cliche, you’re new in town, don’t know anyone, but quickly get along with the games secondary protagonists and earn your place as a respected member of society. All in one day! Of course this is the standard in several million other games so its not like that’s particularly out of the ordinary.
Onto more interesting things, in this world almost every man and his dog owns a Custom Robo, a popular implement of adequate destruction. They’re used for anything and everything it seems. Police work, deep sea investigation, menial tasks, and by far the most often encountered use: battling with them. Of course, it wouldn’t be a very interesting game if all you did was clean tables or poke around at the bottom of the sea so you don’t get to do these boring – but perhaps ultimately fulfilling – tasks, so naturally the meat of the game is you going around the place kicking Robo ass and taking Robo names.
Early on, you’ll mainly be battling against your school comrades, and destroying the competition in various interschool tournaments. Unfortunately at this point, compared to the rest of the game the plot is a little thin on the ground. Frankly I didn’t care about this until the end, because I was having too good a time wiping the floor with every opponent who dared confront me. Of course, as the plot gets more interesting, the battles will also ramp in difficulty as you get better at piloting – or diving, in game lingo – your Weapon of Adequate Destruction. Luckily the controls are easy enough to ensure you’ll pick the battling up in no time, and there isn’t any touch screen gimmickry shoehorned in to get in the way of the fighting. Actually, the only touch screen use you’ll see is tapping the screen to initiate what’s called a “soulboost”, where your robo turns gold and powers up briefly, and after matches where you need to clean off dirt after battles to keep your robo in good condition. In any case there aren’t any annoying gimmicks where there shouldn’t be any. You can also use it to pose your robo in a variety of dioramas, but ultimately this is a throwaway feature and I’m not going to go into it no matter how much you want me to. Ha!
Like I probably mentioned before, the meat of the game is battling and overall its done very well. There’s a huge amount of customisation to be had, with different guns, bombs, pods (think smart grenades of some description), legs, and – as you progress ingame – more robo bodies. Strangely enough what with all the different options, nothing really feels unbalanced out of all the options. As much as I stuck to the same set of guns through the game, there is something for every tactic it would seem. Of course in a game such as this with lots of customisation, there are some really useless parts available to you. I don’t want to spoil your fun of finding them out, so I’ll keep those to myself. On the plus side, you are able to test parts before you buy them so you shouldn’t get saddled with any dud gear.
Now, while you’re battling, it wouldn’t be very good if the game looked hideous, would it? Don’t worry about that, the game looks excellent during the battles, easily handling the 3D stages with, uh, ease. There were the occasional framerate issues, but only because I was spamming bombs and explosive shots like there was no tomorrow. And I still lost that fight. Nevertheless, the robos are all well animated, with crisp graphics and – dare I say it – some of the best 3D I’ve seen in a DS game yet. OK, there aren’t really that many games that rely on 3D, but still. It looks great!
Sadly the same can’t be said about the 2D “overworld” sections. The actual areas themselves look good, but the sprite works leaves a little to be desired considering the limited frames of animation, with every single generic character looking pretty much exactly the same. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been that much trouble to throw in a few extra Generic Man sprites, but what do I know. On the other hand, the character portraits for all the major characters are pretty good, so I’m guessing that’s where all the 2D art efforts went. Of course most of your game time will be spent battling other robos so this really doesn’t drag the game down too much. On a partially related note, the game also suffers from the “your-guy-can’t-walk-diagonally” syndrome. What’s up with that?
Aside from looking good, Custom Robo Arena also sounds good, with pretty decent music that suffers somewhat from the DS’s speakers. The sound effects are also good, with impacts and other things all having a convincing thump to them, actually giving the impression these robos are doing a number on each other. Its especially satisfying (for gamenerds like me) to hear the telltale sound effect of a Gatling Gun landing every shot and finishing off with a brutal sounding charge attack, as you plough your own robo into the enemy, attacking their weak point for massive damage. Or something.
Also worth mentioning here is that the game also supports Nintendo WiFi Connection, so you can beat somebody up across the globe with ease. At least, that’s the idea. I had trouble setting up a game with somebody in the US, because the games wouldn’t recognise our own friend codes, for some bizarre reason. I hope this isn’t a continuing trend with Nintendo, as I also had the same problem with Mario Strikers Charged not liking international friend codes. Of course, your mileage may vary. I don’t know how big of an issue this is with other people.
In any case, random play against the faceless internet worked perfectly, but the same couldn’t be said of most players relying on “illegal parts” – this just means they generally do a lot more damage than legal parts. Ingame this is explained by the parts not featuring certain safety protocols, being overpowered, or some other form of plot macguffin that is ultimately irrelevant.
Well, I think I’ve covered pretty much everything here, so its time to wrap this up.
Overall I’d definitely recommend this game to anyone looking for a good action game on DS. The battling is great fun, the story – when it gets going – is also worth a mention, although a gripe with this is that when the story really gets going, the game is almost over. Aside from that, the slightly iffy 2D graphics, and the utterly bizarre lack of international internet play my game lacks, the game is highly recommended.
This is where I could put in an arbitrary number rating, but I’m not going to. If you’ve read all of this you wont need numbers, because that’s just how I roll, baby.
It also looks like my DS is fully charged, so I’m going to get back to my robo battling now.