Custom Robo Hands-On Impressions

We go hands-on with a demo version of Nintendo's upcoming robot brawler.

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Custom Robo has been kicking around in Japan for years now, with two installments released on the Nintendo 64 and a new GameCube version, called Custom Robo: Battle Evolution, out this past March. For whatever reason, the series has never hit US shelves, but Nintendo is aiming to change that in May by releasing the GameCube game under a simpler title, Custom Robo. We had a chance to play a demo version of the game recently and found quite an extensive amount of depth in the customization options that will let you create a unique combat experience every time you battle.

The version of Custom Robo we played let us try out the basic arcade mode, which lets you extensively modify your robot before going into a one-on-one battle with an enemy bot. Other options (unavailable in this version) will include two-on-two, tag team, and three- and four-player battle royal modes. Before you jump into the hectic robot-blasting action that defines Custom Robo's main gameplay component, you can engage in the "custom" part of the game in which you'll cycle through a ton of robot body parts, weaponry, and defensive systems in an attempt to create a droid with the deadliest arsenal.

Your robot has five changeable regions: body, gun, bomb, pod, and legs. The sundry robot body types feature widely varying attributes--some have thicker armor, while others can perform extra acrobatic moves--and they're visually very unique, so you can pick a robot that suits your aesthetic tastes. Guns on offer include a rapid-fire Gatling gun, a three-way shot, a flamethrower of sorts, and a stun weapon. Bombs act as your standard grenade weapon and can stun your enemies or knock them in a specific direction. Pods are a different type of launch weapon that act as drones to seek out your enemies and do extra damage. Finally, legs can give you extra movement properties, such as a high jump. Many of the equipment options were unavailable in the demo, though there were a lot to play with already; we expect the final game will have a whole lot of customizing possibilities on offer.

Once you're in the game, the action is pretty simple to get a handle on. You move your robot around a brightly colored, holographic arena from a quasi-overhead perspective and try to blast your opponent bot to kingdom come before it does the same to you. You can jump and dash around the combat area based on the capabilities of your robot, and you can use basic tactics like unloading your entire arsenal at your enemy in an attempt to achieve victory. Your choice of weapons will indeed have a big impact on the gameplay--we were much more successful with certain combinations than we were with others--so winning is definitely more than a matter of simply hammering on the fire button over and over again.

Based on our limited experience, Custom Robo looks like it'll offer a ton of options for people who really like to dig in and customize their virtual combatants. The game ought to be pretty easy for more-casual types to pick up and play, too. Custom Robo is currently slated for a May release; we'll bring you more information on the game's other components, such as the story mode, as that time approaches.

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