In the future there will be battling robots. Not like the ones assembled from scrapped power tools by weekend engineers, either. Robots will be tiny, fully customizable, collectible machines that fight in holographic arenas. There will be robots for everyone, from schoolchildren to police officers, and robot battles will be a constant fixture in everyday life. At least, that's what the future is like in Nintendo's latest DS game, Custom Robo Arena. This future looks bright, because Custom Robo Arena is an addictive game that will keep you entertained for hours.
Custom robos are fully customizable robots that are less than a foot tall but still pack plenty of firepower. The robos are designed to engage in one-on-one battles in small holographic arenas called holosseums. The robos are controlled by their human owners, who use mental energy to pilot the small robots from outside the holosseum. It seems that just about everyone in the world has a custom robo, and they frequently engage in battles for the sake of settling arguments, keeping the peace, or just friendly competition. You play the game as a young boy who recently moved to a new town. In the beginning of the game you receive a custom robo for your birthday and join a custom robo battling team at the local school. From there the rest of the single-player story mode is a very long series of battles that will take you through several tournaments until you eventually prove that you're the best robo commander around.
There isn't much to the game other than the constant battles, but the battles are enjoyable enough to excuse the shallow story. You can customize your robot with a wide variety of parts that you can purchase or receive as gifts. There are several different robo models, each with unique strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Once you've chosen which robo you want to use, you can equip it with a gun, a bomb, legs, and a pod, which is a type of dropped weapon similar to a mine. You can save up to four different configurations so you can quickly choose the right setup for any given battle. There are more than 150 different parts in the game, so you're given plenty of options when it comes to outfitting your robo.
In most battles you simply fight it out until one robo is KO'd after losing all its hit points. There are a variety of different holosseums to fight in, but most of them are small square maps filled with low walls and other barriers. You run and jump around in these arenas, trading fire with your opponent until one person loses. All of your weapons have infinite ammo but can fire only in short bursts before needing to be reloaded. The trick is to use all three of your weapons in conjunction to maximize the damage dealt to your opponent. For example, you can shoot your enemy until he falls down, then fire a bomb to hit him again while he's on the ground, and then scatter a couple of pods around the map to hit him when he gets back up. You can also use melee attacks, but with all the firepower at your disposal, that's rarely necessary. At the end of each battle you're given a letter grade based on your remaining hit points and the time it took you to finish the battle. Based on this score, you earn money and stars, which raise your rank. The rank doesn't serve much of a purpose in the game other than to act as a superficial progress indicator.