Robopon - Review

When the cheap knockoff costs as much as the classic...

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 1
   Interface 2
   Music/Sound 2
   Originality 4
   Plot 2
   Localization 2
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 2
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

10-20 hours



   Pokémon is without a doubt the most successful RPG ever released on a handheld system. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that other developers should try to copy its success, particularly with their own handheld games. Such imitators run the gambit, from the fairly original, such as Enix's Dragon Warrior Monsters, to the mundane, such as Atlus' Robopon

   From the first moments of the game, it is quite clear what prompted the development of Robopon. Not only is the primary gimmick of the game taken from Pokémon, but the gameplay, plot and even a few monster designs are lifted almost directly from that famous game. In fact, if one were to play for only a few minutes, one might get the impression that the developers merely altered the artwork and terminology in a copy of Pokémon.

   Although the surface shows no originality whatsoever, closer examination reveals Robopon to have a few unique elements. While Pokémon places great emphasis on capturing and cultivating a well balanced team of Pokémon in order to maintain an elemental edge over opponents, the attacks and weaknesses of a Robopon depend solely on its equipment. Combining this with the fact that Robopon lacks Pokémon's option to change characters freely after defeating a rival trainer's, there is no reason whatsoever to use more than one Robopon for the entire game.

Thankfully, Robopon is compatable with B&W GBs.
Thankfully, Robopon is compatable with B&W GBs.  

   Furthermore, while elemental strengths and weaknesses play some part in combat, a Robopon's accuracy depends almost entirely on the difference between its level and its opponent's. Thus a Robopon on a lower level than its opponent is almost certain to lose, but one on a higher level will face practically no challenge. Combine this with a system of experience that yields level ups after only a handful of fights, even when one's level is already in the 90s, and the result is a mind-numbingly easy game.

   Even if it was necessary to use multiple Robopon, this would hardly be restrictive. Much like the PC in Pokémon, Robopon features a "Garage" where Robopon, items, and equipment are stored when they won't fit in the inventory. However, while Pokémon's PCs are located in towns, Robopon's Garage is a menu item. Meaning the only real restriction it gives is that you may only use four Robopon and half the items in the game during any particular fight. Equipment for Robopon also falls into the Garage after a certain point, which is particularly pointless as it cannot be changed mid-fight whatsoever. The most irksome feature of the garage however is that the Robopon within are stored in a single unsorted list.

Not the most creative names...
Not the most creative names...  

   Most elements of the game are in keeping with this poorly implemented inventory system. One cannot turn without taking a step in the new direction without holding down a button, which means the average player will hear a bumping sound every time they turn to face a counter, or a person they wish to talk to. In combat, attacks are listed in increasing order of usefulness, one item at a time, with no cursor memory, forcing players to scroll blindly down a list of up to seven or eight items every round. The music is extremely simplistic and irritating, the graphics are crude, with a garish color pallette, and the character designs are childish, ugly, and often rather juvenile. For example, one Robopon is a walking toilet. Even the translation falls short, overflowing with awkward wordings, and even more awkward grammar. This comes as quite a surprise from Atlus, whose recent localizations have been quite impressive.

   While nothing in the game manages to rise above mediocrity, Robopon's mini-games far outshine the rest in terms of dissatisfaction. At various times in the game, players must compete in "Battle Genesis 5" tournaments, consisting of five small challenges. While most of these are simply stat comparisons augmented by random factors, one is a matter of complete luck. Two Robopon are placed within a Pac-Man like maze, and must race to the end. The Robopon however move in a completely random direction at each intersection, with no possible input from the player, and no noticeable impact from levels and stats. These races can take up to a minute to run their course, and are not an optional part of the game. It is not uncommon for players to be stuck for up to half an hour at these contests, making the game as a whole a very frustrating experience.

Simple world map.
Simple world map.  

   Other strange gimmicks in Robopon include a chance to upgrade a Robopon's stats by aiming a TV remote at an infrared sensor on the top of the cart, and a realtime clock, complete with alarm bell built into the cart itself. The most notable application of this is the Dispatch Center. This allows players to send parties of Robopon out to character build on their own for a given period of real time. While the efficiency of this is abysmal, yielding only 2 or 3 levels for every day spent training under ideal circumstances, it makes things that much easier on players who wish to get the entire experience over with without having to play as much of the game. After such timed events are completed however, a disarmingly loud bell sounds from within the cart every five minutes until the player views the results, even if the game has been turned off and removed from the system. Thankfully, an option exists to turn off both this bell, and all attack animations, which frequently last up to ten seconds each.

Should any RPGamer be brave enough to endure the many flaws, they will meet with the final insult of being unable to complete the implied sub-goal of capturing every Robopon. Not only does Robopon lack Pokémon's guide to where every creature can be found, only one of Robopon's two versions was translated out of Japanese, leaving several varieties of Robopon inaccessible to the rest of the world.

Although Robopon is not entirely unplayable, considering the fact that the original Pokémon, and its vastly superior sequels, can be obtained for the same price or less, there is simply no reason to purchase the game. Those who do choose to spend their thirty dollars on the dull experience will at least finish quickly. The game can be finished in a scant twenty hours, ten if players take advantage of the Dispatch Center.

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