In the world of handheld gaming, there are two types of games: the Pokemons and the Poke-nots. Seeking to capitalize on the success of the former, while offering the innovation of the latter, Atlus' Robopon wraps Pokemon-inspired gameplay around solid RPG storytelling, throwing in a couple of cool gimmicks for good measure.
One day, Grandpa Hogle, tired of seeing his Robopon Dispatching Facility stagnate, gives control to his grandson, Cody. Oddly enough, Cody's efforts to rebuild the company quickly evolve into wholesale Robopon raising and battling. Sound familiar? With 150 Robopon to collect, evolve and train through a series of one-on-one battles, the game unashamedly mimics Nintendo's franchise. Thankfully, though, it also breaks this mold in a number of ways.
For starters, Robopon's battle system is much more diverse. You acquire new attacks by purchasing and finding software packages, which fall into five elemental categories: earth, wind, water, electricity and fire. While each piece of software represents a single attack, they can be combined to form stronger assails. Different Robopon have a propensity for different attacks. Arm-type Robopon are generally good with dose attacks, while Boot-type Robopon excel at defensive maneuvers. Combine this with inherent strengths and weaknesses based upon the aforementioned elements, and what you have is more than 300 unique attacks with three dimensions of strategy.
Evolving Robopon is accomplished a variety of ways. Leveling up increases your statistics, but to evolve Robopon you need to feed your team energy balls won in battle. Then, when your Robopon begins to glow, it is time to bring it to the lab and have it transformed. Some require greater amounts of energy to evolve than others, while other Robopon can't evolve at all. You can also choose not to evolve your lil' robot buddies, instead opting to upgrade their CPU and software characteristics.
In addition to incorporating the one-on-one battle and trading options found in Pokemon, Robopon's link mode offers four additional arenas for various events. There's a jumping contest, a shield mode to see who can take the most punishment, and an arm mode to see who can dole it out the best. You can battle for a belt in the Robopon title match as well.
The cartridge itself contains a GB KISS infrared port. It also has a built-in real-time clock and speaker system, alerting you when something is happening in the game. Top it off with a quirky big-business sub-plot and Robopon might just have enough to step out of Pikachu's great shadow.