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I'm looking for a cartoon I used to watch when I was a kid in the late '80s / early '90s.

The story was there were some friends and there was a (?) bad guy trying to win the robot battle against them. If I recall, at the beginning they had to collect money somehow to build the robot, and the main characteristic of this cartoon is that the fight was always between the small robots that came out of the big ones and looked like exactly like the big one. So the fight between the small robots decided the battle.

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. Did these battles takes place in some kind of tournament setting? What kind of world was the story set in? And can you describe the appearance of any of the robots or other characters? Sep 5, 2022 at 13:02

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This looks like "Yatterman" ("Time Bokan Series: Yatterman", "Taimu Bokan Shirīzu Yattāman").

It originally aired in Japan from 1977 to 1979, and dubbed versions were subsequently produced worldwide.

Each episode has the protagonists (a boy, a girl and a little robot) foil the attempts of the trio of villains to obtain the fragments of the Skull Stone and thus discover the location of a great treasure.
The good guys drive one robot of theirs (they are animal-themed: dog, pelican, elephant, whale shark, ...) and battle against a robot assembled by the bad guys.
When the good robot is in danger, the protagonists throw him a "tonic", a powerful energy source that allows him to produces a squad of smaller robots that turn the tide of the battle (in some episodes, the bad robot creates smaller robots too).
It goes without saying that at the end of the episode the villains are defeated and their robot explodes disastrously.

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