Super Pokémon Rumble Review
Game: Super Pokémon Rumble
Available on: Nintendo 3DS Only
Pokémon has come a long way since the days of kids beating each other up in the playground over a Bulbasaur card, and its humble beginnings on the Game Boy in 1996. Indeed, the compulsive monster collecting franchise is now a huge mega-business, and second only to Mario as being Nintendo’s most successful games and media concern; this means there have been lots of videogames. Some of these, like the core RPG series that started things off, have generally improved with each instalment. In fact, the recent Nintendo DS offering, which I had a look at earlier in the year, was fantastic, the best version of Pokémon yet released and one of our favourite handheld games of 2011. But for every well made role playing monster collectathon, there is a dubious Mystery Dungeon game, or a Pokémon Ranger title to trawl through; the quality of the pocket-monster related offshoots is wildly varied but there have been a few notable successes, the sublime duo of pinball games (which desperately needs a sequel, if Game Freak are reading this), the frantic mix and match puzzler Pokémon Snap, and the fun WiiWare release Pokémon Rumble.
Rumble was a fun, simplistic affair that removed all of the role playing elements from Pokémon and presented a real time, top down melee combat title which evoked all manner of old school titles, such as Pocky & Rocky, or even Smash TV. It was hardly a world beater, but for the price of the download it represented a decent enough diversion for fans of the series, an opportunity to beat the crap out of some monsters without having to worry too much about the complicated stuff. Developers Ambrella have been responsible for a handful of weird and wonderful Pokémon side projects, including voice recognition turkey Hey You, Pikachu! on the N64 and the enjoyable, if frustrating, Pokémon Dash for the DS. Can their Pokémon Rumble sequel, in glorious 3D, finally provide this determined company with an above average take on the franchise?
STORY: For once, the storyline comes pretty much second to the gameplay. So those expecting a crazy tale of warring Poké-trainers, evil protagonists and people double crossing each other left, right and centre in a hail of Poké Balls should go look elsewhere. You see, what we have here is a simple premise, Pokémon are now wind-up toys that are operated with keys. You are their unseen overlord who, with a swirl of the circle pad and occasional use of the stylus, takes control of the cutesy little blighters, on a reasonably long quest through various different types of terrain, basically just meleeing the hell out of anything that moves.
GRAPHICS: The original WiiWare release just looked…okay. And even with 3D being used to add some depth of field to the overhead views, this is far from sterling in the graphical stakes. The Pokémon toys are bright and move around at a fair old pace but they just look a bit cheap and nasty. There are a few cutscenes and an intro but the whole package lacks the sort of graphical dazzle that Nintendo have managed to inject into other, first party releases this year.
SOUND: You don’t buy a Pokémon game expecting to hear outstanding musical compositions for the ages, and this is no different. There are the usual assortment of cheerful tunes, that will only really register in your brain during the tiresome times when you have to replay the same stages repeatedly in order to, as I will explain later, “Catch ‘em all!”
GAMEPLAY: You start out your journey with just an little yellow Pikachu, the much-loved, and actually-really aggressive squirrel-like creature so synonymous with the Pokémon universe. You are attacked by various other monsters, so you hammer the attack button to defeat them. Sometimes when you defeat an enemy, that monster joins your party, and you can switch between which monster you are controlling using the X button. Just like the role-playing Pokémon games, all of the creatures in your arsenal have a specific attribute, be it fire, water, electricity, grass, and so on. Certain Pokémon are naturally more effective against others, which means you have to press the attack button fewer times. Occasionally you will face off against a boss who is far more powerful and more difficult to kill than the other, smaller foes. That, my friends, is about it for the main single player campaign.
There are a trio of alternative ways to play the game, should you wish. Battle Royale puts you in charge of one Pokémon against a constant stream of enemies. Defeating one of your attackers increases the timer, which is ticking down as you play. This is a pretty frantic way to play, and gets quite tricky considering you cannot switch your Pokémon until the one you are using “faints”, to use the annoyingly quaint child-friendly way of describing it when a monster dies.
Charge Battle is a pointless face off between two large groups of battling Pokémon, which at times appears to be almost completely random. Last but by no means least is the Team Battle mode, which lets you form a tag team of two monsters to defeat wave after wave of enemies, interspersed with bosses along the way.
LONGEVITY: How long this game will last you depends really on how important it is to you that you collect all of the Pokémon in the game. After all, that is what it is all about, right? And there are 600 of the things to ensnare. The problem is that doing so is entirely random. You could conceivably replay a level twenty times and still not unlock the icon that signifies you have captured a particular monster. Some people may find this sort of thing fun. I will admit to some dark times in my past where I have replayed certain Castlevania sections repeatedly just to unlock some sort of magical spirit needed to 100% max out the game, but that was ‘Vania, maaan. This is just smashing a button to make Pikachu electrocute things, and it gets boring; really quickly.
There are some online and Wi-Fi modes to try and sustain your interest, including the ability to send your Pokémon into battle against other 3DS owners using the Streetpass option, but to be honest if I was walking around in my manor and someone challenged me to a game of Super Pokémon Rumble I would probably pretend I didn’t hear them.
VERDICT: This is a staggeringly limited game that I found to be as crushing as a giant Snorlax onto my ribcage in the disappointment stakes. It is far too simplistic and repetitive to sustain the interest of any serious gamer, it doesn’t particularly look that nice and is only really worth recommending if you have a Pokémon-crazy child to keep entertained over Christmas. This should have remained a DSiWare or WiiWare concern, and has no right to be sat on the shelves, particularly alongside the fantastic DS RPGs that are also available, and come with my hearty recommendation.