Let’s get ready to rumble – with toys…
“Pokémon is coming to the 3DS” – this is the excitement inducing statement that every Pokémon fan has been waiting for, especially given the 3DS’ unique capabilities and how well they would translate to a Pokémon game. For a short while it seemed like this epic statement had been made, but then the fans came to realise that it in fact referred to another spin-off from the Pokémon franchise, this time in the form of a top-down brawler called Super Pokémon Rumble.
No-one can deny the fanatical popularity and success of any game with the word Pokémon in the title, but the reality is that some Pokémon games are better than others. Whilst Super Pokémon Rumble may not be the White/Black sequel that will make many fans pass out with anticipation, one thing it does have in keeping with Pokémon tradition is the massive number of different Pokémon that the player can collect – only this time they are all actually toys.
Yes, you read that right, they are toy Pokémon. Being that the game falls into the genre of Brawler, and given the title, it would be understandable to expect something a little gritty, perhaps building up teams of Pokémon that then fight to the death. But that is not the Pokémon way, so any sense of threat has been removed by using toys instead of living Pokémon (Yes, of course I know Pokémon aren’t real). Still, I suppose that the Pokémon games are all aimed at the younger audience, so I will let this pass.
So, there are more than 600 of these toy Pokémon to find and collect in the game, and they enjoy nothing more than fighting against each other. The players objective is to travel from one battle area to another, defeating other toy Pokémon and giant “boss” Pokémon, collecting new Pokémon for your team, and eventually becoming the Battle Royale champion. Sounds almost familiar…
Combat is simple and performed in real-time, with the A and B button being used for attacks. The player is able to swap between Pokémon at any point, allowing them to adjust to different situations in a strategic way. The players’ team, which has no limit to the number of Pokémon it contains, doesn’t level up or increase in power in any way, denying any chance of building relationships with any particular creature as they will likely be swapped out for something more powerful in the next battle. All of the elemental abilities have carried over to this spin off, ensuring the player choose carefully to counter any elemental abilities and do the most damage possible.
As the player wanders the small battle areas, fighting the waves of Pokémon that they find, defeated Pokémon will leave behind coins or occasionally just remain themselves for the player to add to their roster. There is no healing within the battle areas, so the player will find themselves swapping between what rapidly becomes a massive collection of toys within each area.
But the battle areas are not all that the game has to offer. In between these areas, the player will find towns that allow their team to heal or spend coin on new moves. It is here that the multiplayer options can also be found. Unfortunately there is only the option to locally team up with a friend and take on an already completed battle area, which is alright but no where near as interesting as multiplayer could have been. Battling against a players army is possible, but only through StreetPass, and then your opponents team is controlled by the AI. It really feels like a missed opportunity.
Then there are the Battle Arenas where the player competes in various different modes whilst furthering their quest to become Battle Royale Champion. Team Battles, Charge Battles and Battle Royale all offer something a bit different and provide some variety for the game, but still suffer from being more of the same.
Visually, Super Pokémon Rumble looks alright, not as impressive as one would hope but certainly passable to a Pokémon fan. The 3D effect is quite nice and not too heavy on the eyes, giving a nice sense of depth with the occasional “coming out of the screen” effect. It is not going to win any prizes, but I have certainly seen worse.
The sad thing is that, despite a massive roster of Pokémon to collect, the gameplay just isn’t varied enough to keep the player interested for extended periods. In its favour though, the battle areas are relatively small, making the game ideal for quick-hit sessions in a spare five minutes. But when this is combined with the inability to build an ongoing team, it becomes quite difficult to invest and emotion into the game.
Pokémon Rumble is not a game that will set the world alight. Nor is it the game that Pokémon fans are waiting for. But if you have a hankering for some top down brawling action with a dash of Pokémon collecting, then you may just be in the right place.