Sunday, 25 March 2012

Game Review: Super Pokemon Rumble

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Ambrella
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1
Release Date- October 2011 (USA), December 2011 (Europe)
Price- £19.99+/$29.99+

As a fan of the "main series" of Pokemon games, I tend to stay away from spin-offs. This is not because I believe they will be terrible games however I know they wont follow the same structure as the series that I know and love. Despite this thought process, I decided to delve into Super Pokemon Rumble, a sequel to the Wii ware title released in 2009.

In Super Pokemon Rumble the player controls clockwork Pokémon toys (brought to life by a magical key), battling through various different levels in a top down dungeon crawler-esque fashion. The game adopts a simplistic approach with each of the players Pokémon exploiting one or two attacks against waves of opposing Pokémon. Every toy in the game has a power level which relates the their strength in combat as well as having up to two moves they can use. The opposing Pokemon have a chance of remaining on the battlefield after being defeated for the player to collect. Doing so will grant the player use of that particular Pokémon complete with a randomly assigned move set which more often than not renders them useless.

Unlike the "main series", the Pokémon collected cannot be levelled up or evolved meaning that the player must continuously obtain new, more powerful toys. Players will find themselves constantly switching Pokémon due to the power level of the toys increasing at a fairly steady pace. This sadly renders the less powerful, previously collected Pokémon fairly useless.
This feels like a broken mechanic. If I grew an attachment to a specific Pokémon whilst playing there would be no point using them after a couple of levels as they wouldn't be able to compete with the more powerful toys.
There is also an option to purchase moves for your Pokémon using in-game currency however doing so feels pointless as the player will find a stronger Pokémon on the very next level and will have practically wasted the coins.

On the contrary when you pick up a new Pokémon there is no guarantee that they will be of any use due to the large pool of useless moves. It feels like a kick in the teeth when you finally obtain a high power toy only to find that the moves the game has randomly assigned happen to be terrible.

The main issue that I had with this game, so much so that I almost didn't finish it, is the mind-numbing repetitiveness of the gameplay.
Each level consists of around 4-6 dungeons where the player battles through around 5 stages before entering a boss battle where you battle a big version of a Pokémon.
After these dungeons are complete the player must play a "Battle Royale" where they come up against an arena of Pokémon in a brawl like scenario.
Upon completion the player will start a new level where they must do the same thing with a slight variation on the Pokémon you battle.
This is the structure for every level in the game and it wears thin very quickly.

The only variation in terms of battles are two other game modes.
The first is "Team Battle" where the player selects two CPU-controlled Pokémon (from their own collection) to battle alongside them. It's the same formula as before however you now have two CPUs doing most of the work for you. In the later stages of the game you will gain the ability to combine 3 Pokémon together for a brief period of time to make them very slightly more powerful as a whole.
The second and in my eyes most pointless variation is a "Charge Battle". In this type of battle the player must mash a single button and rotate the nub stick to make their collection of Pokémon charge towards a group of onrushing enemy Pokémon. How well you are doing is indicated my an arrow at the top of the screen which gets longer depending on how hard you try to destroy your console. If the bar reaches over half way then your team will knock the opposing squad out of the way. This process is repeated three (or more) times before the player is faced with the boss of the "charge battle" but instead of having a more difficult task, the player is swiftly prompted to press a single button to win. It is literally a "Press A to win" scenario.

The story of the game revolves around life replenishing "glowdrops" which are being stolen from the fountains of various towns across this toy world however it is about as deep and predictable as you'd expect from a game as simplistic as this. Having said that Pokémon isn't know for it's story telling approach (not up until Black and White at least) so this isn't a huge issue in the game.

The game utilises the streetpass functionality by obtaining a trainer card and that specific players collection allowing you to battle them whenever you desire. There are also unlocks attached to the number of people who you have passed on the street, for example acquiring ten street passes unlocks a legendary on a particular stage.
A niggling issue I have with the street-pass interface is that the options/buttons appear on the touch screen. They're nice and big and look like they can be pressed but the developers seem to have forgotten to add touch screen functionality. It's a small thing but it's very annoying considering it feels like they've simply forgotten to put it in.

As far as I'm aware, after the game is completed the player can up the difficulty level for all the previous stages already played and a new part of the game with a much greater difficulty margin opens up. This does give the game a form of replay value after the game is complete however I found after the first two chapters of the game everything felt like a replay anyway.

Having played a demo of the Wii ware prequel (and enjoying it thoroughly ) I knew exactly the type of gameplay to expect on the 3DS version, however I hoped there would be a bit more to the game overall.
To me the main flaw with Super Pokemon Rumble is the repetitiveness. It goes for a very simplistic approach but ends up being too simple with not enough variety to keep the player engaged given the length of the game.

By no means would I say this is a terrible game, I'm happy that they've included all 5 generations of Pokémon but it leaves a lot to be desired. Though hardcore fans may find a soft spot for the game, personally I would advise people to play the Wii demo on repeat. It practically offers the same experience.

- Tom Seed


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