Super Pokemon Rumble ReviewChris Waldron
If there's one thing that holds the power to cleave opinion in two, it's mentioning Pokémon on the internet. The sugar-addled children who grew up with the first generation have since become the embittered, coffee-addled twenty-somethings of today; prone to smashing down any recent Pokémon developments just because you can't get a Charmander at the start. The latest in the 'conventional' Pokémon games, Black and White, were unashamedly bashed in such a fashion, a pity really, as it's possibly one of the best Pokémon games I've played to date. The recently released Super Pokémon Rumble however, refrains from introducing any more of the little critters, but rest assured cynics, there's still one reason to scorn the title; it's just not that good.
The idea of disregarding classical education and instead opting to kidnap woodland creatures is an amusing one to begin with, but the story of Super Pokémon Rumble is peculiar even by Pokémon's standards. The introductory cinematic sets the scene of a Pokémon figurine shop; dotted with your Miis doing a bit of afternoon figure hunting. After closing hours, a magical clockwork key winds up the figurines granting them a modicum of sentience. Being Pokémon, they promptly celebrate their new-found lifeblood by attempting to spill as much of it as possible.
The gameplay is part beat 'em up, part collecting adventure and part top-down Pokémon RPG. Instead of taking up the role of a trainer, you instead control specific Pokémon that you've 'befriended' on your journey. Each Pokémon has two moves assigned to the A and B buttons which are mashed repeatedly to attack wave after wave of encroaching enemies. The problem here is that this method of gameplay really doesn't feel like Pokémon. Anyone who's seen the anime, read the manga or played any of the other games knows that this isn't how Pokémon fight one another. Many times during play it just felt like I was playing a sub-par beat 'em up that somebody decided to shoe-horn Pokémon into at the last minute. Leading the whole experience to feel disjointed and rushed.
The action takes place in hub areas with separate levels housing type specific Pokémon. Defeat enough of these levels and their bosses and eventually you'll 'befriend' (sounding more and more like propaganda speak for 'enslave') stronger Pokémon, allowing you to take on the areas Battle Royale, which unlocks items that allow you to progress to the next stage. In a nutshell this is the experience of the entire game and it won't be long until the repetition starts to wear a little thin. I found myself unable to play the game for periods longer than an hour because I was simply getting bored with it. There's nothing that really holds you in here. The story is ultimately non-existent and told through intermittent text bubbles that for the most part you'll skip over anyway, and the gameplay is so dull and repetitive that you'll grow tired with it very quickly.
Some of the core mechanics of Pokémon are still thankfully present in Rumble. Type weaknesses and effectiveness remain a key aspect, meaning you'll have to plan a level a little more strategically as the games difficulty increases. All the moves you use have the same effects as they do in the rest of the Pokémon canon. Certain moves have recoil, damaging your critters as they use them, whilst others have the ability to heal you, many increase your attributes and lower the attributes of your enemies, leading to a semblance of strategy amongst the button mashing, but nowhere near as much when compared to the traditional Pokémon meta-game.
From time to time, Super Pokémon Rumble attempts to freshen up the gameplay with a couple of new mechanics. The first of which being triple battles, in which you take three Pokémon into battle, a novel idea to begin with; until you realise it's just triple the amount of Pokémon on screen - and nothing else. Another of these mechanics is 'hyper mode', in which your three onscreen Pokémon combine their power by standing on each other's shoulders. Initially, I thought this was going to lead to some cool kind of 'Power Rangers Megazord' arrangement but no; instead, you just use the attacks of your main Pokémon, just with slightly increased attack power, defense and health regeneration, powers that many of your 'Mons possess on their own anyway.
Even for a 3DS game Super Pokémon Rumble looks distinctly below-average. The Pokémon figurines look far too sharp and undefined. Often I'd notice a Pokémon I thought I'd recognised, only to discover it was an entirely different creature, and as the game ensues, you'll notice more and more Pokémon that are virtually indistinguishable from one another. The levels you'll wander around in are relatively pretty, but following in Super Pokémon Rumble's tradition of repetition you'll see them quite a bit. Forests, caves, beaches, towers and treetops will appear in every world and it won't be long before you're tired of the same scenery.
The sounds are probably one of the few points in Super Pokémon Rumble that I can cast praise on. The music fits the aesthetic of each level and, unlike the game as a whole; it actually feels very much like Pokémon. When 'Mons are defeated they screech the same noises they popularised in the traditional games and it's a nice burst of nostalgia to hear the sounds from the older titles once more, even if they do seem a little out of place in a current generation release.
I know I may be a coffee-addled twenty-something myself, but I try my hardest to find something to like about all the contemporary Pokémon releases. With Super Pokémon Rumble however, it was very difficult, if not near impossible. Everything about the game just seems like it was designed to achieve mediocrity and little else. You could play through Rumble and at times begin to enjoy yourself, but eventually you'll just feel the same creeping sensation of boredom as you play the same level, with the same tactic, collecting relatively the same Pokémon. For a game aimed at fans of the Pokémon franchise it just feels like somebody dropped the ball. There's a lot of ways to introduce someone to the world of Pokémon, but Super Pokémon Rumble certainly isn't one of them.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Chris Waldron is an aspiring games journalist and writer, pursuing a history degree next to the sun-drenched shores of Mid-Wales. When not playing video games he can be found under a blanket with a book or trying to remember where he left his keys.
About the Author: Chris Waldron
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